Doug Pace: Stateline Speedway hosts 17th Idaho 200
Thu., Aug. 4, 2016
The region’s premier late model event, the 17th annual NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 200, kicks off tonight at Stateline Speedway with qualifying and positioning races followed by Saturday’s 200-lap main event.
With only two former winners entered (Garrett Evans and Blake Williams), the odds of a first-time champion are high as 25 drivers aim to make the 22-car starting field.
Evans picked up a win in Stateline’s June Idaho Tune-Up 150 and has been one of the driver’s to beat up and down the West Coast whenever he unloads his No. 64 Chevrolet.
The 60-year-old, six-time late model-touring champion has finished inside the top two in his four starts on the Northwest Super Late Model Series, including three victories (Stateline, Spokane County Raceway and Yakima Speedway). A past NASCAR champion, the East Wenatchee, Washington, veteran also has a pair of second-place runs to his credit this summer in the Summer Showdown and Montana 200.
This weekend, Evans will be challenged by the strong field along with his 15-year-old son, Jan, who will make his second career start on the NWSLMS. The Idaho 200 kicks off the touring group’s second half of the season with the elder Evans as its current points leader and two-time defending champion.
For Williams, the 2013 Idaho 200 champion, a return to Stateline is just what his team has been looking for after a rash of mechanical gremlins and racing incidents have forced the No. 16 McClintock and Turk Ford to the sidelines early in races.
Williams has multiple victories at Stateline Speedway throughout his career, made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut at the track and often has used a start at the Post Falls facility as a springboard toward a strong second half of his racing season. The West Valley High School graduate is the most recent local driver to win the Idaho 200 and looks to join Gary Lewis, Kevin Richards and John Gamble as the only multitime winners of the event.
Other area drivers in the mix include David Garber, Braeden Havens, Terry Armstrong Jr., Corey Allard, Jason O’Neil, Joey Bird, Marvin Schultz, Chris Kellogg and Dirk Bennett.
Bennett and Brittney Zamora are locked in a tight battle for the NWSLMS Rookie of the Year award that scores points based on the first-year drivers’ best finishes. Zamora, who hails from Kennewick, has a slight edge on Bennett heading into the Idaho 200, but each driver is allowed to throw out the lowest finish at season’s end. The pair are racing for an opportunity to claim the rookie prize, a test session with Jefferson Pitts Racing behind the wheel of a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race car.
Another driver who will be a factor this weekend is Montana’s Ryan Wells. The Hingham native has claimed victory at Stateline Speedway in the past; has several track championships from Kalispell’s Montana Raceway Park, a high-banked quarter-mile; and this year sits second to Evans in the chase for the NWSLMS championship. Wells has confidence he can catch Evans in the points chase while focusing on this weekend’s race as the starting point.
“Mr. Evans has a pretty big (points) lead and it will be very tough to catch him, but my guys and I are going to give it 110 percent because that’s all we can do,” Wells said. “Everyone better have their game on to beat (my No.) 5 car because it’s go time.”
Joining the late model stars will be the Hobby Stock (Friday night) and Outlaw Compact (Saturday night) divisions. Each class will run in a one-day racing format with qualifying, heat races and main events as part of their schedules.
For ticket and other information regarding this weekend’s Idaho 200: www.raceidaho.com.
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