EPHRATA, Washington — Matt Hein upped the ante of his season-long streak of top five finishes. He won the Rebel Jackson Memorial Saturday night at Ephrata Raceway Park.
The two-time defending Northwest Sprintcar Racing Association/American Speed Association Champion also increased his points lead and bid to win a third straight title. Hein, who pilots the white No. 98 Independent Motor Rebuilders car started inside the fifth row of the 22-car grid and was the race leader on Lap 16 of the 50-Lap feature. Hein, Roseburg, Ore., also won the Jackson Memorial last year.
Hein’s only threat to steal the win was from Oregon rival Andy Alberding. Alberding was quickly on the way to his best performance of the season, showing flashes of his 2007 NSRA championship dominance. The Winston driver established a new track record of 12.192 seconds on the gummy, quarter-mile oval during qualifying. He began the feature near the rear, 19th, but methodically gobbled up the field, almost passing a car on every circuit.
By the event’s midway point, the red Dar-Dan Racing No. 76 was caught in lapped traffic, but positioned in second place. During the race’s final caution on Lap 39, Alberding pulled alongside of Hein as if to heed the ensuing challenge. But, when the track returned to green, the setup and tire wear that Alberding expended to reach Hein, had also surmised his chances of passing him.
“Our car was great all night and I knew once I made it to the front that probably nobody was going to be able to pass me,” Hein said. “I knew Andy (Alberding) was behind me at the end, but he had to use up his car way more than I did and didn’t have enough left at the finish.”
Alberding’s chance of winning the feature may have been burned before it started. As he sat in the cockpit waiting for the customary push truck to shove him off trackside, misfortune happened. The car initially fired, but then quit for a second. When the motor refired it snapped back hard and forced the nuts off the studs that hold the torque to rearend. The Dar-Dan team hustled to make the necessary repairs, but Alberding missed most of his Heat and subsequently lost his top ten starting position in the main.
“The race went as well as it could for us,” Alberding said. “The track is so hard on tires and by the time I got to second, I didn’t have any rear tire left. Matt (Hein) was able to get up front early and save tires. I think if we could have started with him, we would’ve had a heck of a race. I don’t know if I would have won, but it would have been a great race. I was also really pumped to set the track record.”
The event is in honor of the late Rebel Jackson Sr., who was a pillar in the Ephrata racing community. He started racing in 1948 and went on to notoriety as a driver, sponsor and car owner. He was the first inductee into Spanaway Speedway’s Hall of Fame. Jackson came out of retirement at age 62 in 1993 and was killed in an accident while racing his super-modified at Portland Speedway. His son, Rebel Jackson Jr. was the winner of the race. The memorial race began in 2003.
Hein made the 465-mile trek from Roseburg to Ephrata with a narrow 4-point lead over Sierra Jackson. The Middleton, Ida., teen suffered her worst outing of the season, finishing seventh in the main after losing more points in the Heat and Time Trial. As the NSRA/ASA Tour travels for the two-day Daffodil Cup in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada Aug. 20, Hein now leads the standings by a 29-point margin. Alberding eeked into second place with a single point lead over Jackson. Cory Lockwood, Nampa, Ida., remained in fourth, trailing Hein by 60.
Sierra Jackson was fresh off back-to-back wins in Post Falls, Ida., and Roseburg and was hoping to win again at Ephrata where she recorded her first ever NSRA victory in 2008. The Boise State University student was unable to equal her recent success.
“We had an okay starting position (sixth), but we just couldn’t get the car setup right. We had a bunch of hard luck and just fell back.”
Randy DuBois, Poulsbo, Wash., finished third in the feature with brothers Craig and Ralph Deaver, Sumner, Wash., placing fourth and fifth respectively. Ralph Deaver started on the pole and led the first 15 lap before DuBois bumped him, which allowed the faster Hein to dart from third to the front as Deaver and DuBois momentarily lost speed.
Chris Schmelzle, Canada, won the A Dash and Craig Deaver captured the B Dash. Hein started last in the first Heat and went on to win. Craig Deaver and Drew Church also recorded Heat wins. Saturday marked the first time this season two female drivers competed in a NSRA/ASA event as 16-year-old Jatender Veenstra made her debut.
Rebel Jackson Memorial order of finish – 1. Matt Hein; 2. Andy Alberding; 3. Randy DuBois; 4. Craig Deaver; 5. Ralph Deaver; 6. Jeff Bird; 7. Sierra Jackson; 8. Drew Church; 9. Chris Schmelzle; 10. Mark Jones; 11. Cory Lockwood; 12. Joe Smith; 13. Whitney Nolan; 14. Jake Mann; 15; Junior Calvert; 16. Todd Coleman; 17. Mike Fought; 18. Darin Spiers; 19. Matt Mansell; 20. Adam Smith; 21. Greg Middendorf; 22. Jatender Veenstra; DNS Ken Hamilton.