ALGER, Wash. — Trey Starks recalls attending Skagit Speedway‘s Jim Raper Memorial Super Dirt Cup before he was even old enough to drive a sprint car.
Back when the Northwest‘s premier event peaked in mystique, Starks watched from the stands as his racing heroes battled every June for the right to be called a Dirt Cup champion.
“It‘s the biggest race in the Northwest,” Starks said. “Even before I started racing sprint cars we‘d go and watch. It was always a really cool 410 event and you‘d get guys from California and the best guys from the Northwest. You‘d really get guys from all over the country. You look back even further in the yearbooks and you‘d get guys from the Midwest, back east, and everybody all over the place.”
Now, Starks has become one of the heroes on track, cheered by the local fans who‘ve seen the Puyallup, Washington, native develop into one of the best drivers to ever hail from the region. The 26-year-old has won all over the country on some big stages but now primarily races on the Pacific Northwest tracks that shaped him.
And this year, perhaps, more than any other, Starks seems primed to etch his name in the history books as a Dirt Cup winner in what would be one of the most popular triumphs in the event‘s 50-year history.
Starks has been at the top of his game in 2022. Rainy weather has limited his track time to eight starts, but he‘s won six times, scored a runner-up and a sixth-place finish, equaling a 1.75 average finish. Four of his victories have come at Washington‘s Grays Harbor Raceway. He‘s also won twice at Skagit.
“We‘ve definitely been building some momentum here in the last few weeks,” Starks said. “We haven‘t gotten to race a whole lot, but we‘ve been pretty solid every time we go out.”
This year‘s edition of Dirt Cup is an ideal time for Starks to be at his best.
Since 2015, the race has been a 360ci engine event and awarded $15,000 to the winner last year. Skagit‘s new promoters, Peter Murphy and Kevin Rudeen, restored the tradition of 410ci engines under the hood and upped the winner‘s purse to a whopping $50,000 for the 50th anniversary race. In addition, all 50 laps will pay $1,000 to lead.
“I think being a 410 event it‘s going to bring it back to one of the premier events of the year,” Starks commented. “You look at most of the top events and they‘re all 410 races and they all have the best guys in the country.”
Another factor that Starks believes will help resurrect the aura Dirt Cup once held is the California-based NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car Series is supporting the weekend, allowing the Golden State‘s best to venture northward in search of the big payday.
The Dirt Cup winners list is littered with Californians who made it a point to visit Skagit in June.
“I‘m happy that it‘s going to bring a lot of guys back up from California again,” Starks said. “That‘s kind of what it was built on and that‘s why I remember it as. I remember the California guys coming up and racing against the locals up here and then them getting to go down to California and race against them on some of their home tracks. I think it‘s going to bring that rivalry back a little bit.”
Starks has already topped NARC once this season, claiming the series‘ visit to Grays Harbor last month.
The only thing that may slow Starks down this week, though, is the fact that his victory against NARC is one of just two starts he‘s made in a 410 this year, the other being Monday‘s Dirt Cup TuneUp where he finished sixth.
“We‘ve only got to run a couple 410 races this year,” Starks said. “So it‘s still kind of tough. Obviously, we were good in Elma with NARC, but it‘s tough to gauge on only two races. We‘ve been really good in the 360 and our package is pretty similar for the 410, so we‘re hoping for a good outing.”
The biggest question is whether Starks can stand atop the podium after a grueling 50 laps this Saturday. He‘ll have to top a talented field of drivers, but Starks, who owns a Knoxville Nationals prelim win, victories in various areas of the country, and finished second in last year‘s Dirt Cup, is more than capable.
Starks could make his place in history as a Dirt Cup champion just as he watched many do when he was a Washington-born kid in the stands, hoping to one day get a chance to accomplish the same.
“If we ended up winning Dirt Cup this weekend, it would definitely be, what I would consider, the biggest win of my career,” Starks said. “We‘ve won a decent amount of races in a few different spots, but there‘s nothing like coming back home and representing the local competition and doing good in front of the home crowd.”