COOS BAY — Many nights, the Hornets division is the most competitive classification for racing at Coos Bay Speedway.
Often there are 10 or more racers in the division, but Tuesday the number was only five, limited by the fact that the races were on a weeknight, as part of the Western Sprint Car Association’s Northwest Speedweek, and because most of the drivers had just raced Saturday night.
“I think because it’s a Tuesday night, a lot of people had to work,” said Hannah Robison of Myrtle Point, one of the regulars in the Hornets division, as well as one of several high school racers.
Robison is in her third season racing at the speedway and said the Hornets is a good division for newcomers.
“I think they’re popular because you can get any kind of four-cylinder car, throw a roll cage into it and bring it out to the track,” she said.
Robison is racing a converted 1995 Nissan Altima. She and her dad, Stacey, took all the seats and flooring out. It’s painted blue, her favorite color, with the number 23H (23 for Michael Jordan, H for Hannah).
She drove it to victory in the heat race Tuesday, but Braden Fugate of Bandon won the trophy dash and the main event.
Fugate, a business student at the University of Oregon, drives a 1996 Honda Civic and is in his second year racing. Like Robison, he credits his dad, Len, for much of the work on his car.
But he is working hard to learn so he can step up to a faster division.
“I’m good friends with Preston Luckman,” he said of another young driver who started at Coos Bay Speedway but now races nearly exclusively at Cottage Grove Speedway. “I go up to Cottage Grove to help him. I’m trying to learn as much from him as I can.”
Robison and Fugate both love the competition of the Hornets division at Coos Bay Speedway.
“It’s definitely fun,” Fugate said. “It’s cool with a lot more cars.”
To win the main event Tuesday, Fugate chased down Tyler Tullos, another Bandon driver and the season points leader.
Tullos, who is 15, drives a Toyota Celica and is a rookie at the track.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of racing.
Robison is third in the standings, behind Tullos and April Warmack of North Bend, a second-year racer who is a counselor in her day job and had to leave as soon as she was done racing because Wednesday was another work day.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, but never had an opportunity to do,” Warmack said while sharing a meal with her fiancé and pit crew Bill Nelson on Tuesday.
“Someone had an empty car and asked (Bill) if he wanted to race,” she said. “He said, ‘No, but April will.’”
She quickly fell in love with it and races in a converted Dodge Neon.
“I kind of like high-risk things,” she said. “It keeps me out of trouble.
“It sure is fun. I don’t ever want to lose that — that it’s fun.”
For many of the local racers, it’s a family activity, too.
Stacey Robison races, too, but hasn’t been on the track much this year because he prefers to spend time helping Hannah.
“It’s way too stressful for me to deal with her and drive my own car,” he said.
Peggy Robison, Hannah’s mom, has grown to enjoy evenings at the track.
“When we started, I thought, ‘Seriously, this is a family thing?’” she recalled. “Now it’s our family night.”
Many relatives make their way to the track for weekend races to support Hannah, and she has proven to be a popular driver for younger fans who seek autographs, Peggy said.
“The coolest thing for me — it gives me goosebumps every time is when they announce her and people cheer for her,” Peggy said.
The fifth driver in the Hornets class on Tuesday was Chuck Peck of Myrtle Point, who drives a 1990 Ford Escort.
He raced some in California more than 20 years ago and spent a few years on a pit crew at a race track down there, but is new to racing at Coos Bay Speedway this year and racing on dirt for the first time.
“We’ve been coming the last four or five years,” he said. “We were here for the dwarf car races last year and I said, ‘Let’s try it.’”
Carl Johnson, another racer from Myrtle Point, let him use the car.
Peck said the division is a good place to learn.
“It’s really fun,” he said.
Deven Brown won the main event for the Sportsman Late Models on Tuesday while Ken Fox took the Street Stocks division.
Sam Talon, who races in the Mini Outlaws division, joined the Street Stocks for the main event after the only other Mini Outlaws driver Tuesday wasn’t able to run the longer race, and finished fifth.