The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions have finally hit a good groove in the summer racing season at Twin Cities Raceway dirt track in Kenai, as the five classes of cars and trucks traded paint for glory Saturday night.
The biggest change this year is the addition of steel fencing surrounding the track in turns one and two. In past years, the retaining fence was used in turns three and four — the side of the track with a dirt road that led to the pits — but the other end featured nothing more than a dirt embankment.
On more than one occasion, race vehicles would slide up the banking and down the other side, where usually no spectators were stationed, but the safety concerns eventually prompted track officials to build the fence.
The racing season was scheduled to begin on May 25, but delays in the construction of the fence pushed the season opener to June 15.
“It’s a little sketchy sometimes, but it’s good to have (the fence),” said Bryan Barber, Anchorage driver of the 88 Legends car. “I would rather injure myself or the car, rather than the spectators around the track.”
Barber, 22, had the fastest Legends machine on Saturday night, and came close to sweeping all three races.
After winning both eight-lap heat races convincingly, Barber was leading the 20-lap feature event when his hood detached, flew up into the air and caused the caution flag to be displayed, meaning all cars had to slow to a safe pace.
Because he was the cause for the caution, Barber was flagged to the back of the nine-car field, although he nearly mounted a complete comeback, charging his way back to third place. Mike Thomas, driving the 5 car, won the feature.
“I was crushed at first, but after that I just let it go and tried to get a better finish,” Barber said. “If I had another lap I would’ve got it. My car was just that good.”
In the Late Models division, a classic battle between the 29 machine of Frank Soares and the 27 car of local driver Shawn Hutchings played out in all three races. Hutchings won the first heat, but Soares got the victories in the second heat and the feature race.
The two drivers raced fiercely for the lead in the feature, but Hutchings’ repeated attempts to pass Soares for the lead were denied, and he finished less than a second behind Soares.
“That was a lot of fun, I think he got me,” Hutchings said after the race. “My oil and engine temperatures went up with about six laps to go so I had to back off.”
It was all domination in the B-Stock events for local driver Bill Williams, who drove his usual 38 racecar. Williams easily swept all three races, which he said was because of his many hours working on the vehicle's suspension, rather than the pure engine power.
“I pay attention to how I set the car up, and people think you gotta have a lot of motor. You don’t, you need to have your car set up,” Williams said. “I do a lot of research to make it faster.”
Williams commented on the condition of the track, particularly in turns one and two, which developed a few bumps and potholes and the night’s action wore on.
“That was a motocross track down there!” Williams exclaimed.
The 25-year veteran said the only way to avoid it was to go high or low in the turns, depending on how well his car ran.
The bumps also caused a few hairy moments throughout the night as drivers would hit the bumps and nearly test the limits of the new catchfence.
“They’ve done a tremendous job of getting the track put together,” said Hutchings, the Late Model racer. “You can get some traction up there in the high line, so I think the higher line was better for sure. You can carry some speed and get close to the wall, which was pretty fun.”
In the A-Stock category, parity reigned supreme, as Homer’s Dean DeVaney won the first heat, Jimmie Hale took the second heat in the 84 machine, and Keith Jones captured the feature event in the 28 car, overcoming in a spirited duel with DeVaney in the final laps.
The Sprint Car races only featured two racers — Cody and Cameron McGahan — but they still put on quite a show, as the two brothers spent most every lap of all three races within a couple of car lengths of each other.
Cody won the first heat race in the 18 racer, but Cameron got the better of his brother in the final two events, piloting the 33 machine.
Twin City Raceway will continue its season on July 4 and 6, with qualifying at 4 p.m. and racing at 6 p.m. on both days.