Local drivers Bruce Rayburn and Dwayne Melvin, who died within days of each other around Christmas, will be honored with races at Southern Oregon Speedway this weekend.
Dwayne Melvin, who drove the #69th car, will be honored Saturday at Southern Oregon Speedway with Dwayne Melvin Clash, a 69-lap race with a $3,000 purse for the winner. [courtesy photo]
The 55-lap Bruce Rayburn Classic honoring Bruce “The Rabbit” Rayburn Sr., Eagle Point, will take home a $5,500 prize Friday. [Courtesy photo]
A pair of races this weekend at Southern Oregon Speedway will commemorate two beloved race car drivers who passed within days of each other in December.
The highway will host back-to-back events: Friday, the 55-lap Bruce Rayburn Classic will take home a $5,500 prize; On Saturday, Dwayne Melvin Clash, in 69 laps, will give $3,000 to the fastest driver.
The lap numbers for each event are an ode to the drivers’ car numbers.
Gates for both events open at 5pm, with races starting at 7pm
Travis Hobbes, general manager of Southern Oregon Speedway, said the local racing community is looking forward to honoring two of their favorites this weekend. Hobbs said it was an emotional time on the track, with the two local racers running nearly back-to-back.
Dwayne Melvin, of Medford, lost his battle with COVID the day before Christmas while Bruce “Rabbit” Rayburn Sr., of Eagle Point, died two days after Christmas from non-COVID health complications.
“Both were very well known. Bruce was a legend of Medford Speedway. He’s been in racing for many years. He was a builder of cars and was known for his Rayburn race car chassis,” Hobbs said.
“Melvin was a sports driver and a big bear for a guy. Everyone loved him. He was working on your car before he worked alone. He was a track champion when he first started sport mods. So many nights, I’d say, ‘Where the heck is Dwayne?’” We got to work on his car, “and he was going to go out of business in someone else’s car. That was Dwayne.”
Melvin’s wife, Stacey Melvin, said outreach from the local ethnic community has been a huge boost in recent months.
“It’s absolutely amazing. I just shared a Facebook photo of Dwayne this morning and wrote him a note saying how cool it would be to have him look down on all those racing families as they celebrate him this weekend,” she said.
“It’s bittersweet because it’s so cool to see everyone get together. People all over the West Coast are texting me about this weekend, but it’s also sad. Dwayne was only 41. He has to stay out of the race on the right track with everyone.” .
Stacy Melvin, who grew up with Rayburn’s children, said her late husband, who was a highway builder, had a Rayburn chassis, and the guys were friends. She noted that his car number was in honor of his uncle, famous local race car driver Roger Haudenschild, whose bright pink and black car bore the same number.
Ardi Rayburn, Rayburn’s stepmother, said she looks forward to seeing the familiar faces at the weekend’s events. She said her husband might laugh at the idea of a memorial race, having raced in so many. The Rayburn family held a memorial service at the track.
“He was really sarcastic and funny, so I can’t even imagine what he’d say. He’ll probably be sitting in heaven laughing at us, but I know he’ll be honored too,” said the widow.
“His number was 55, so the race payout is $5,500, which is a big purse for this area. Bruce was a man of few words, but when he said something, he said what he thought. I know he’s been in a lot of other memorial races, so he’d be my pleasure. Honor to see his friends racing alone.”
Hobbs said the loss of the two men, who came close to each other, was on the minds of the local highwayman and his supporters.
“The loss of these two guys has had a huge impact on our racing community, so this weekend is going to be very emotional for all of us, and we are expecting a lot of fans for both races,” he said.
“Organizing a memorial race for men you barely know is one thing, but when they are part of your family, it is something completely different. It will be a very emotional weekend.”
For more information, see Southernoregonmotorsports.com
Rich Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.