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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Keeping Pace

Oval races live to see another day; Columbia Cup on tap this weekend

Oval racing has returned to Spokane County Raceway while Unlimited Hydroplane racing invades the Tri-Cities this weekend.

Doug Pace

The Spokesman-Review

A few weeks ago things seemed dire for continuing circle track racing at Spokane County Raceway. Operator Craig Smith had announced that the oval would be curtailing its remaining 2013 schedule, with only August’s Demolition Derby and NASCAR K&N Pro Series events planned.

That meant classes such as Fever 4s, Bump to Pass, Road Runners, Hobby Stocks and others would be left without an opportunity to complete their seasons.

It appears that may not be the case as drivers, their families and dedicated volunteers have banded together to keep racing going. The first of the racer-organized events was held July 12 and proved successful enough to continue tonight with more planned for August.

“Our first Friday night was very good and I think we proved ourselves,” said Chris Noel, one of the event’s organizers. “We had a good turnout of cars and fans and also some surprises for the drivers. We have confirmed races for tonight, Aug. 9 and Aug. 24 (as part of the NASCAR event).”

Success in the face of failures from the oval’s past managers has been gratifying, Noel added.

“The racers have worked real hard to make this happen,” he said. “Even with all the negative people out there (saying the driver concept couldn’t succeed) we’ve been able to run a good show and prove that local racing can work (at Spokane County Raceway) without a major series to run with (as a headliner).”

Noel has put in many hours planning the Friday races, but this week his focus is on competition and family, he explained.

“I’m trying to get two cars together and also am a stay-at-home dad to five kids,” he said. “The great response shows the fans love it (the racer format) and we know our show (tonight) will be bigger and better.”

Hydros return Labor Day weekend

H1 Unlimited Hydroplane racing’s return to Lake Coeur d’Alene is set for Labor Day weekend. Fans can see what’s in store with this weekend’s running of the Lamb-Weston Columbia Cup in Kennewick.

Jimmy Shane and the Graham Trucking team are the defending Columbia Cup champions.

Steve David leads the chase for the 2013 championship, which would give him two consecutive titles for the Oh Boy! Oberto race team.

The H1 series runs iconic events such as the Detroit Gold Cup (won by Kip Brown) and the Madison Regatta (which was not run this season due to flooding). With many of the teams based in Seattle, Seafair (Aug. 4) and the Columbia Cup serve as home races with an added bonus of having three straight events near their homes with this year’s return of the Diamond Cup in Coeur d’Alene.

If the Gold Cup was any indication of what to expect in coming weeks, unpredictable and wide-open racing will be aplenty for hydro fans. Brown’s first win of 2013 was a mild upset over the likes of David, Shane, Mark Evans and Greg Hopp, but it was matched by strong runs for Jon Zimmerman (second) and Tommy Thompson (third).

Thompson’s U-11 Peters and May team may be the feel-good story of the season thus far after bouncing back from an incident at the season-opener in Qatar on Feb. 12 that cost former crew chief of the year and team owner Scott Raney his boat. With damage severe enough that the U-11 had to withdraw from the remainder of the event and shipping what was left of the team’s hull from the Middle East to Seattle set to take many weeks, the U-11 season seemed destined to be a long journey.

Just when Raney and his team appeared to be at their worst point they were able to acquire a hull that had been campaigned as the Miss Budweiser with plenty of winning history behind it. Debuting on May 31 in Sacramento, Calif., the new hull proved stout as the team rallied to a sixth-place finish.

Raney and his wife, Shannon, have made promotional appearances with their new boat in the Spokane area supporting the upcoming Diamond Cup.

To learn more about this weekend’s Columbia Cup or the upcoming SeaFair and Diamond Cup races log onto

Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.