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Assorted cars, drivers will head to Portland International Raceway this weekend for 57th Rose Cup Races

COURTESY: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Scotty B. White of Auburn, Washington, leading Will Hunholz through Turn 12 in 2016, will return to Portland International Raceway this weekend to defend his Rose Cup title.Portland-area sports car racers will gather Friday through Sunday at Portland International Raceway for the 57th Rose Cup Races.

Founded in 1961 by the Cascade Sports Car Club and the Portland Rose Festival, the event has had different formats over the years, including eight years as a stop on the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-Am pro racing circuit.

Sunday's Rose Cup race is the highlight of the weekend. It is open to the fastest cars of the SCCA and Cascade Sports Car Club, including Dodge Viper, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette. Exotics such as the Ferrari 458 Italia, Porsche 997, and Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, also will compete for the Rose Cup.

Organizers expect to have more than 30 cars in the 35-minute race, which has three classes based on potential lap times.

Former SCCA national champion Kyle Keenan of Vancouver, Washington, will make his first appearance in the Rose Cup race this year, driving a Mustang over the 1.967-mile road course.

"Growing up, the Rose Cup was always the biggest race in the Northwest," Keenan says. "Everybody wants to win the Rose Cup. I feel a little like I'm bringing a knife to a gunfight, but I'm confident in our reliability. We might not be the fastest car, but we'll be there at the end."

Last year's Rose Cup champion, Scotty B. White of Auburn, Washington, plans to defend his title. White's Dodge SRT Viper Competition Coupe is among the fastest in the country, and beating him to the checkered flag will be very difficult.

"We can run a steady pace," White says. "That's one of our strengths. We can run where we qualify."

This year's Rose Cup Races will have a variety of Pacific Northwest amateur racing groups. Feature races include Spec Miata, in which drivers prepare Mazda's popular two-seat convertible to a strict set of rules designed to keep the racing close and fast.

"One of the cool things about Spec Miata is you'll have five to 10 cars battling for the lead," says Gary Bockman, a Spec Miata racer from Portland. "You'll see 30 cars all racing as hard as they can. There's a battle for each spot."

SCCA's Spec Racer Ford group will be at PIR over the weekend, as well. These cars are identical and purpose-built single-seat racing machines, also designed to keep the racing close and exciting. Second-and third-generation versions of these cars will be part of a full field.

Todd Harris, owner and chief instructor at PIR's Pro Drive racing school, will be among those racing, along with his son, Calvin, age 18. The Harris racing family of Tigard is a mainstay of the Spec Racer Ford community.

"Calvin just went to the June Sprints with me at Road America in Wisconsin," Harris says. "He drove so well there, I think he has a shot at the Rose Cup podium this year."

The Great American Stockcar Series is returning to the Rose Cup weekend, too, with similarly-prepared V8-powered stock cars. The GASS series is similar to a NASCAR road course experience.

"There will be four or five really fast GASS cars running," Bockman says. "It's going to be a really good racing, because unlike in the Miata, in these cars if you make a mistake you can put your foot down and make up the time."

Other groups appearing on the Rose Cup schedule are the Wemme Trophy race for vintage sports cars, the BMW Cup, and the small bore SCCA and Cascade cars. All groups will qualify on Friday and race on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's races are shorter, with the main feature races all on Sunday.

In the track infield, the event will play host to Pro Aerial League drone racing. Drone enthusiasts will give demonstrations of their flying prowess throughout the weekend at the PIR motocross facility.

New this year are tickets for "The Ride of Your Life." At $150, a ticket includes one three-day admission with parking, a souvenir hat, an exclusive T-shirt, a race day program and a scheduled ride for two laps in an exotic street car or race car on Friday or Saturday evening, plus a tax-deductible receipt.

Normal admission is $25 for a three-day adult ticket with inside parking. A Sunday-only ticket is $10, plus $5 for parking. All active-duty military and veterans will receive free admission throughout the weekend with valid ID.

Tickets for the Rose Cup Races are available through www.rosecup.com or at the PIR front gate on race days. Friday and Saturday track sessions begin at 8:30 a.m., and continue through the afternoon. Sunday begins with warm-ups at 9 a.m., and feature races start at 10:30 a.m.

The Rose Cup race begins with ceremonies at 2:25 p.m. Sunday, and the three-day event ends at 5 p.m.

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