Swapping the nail polish for car polish, 15-year-old Gracie Bass joined the boys in the fun Saturday night in the “Filthy Fifty” at Twin City Raceway in Kenai.
Bass took to the 3/8-mile dirt track Saturday to celebrate her birthday, and in doing so became the youngest driver this year at Twin City Raceway. Bass is the daughter of B-Stock racer Dustin Bass, a veteran of the track.
“I guess I’m one of a kind,” Gracie Bass opined after climbing from her purple and yellow El Camino.
The annual Filthy Fifty, a 50-lap race that tests both mettle and machine, provided the night’s main action as the final race of the evening.
Chuck Winters dominated the Fifty with a flag-to-flag victory, powering his No. 32 Camaro around the track with overwhelming speed to claim his third overall Filthy Fifty win in six tries. After making a victory lap around the track with checkered flag in hand, Winters said he was happy to put on a show for the fans.
“This race gives us the opportunity to get all the cars out here,” he said.
The unique event combines the A-Stock and B-Stock divisions for one big race. The slower A-Stock cars are restricted to mostly stock components, while the faster B-Stock machines allow drivers more leeway in mechanical outfitting.
“It’s great to put on a display for all the folks who came out here,” Winters said.
Unfortunately for race fans, Sunday was a no-go, as steady rains washed out the day’s activities.
Winters put on a show for the fans by navigating lapped traffic with calculated precision, avoiding the slower vehicles that at times clogged the racing groove. The Soldotna racer beat runner-up Butch Savely, driver of the No. 78, by two laps and set the race lap record at 19.96 seconds, a 55.35-mph average. For comparison, no other driver posted a lap under 21 seconds.
Winters said his 1976 “relic” Camaro, which houses a 383-cubic-inch motor that cranks out 500 horsepower, is a car he has been working on for over a year. When he’s not working as manager at Airport Equipment Rentals, he’s busy with his baby.
Last summer, Winters took the car to the 2016 B-Stock season championship at Twin City.
“This thing was destined for the scrap yard,” Winters said, glancing at the mud-splattered side of his car. “I built this car by hand, every weld on it is mine.”
With the win, Winters also built upon his current season championship lead in the B-Stock division, which stands at 114 points, 20 more than current runner-up Savely.
Bass, meanwhile, got the job done in her first night ever at Twin City Raceway. The birthday girl finished 12 laps behind Winters, but kept the Bass family Chevrolet El Camino out of trouble and out of the way of faster cars.
“I got into the corner down in turns one and two better,” she said. “I gotta work on (turns) three and four.”
Gracie said she has previous racing experience running on the ice track near the Decanter Inn in Kasilof. As part of a race-crazy family, Bass said it was the next logical step to take.
Dustin Bass said the deal came together for Gracie to race after the Savely family donated the car to the Bass family, who live in Sterling.
“She’s been pitting for me for a couple years,” Dustin said. “I figured she might as well race now.”
Gracie wasn’t the only female racing Saturday night, either. Bridgette Attleson also competed, driving the No. 5 car to a ninth-place finish, 29 laps down, after making several trips to the pits. Attleson is also in her first year of racing at the facility.
Among the A-Stock racers, Jeremy Herr was the highest-placing finisher in the No. 1/5 car, taking third overall, three laps behind Winters and over 20 seconds ahead of his nearest A-Stock competitor. Herr stretched his advantage in the A-Stock point standings with 119, giving him a 13-point lead over Chris Endsley.
In the Legends category, it was the same old show put on by Bryan Barber, driver of the No. 88 car. Barber is a regular at Twin City, and Saturday night collected his 55th career win among all the Alaska racetracks. Barber said he believes his win total at Twin City alone is more than 30.
“I started winning in 2013, and I’ve been consistent ever since,” Barber said.
Barber qualified third earlier in the day and finished fourth in the first Legends heat, then turned it on with wins in the second heat and 25-lap feature race, outrunning second-place Ty Torkelson by 3.5 seconds.
Barber said experience level plays a major factor in his success. The Anchorage racer has run a Legends car — basically a miniature version of a souped-up 1937 Ford hot rod — since 2009, and understands how a dirt track changes throughout an evening of racing.
“It started pretty muddy for us,” he said. “We were tight in, loose out, and had no traction at all.
“But I found a decent line in the end.”
Barber extended his season points lead in the Legends class to 171 points, 11 over David Kusmider, who won the first heat of the night. Barber has seven heat and feature wins this summer at Twin City.