James, Ryland start IMCA Wild West Speedweek with wins at Yreka

Bricen James was the Friesen Performance IMCA Modified winner on opening night Saturday of the IMCA Wild West Speedweek at Yreka Speedway. (Photo by Jeremy Means)

By Ben Deatherage

YREKA, Calif. (June 15, 2024) – Prospectors came to Yreka to strike in rich in the Gold Rush of the 1850s.

Bricen James and Fred Ryland both struck gold of their own Saturday night at Yreka Speedway with feature wins on opening night of the IMCA Wild West Speedweek.

James’ won the Friesen Performance IMCA Modified feature and $1,000 while two-car star Ryland ruled both IMCA Sunoco Stock Car and Friesen Performance IMCA Northern SportMod main events.

When the green flag came out for the Modifieds, Collen Winebarger beat the field to the line for the opening lap. The Corbett, Ore., chauffeur and 2021 Speedweek champion tried to get a big lead, but Tyler Blankenship kept it close for the first few laps.

Winebarger got into a good rhythm and began to pull away from the rest of the pack, but before he could get too far ahead, the yellow flag came out with six laps down. 

Winebarger was masterclass on the restart as Blankenship and James, the 2022 Speedweek champion, battled for the runner-up position.

James finally secured second on lap fifteen and got significant help with a yellow flag coming out with 16 laps to go. He used the top on the restart as Winebarger continued to commit to the bottom. James got the momentum swinging in his favor on the 22nd trip past the flag stand and began to mount a legitimate challenge against the leader.

James beat Winebarger to the line on lap 23 after a brilliant exit out of turn four. His own drive to the checkers were slowed by multiple cautions and James was challenged by Nick Trenchard.

But once James could rebuild his momentum on the top, it would be a showdown between Trenchard and Winebarger for second. James was on cruise control during the remainder of the circuits left to be ran and would win his eighth career Speedweek feature while becoming eligible to qualify for the upcoming Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational.

Trenchard would win the battle for second ahead of Winebarger. Jacob Mallet Jr. placed fourth, followed by Blankenship.

The Stock Cars fired off with inside pole sitter Ryland taking over the top position on the first lap after a brief battle with B.J. Wild. A three-car fight ensued for the runner-up spot, with Scott Winebarger, Toby McIntyre and Wild involved.  Winebarger would eventually beat them all out for second.

Kevin Roberts got beside Winebarger to challenge on lap five. While that skirmish occurred, it allowed Ryland to pull away.  The two chauffeurs would continue to duke it out, but things would slow down due to the main event’s lone caution. 

When the race returned to green flag action, Roberts got a great run and briefly challenged the leader.  Ryland kept his cool and rebuilt his momentum on the high side. Before too long, he had his hands full with Winebarger and Ryan Peery. 

Exiting turn four on lap seventeen, Peery would perform a double overtake on Robert and Winebarger as they got close to each other. Peery tried to run down Ryland, but Ryland was lights out fast.  Ryland built a comfortable lead and won his first-ever IMCA Wild West Speedweek victory in any division.

Peery wound up second as two-time defending Speedweek champion Chase Berkeley, making the long journey from Colville, Wash., was third. Wild wound up fourth, with Marie Curtis in fifth.

Fred Ryland made two trips to victory lane on opening night of Wild West Speedweek, after winning both IMCA Sunoco Stock Car and Friesen Performance IMCA Northern SportMod features. (Photo by Jeremy Means)

The Northern SportMod main event began with reigning Speedweek champion Ethan Killingsworth and Ryland squaring off at the initial start

Killingsworth secured the lead out of the second corner on the opening lap. As Killingsworth and Ryland settled in the respected positions, Peery had his hands full with Matt Sanders for third.  Sanders tried to work the middle of the track as Peery kept his faith on the high side. Peery held him back and secured third on the seventh circuit.

As the race for third cooled down, the battle for the race lead heated up after a lap 11 restart. Killingsworth got sideways in turn one and collected additional cars. Ryland inherited the lead.

When things finally got back to green flag action, Possinger tried to contend for the win after having to come out of a consolation feature and started 14th. Ryland would keep Possinger behind him. 

A late-race restart was set up with four laps left to run. Possinger had his hands full with Jesse Williamson trying to take second when things returned to full speed. This allowed Ryland to cruise away to another dominating main event victory.

Possinger held on to second, with Williamson grabbing third. Jorddon Braaten was fourth at the line after a spirited fight with Cory Biggs. Possinger was the #StephanieStrong Hardcharger Award winner, presented by Oaklynn Bloom.

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