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Croft ends NARC drought in Oregon

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Willie Croft (NARC photo)

LEBANON, Ore. – Willie Croft has been waiting for a win in the NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car for a long time.

Since winning the 2018 Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial, the Colfax, California native had made 48 series starts and had 10 top 3 finishes in that span, but none of them made it to the top of the podium. He had led rounds, just not the last.

In car number 49 since that 2018 triumph, the narrative changed. Croft delivered a masterful drive and dominated NARC’s first outing at the Willamette Speedway by leading all 30 laps on Friday night to win the second race of the fastest four days in motorsport.

“I can’t believe it’s been four years,” Croft said.

The win marked his ninth career in the series and also his third straight podium after a second-place finish at Petaluma last weekend and a third-place finish Thursday night at Southern Oregon Speedway.

Croft led the field in the 30-round Fujitsu feature with Colby Copeland alongside on green. Croft held his car by the sticky bottom groove while Copeland tore up the top to look for a run in the early laps.

Copeland built enough momentum a couple of times when it looked like he was about to pull alongside Croft, but the ground proved too dominant and Copeland eventually settled in behind Croft after a few laps. The first yellow of the race flew on lap six for a slowing Brian Boswell just as the leaders were merging into traffic.

At the restart, Croft pulled heavily, and behind him and Copeland, Justin Sanders and Dominic Scelzi traded third place before Scelzi finally claimed it. Another yellow flew on debris on the front stretch with 22 laps to go.

The restart provided more of the same story as Croft drove to the front and Copeland tried to keep up while Scelzi and Sanders continued their fight for a podium finish.

“It feels really good to be able to run with Scelzi, Sanders and Copeland, just all the guys that are so fast week after week,” Croft said.

The leaders found themselves in heavy traffic with 15 laps to go and on a circuit where the bottom line was the preferred line, making the right moves was crucial. And that’s exactly what Croft did when he made a decisive move to sneak past Billy Aton, giving him a comfortable lead and a clearer path to the checkered flag.

“I didn’t really aim high,” Croft said. “I went up around a guy and I spun the tires really bad, went off track. And I was like, if I do that, the next guy is going to do that and try to get past me, so I just wanted to roll my butt and let her in, get firm, slide up a little bit, and let me nudge under there could I turn really nice. So that’s what I did with Aton. He just gave up a bit and I put two wheels in the grass and passed him.”

That move ultimately proved victorious as Croft in his #29 Holey Smokes BBQ/Amerikote Powdercoating pulled away and won by more than three seconds.

“That feels good,” Croft said. “I’m super happy to win here in Oregon. I won Medford. I won here and I won Elma (Grays Harbor Raceway) where we are tomorrow so I have a lot of confidence… I’m a small team. We try very hard. We have a bit of momentum and it feels good.”

Scelzi took second place in his #41 Red Rose Transportation/Whipple Superchargers after Copeland went badly out of shape on the final lap and dropped to 10th place. While Scelzi’s four-race winning streak might have ended, he maintained his podium streak to keep the NARC campaign going. Scelzi was in the top three in the first seven NARC races.

“I’m just lucky to be up here in the Pacific Northwest,” Scelzi said. “It’s fun what the NARC series is doing here.”

Completing the podium was Sanders of Farmers Brewing Co./Mittry Construction No. 2X. It was his second straight night on the podium in his debut at a track after a second place finish Thursday at Southern Oregon Speedway.

“It was good, but it’s a product of the Dash Draws,” Sanders said. “That’s seven points in a row when you start sixth and tonight it was important for the position on the track.”

The end:

Feature (30 rounds): 1 Willie Croft 29 2 Dominic Scelzi 41 3 Justin Sanders 2X 4 Shane Golobic 17W 5 Bud Kaeding 69 6 Tanner Holmes 18T 7 Max Mittry 2XM 8 Tyler Thompson 7 9 Mitchell Faccinto 21 10 Colby Copeland 16A 11 Joel Myers Jr 83V 12 Sean Becker 22X 13 Billy Aton 26 14 Shane Forte 26F 15 Logan Forler 2L 16 Brian Boswell 35

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