PUYALLUP, Washington — Since the checkered flag flew on the Dirt Cup at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash., last year, Trey Starks has been counting down the days until the biggest sprint car race in the Pacific Northwest, which this year marks the 41st edition of the event. That wait comes to an end this week, as the three-night event takes to high-banked three-tenths-mile bullring.
The 41st Annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup Presented by Goodyear opens at Skagit on Thursday, June 14, with a preliminary night, continues on Friday, June 15 with another preliminary event, and concludes on Saturday, June 16, with a 40-lap $25,000-to win main event.
“It’s definitely a big event and one that has been around for a long time,” said Starks. “The format is unique and I have a lot of experience with a format like that going back to my days in Micro-Sprints, where the whole feature is inverted on the first two nights. There will be a lot of good cars there and I’m looking forward to it.”
Last season, Starks finished ninth in the opener of the Dirt Cup. He led 20 laps of the preliminary feature on the second night, before a quick change gear broke with four laps remaining, relegating him to a 19th-place finish. In the finale, he lined up 15th and quickly worked his way into the Top-10. He was up to eighth and battling for seventh when light contact with the wall in turn four cut his right rear tire, sending him to the work area. After changing the tire, Starks restarted at the back of the field and worked his way back to a 12th-place finish.
“We had some bad luck last year, but with bad luck comes good luck I guess you could say karma-wise,” shared the 16-year-old. “Hopefully we can have some good luck this year and make it to the checkered flag. We were out front with four laps to go and had Sam Hafertepe and Shane Stewart behind us, so we were definitely fast.”
Leading up to this week’s Dirt Cup, Starks competed in three races over a four-day stretch, which began last Saturday at Skagit. He then made the trek south to Oregon for events at Cottage Grove Speedway and Willamette Speedway. A scheduled race at Grays Harbor Raceway in Washington on Monday, June 12, fell to rain.
Starks competed at Skagit Speedway on Saturday, June 9, in a full racing program for the 360-class, while practicing his 410-sprint car. Piloting the No. 11 for car owner Ed Broers, the young racer finished third in the main event. He opened the night as the seventh-fast driver in qualifying. He led all eight laps of the first heat race to pick up the win in that contest over veteran Chad Hillier.
“It was helpful last weekend running the 360 at Skagit,” shared Starks. “Running the 360 helps me smooth out and hit my marks, because everything is slowed down. I think that will come in handy. We were able to turn some good practice laps in the 410 as well, which will help this week.”
On Sunday, June 10, Starks made the trip south to Cottage Grove Speedway in Oregon to compete in his 410-sprint car. He qualified fifth, with another strong field of cars in attendance. He started sixth in the second heat race and gained a couple of spots to finish fourth, which earned him a spot in the dash, where he also finished fourth. Starks was running fourth in the main event, when contact with the wall ended his night.
“We were sticking right with Jonathan Allard in the feature and he ended up winning, so we had a fast car,” shared the native of Puyallup, Wash. “I wasn’t too upset after the race, because we were right up there. We were fast again and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Starks took to the recently reconfigured Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore., on Monday, June 11, with the 410-cubic inch engine under the hood, finishing sixth in the main event, after starting 10th on a track that was very challenging to pass on. He opened the night as the 10th-fastest qualifier, in a solid field of cars that included perennial contenders Tim Kaeding and Jonathan Allard from California, with Shane Stewart, Roger Crockett among others.
“They did a magnificent job with all of the renovations they did over the off-season at Willamette,” noted the teenage driver. “They made so many changes, not just to the track, but also to the facility. They lengthened and widened the racing surface out. To come from 10th to finish sixth there, I was happy with it. We were able to pass some cars, including two in the last five laps.”
Trey Starks and Starks Racing would like to thank their valued partners: BR Motorsports, FX Signs, King Racing Products, Masco Petroleum, Northwest Powerdercoating & Sandblasting, Starks Timber Processing and T &C Concepts.