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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Racing should hit peak at Yakima Speedway

Doug Pace

Yakima Speedway is the region’s traditional site for opening and closing out a race season in the Northwest and that continues this weekend with its 27th Annual Fall Classic.

Known for thrilling finishes and a $10,000 payday to the Super Late Model main-event winner, this year’s race has plenty of Inland Empire intrigue.

Fresh off a victory at Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval for the Tri-Track Late Model Series, Mead’s Shelby Thompson looks for redemption in Yakima just months removed from a near win in the spring kickoff Apple Cup.

Thompson is not the only local driver on their way to Yakima for its season finale. The 2011 Spokane 200 champion will be joined by past Inland Northwest Super Stock Association title holder, David Garber, and Oregon’s Brandon Riehl, who will be driving for Spokane’s Don Williams.

Williams’ son, Blake, has still not been back behind the wheel of a race car since a July auto accident south of Diamond Lake. Riehl has driven for Williams’ team in the past and should be ready for a solid finish this weekend.

The schedule of events includes, for the first time, a Mini-Stock portion of the race to go along with Super Stocks, Late Model Sportsman, the Fall Classic Super Late Model 200-lap shootout and the championship race for the touring Northwest Pro 4 Alliance. All main events will be held Sunday afternoon.

With interest in Fall Classic racing at an all-time high, local Super Stock drivers, Mini-Stock competitors and even drivers from Stateline Speedway’s Dr Pepper Late Model Series have submitted entries for this year’s race.

Each division features an Inland Empire driver more than capable of winning a feature event, including Vance Reynolds and Ryen Tarr (Late Model Sportsman), and Terry Armstrong, Joey Nelson and Brenden Tarr in the Mini-Stocks field.

Three top drivers out

Three of the Northwest’s top late-model drivers will not be at this weekend’s Fall Classic, but each has a good reason for missing out on the season’s final big money event.

For Otis Orchard’s Nicole Behar, the selection to NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program that was announced on Monday will keep her schedule busy in coming weeks. Flying to Virginia soon to prepare for the program’s combine selection process, Behar said that missing the Fall Classic is a tough decision.

Three-time Idaho 200 champion Gary Lewis will be a teammate to Medical Lake’s Braeden Havens as each will be competing for Virginia-based Racing Dynamiks in the MDCU 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

The pair had planned to be in this weekend’s Fall Classic, but the Martinsville late-model race was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, Havens said.

“You’re racing with Gary Lewis as your teammate (and) are behind the wheel of a legendary car once wheeled by Rodney Cook,” Havens said. “I told myself that I couldn’t pass up this chance.”

Lewis carries the same sentiment.

“It’s Martinsville,” he said. “When you get asked to run there, you know it’s something as a driver that has to be tried even once in a career.”

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