Danny Stahl, top, and Trent Durham run side by side with two laps to go Saturday night at the Hayden Speedway. Durham eventually inched out in front, giving him his first career victory.

Photo by Ben Bulkeley

Danny Stahl, top, and Trent Durham run side by side with two laps to go Saturday night at the Hayden Speedway. Durham eventually inched out in front, giving him his first career victory.

Trent Durham beats Danny Stahl for Sport Stock victory

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For the third time this summer, the Hayden Speedway has seen a young racer claim his first victory in the Sport Stock class.

Trent Durham, a 23-year-old Craig resident, held off the most seasoned racer at the track, 57-year-old Danny Stahl, for his first win.

"This is my first," Durham said. "It feels really good."

Durham had finished third in every other race this season.

"The car was running really good, and we raced really hard," Durham said. "We were trying anything just to get traction."

Stahl led for most of the race, guiding his No. 51 car through traffic with ease.

With two laps remaining, Durham nudged Stahl out of the way - and out of first.

"I had to bump him a little bit, but he's a hard one to beat," Durham said. "Near the end, I opened it up a little."

During the intermission from the heat races to the main events, the dusty track was sprayed down with water.

With each wet patch, Stahl said his hopes for the race grew.

"I've developed quite a reputation on a wet track," he said.

Knowing he was up against a veteran, Durham said he just tried keep it simple and race his race.

"He's got a lot more experience, but it just came down to a matter of traction and who had more," he said. "It was slick out there."

He used his experience to cut through the wet and dry patches and sliding cars.

"When the track is like that, you want to stay up high," he said. "A lot of guys don't want to get up high, but you just need to find a groove and go."

The paint-swapping with Durham wasn't Stahl's only close call.

Coming out of turn four, his late 1970s Malibu skidded on a dry patch and he bumped the wall.

After the race, he had to kick out grass from his wheels.

"That's what I've always liked about dirt track racing," Stahl said. "The track changes during the night. You never run the same race twice."

Durham has been on the dirt track for three years.

Stahl, who is in the middle of his 25th year at the Hayden Speedway, has been racing longer than Durham has been alive.

During that time, he has seen a number of young drivers come through the ranks, but this summer's class is special.

"These guys are tough, man," he said. "You can't shake them off. You'll think you've lost them, then you look around and they're right there."

The way Stahl battles the younger drivers is by picking his spots and knowing when to make his move.

"Experience helps you find the good grooves," he said. "Trent had more horsepower, more car. I knew he was stalking me, but it was a lot of work just to hold the line."

Stahl poled outside, right where he wanted to be.

"When you're on the outside, you get to pick where you can go," he said. "It played right in to what I was trying to do."

But with his relentless opponent battling back, Stahl conceded the lead.

"I left the door open, just long enough for him to get through," he said.

After the race was over, and Durham circled the track for his victory lap, he and Stahl shook hands.

"I love being out here, hanging out with the guys," Durham said. "It's fun no matter where you finish."

The two remarked how much work it was out on the track with the added effort needed to navigate through the wet patches.

"We are working in the car," Stahl said. "They call it 'busy in the car,' and you are. Working the throttle, just trying to get around."

Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or bbulkeley@craigdailypress.com.

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