Grays Harbor Raceway holds 2022 season opener

After inclement weather postponed the season opener for Grays Harbor Raceway on April 16, the event kicked off on Saturday, April 23, with conditions that felt like a gift from the heavens for the spring season in the Pacific Northwest.

Gates opened with temperatures in the low 60s with bright blue skies and no wind in sight as an excited crowd watched with anticipation the ongoing dust-stirring hot laps of various vehicles, as well as the multitude of races that continued into the brisk nighttime under the stadium lights.

The 2022 season opener saw a total of 94 cars filling the three-eighth mile banked clay oval pit area at various points of the evening, which was updated during the offseason to include wider turns for the racers. 360 Sprint Cars, International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modifieds, Super Stocks, Limited Sprint Cars, and Hornets were among the vehicle classes at the raceway, which also featured a wide variety of contestants coming to participate.

While most of the racers were from the Olympic Peninsula and the Puget Sound areas, the arena saw some come from neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho, but also as far as Alaska.

A wholesome moment of the races featured a father/son duo of Shane and Austin Kerrigan of Aberdeen in the second heat of the Super Stocks in which they finished first and second, respectively. The Hornet races spotlighted 15-year-old Kaleya Onasch, the youngest racer of the night, finishing last in her race due to mechanical failures in her vehicle. The winner of the 360 Sprints first heat, Trey Starks, had an enthusiastic on-looker from the stand: his uncle.

“I’m excited to be back here to watch the races. My nephew got first in the last race,” said David Carwright, 68, of Elma. “My grandson also is involved in racing, and I hope to watch both of them out here in the future.”

Carwright is no stranger to the field of racing, nor is he a novice to the Grays Harbor Raceway track. He enjoys watching dirt racing as a whole and loves watching the 360 Sprints whenever he can.

“I’ve been coming out here every chance I can for the last couple of decades. It’s hard to say when it started,” laughed Carwright as he sipped his coffee. “I used to be in dirt races when I was younger, but now I just like to watch the midget cars (360 Sprints) when I know they’ll be out here.”

While the event saw a lot of upper-aged returning guests, such as Carwright, there was a wide diversity in the crowd ranging from young and old, male and female, and newcomers and returners. One newcomer, Kaitlyn Freeman, 29, of Allyn, was surprised by how much fun the raceway can offer.

“My boyfriend’s shop (Ganja Vita) is one of the sponsors for the raceway and it’s my first time being here,” said Freeman while waiting in line for concessions. “I’ve never been a fan of racing outside of watching NASCAR with my boyfriend and I’ve never been (at) a live racing event before, but I really enjoy seeing the tiny sprint cars.”

The stands at the raceway also consisted of an ample number of children whooping and hollering throughout the evening and although it might not be the best place for young infants, without proper hearing protection, the event was vastly family friendly.

“My kids are having a great time here today, so it makes it a really easy decision for me to think about coming back to watch more races.” Freeman proclaimed.

A total of 13 races concluded the season opener after a vast number of qualifying races from the sprint cars beforehand. Most the races featured eight lap heats with Don Briggs Jr. being the only contestant to win multiple races in the Super Stock and Hornet classes. The race also featured prominent champions, such as 11-time winner Jay Cole of Shelton finishing fourth in the 15-lap heat of the 360 Sprints, as well as three-time champion Tom Sweatman from Cosmopolis in the IMCA Modified class.

For those who are interested in following along with the season at Grays Harbor Raceway, the races will resume Saturday April 30. General admission is $5 and will feature Limited Sprint Cars, IMCA Modifieds, PHRA Dwarf Cars, Super Stocks, and IMCA Hobby Stocks. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m. and racing will begin at 6:00 p.m.

More information can be found on Grays Harbor Raceway’s Facebook page, as well as their website.