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Murto: Manassas track will host big race event

Saturday night you'll have the chance to see top NASCAR stars compete against local and regional NASCAR Late Model competitors in a $10,000-to-win, 150-lap race that benefits the Joe Gibbs Youth for Tomorrow charity.

Mike Skinner, David Reutimann, Max Papis, Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil are all expected to compete in the YFT150, which has become a popular annual event at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. This year promises to be better than ever, as a fireworks display is scheduled after the race and ticket prices have been reduced to only $20 for adults.

Fan appreciation takes places between 4-6 p.m., with racing starting at 7. The gates to the pits usually open after the races, so there will be plenty of opportunity to get autographs. All proceeds -- the track makes nothing -- benefit the Youth for Tomorrow, which helps troubled children in the region.

It'll be especially fun to see Max Papis return to the speedway for the YFT150. Last year at Old Dominion he was running mid-pack and got involved in an alteration with another car that left him spun in the infield. Papis drove back up onto the racetrack and retaliated ... against the wrong car, which also happened to be the leader of the race. Oops!

The visiting NASCAR drivers take their racing seriously. And though they don't want to interfere with any point battles going on locally, they also feel the need to prove that there's a reason they're the big-time racers. It makes for interesting racing, and unless you spring for a ticket to a top NASCAR event, there's really no other opportunity to watch these guys race other than on TV.

Fans expecting to see NHRA drag racer Cruz Pedregon compete in a dirt Late Model at Winchester and Hagerstown last weekend were disappointed. Pedregon, entered as a teammate to Ronnie DeHaven Jr., was unable to start in either event.

The dirt fans saw some good racing, however, as both tracks ran their Red Nininger Memorial races as part of the four-race Hagerstown-Winchester Shootout series. Greg Satterlee won Winchester's race on Friday and Kenny Moreland grabbed the win at Hagerstown. Jamie Lathroum, a racer I knew better years ago as a Potomac Speedway regular, was the overall champion.

This Saturday, Winchester will hold the Mike Clore Memorial, a 40-lap, $3,000-to-win race honoring the late racing champion who was killed at the speedway.

Hagerstown will hold a two-day Monster Truck show this Friday and Saturday, if that's your bag. They get back to "real" racing on the 28th when the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model series rolls into town, with all of their nationally known stars competing against the region's best. ... I'll never bet against Scott Bloomquist when he's at the track, so he's my pick that night.

But if you only go to one pavement show all year, make it this Saturday night's YFT150. A full field of NASCAR Late Models is expected, and the $10,000 purse is a lot for these guys, so the racing should be fierce.

Also on the card will be the Virginia Sprint Series (VSS). Some dirt fans criticize them because since VSS is "club" racing, some feel it's not "real" racing. It's a budget series -- these guys are racing for fun. But the 305 Sprint cars have been the fastest-growing segment of the open-wheel world nationwide -- because it's an affordable racing division. In fact, it's now sanctioned by IMCA, and you'll find people such as former NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham and former NASCAR Modified racer Satch Worley racing with VSS on occasion.

Besides, anyone who remembers the VSS car that left the track and trimmed the trees in turn four at Winchester years ago will tell you that these racers are serious. And at Old Dominion they are the fastest thing at the speedway, often finishing to standing ovations from the crowd after their blistering feature. If you've never seen Sprint Cars on pavement, there's another big reason to go to Old Dominion for the YFT150.

Gates open at 4 p.m., and if previous years are any indication the grandstands will be packed for this third-annual event. You can purchase tickets at the gate, but if you'd rather get them in advance they're available on-line at YFT150.com or by calling (703) 396-8415. What will Max Papis do this year? Better to see it for yourself on Saturday night.

-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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