COOS BAY — In the world of drag racing, the most prestigious honor is the Wally trophy, named after NHRA founder Wally Parks.
Coos Bay Speedway gets to hand out Wallys in one big weekend each summer, a two-day festival known as Wally Weekend.
“That’s one of the cool things about being an NHRA track — we get to race for these things,” said Drake Nelson, the owner of Coos Bay Speedway.
Last weekend, the speedway’s event drew drivers from several parts of Oregon and California as, following in line with the popularity of the oval dirt track this summer, the turnout was big.
A total of 83 cars (including three motorcycles) were entered in the races on Saturday and 80 more on Sunday.
“That’s a lot of cars for Coos Bay,” Nelson said.
At the end of the two days, the winners from Saturday and Sunday in each of the divisions raced for their own Wally Trophy.
And some of them were won by familiar names.
Mike Powell, who comes down from Oakridge several weekends a summer to race at the speedway, won the Super Pro division, beating Curt Welty in the final.
Powell, who often returns home with weekend wins, had to take the division Sunday to get a chance to race for a Wally after he lost in the semifinals Saturday when his truck had a mechanical problem.
“Everything turned out good today,” he said.
Powell won his third career Wally and got to share the celebration with multiple family members. His wife and two sons also were racing during the weekend.
The group has grown to love the trip to the relatively cool coast.
“They’re good people,” he said. “Everybody helps everybody down here.”
Also making the trip from a hot-weather city to the speedway south of town frequently is Dani Fry of Medford, who won her first Wally by taking the Sportsman division when Rick Norrington started too quickly in the final, drawing the dreaded red light that means disqualification.
“I’ve waited for years for this,” said an overjoyed Fry. “My husband has nine Wallys. My sister has eight. This is my first.
“It means a lot.”
Fry and her husband, Mike Guida, celebrated their anniversary at the speedway and he was as emotional about Fry’s win as she was.
“I’m just slightly (proud),” Guida said.
“He made my dream come true to race,” Fry said.
Medford is one of the four other Oregon cities with a drag strip, but Fry and Guida are more than happy to make the drive to Coos Bay Speedway.
“We race over here because we love it here,” Fry said. “It’s the best track and the best group of people you will find.”
They almost got to go home with two Wallys, but Guida lost in the Pro final to Kory Alby of Coos Bay, the only local winner of a Wally on Sunday.
And it took a near perfect run for Alby to beat Guida in the final race of the weekend.
Alby had a reaction time of .003 seconds and hit his projected time for the eighth-mile strip, known as the dial time, on the number to edge Guida in a race between two drivers each going for their 10th Wally.
Alby said his last Wally came in 2014 in Seattle.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “In 2018 we were in eight or nine finals and couldn’t seal the deal.”
He credited his son Rayce, who also races, and daughter Marissa for their assistance.
“Without their help I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said.
The kids spend a lot of time in the shop helping Alby with his various drag cars and he said Marissa supports him 100 percent and Rayce “keeps me calm.”
Alby earned the chance to race for the Wally by winning the division on Sunday, beating Dennis Adkins in the final.
In the other contested Wally on Sunday, Gary Edwards won the Motorcycle class when Jason Sauer drew a red light.
Davyvan Moore won the Junior Dragster Wally because he was the only racer in the division for the weekend.
Drag racers will get one more chance to win a Wally during the King of the Track weekend in September. In that event, Sept. 19-20, the top drivers in each class will compete against each other for the track title and coveted Wally, meaning a possible showdown between the motorcycles and the fastest drag cars (several of the drivers were in the 110-mph range in their winning runs Saturday and Sunday with Sauer speeding down the track at 120 mph on his motorcycle Saturday).
Meanwhile, the focus turns to the oval dirt track for three race dates over the next eight days.
Saturday, July 25, is Ken Ware Chevrolet Night, with racing in all the local divisions as well as a visit from the Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars.
The gates open at 4 p.m. and racing starts at 6:30 with admission $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and students 7 to 17, free for kids 6 and under and $35 for a family pass for two adults and up to three kids.
Then on Wednesday, July 29, the speedway hosts a Wednesday Night Throwdown, with Street Stocks, IMCA Sportmods, IMCA Modified and Limited Winged Sprints. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for students and senior citizens and $45 for a family pass. Racing will start at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 1, is Whelen Fan Appreciation Nigh and the Outlaw Pro Stock Challenge. Racing starts at 6:30 p.m. in all the local classes, as well as winged sprints. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and students and $35 for a family pass.
For more information and a complete schedule, visit www.coosbayspeedway.us.