When the dust settled…
Rob Lindsey of Wilsonville, Oregon was the 2017 WSS (Wingless Sprint Series) Champion.
Four years ago, the first Feature I submitted to Roddin’ & Racin’ NW was the story of Lindsey’s (and teammate Rich Gentes’) first crown winning season. Back then they achieved it with consistent high placings but no outright wins. In 2014 the team ventured into winged sprint car racing and chased that dream for two full seasons. When the NWWT (Northwest Wingless Tour) combined with the ODSS (Oregon Double Shot Series) in ’16, Lindsey and Gentes returned to the non-wing ranks to contest for the title. They captured the year’s opening event at the high desert Madras Speedway (5/7) and never looked back. The 2016 schedule consisted of thirteen races at six different venues. (Two of those events unfortunately, were rained out). In the eleven races run, Lindsey won four (two at Madras and one each at Grays Harbor and Willamette Speedway). He placed second in another five events, third once and a season low of seventh at Sunset Speedway in Banks, OR on 7/23. It was a year any team would be proud of without a single DNF (Did Not Finish) and Lindsey and Gentes celebrated their second championship at a gala awards banquet held at Pumpkin Ridge Country Club near Banks.
The 2017 schedule showed similar promise- It again was comprised of thirteen events at all the same dirt venues. At this years’ Opener however, sixty-plus year old sprint car aficionado Gary Lynch captured the win. To the uneducated, this may sound like an upset but the Redmond, OR based owner of his own performance products company, has raced the open wheelers since the 1970’s! Lynch schooled the tour in his own backyard and served notice to fans that this season would be different. Round two went to the Mayor of Cottage Grove, OR – Kyle Miller. Miller (now piloting Katy Adelman’s #6) is virtually unbeatable at his home track so this could hardly be called “an upset”. What did raise a few eyebrows was the WSS’s first visit to Elma, Washington where Pat Canfield emerged victorious. Canfield (a former sprint car champion in his own right) is unable to devote himself full-time to racing these days due to work commitments but must be taken seriously whenever he competes. He drives with tremendous heart and seems to especially like the large ovals.
It wasn’t until the fourth event (a return visit to Grays Harbor) that defending champion Lindsey scored his first ’17 win. Then it was back to the Grove 6/17 where Miller again captured the laurels.
When the tour paid their first visit to Willamette Speedway this season, there was a first time winner- Lance Hallmark. Up from the midget ranks, Hallmark and his devoted crewman/brother- in- law “Rhino” make a formidable team and it was only a matter of time before they hit pay dirt
The Wingless Nationals were held July 8th at Cottage Grove and (surprise) Miller won his third WSS race of the year.
The following weekend the tour returned to Madras for the first time since the Opener and the series’ only female competitor, young Lindsay Barney finished first. (That’s six different winners in eight races for anyone that’s counting!) Then Barney backed that up with a repeat performance at the Banks bullring 7/22 proving she too, is a force to be reckoned with and is capable of winning on any given night.
When the WSS returned to Willamette after a two week hiatus, Rob Lindsey looked poised for his second ’17 win but spun from the lead on a restart after losing his brakes. All eyes refocused on the veritable dogfight between Barney and local hot shoe Bricen James for second which now became the battle for the win. Then seemingly out of nowhere, 6/24 winner Hallmark arrived on the scene and simply motored past both of them—Unbelievable!
Lindsey got his due on eclipse weekend, claiming his second victory of the season at Madras 8/19. When the tour made their annual trek to Coos Bay Speedway for the Ironman Wingless Sprint Challenge, Lindsey repelled a stellar field to add a third win to his year’s tally.“Ironwoman” Barney captured the hearts of the spectators however, storming from the back of the grid to finish a remarkable second.
On Sept. 9th a strong field of eighteen assembled at Sunset for the season finale but it was not to be. Mother Nature finally took one for herself and the ’17 campaign ended on a soggy note. In actuality however, the champion had already been decided. Though hard driving Tim Alberding had chased Lindsey all season long, he was ninety points behind going into the final night. Candidates for most improved driver, Barney and Hallmark finished third and fourth in the standings respectively. 2014 series Champion, Brad Rhodes (profiled in these pages a couple years back) finished fifth.
Lindsey heaps the credit for his success on his team co-owner and tireless crewman, Rich Gentes, proprietor of Maxline Custom Cases. Speedmart, XXX Chassis and Summerfield Golf Course and its residents deserve mention here as well. All of the WSS competitors will be honored in a victory banquet held the first weekend of November near Willamette Speedway this year.