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by Ben Chandler

I finally sat down to write about the first several weeks of Figure-8 racing, right after the “Stinger-8 Nationals.” As the proud creator of the class, who has been in or seen most every Stinger-8 Main…I think it was the best little-car race I have ever witnessed! 23 cars started, 50 laps were covered in 25 minutes, and 7 cars finished on the lead lap, wow! Congrats to defending Stinger Champ Cody Hoopes in the sponsored #10 Honda Prelude for his big win over former Champ Toby Jenkins, previous Champ Matt Somerville and last year’s winner, Dawson Cox. That is one talented group! The “Outlaws” also ran an exciting 25 lap 8-car Main event, with “Indian Outlaw” Jake Repin in his #45 holding off John “the Cowboy” Carlson, Ricky “the Kid” Deitz, and the defending Champ, Chris Curtis.

But let’s back up and talk about Evergreen Speedway’s season opener on March 31st. What a spectacular opening day with a tremendous crowd, lots of Seahawk stuff, fun people and cool cars to look at, plus plenty of good racing and unbelievably pleasant weather!

Early in the evening, while walking through the pit area with former figure-8 racer Gary Copeland, we stopped to say hello to new Evergreen Speedway “Hall of Fame” member Rob Holden (and others) at his son Michael’s #32 car. It didn’t occur to me until later that evening that EXACTLY 40 years ago, Rob and I had taken that same pre-race pit-walk together! I had won the previous season’s Championship, and as rookie of the year, Rob was poised to win the next Championship… or two.  I recall introducing him to “Wild” Bill Dennis that day, and for some reason Bill nicknamed Rob “Ralf-Fast” on the spot. Which while true, as a nickname it didn’t really stick. A few years later however, Holden would get him back, and marry Wild Bill’s (sometime) sister-in-law Tina… And that has stuck damn well!

It was another exciting opening night for Figure-8 racing fans as well, with 14 Stingers taking the green flag for their 25 lap Main event. It was a good battle as Cody Hoopes, in the 10x Honda Prelude fought to get through traffic, and past the early leader, Robert Smith in his #42 Prelude. But traffic problems kept Hoopes from catching up to the #2 Toyota of Gary Rarden, who booked his first win of the new season over Cody, Robert and the #50 of Jason Wilson.

Also starting their season that night was the Super-stock figure-8 division, where 11 cars took the green flag for their 25 lap main event. It was another wild race with Steve ”Battlewagon” Peters in his freshened up V-8 hot-rod, holding off “the one-armed Bandit” Quenton Borreson in Dave Brandenburg’s defending 4-time Champ #17 rocket-car. It was a hard fought battle for Steve “Mr. Excitement” Cox, who finished 3rd in Tommy Gapp’s under-powered #32, followed by “the Cowboy” John Carlson in Bruce Beeler’s #13 car. Yes, the top 4 drivers ALL have cool nicknames. All have decades of F-8 experience and plenty of Championships each…and all 4 are in the FEAR Hall of Fame! To read about them, and others in the Hall, click on the "DRIVERS" box, located above this story.
The following week the “Outlaw” division started their season, but unfortunately it was a much cooler and rainy day. The Sprint cars had already been cancelled, replaced by school bus racing, so fans of the 8-track had reason to enjoy the rain. But boy, was it wet! Doug Wilkinson had set fast-time in his #55, but ended up down a lap in 4th place, as did Ricky “the Kid” Deitz who finished in 3rd in his #76. Zack Larson in his gorgeous bright orange Gunderson-built #83 was clearly the class of the field, followed by “the Cowboy” John Carlson in his #50, the only 2 Outlaws on the lead lap! Congrats to Zack for his first Outlaw win of 2018!

And finally, the “Big Ed Ritchie Memorial 90 Minutes-of-FEAR” happened a few weeks ago. Diluted down to three 30-minute races that 1) Don’t seem to mention Ed anymore… and, 2) Does not seem THAT much different from any other night of Figure-8 racing! I went into the long history of this once prestigious event last year, and certainly blame the lack of cars for this latest iteration. That said, congrats to Nick Gunderson who set fast time, won his heat race and clearly won the wet 53 lap (11 car) “Outlaw” Main event in Seth Funden’s #40 hot-rod! Lance Ograin did great driving the #45 car for Jake Repin and Ricky “the Kid” Deitz in the #76 rounded out the podium, and were the only other Outlaws on the same slippery lead lap.

The Super-stock division had an even tougher time with the slick track as they only went 46 laps in their allotted (+2 min.) time. 15 cars started, fewer than half finished, as red flags and hard hits chewed up the clock, and the field! Congrats to newest FEAR Hall of Fame member and defending Champ Quenton Borreson for his fast time, heat and Main event sweep over John “the Cowboy” Carlson, who is doing “double-duty” all year in the 2 top divisions. Devin Jenkins brought his #95 car in 3rd, followed by Eric Allison’s #64… the final 2 cars still on the lead lap!
17 Stingers started their 30 minute event earlier, and on a dry track, which made for a great show! Dawson Cox was impressive, again, as he led most of the 71 laps to his victory over Cody Hoopes, who nursed a flat tire to the finish, still a lap ahead of Ken Schukar and Jason Wilson. Congrats to Dawson!

Speaking of “Big Ed” Ritchie, I received a text message from his daughter a couple weeks back. She thanked us for remembering her late Father, wanted me to say Hi to all of his old racing friends at Evergreen Speedway, and said she may come back to the track next year, the 20th anniversary of his tragic demise. If you did not know Ed, or how he died here doing what he loved, you can read a bit about him in his FEAR Hall of Fame profile. Look above, under “drivers” - or hopefully soon, in the new “Champs/HoF” box.

So that was the first month plus of Figure-8 racing in Monroe! To see what’s next this season, simply check the FEAR schedule box above. And remember, you can check the point standings now, right from our front page! A week off… then it was “Big-Rig” night, with “the Cowboy” sweeping the Super-stock division in the #13 car, barely holding off “the One-armed Bandit” in the #17! And Cody Hoopes in his #10x Prelude squeaking the Stinger-8 win over Jason Wilson’s #50 CRX!

Next up is Memorial weekend when we honor Sean Peters, and several of our late members! Then we are all back on JUNE 9TH for "RACERS REUNION" night action!....ALL former and current drivers who would like to attend that night FREE, must signup with the track to receive free passes!  I hope to see you at the REUNION!  -BC