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Fall Classic: A Lang Time Coming

October 03, 2011

Win snaps Lynnwood driver’s bad luck at Speedway

YAKIMA, Wash. — Naima Lang has for years come to the Yakima Speedway’s signature events with a car good enough to win. And his credentials at Monroe’s Evergreen Speedway suggest his part in the deal is pretty good, too.

But it just didn’t happen.

“It’s hard to say why, except that is was a lot of bad luck,” he theorized. “We’re good every year coming in here and then something happens — you name it, we’ve broken it.”

Naima Lang celebrates after his victory in the 24th Annual Fall Classic at the Yakima Speedway Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011 in Yakima, Wash. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic)



But on Sunday night at the 24th annual Fall Classic, the only thing Lang broke was that run of bad luck.

Overtaking Snohomish’s Jason Fraser with 16 laps remaining, the 42-year-old racer from Lynnwood kept a wild finish behind him and won the three-hour, 200-lap season finale for Northwest racing.

“All these great drivers here … Man, I still can’t believe it,” Lang said of his breakthrough victory. “I’ve been coming here seven, eight years and never been in the circle until today. To finally do it is the perfect finish to an awesome year.”

Coming off a dominant Late Model championship season at Evergreen Speedway’s 3/8-mile oval, where he won 11 main events and eight in a row, Lang held off another fast closer, Monroe’s Kelly Mann, for the $7,500 win over the 31-car field.

Canadian Pete Harding, who nearly missed the start after being hospitalized for kidney stones Saturday night, staged a late rush for third place, and Wapato’s J.C. Wofford was the top local finisher in fourth.

Given Lang’s history of bad luck here, it probably felt like more of the same when, early in the race, the front latches on his hood broke and it flew up on his windshield.

“Something like that happens and you think, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ But fortunately there was a quick yellow and we got it worked out,” he said. “In the second half I felt the car really coming on. I knew we had something and it was just whether or not we could get around Jason.”

Fraser, the Speedway’s 2009 Apple Cup winner, led 65 laps during the first half before relinquishing the lead to Wofford. After a full-field break at the midpoint for fresh tires and fuel, he seized the lead back on lap 110 and appeared in command.

But when Fraser’s sharpness fell away, Lang pounced on lap 184 and he pulled Mann with him.

“We were great on short runs, but on long runs we were a lot better,” said Mann, whose previous best at the Fall Classic was third in 2005. “We tried to take it easy and stay out of trouble in the second 100. We managed that and then really came on. A few more laps and maybe we would’ve had something for Naima.”

Wofford, who claimed his first Late Model win at the Speedway this season in a 50-lapper, enjoyed a remarkable run against the region’s heavyweights.

Starting on the outside of row three, Wofford pushed his No. 100 racer — a triple-digit number passed down through generations of Wofford drivers — into the lead on lap 82. He was quickly overtaken by Lang but he never got frazzled in the volatile second half.

Rallying from seventh with 50 laps left, Wofford held third for 10 late laps before settling for fourth. In last year’s Fall Classic he finished 25th.

Naches’ Owen Riddle, the Speedway’s three-time reigning Late Model champion, started on the inside pole and led the first 21 laps before engine failure ended his day early.

Defending champion Shane Harding got as high as third in the second half before a broken axle shut him down with 15 laps left.

Selah’s Mel Patnode’s capped off a huge year, bookending his Street Stocks win in the Apple Cup last April with a 75-lap victory in Sunday’s Street Stocks finale. In between he captured the inaugural West Coast Promoters Street Stocks series title.

There were three lengthy delays during the final 25 laps, but each time Patnode powered away and eventually won by nearly two seconds over Bryon Goetz.

In Hobby Stocks, Jeff Stevenson won the 50-lap main event over runner-up Buck Noel Jr. and Terry Cook.

Sunday’s main events


200 laps — 1, Naima Lang; 2, Kelly Mann; 3, Pete Harding; 4, J.C. Wofford; 5, Jason Fraser; 6, Cameron Hayley; 7, Christopher Kalsch; 8, Darrell Tidrick; 9, Clint Hobart; 10, Zack Moran; 11, Austin Hoye; 12, Joey Tanner; 13, Shane Harding; 14, Chris Eggleston; 15, Garrett Evans; 16, Jeff Knight; 17, Dan Lowther; 18, Paul Dart; 19, Dan Obrist; 20, Fred Hall; 21, Jake Bissett; 22, Brian Levant; 23, Robert Mears; 24, David Smick; 25, Mark Sundberg; 26, Shane Mitchell; 27, Randy Marshall Jr.; 28, Duke Langley; 29, Owen Riddle; 30, Mitchell Kleyn; 31, Tayler Riddle.


75 laps — 1, Mel Patnode; 2, Bryon Goetz; 3, Richard Peters; 4, Ron Stewart; 5, Shane Brim; 6, Andy Beaman; 7, Kelly Hellewell; 8, Randy Pugh; 9, Chad Hinkle; 10, Joe Kneeland; 11, Richie Balderson; 12, Tom Pinkowsky; 13, A.J. Baxter; 14, Will Whitlow; 15, Curt Adams; 16, Garrett Sisk; 17, Barry Mueller; 18, Gary Flammang; 19, Jimmy Zorrozua; 20, Jamison Armstrong; 21, Josh Wilson; 22, Daniel Mears; 23, Ben St. Mary; 24, Bill Rutherford; 25, Chris Hart; 26, Kevin Carver; 27, Todd Connell; 28, Cameron Bruggman.


50 laps — 1, Jeff Stevenson; 2, Buck Noel Jr.; 3, Terry Cook; 4, Rory Coleman; 5, Kevin Bull; 6, Ken Mullins; 7, Don Klang; 8, Mike Hill; 9, Jeff Wilkinson; 10, Bobby Stewart Jr.; 11, Morgan Morrison; 12, Tyson Richter; 13, Chris Marang; 14, Eric Zahler; 15, John Fortenberry; 16, Chris Morrison; 17, Ed St. Mary; 18, Lucas Valdez; 19, Brian Pepper; 20, K.C. Valentine; 21, Chris Richter Jr.; 22, Ron Morton; 23, Jerry Walker Jr.; 24, Darrell Tidrick; Kyler Conduff.

Article taken from Sports Yakima -
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