MOXEE, Washington — Mike Longton was one of the hottest drivers in late model racing during the 2008 season. Starting with a top-5 finish in the 42nd Annual Yakima Speedway Apple Cup, grabbing six wins in the class over the year, running second to Gary Lewis in the Montana 200 then capping it all off with a clean sweep of races at Yakima’s Fall Classic (Race of Champions, Limited Late Model and Super Late Model), the East Valley High School graduate has shown he’s figured out how to compete against the top teams in the region.
Now the emerging talent is ready to try and grab a bigger prize-the ASA Northwest Late Model Tour championship which kicks off its season Saturday, May 2 at Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval. Running for the title will be daunting when facing the likes of Lewis, Pete Harding, Wes Rhodes, Brad Stanwood and a strong field of teams, but Longton is up for the challenge.
“We really had some great success last year that’s for sure,” he said.
“The goal for this season for the Mike Longton Motorsports race team is to (use that success and) run the whole ASA Tour schedule and go for that championship.”
Facing the region’s best after growing up a fan of the series is a bit overwhelming, Longton added.
“It is kind of crazy (to think about racing against Lewis, Harding, Garrett Evans and others). I remember going to Yakima Speedway with my Dad and watching those guys and to be racing with them is awesome and to be able to beat them once in awhile is something I never could have imagined.”
To reach the next level of an already budding career Longton must tame Wenatchee Valley, a track he’s had limited starts at in the past.
“You have to be on your game at a place like Wenatchee. Having a good starting spot is big since it’s such a tough place to pass. Staying out of trouble and keeping the fenders on our GTB Ag Services Ford Fusion is also key to finishing up front at Wenatchee Valley,” Longton explained.
Led by his father and crew chief, Rick, the Nob Hill Auto Sales team looked to this year’s Apple Cup as a jump off point in further racing success and to build momentum for the ASA season. A mechanical issue while leading the first quarter of the race forced the No. 37 to the pits ending their day prematurely.
“The Apple Cup was definitely a bummer,” Longton said. “We had such a great car and then had an axel break. To us it’s a racing deal because we know things get wore out and fatigued. We took the rear-end apart and lucky for us it didn’t hurt anything else. We have put it all back together and stuck two new axels in it and should be ready to go for Wenatchee.”
With three races coming over a four week span the repairs after Apple Cup have the team prepared for the upcoming May stretch, Longton added.
“With May being so busy it’s definitely going to take a lot of work by the team (to keep up with the impending changes). Hopefully we can keep the car in one piece which will make it a whole lot easier to get ready for the next race (May 9 in Spokane).”
The ASA Northwest Late Model Tour takes to Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval Saturday, May 2. Qualifying is set for 6 p.m. with the 125-lap race set to start at 9. For more information log onto www.wvso.com