By Vincent Delforge, special to KickinTheTires.net
The 400th race in the history of the current ARCA Menards West Series, then called the NASCAR Winston West Series was held on August 31, 1975 at Evergreen Speedway located in Monroe, WA. With a length of 0.625 mile between 1964 and 1984 before being remeasured at 0.646 mile since 1985, this historic paved oval will also have the honor of hosting the 900th race in 2014 and on next August 20 the 1000th!
When it was created in 1954, it was on dirt. Asphalted at the dawn of the 1960s, its configuration has since remained the same with two long straights inclined at 4 degrees and tight banked turns of 8 degrees.
The Monroe 200, 14th race of a season that has 18, will be won by Ray Elder. One of his five victories of the season which will lead him to his sixth and last championship title. A record that still stands today. In 1975, Elder was intractable at Evergreen as he would win both races. That of July from the pole position. This time, he was beaten in qualifying by Don Hall, for whom it would be the only career pole. However, he will not be able to take advantage of it since the first eight positions will be drawn for the start of the race.
And it is Jackie Kuper, a driver from Tacoma, WA who will inherit the first position. Kuper who only did a few races per season, those located mainly in the state of Oregon and of course that of Washington. Elder is lucky in the draw as he retains his second position. He precedes Jim Thirkettle and Ernie Stierly on the second row. As for Hall, he is not lucky and will have to start from eighth position.
About Thirkettle? Does this name mean anything to you? In fact Jim is the father of Travis, crew chief of Dean Thompson in 2021 and current crew chief of Trevor Huddleston at High Point Racing.
Kuper is not going to take advantage of his advantageous position at the start since as soon as the green flag is waved he is smoked by Elder from the outside line in turn 2. Harry Jefferson, winner here in 1974, and who knows the track like his pocket, goes up like a rocket from its seventh position on the starting grid. It should be noted that he had the third fastest time in qualifying. He took advantage of Elder being blocked by a group of stragglers to take the first position from the latter on the 20th lap.
When the yellow flag was waved towards the 30th lap for Jim Boyd’s accident, Elder took the opportunity to go through the pitlane to change the outside tires. Even if he leaves his pit box in 19th position, this strategy will be the right one. In front of Jefferson is followed like his shadow by Kuper and he will have to give up the first position to him on the 83rd lap.
Chuck Bown, who made a cautious start to the race, went up on the front and passed Jefferson and Kuper in quick succession to take the lead on the 99th lap until his engine broke on the 109th lap… That year for Bown was really all or nothing. Either he made a top-five or he gave up…
All profit for Kuper who recovers the first position. But he will lose it when he goes through the pitlane following the puncture of his right front tire. Elder finds his preferred position, that of leader on the 129th lap and will control the end of the race. Crossing the finish line more than a lap ahead of Hershel McGriff and two ahead of Jefferson. Ron Gautsche and Jackie Kuper complete the top-five.
Sonny Easley, who thanks to his victory the previous week in Gardena, CA had closed the championship gap on Elder, can do no better than sixth, again losing precious points.
With this fifth victory at Evegreen, Ray Elder equalized the record for victories on this track held until then by his old rival Jack McCoy. who had retired from the West Series at the end of the 1974 season.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Vincent Delforge’s collection.