Concord,NC — Nowhere during the Memorial Day Weekend was there more exciting racing than in the Pacific Northwest as the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Series launched its 2009 season with three consecutive nights of action.
Casey Vitale outlasted a field of 39 cars to take the opener on May 22 at Cottage Grove (Ore.) Speedway while at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore., Jeremy Shank topped 48 cars on May 23 and Brett McCutcheon bested 44 cars on May 24.
The enthusiasm for the tour’s inaugural season under the DIRTcar Racing banner was exceptional. Packed grandstands greeted competitors at all three events on a tour the racers believe will elevate Dirt Late Model racing in the Pacific Region into the national spotlight.
“The weekend was proof of what we already knew, that drivers and fans alike are behind bringing the great drivers and tracks in the Northwest into the limelight,” said DIRTcar West Region Director Chris Morgan. “It was very exciting to see how successful this first weekend was, and to really understand how big the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Series can be with competitors and track operators working together.”
Vitale started the tour off in style as he captured the first win at Cottage Grove. Vitale, of nearby Albany, Ore., captured a heat race victory and started the A-main in fourth before working his way to the lead and finishing ahead of Shank.
The next night at Willamette, Shank showed his strong run was no fluke. He used a heat race win (one of the three he won during the weekend) and a fast four dash win in his Swartz chassis late model to help secure the pole for the A-Main, which he dominated to the checkered flag.
“All in all we had a really good weekend, said Shank, of Salem, Ore. “We just stayed out of trouble and came away with a first and two second-place finishes. We’ve got a good following of Late Models. The tour is full of tough guys.”
Shank used his strong weekend — he never finished below second —to vault himself into the points lead, but he cautioned against looking too far ahead.
“It would be quite an accomplishment to win the championship, especially having this as part of DIRTcar Racing,” Shank said. “We know it’s still early, hopefully we stay running good.”
Brett McCutcheon, of Sweet Home, Ore., captured the weekend’s finale at Willamette Speedway, dominating the A-main and holding off runner-up Shank.
“It means a lot and feels good to win somewhere I grew up watching, hopefully we can go forward from here,” said McCutcheon. “This is a track that my grandmother brought me to as a kid, so to win here is really special.”
DIRTCAR I-5 NORTHWEST LATE MODEL TOUR
Date / Track / Location / Winner
May 22 Cottage Grove Speedway Cottage Grove, OR Casey Vitale
May 23 Willamette Speedway Lebanon, OR Jeremy Shank
May 24 Willamette Speedway Lebanon, OR Brett McCutcheon
July 3 Southern Oregon Speedway Medford, OR
July 4 Willamette Speedway Lebanon, OR
July 5 Cottage Grove Speedway Cottage Grove, OR
Aug 14 Banks Banks, OR
Sept 3 Skagit Speedway Burlington, WA
Sept 5 Willamette Speedway Lebanon, OR
Sept 6 Willamette Speedway Lebanon, OR
Sept 25 Southern Oregon Speedway Medford, OR
Sept 26 Southern Oregon Speedway Medford, OR
For more information on the DIRTcar I-5 Northwest Late Model Series visit DIRTcar.com.