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Doug Pace: Young drivers may push veterans in Super Late Model

Thu., May 8, 2014

The stars of Super Late Model racing invade Stateline Speedway for the first of three scheduled events during the 2014 season. August’s Idaho 200 caps off the stretch, and each race should draw elite completion gearing up for the late-summer spectacular.

Leading the charge of local talent is a group of young drivers, including reigning Idaho 200 champion Blake Williams.

Also competing will be Braeden Havens and Nicole Behar, who are part of the region’s youth movement in Super Late Model racing. Throw in drivers such as Jason O’Neil and Shelby Thompson, who are years shy of 30, and the greater Spokane area has a good crop of talent ready to carry the banner in high-profile events.

Each should be in attendance this weekend to challenge for victory.

Havens and Thompson have posted strong finishes in their first two starts of the year, including a third- and fifth-place run, respectively, at the April 26 Tri-Track Late Model Series event in Wenatchee.

Behar and Williams have also been stout early in the season.

While youth looks to be served in Saturday night’s race, cagey veterans are also expected to contend for the checkers. One to watch is Spokane’s David Garber, who has enjoyed a recent renascence in his racing career of more than 30 years.

Garber has been a staple on the Super Late Model scene for many years. With multiple Inland Northwest Super Stock Association championships to his credit and late model victories across the Northwest spanning many decades, the driver of the Concrete Cutters Pontiac is a threat to win anytime he unloads his racecar.

Running into a stretch of tough racing luck in 2009-2011, Garber had cars damaged in spectacular incidents at tracks including Montana Raceway Park. Battling racing gremlins at more Idaho 200s than he’d care to remember also brought a few moments of pause.

“Sure, times seemed to be tough for a few years, but we knew that if we focused on one race at a time then things would have to turn around,” Garber said. “Finally, over the last two seasons, it’s come together as we’re having good runs at just about every track we go to and got a win in Montana last year and ran second in the (2013) Idaho 200.”

Known for being a premier setup person and excellent mechanic, Garber has used both skills to return to form.

“You have to get a car to handle and we’ve been focused on that department for a long time,” he said. “Sliding up the corners just makes the exit tougher and then you’re playing catch-up all night long. On top of that, the maintenance of the racecar is one of the most important things that gets done in our race shop. When these two areas are neglected then it’s going to be a long weekend, that’s for sure (for any driver).”

The goal for this weekend is to make sure it’s not a long night at the races. For that to happen, the ingredients include patience, tire management and a strong qualifying effort.

“Last year we had a good car each time we ran at Stateline, so I’m not expecting to make any big changes,” Garber said. “Of all the things you need to be successful out there, patience is a big one. You get into lapped traffic at some point during the race, so you have to be smart. If you’re in a battle for position, that patience helps to not abuse the car, the tires, or get caught up in something that can end your night.”

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