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Apple Cup: smoke and mirrors for Riddle

April 16, 2012

Apple Cup: Smoke and mirrors lead to victory

April 15, 2012 by Scott Spruill

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Four-time season champion Riddle overcomes oil leak, veteran Evans to get signature win at Yakima Speedway ||

YAKIMA,Wash.— As he sped into the second half of Sunday’s 46th annual Apple Cup race at Yakima Speedway, Owen Riddle had a determined grip on the lead and everything was humming along perfectly.

So, given his just-short-of-victory history in such events, he naturally expected the worst.

Like the smoke billowing off the back of his machine with 30 laps to go.

 

Owen Riddle waves to the crowd after winning the 46th Annual Apple Cup at the Yakima Speedway inYakima,Wash.Sunday, April 15, 2012. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic)

 

 

“My first thought was, ‘Sure, I guess it was too good to be true,’” said the Naches driver, who also knew the looming presence of three-time Apple Cup champ Garrett Evans was just beyond his smoke. “Something just had to go wrong.”

But then the unexpected happened.

He caught a break.

Despite smoking so bad officials inspected his car for an oil leak during a late caution flag, Riddle never lost power and actually pulled away from Evans to capture the 125-lap Super Late Model main event.

After proving his local superiority with four of theSpeedway’s Late Model season titles, Riddle finally got the signature victory he long sought inYakima’s bookend premier events, the Apple Cup and Fall Classic.

“It’s been a long time coming. You never know how these things will come out, even when you have a great car,” said Riddle, who was second here last year and third in 2010. “I guess we were due.”

Riddle thought the mystery smoke that appeared on lap 94 was a tire rubbing on a fender, a problem he had in practice. As his crew took a peek under the front end in the winner’s circle, there was oil “all over” under the engine though none was dripping.

“I was just trying to baby it to the finish,” Riddle said. “That’s a tough way to lead a race, thinking at any moment you’re going to lose the engine and be done.”

Given the tenuous situation quickly developing under his hood, Riddle caught another break in the speed of the race, which took only 57 minutes to run. Evans, theWenatcheeveteran, held offLynnwood’s Naima Lang, last year’s Fall Classic winner, for second and third. That trio was far and away the best in the dwindling field, which was down to nine cars at the finish from a starting grid of 18.

“I could see Owen was having a problem but he held it together,” Evans said. “I didn’t want to get too close if he was leaking, but then backing a little didn’t do me any good either. I was glad he didn’t get back-flagged (for a leak). He deserved to win.”

Surviving a smoking engine with a quick race weren’t even Riddle’s biggest breaks.

Two major contenders — pole-sitter Mike Longton of Moxee and Canadian Pete Harding — were dueling for the lead on lap 27 when a lapped car created an incident that sent both former Apple Cup winners off the track. That ended Harding’s day while Longton continued on to finish eighth, although his machine was clearly not up to its fast-time standards from Saturday.

“Early on I thought maybe it would come down to us and the 37 (of Longton),” Riddle said. “It was horrible for him because they had a real good car.”

Wapato’s J.C. Wofford was the only other driver on the lead lap at the finish, his fourth-place effort duplicating last year’s Fall Classic run. Owen’s younger brother, Tayler, finished sixth.

In Sunday’s other main events, victories went to Rich Peters (Street Stocks), Buck Noel Jr. (Sportsman), Rob Allen (Pure Stocks) and Rick McNeil (Legends).

Peters, who won the Apple Cup’s Super Stocks race in 2007, led the final 13 laps of the 60-lap main, which is the first event of the West Coast Promoters Street Stocks Series.

Noel Jr.’s Apple Cup victory was his fourth in the last nine years. He won last year’s Sportsman division and Hobby Stocks titles in 2005 and ’03.

 

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