Mixing it up

New divisions, old favorites on 2012 Stateline schedule

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Joey Bird of Spokane Valley holds the trophy for winning the main event in MMRA Baby Grands at Stateline Speedway in October 2011. Bird won the rookie of the year and Junior Pro Division championship in Baby Grands, and will move up to late models this season.

Some things never change.

Then again, some things do.

While many of the same divisions will run again this year at Stateline Speedway, Larry Bertrand, new promoter and general manager, has set up a schedule with a few twists.

The speedway removed the large concrete stage in the center of the track, making way to welcome back Figure 8 racing this season.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of interest (in the series),’ Bertrand said. “But there’s going to be a learning curve for this division, and it’ll get better as the season goes on.”

One Stateline racer, Joey Bird, 16, of Spokane Valley, will be moving up from the Miniature Motorsports Racing Association (MMRA) Baby Grand division in 2011, where he won more than half the events he entered. Bird will compete in late models and super late models at Stateline this season.

Racing kicks off on Saturday with the annual Racers Jamboree, with qualifying at 1 p.m. and racing at 2:15.

Stateline has added a feeder series to the popular bump-to-pass (B2P), and the Bomber B2Ps will be a way for newer drivers to get used to the division before moving up to the Outlaw B2P series.

“It was hard for the new guys to come out and feel like they had a chance,” Bertrand said. “The new bomber class is a stepping stone, and we already have 10 guys signed up, so we’ll definitely be bringing in the next generation.”

The popular Idaho 200, which won’t see the Rocky Mountain Challenge Series drivers return this season, will now run on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3-4.

“This will be the first year we run the Idaho 200 under the lights,” Bertrand said. “We are attracting a different group of out-of-town racers than we have had in the past, and we’ll definitely have the hometown heroes as well.”

Bertrand expects the field to be at least as large as its ever been, thanks to an increased purse for this year’s event, which he believes will be the largest Idaho 200 pruse ever.

The Super Shoe winged sprint car event expands to two days this year, running July 20-21. “It will be our first time with a two-day show, and we expect the largest sprint car field ever at the track,” Bertrand said.

“I’m really excited about the whole season we have here,” Bertrand said. “I feel it’s a really great schedule. I just can’t believe how many great racers we have coming here every week — it’s hard to decide who to cheer for.”

• • •

Joey Bird, 16, of Spokane Valley, will be joining the late model ranks at Stateline this season.

Bird started his racing career running go-karts at Sunset Speedway in Spokane, garnering rookie of the year honors in 2004. He won championships in the Junior 1 Animal Karts in 2005 and 2006, and moved up to Junior 2 Animal Karts to win titles for four straight years 2007-10.

Bird, who is finishing his sophomore year at University High, moved on to compete in the MMRA Baby Grand division in 2010. All told, he won five races and had seven top-five finishes, with three poles and two track records.

He was crowned the MMRA Junior Pro West Division champion and rookie of the year for 2011 after finishing second and third twice in three Baby Grand events at Las Vegas Motorspeedway. He also won six of 10 Baby Grand races at Stateline last year, and wound up second in points for the series.

But now Bird in moving up to the full-size late models. He’ll compete in the Stateline Speedway Late Model division, as well as run in some regional super late model races such as the Idaho 200 and Montana 200.

“I’m nervous about the transition into much bigger cars, and I know we’ll have more competition. I know I have a lot to learn as I go, so we’ll just take it one race at a time and see where we end up.”

After a few seasons in late models, Joey hopes to move up into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, either on the west or east coast. “From there, I’ll see where it takes me, but I’d like to get into the NASCAR Truck series or Nationwide,” he said.

Joey credits his uncle Jeff Bird of Post Falls as a big help to his career. “He’s an engine builder and helps me with my car setup — he’s my main guy.”

Joey said he’s watched the Idaho 200 every year and last year he was part of Blake Williams’ pit crew.

“I’ve gotten some good advice on the longer races — be patient for the first 100 laps or so, keep your nose clean and get around people when you can, that way you can be there at the end.”

Bird said he and Williams are really good friends, so there’s not too much rivalry.

“I raced against he and Nicole (Behar) in karts, and I’d say Nicole and I have a bit of a rivalry from last year in the baby grands, but when we head into the pits we talk and have fun.”

“I’ve watched Joey run a lot of go-kart and Baby Grand races,” Bertrand said. “I really think he is a true racing talent, and I’m very excited to see he and Nicole move up and mix it up with our other late model drivers this season.”

Behar, a 14-year-old from Otis Orchards, and Bird will join with the 17-year-old Williams to represent the younger side of the grid for late model events at Stateline.

Wednesday Night Fever starts April 11, and the following Saturday kicks off the weekend schedule with Hobby and Street Stocks.

The Wesco Cast Iron Nationals Winged Sprints invade Stateline on June 30 and Sept. 8, and the popular North American Big Rigs return on July 27.

For the full 2012 Stateline Speedway schedule, visit www.raceidaho.com

Joey Bird poses with hardware at the 2011 Stateline Speedway Banquet. He is wearing the Hoosier champion's jacket for winning the MMRA Baby Grand Junior Pro West Division and was also named the series' rookie of the year in 2011.

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