MONROE — A piece of misfortune at last year’s Summer Showdown led to innovation at this year’s race.
The eighth annual Summer Showdown, Evergreen Speedway’s premier race for Super Late Models, gets the green flag Sunday. It’s the first time in race history the main event is scheduled for a Sunday afternoon rather than a Saturday evening.
Last year’s race, like always, was scheduled for a Saturday night. However, rain arrived just before the race was set to begin and the race ended up being washed out and rescheduled for Sunday afternoon.
While the rainout proved a hassle for fans, drivers and the track itself, it provided illumination when it came to the actual racing. Racing during daytime rather than under the lights at night meant the drivers’ visibility was better, they were able to set up passes further in advance and it led to better action. As a result last year’s race was among the most exciting in Summer Showdown history.
Therefore, the race was switched to Sunday this year. While there was risk in that decision, as now there’s no cushion should rain arrive on race day, it was one track president Doug Hobbs was willing to take for the sake of better racing.
“The racing was better,” Hobbs said Friday at the Summer Showdown media luncheon. “Even though we put LEDs and other things up, there’s always shadows and pockets. Daylight just made it pop, so we wanted to keep it on a Sunday and see if it worked.
“The drivers actually liked it,” Hobbs added. “The other thing it created for them, normally they come on Thursday through Sunday. Now it lets them work one more day and do it on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and not have to take another day off work.”
Sunday’s forecast is for sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70s, so there’s little threat of a rainout.
This year’s Summer Showdown, which also serves as the third of six races in Evergreen’s Bud Crown Series, commences over two days this weekend. Qualifying begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, with heat races taking place later in the evening. The last-chance qualifier, if needed, will run at approximately 1:30 p.m. Sunday, with the 200-lap main event scheduled to start at 4 p.m. The main event winner takes home $25,000.
This year’s field consists of 32 drivers from nine different American states and Canadian provinces. Leading the way is two-time defending champion Preston Peltier. Peltier, who hails from Brighton, Colorado, has entered the race three times. He won twice, and the other time, in 2016, he was leading late in the race when he suffered a battery failure.
He’ll be challenged by a strong group of drivers from out of state who are looking to make their Summer Showdown breakthroughs. Chief among those are Derek Thorn and Chris Davidson. Thorn, from Lakeport, California, is the current SLR Southwest Tour points leader who finished third at Summer Showdown in 2015 and second in 2016. Davidson, who comes from Pearland, Texas, was runner-up to Peltier last year and placed third in 2017.
“We feel pretty good about (our chances),” Thorn said. “It will be the first year we’ve had our Fury race car up here. I had to miss last year because K&N scheduled a race in Oregon, but I’m looking forward to trying our hand with this chassis at this place. I always love coming up here, (the track) is worn out, has a lot of character, a couple grooves, racing against some of the best guys from the Northwest and around the country. To be up here, it takes a lot of luck. We’ve been close and decent, we just have never really sealed the deal and luck has never really been on our side. If we have the speed and a little bit of luck, hopefully Sunday goes halfway decent.”
And could this be the first year a track regular captures the Summer Showdown crown? Auburn’s Tyler Tanner has been on fire, winning four of the first five Super Late Models races at Evergreen this season. Other local regulars who have been on the podium at past Summer Showdowns — Monroe’s Jeff Knight was third in 2016, Lake Stevens’ Rob Touchette was third last year — are also in contention.
“I like it,” Doni Wanat, currently third in the Evergreen Super Late Models points standings, said about the prospect of facing the out-of-towners. “I’m one of the racers who actually gets out of here and races other places. I like to go to different tracks to see where I’m at against everyone else. With those guys coming into our house, it’s kind of the same thing. I want to beat the best of the best. Derek is one of the best of the best, Chris is one of the best of the best, those are the guys you want to beat.”
Two top drivers who were originally in the field, Pete Harding and Chris Eggleston, had to withdraw. Harding, who’s from Surrey, British Columbia, and won the first ever Summer Showdown in 2012, had to pull out because his mother is in the hospital. Eggleston, from Eerie, Colorado, was forced to withdraw following the death of his grandmother.