HERMISTON — The Hermiston Raceway’s latest event doesn’t kick off until later Saturday evening, but the crew was hard at work under the scorching July sun on Friday afternoon, making sure every car and driver is geared up and ready to go.
Saturday evening, the raceway will host a stacked bill for the latest installment in its summer season, headlined by WESCO Wing Sprint and Washington Midget Racing Association races. The usual roundup of late models, street stocks, legends, bombers, hornets and bandoleros will also be in the mix.
Drivers from all over the Northwest — and even a few from Canada — will pay the raceway a visit to compete in what will be a historic moment for regional racing fans.
Sprint cars, which are outfitted to be smaller and faster than the usual race car, weigh in at roughly 1,625 pounds and run on an eight-cylinder, 625-horsepower engine. For comparison, the average vehicle at the Hermiston Raceway weighs about 2,800 pounds.
Saturday will mark the first time since the 1960s that Hermiston has hosted a WESCO Wing Sprint Car bill.
“They’re the fastest group of cars we’ll run all season, for sure,” said owner and promoter Greg Walden.
And WMRA cars are even smaller. Their four-cylinder, 360-horsepower engine runs on methanol, which burns one gallon per mile. To put that into perspective, four laps around Hermiston’s oval drains one gallon of fuel.
“It’s going to be a good show,” Walden said. “It’ll be a night of close, competitive racing. The cars are light and fast, and can maneuver the course really quick.”
Walden spent Friday afternoon directing incoming competitors and supervising their practice rounds on the track.
Everett, Washington, resident Thomas Richardson made the four-hour drive to Hermiston for his debut on the local raceway. He came with two trailers to unload — one carrying a homemade WMRA car, and another with his custom Sprint, built with a Triple X frame and a Chevy engine.
“Sprint cars are fast,” said Richardson, who has been racing for four years. “They have twice the power, but weigh only a few hundred pounds more (than WMRA cars). (WMRA cars) take more technique and finesse. They have no downforce. “
The Hermiston Raceway runs pavement-pounding events every other weekend, all summer long. Saturday’s lineup is but the latest in a full calendar of racing entertainment.
“We’re seeing growth in every car and spectator count,” Walden said of the ongoing season. “Compared to every other track (in the region), we’re growing a lot. We’re seeing stronger numbers in our field than any other track in the area.”
Fans can expect an evening of nonstop action. Approximately 16 Sprint cars, nine WMRA cars, 11 late models, 12 legends, and many more will hit the track over the course of the night.
“It’s two different flavors of open-wheel racing,” Walden said of the Sprint and WMRA cars. “The drivers have to be good, because if they run into each other, they’ll end up on their heads. These drivers have a lot of respect for each other.”
Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and racing officially commences at 6 p.m. There is a $15 general admission fee per person.