PGARA gearing up for big weekend

Wayne French hopes to maintain his position at the top when the green flag is waved at the Prince George Auto Racing Association speedway this weekend.

Behind the wheel of his 1975 orange and black Chevy Malibu street stock all season, French is the leader of the PGARA pack with 185 points after four races.

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More points are up for grabs in two days of racing Saturday with the Twin Rivers Tri-Cities Street Stocks Invitational (qualifying at 6 p.m., racing at 7 p.m.) and the PGARA Street Stocks Invitational Sunday afternoon (qualifying at 1 p.m., racing at 2 p.m.).

French hasn't raced at PGARA since July 4 and will have to fend off the likes of fellow Prince George drivers Chris and Danny Arronge, who sit second overall in the points race with 166 points, followed by Shane Murphy in third place with 101 points.

"It's been a while and I'm pretty nervous," said the 44-year-old French, who took the checkered flag in PGARA's season-opener on May 24 ahead of Danny Arronge and Murphy in the main event. "There will be a lot of fast cars I'm racing with and guys I'm not familiar with."

French, who admits his car is a little under-powered compared to the "super fast" street stocks that regularly race in the Tri-Cities series, had hoped to install a different engine prior to this weekend. Instead, he and his crew made some other changes.

When he competed in the first stop of the Tri-Cities series on June 27 at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Williams Lake, he experienced some car trouble but still finished seventh.

"The power steering belt came off and I had to do the remainder of the race with no power steering," he said. "It wasn't fantastic, but I'm still happy with the result."

That race in Williams Lake attracted 25 cars from across the province, while the second stop in Penticton last weekend featured a record 30 cars in front of a record crowd of 3,500 fans.

Penticton was added to the series this year as a way to give Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island drivers a closer venue at which to compete, in addition to races in Williams Lake, Prince George and the season-finale in Quesnel on Sept. 26.

Three Prince George drivers competed in Penticton - Steve Jefferson, James Lewis and Lyall McComber. They'll be back for the invitational weekend sponsored by Brandt Tractor for two days of racing on their home track.

Tri-City Race Series vice-president Bill Klugh Jr. said 35 cars have registered, but not all of them travel to every track.

But with a record number of racers in both Williams Lake and Penticton, Klugh Jr. is certain of one thing.

"Prince George will exceed last year's car count of 20," he said. "We've been looking forward to this year, it's the most cars in B.C."

Brian Clutchey from Victoria will be back to defend his title and the field is also expected to include Brent Rohner from Langley, Ryan Wade from the Okanagan, Bob Kuhn from Agassiz and Arne Kunka from Williams Lake.

Rohner leads the series with 92 points, followed by Wade with 82 and Kuhn, who sits with 77 points.

The Bill Klugh Sr. Memorial Trophy is also up for grabs this weekend. The driver who accumulates the most points over two days will claim the trophy.

In addition to the Canadian Tire street stocks, the hornets and Chieftain Auto Parts mini stocks will be on the track.

Saturday night and Sunday afternoon will also feature the Leadfoot Legends race. The Leadfoot Legends Car Club is based in northern Alberta and is a style of race car designed to promote racing and keep costs down. The body shells are scaled down replicas of American cars from the 1930s and '40s.

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