Racing enthusiasts on the Kenai Peninsula always look forward to the night races held near the end of the summer at Twin Cities Raceway in Kenai, but Friday’s events just ended up plain messy.
Six classes of racing machines took to the banked dirt track on Friday night — including A-Stock, B-Stock, Mini-Stock, Legends, Trucks and Late Models — and the first two heats of each division finished up with just barely enough daylight left for workers to turn on the artificial lights.
But soon after the first feature race began for the A-Stocks, rain began to fall and the track became quite slippery in a short amount of time, leading to race leader Keith Jones sliding up into the metal fencing in turn two and ending his weekend early with a wrecked race car.
“I got a face full of mud, couldn’t see anything, and I lifted, turned, knew I was getting close to the corner, I hit the brakes and I just couldn’t turn,” Jones said in the pit area. “It broke my roll cage, bent it all the way back to the cockpit. But it did its job.”
The race was already under a yellow flag condition for two slow cars when the rain started up, and the caution period was further prolonged as safety workers searched the track for a missing transponder off Steve Moretti’s car.
As soon as the field took the green flag to finish the final 12 laps (out of 20), it was apparent that the track had become very slick, and drivers were merely trying to hold control of their vehicles.
“They wanted to try and get the race in and I understand that,” Jones said. “I chose to take the green flag, I thought about pulling off because it was so slick, and that’s the result.”
Jones engaged Bert Nelson in a battle for the lead, but four laps after the restart, stuffed it hard into the fence.
“I’ve wrecked it really bad once before, on the other side,” he said. “Not to that degree, it didn’t do as much damage.”
Fellow Wasilla racer, Damian LaMountain — winner of the second heat — said he received a scare when he noticed the amount of damage to the front right corner of Jones’ car, and stopped nearby to see if he was all right.
“I can’t believe they threw the green back on us,” LaMountain said. “But that’s racing, it’s the last weekend so let it hang.”
LaMountain, who cut his teeth on the asphalt at North Star Speedway from 1999 to 2007, said it is not easy to control a full-bodied stock car on a wet track.
“It went slick like instantly. It went from really tacky going forward to an ice skating rink,” he said. “You need four-wheel drive out here right now”
Steve Moretti, a victim of spinning out into the swampy infield in the feature event, won the first heat for the A-Stocks.
Friday night also featured a first for Twin Cities Raceway — four women suited up to race with the men.
Brooke Devaney, a regular in the A-Stock division, was joined by Tiana Jones, who is the 18-year-old daughter of Keith Jones.
“She wanted to race under the lights one time, so my friend towed her car down to race,” Keith said.
Salina Jackson piloted the 11 machine in the Trucks division, and Cora Molar raced in the Mini-Stock division.
Mike Hanson held off a hard-charging Alex Schwochert in the first heat of the Mini-Stock class, even after a few bumps from behind by Schwochert, and the two repeated the result in the second heat.
The first heat of the Legends division may have been the most exciting finish of the night, as the top three cars finished within a second of each other in a nail-biting battle. David Kusmider managed to hold off Bryan Barber and Chris Hawley, with Barber getting the better of Kusmider in the second heat.
In the B-Stock division, the ever-dominant 38 car of Bill Williams was beat by Jared Nissen, who made his move on Williams on a restart with four laps to go. In the second heat, Chuck Winters took the win after finishing last in the first heat.
Only three trucks showed up to race, but Jeff Bettis swept the two heat races, ahead of a smoking Richard McGahan and Salina Jackson.
Finally, in the Late Models division, Shawn Hutchings and Jason Magers put on a show with a thrilling battle in the second heat that ended with Magers edging out Hutchings for the win, after Hutchings took the first heat.
The races were scheduled to conclude Saturday night after the Clarion went to press.
Friday, Twin Cities Raceway
Heat 1 — 1. Steve Moretti; 2. Jimmie Hale; 3. Bert Nelson; 4. Keith Jones; 5. Damian LaMountain; 6. Dustin Bass; 7. Dean Devaney; 8. Brooke Devaney; 9. Artie Niemi; 10. Tiana Jones.
Heat 2 — 1. Damian LaMountain; 2. Keith Jones; 3. Dean Devaney; 4. Jimmie Hale; 5. Bert Nelson; 6. Dustin Bass; 7. Steve Moretti; 8. Artie Niemi; 9. Brooke Devaney; 10. Tiana Jones.
Heat 1 — 1. Jared Nissen; 2. Bill Williams; 3. Daren Devaney; 4. Eric Wittner; 5. Craig Ramm; 6. Chuck Winters.
Heat 2 — 1. Chuck Winters; 2. Jared Nissen; 3. Craig Ramm; 4. Daren Devaney; 5. Bill Williams; 6. Eric Wittner; 7. J.C. Herbst.
Heat 1 — 1. Mike Hanson; 2. Alex Schwochert; 3. James Watkins; 4. Cora Molar; 5. Brian McPherson, DNF.
Heat 2 — 1. Mike Hanson; 2. Alex Schwochert; 3. James Watkins; 4. Cora Molar.
Heat 1 — 1. David Kusmider; 2. Bryan Barber; 3. Chris Hawley; 4. Ty Torkelson.
Heat 2 — 1. Bryan Barber; 2. David Kusmider; 3. Chris Hawley; 4. Ty Torkelson.
Heat 1 — 1. Shawn Hutchings; 2. Jason Magers; 3. Mike Braddock; 4. Geoff Clark.
Heat 2 — 1. Jason Magers; 2. Shawn Hutchings; 3. Mike Braddock; 4. Geoff Clark.
Heat 1 — 1. Jeff Bettis; 2. Richard McGahan; 3. Salina Jackson.
Heat 2 — 1. Jeff Bettis; 2. Salina Jackson; 3. Richard McGahan.