Northwest Super Late Models Head to Oregon 125 at Hermiston
This will be the 10th trip to Hermiston Raceway for the Northwest Super Late Model Series.
Event: The “Oregon 125” will take place on June 17th and will be a single day event for the Northwest Super Late Model Series presented by RaceCals (NWSLMS), paying $3,000-to-win at Hermiston Raceway (OR). The 3/8-mile asphalt oval will host the series for the 10th time. It will be Round #4 of nine for the series, in its 10th season of operation.
Championship: Haeden Plybon leads the championship standings after the first three events (150 points). The 2022 and 2023 Kulwicki Driver Development Program is not entered in the “Oregon 125” at this time. Wyatt King is second in the standings (126) with Max Schroeder third (125), only one point behind. Zach Riehl (119) is fourth with Dave Garber (111) rounding out the top-five. The remainder of the top-10 are Jason O’Neil (110), Ken Bonney (107), Chris Kalsch (99), Kasey Kleyn (96), and Doni Wanat (79).
Rookie-of-the-Year: Wyatt King leads the rookie standings after strong runs in the season opening “Apple Cup 125” (2nd) at Tri-City Raceway at RMEC (WA) and the “Liberty Launch Academy 125” (5th) at Findley Stadium Stateline Speedway (ID). Zach Riehl is only seven markers back, with a best finish of fourth in the “Apple Cup 125”. Kasey Kleyn has made his presence known after winning at Stateline Speedway and closing the gap to 30 points, after nearly winning the season opener at Tri-City.
Hermiston History: The NWSLMS has visited Hermiston Raceway nine times in its history. The track was one of the founding facilities on the “Tour” and hosted four events in its’ inaugural 2014 season. Mike Longton was a two-time winner that season, while the late J.C. Wofford and Tayler Riddle scored single victories. The 2019 event was won by 2019 NWSLMS Champion Trevor Cristiani. With Covid-19, there was no event in 2020. In 2021, Hermiston hosted two events with Haeden Plybon leading every lap of the June event. Jason Jefferson charged from the rear of the field after an early race incident to win the Labor Day weekend event. The 2022 season also brought two events. Kaiden Anderson grabbed the only win of his championship season, taking advantage of a late race incident to lead only two laps. Haeden Plybon again dominated the Labor Day event, leading 101 of 125 laps.
Previous Winners: Currently there are four previous NWSLMS winners entered for this weekend’s event. They include Kasey Kleyn, Max Schroeder, Garrett Evans, and Jason Jefferson. Only Jefferson has won at Hermiston.
Retiring Legend?: Garrett Evans has been mulling over his retirement from driving for several seasons. But the 67-year-old Pacific Northwest Legend has continued to win, while putting off calling it quits. This weekend he heads to Hermiston Raceway, where he has only one finish outside the top-four, in seven starts. In that event (2019), he crossed the line first but was penalized for contact with the leader on the last lap. Evans will now make another start, looking for that first win before retirement. He will continue to hold-off on that decision for multiple reasons.
“I love the challenge of trying to make the cars go fast and the battle on the track”, Evans stated about his continued time behind the wheel. “I am very fortunate to have Glen Knutson working on my cars also. He is a driver as well as a Crew Chief, and we bounce ideas off each other. His brother Chris is my spotter, and he does a great job. As long as those guys are helping me, and I can get in the car, I hope I get to do this a few more times.”
Young Gun: Going from a winning veteran to a winning rookie, Kasey Kleyn became the first rookie to grab a win in 2023. His win at Findlay Stadium State Speedway was also on a track known for tire wear, which is one of the main focus issues at Hermiston. In 2022, Kleyn participated in both Hermiston events with the series, finishing eighth and 15th. With his big win at Stateline, he feels confident about this weekend’s “Oregon 125”.
“I feel really good about it”, Kleyn conjectured about his hopes for this weekend. It's a drivers track for sure. The biggest thing I'm going to be looking for is a car that will be consistent over the long run, to keep my tires on for the end.”
Ironman: Christopher Kalsch will make his 32nd consecutive appearance in the NWSLMS this weekend. It is a record for the series in its 10th season. Kalsch has had his ups and downs at Hermiston with a best finish of sixth and a worst of 20thin his five starts. The Hillsboro, OR driver has an average finish of 13th, but will be looking to maximize their efforts based on their better performances at the facility.
“I have had mixed results at Hermiston in the past”, Kalsch began. “We plan on trying to build off some of our better finishes and see if we can work our way up the field. It's always a challenge to find enough grip to last the whole race at a track like Hermiston. As far as making the most consecutive starts for the NWSLMS, I find it a little hard to believe. That wasn't something that I specifically set out to accomplish. I think it's really just an indication of how well the series takes care of the teams. I have always felt welcome, and I know they try to be as fair as possible.”
Hermiston Winner: Jason Jefferson won in his last appearance in the Northwest Super Late Model Series. That win was at Hermiston Raceway on Labor Day Weekend in 2021. Jefferson will make only his sixth start in the series and second at Hermiston. The multi-time Super Late Model track champion at Yakima Speedway (WA) is coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in his Pro Late Model, at the ”Duel in the Desert 75”, in preparation for this weekend's event.
“I have raced at Hermiston twice this year on the 970 tire, basically in preparation for this Northwest (Tour) race”, Jefferson stated. “We definitely struggled on the 970, but I wanted some more track time at Hermiston, to try to get better there. It's a different track but fun. And now that Yakima (Speedway) is gone, it's the closest one for us to go to.”
Hermiston Champion Part Une: Nick Gibson is coming off a championship season in Hermiston Raceway Pro Late Model competition. He was also the most recent winner at the facility, winning the “Duel in the Desert 75” in his Pro Late Model. He was a winner at Findlay Stadium Stateline Speedway just over a week ago in his Pro Late Model. But Gibson is still looking for his first Northwest Super Late Model Series victory, after finishing third in the championship standings last year. He finished fourth and seventh in last season’s NWSLMS Hermiston events and hope they can duplicate their success in the Pro Late Model this weekend.
“I feel like we have been pretty successful on 970s (the tire Pro Late Models race with) everywhere we have gone, we definitely have that figured out”, Gibson explained. “We are trying some different stuff to make our slick race program better, so it will be interesting to see how we do. We are going to keep working our asses off till we get it figured out. The last tour race in Stateline (Speedway), we thought we had a good car till the sun went down, and the car didn't like it.”
Hermiston Champion Part Deux: Dave Garber grabbed the Hermiston Raceway Pro Late Model track championship in 2020 and then won the “Racing Dynamiks 70” in 2021, to establish himself as a strong contender. Up until last year, Garber had not finished outside the top-10, in eight Northwest Super Late Model Series starts at the 3/8-mile. But both of his finishes in 2022 were subpar, with a best of 11th. Garber hopes to turn that around this weekend with hard work.
“To turn it around, I think it takes many endless hours in the shop”, Garber explained. “And without Fitz Motorsports, for sure I wouldn’t be able to do what I have been doing.”
Schedule: Practice will begin for all divisions at 1:00 PM, beginning with the NWSLMS. Qualifying will begin at 3:40 PM with Single Qualifying for the Washington Midget Racing Association (WMRA). Group Qualifying for the Hornets, Bombers, INEX Legends, and Hobby Stocks is followed by Single Car Qualifying for the NWSLMS. Admission Gates open at 4:00 PM with Opening Ceremonies at 4:55 PM. Heat Races for all but the Super Late Models begin at 5:00 PM. The Power Up 10 minute Practice Session for the NWSLMS follows. Main Events are scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM for the WMRA, Midway Legends, Bettarel Hobby Stocks, Street Stocks, NWSLMS, Bombers, and Hornets.
1 Kasey Kleyn Quincy, WA
2 Terry Halverson Wenatchee, WA
021 Todd Connell Yakima, WA
3 Andy Beaman Selah, WA
3K Ken Bonney Hermiston, OR
7 Zach Riehl Corbett, OR
11 Nick Gibson Nampa, ID
17s Max Schroeder Tacoma, WA
24 Tim Babcock Kennewick, WA
33 Christopher Kalsch Hillsboro, OR
42 Garrett Huffines Selah, WA
64 Garrett Evans E Wenatchee, WA
80 Wyatt King Boise, ID
93 Dave Garber Spokane, WA
97 Jason Jefferson Naches, WA
ABOUT THE NORTHWEST SUPER LATE MODEL SERIES
The Northwest Super Late Model Series is the premier regional touring Super Late Model series in the Northwest. The series has many valued partners including RaceCals, Hoosier Racing Tire, McGunegill Engine Performance, Gibson Diesel Performance, AR Bodies, Joes Racing Products, Penske Racing Shocks, Five Star Bodies, AFCO/Longacre Racing Products, Atomic Screen Printing and Embroidery, Franks Racing Radio, BLP, Jefferson Racing, Impel Motorsports, and The Ti Company. For more information on the series visit www.nwslms.com or on Facebook and Twitter.
Story, Pic: K. Peters, NWSLMS Media