On the heels of the successful playday two weeks ago, Orland Raceway is prepared to kick off the 2019 season this Saturday night. Promoter Rich Hood and his crew have everything ready to go, and barring any bad weather, the Saturday night program will offer five divisions of racing for the fans to enjoy on the 1/5-mile dirt oval.
Headlining the show will be the popular Pure Stock division, along with Mini Stocks, Mini Trucks, Wingless Sprints and 600 Micro Sprints. When Hood, a longtime Pure Stock competitor at the speedway, stepped in at very late notice to promote the 2016 season, there may have been people who were skeptical about how the show was going to go. However, Hood stuck to a simple game plan, offering the fans the divisions that they were used to seeing, and the show went on.
As Orland Raceway has continued to gather momentum with new improvements in each of the past three seasons, more drivers are coming back to race again. Last season was easily the most successful year for Hood as promoter so far. This being his fourth season at the helm of the speedway, Hood becomes the longest-tenured promoter of the speedway since Paul and Carol Turner ended their decade-long run at the end of the 2007 season.
Last season, Paul Stephens added another Orland Raceway Pure Stock championship trophy to his mantle. He engaged in a thrilling season long battle with 2017 titleholder Jeremy Langenderfer. Though Langenderfer won more Main Events than anybody in the class, Stephens usually finished second and wasn't outside the Top 5 very often. This season, Langenderfer not only has a Pure Stock, he also acquired the Mini Stock used by Barbara Crain to finish second in points in that division last year.
There are some new drivers on the Pure Stock roster this season, including Danny LaBonte and Toby Merrifield, but the fans can also look forward to seeing stars such as past Orland champion Steve Martin, Marysville champion Shannon Collins, Amanda McAbel, John Camper and Brad Ray. Multi-time Mini Truck champion Keith Ross also has a Camaro as he returns to the Pure Stock division.
Langenderfer behind the wheel of a Mini Stock promises to shake up that division. Three-time reigning Mini Stock champion Tom Davis had to work hard last year to beat Barbara Crain by just 10 points. Langenderfer in the field won't be his only threat. Past champion John Kirkpatrick is back this year along with such hard chargers as Jason Libbee, Scott Camper and Sean Perry. Furthermore, 2016 Mini Truck champion Dan Webster now has a Mini Stock.
Webster and Ross have been the drivers to beat in Mini Truck competition in recent years. William Fogle, who has ranked near the top of the point list for the past few seasons, is hoping to take a bigger step and make a run for the title and feature victories. Zach Webster, who has been competing in Micro Sprints in recent seasons, also has a truck. Much like the Mini Stocks, the trucks give the fans a good field of vehicles to watch with some exciting racing as well.
The Wingless Sprint Car division has been a part of things at Orland Raceway going back to the 2002 season. Ralph Jacobo had been fielding a pair of cars that would make practice laps during intermission in 2001. Son Josh Jacobo and Rob Worthington were two drivers who got behind the wheel early on. Jacobo is a multi-time champion, but the reigning champion heading into the season is Tanner Thomson. Thomson beat RJ Baker by just one point in the closest battle at the speedway. One driver looking to do battle as he tries to make a run for his second Orland championship is multi-time Chico champion Tony Richards. There is word that the displaced Silver Dollar Speedway drivers may start coming to Orland, which would certainly make the Wingless Sprint Cars an exciting show for the fans to enjoy.
Fans and drivers have been chomping at the bit to see the gates open at Orland Raceway once again. If the weather allows it, Saturday night should be an exciting show from start to finish. For further information, go to the Orland Raceway Facebook page.