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Fun in the mud

MUD BATH: A driver and his passenger take part in a mud bog race Sunday at Starkey. The event is a popular one  for drivers and spectators. (The Observer/Dick Mason).
MUD BATH: A driver and his passenger take part in a mud bog race Sunday at Starkey. The event is a popular one for drivers and spectators. (The Observer/Dick Mason).

STARKEY Decades from now, Keith Friend of Hermiston plans to spend his summer weekends doing what he does now making mud fly.

Friend is a mud bog racer who competed at the Starkey 4X4 Clubs races last weekend. In the mud bog races, drivers go through a pool of mud about 2 feet deep.

Some people dont like it. But if you do, it will get in your blood, and you cant get rid of it, Friend said. I dont care if Im 80, I will still be a mudder.

The key to doing well in mud bog competition is having plenty of power and having the correct tires, Friend said.

Having the right type of tires is often a matter of luck. Friend said that certain tires are better for different types of mud. Competitors cannot anticipate what type of mud they will encounter and cant adjust their tires accordingly.

Friend said that the tires he had on Sunday, which had deep tread, were good for the wet mud that day.

The best strategy to use in mud bog events is to stay in the grooves that other drivers have carved out.

Follow the ruts. If you hop out of the ruts you can get into trouble, Friend said.

A number of drivers did get in trouble Sunday. They had to be towed out of the mud bogs.

The engines of some vehicles stalled in the mud bogs apparently because mud and water had been sucked in. Friend never has problems with this because of rubber flaps he puts on to protect his truck engine.

Some of the best prepared mud bog drivers, in terms of practice time, are from the Moses Lake, Wash., area. Drivers there are allowed to practice in mud flats near Moses Lake from July 1 to Oct. 14, according to James LeBow of Moses Lake. LeBow was one of the drivers in last weekends competition. He said that the extra practice time he gets in the Moses Lake area helps significantly.

We play in the mud, LeBow said.

Century mark approached

Even the best of the mud bog racers never reach high speeds, unlike those in Starkeys drag racing events that involved snowmobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and pickups. Some vehicles in the drag events reached speeds close to 100 mph on a 100-yard course, said Dave Kennedy, president of the Starkey 4X4 Club.

With speed, of course, comes danger. Drag racer Tyson Hoskins of Summerville said he is so focused on moving forward that he never gives danger a second thought until it is in his rearview mirror.

I dont think about it until after it is over. Afterwards Ill think, that was close, Hoskins said.

Obstacle course mishap

Those who had an uncomfortably close call on Sunday included brothers Gary and Jason Buchanan of Hermiston. Their truck flipped and rolled over during an obstacle course race. The brothers walked away feeling fortunate but unbowed.

It was pretty hairy, said Jason Buchanan, who was driving.

He said that the roll bar and safety constraints in their vehicle prevented them from being hurt.

Ill be back next year, Jason said.

The Buchanans were among about 200 competitors at the Starkey races. A total of about 3,000 people watched the races on Saturday and Sunday. Behind-the-scenes action they did not see included people working feverishly to cool their engines before their next races.

Dennis Biloff of Milton-Freewater, a snowmobile racer, had one of the more efficient cooling systems. He reduces the temperature by pumping ice water through it. The water is kept in a cooler. It takes three to four minutes to pump the water through it. Biloff said this works better than spraying water on the engine.

The Starkey 4X4 races have been conducted since 1974. The races are held on land rented by the Starkey 4X4 Club from the Pete Able family.

Tom Harris, Oregon state director of the Pacific Northwest 4-Wheel Drive Association, was among those who attended this years races.

My hat is off to them (the Starkey 4X4 Club). They did an exemplary job, said Harris, who traveled to the races from his home in Klamath Falls.

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