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    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda


    Ten Reasons Why

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Ten reasons why the Trophy Cup winged 360 sprint car race is so special:

    10. Drivers keep their best night—Whichever is the higher point night from the Thursday and Friday preliminary shows will be used to set Saturday’s lineups.

    9. Activities—the Trophy Cup is not just a race, it is an event. After the races Thursday is Chili Dog Night, Friday morning has a breakfast and after the races it is Fiesta night. Saturday afternoon is the spaghetti feed with all activities free. A donation to Make-A-Wish Foundation will be appreciated.

    8. The track—Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway is a challenging, high speed track which usually requires running the wall before the night is over, leaving no margin for error.

    7. The officials—the group of officials given the responsibility of running the event are a smoothly operating team with special emphasis on keeping the huge show moving, always mindful of California’s fairgrounds curfew.

    6. The anticipation—Drivers and fans look forward to the annual Trophy Cup as many drivers call it their favorite race of the year.

    5. The field—100 cars are entered, the maximum accepted for the race this year. Only the cars that compete this year will be eligible for next year’s invitation only race.

    4. Dave Pusateri—Without the vision and effort of Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San Jose, the event would never had been created. He wanted to see drivers have to come from the back and he started the Trophy Cup to make that happen. Over the years a large number of people have supported Dave and the event. The staff of Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway makes every effort to ensure the success of the Cup.

    3. The format—Adjustments have been made over the years with one thought in mind: make the Trophy Cup an even better event. Thursday and Friday heats invert 6, Saturday heats invert 8. Mains invert 12 on the first two nights and 20 on Saturday night. All inversions are based on points. To do well at the Trophy Cup, drivers need to pass cars every race they are in.

    2. The purse—This year the purse is $165,000 total. The point fund pays the 24 drivers that make the Saturday A main, offering a total of $81,500. The remainder of the $165,000 total is the racing purse. Next year that total will increase to $200,000.

    1. Make-A-Wish Foundation—The Trophy Cup will pass the $1.5 million total for donations to the Foundation this year. Every dollar from entry fees, auctions, donations at activities, and event shirt and program sales goes to Make-A-Wish. This is only possible because of the tremendous support businesses offer to the Trophy Cup.

    The Trophy Cup is an event like no other, and it happens later this week. October 19-21 at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway where, for the 24th time, a driver will become the Cup champion.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…October means time for the 6th Annual Adobe Cup at Petaluma Speedway, featuring winged 360s, nonwing spec sprints, and super stocks, all racing for a higher purse than usual. The winged field chased a $5200 winner’s payout and 34 cars showed, plus 21 spec sprints, and around 25 super stocks.

    The excellent turnout stretched the pit area capacity to the limit, and the large crowd was not disappointed by the show that beat curfew by 2 minutes. Petaluma as well as Ocean Speedway and, I believe, also All American Speedway all have 10 pm curfews.

    Petaluma was short of time, the result of the turnout of cars and an additional loss of about 15 minutes during the night’s first heat following a grinding flip. The heats were shortened in some cases, and the 40 lap super stock main was timed out at 9:30. With some luck, the sprints finished with 120 seconds to spare.

    Klint Simpson won the spec sprint main, establishing a significant lead after getting past Terry Schank, Jr. Car owner Dave Brown said Simpson’s ride at Petaluma was the last night for that car, as it will be sold and Brown will build a new ride for next year, this time with a wing on top.

    The winged format had 4 pre-qualified cars for the main due to winning selected races this year. Michael Kofoid, Geoff Ensign, Colby Copeland, and Klint Simpson had free passes to the dash and were joined by the 4 heat winners, Andy Forsberg, Kurt Nelson, Chase Johnson, and Jake Haulot. Finishing 2nd in the heat, Haulot made the dash since already qualified Simpson won the 8 lapper.

    The dash results put Ensign and Johnson on the front row, not a good thing as it turned out. Consecutive cases of contact on the green led to two yellows and a missing front row before a lap was scored. With the minutes left fading fast and all 30 laps yet to be scored, some clean and green racing was needed, and luckily it occurred.

    Copeland led ten laps before Forsberg drove under him in turn 2 and slid up in front of the leader to take over. Building a decent lead, Forsberg then had traffic to consider thanks to some lengthy green flag sessions, but made the correct decision each time.

    With 9 laps left Kofoid passed Copeland and closed on Forsberg. With more traffic in the way and a couple laps left, Kofoid used the bottom exit from turn 2 to pull even with Forsberg, but was unable to win the race to turn 3. Forsberg won an exciting and fast paced main to collect the healthy payout with Kofoid and Copeland filling the podium.

    It was nice to see such a large crowd at Petaluma as during hot laps it did not look like the turnout would be special. The crowd at Petaluma does seem to be a later arriving group than other tracks, and the main stand looked full with adjacent bleachers holding a bunch more by sunset.

    Speaking of sunset, that time can lead to changes in the track at Petaluma. I heard a couple drivers complaining how the turns looked dry, slick during packing, but then one of them remembered sunset and suggested they wait and see if it changes.

    The water table at the fairgrounds is so high that the magical rising of moisture from beneath is common and the track turned out nearly perfect, fast and smooth all around the 3/8.

    I had four options for Saturday and picked the one that was the longest drive from a Tulare start. No doubt, it was the right choice.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico ended their season in the usual way, the Fall Nationals featuring winged 360 sprints, nonwing spec sprints, and new this year, the Northwest Focus Midget series.

    When I saw the Focus group on the schedule along with the word “Northwest”, that meant Washington state. That is a very long tow for a Focus team and seemed an odd add to the Fall Nationals lineup. Thinking maybe a half dozen or so would make that trip, it is nice to say I was really off on that one. Try 30!!

    Friday opened with 57 winged sprints, 8 nonwing spec sprints, and those long tow 30 Focus entries. An amazing 90% of the 30 Focus teams were from either Washington state or British Columbia. They were running the final two shows of their ten race tour schedule with Deming, Elma, Skagit, Medford and Banks presenting tour races this year.

    Winged sprints used the two group qualifying procedure, followed by invert 4, take 5 heats with the heat winners plus next four fastest to make the A running a redraw dash. That resulted in Justin Sanders being on the pole with Shane Golobic alongside for the 30 lap, $3000 to win main.

    Sanders led all the way, surviving some pressure from Golobic and Dominic Scelzi, but his biggest challenge was handling running into a stalled car halfway through the main. Lacking steering, the car sat atop the turn 2 exit just as Sanders came speeding through the corner. Slamming into the rear of the car led to wing bending but amazingly enough, the front end survived and he did not come to a stop.

    Following that thrill, Sanders had no more and won over Golobic and 10th starting Andy Forsberg, the final podium spot being settled at the line as the checkers flew.

    The small spec sprint field turned out to be a good thing as 95 open wheel cars was more than enough to threaten the curfew, especially when track packing started oddly late considering the crowded pit area.

    Kalib Henry took control of the 15 lap race fairly early and won over Brett Youngman and Terry Schank Jr. to collect his 2nd nonwing spec sprint main in 9 days.

    The Focus midgets ran 4 draw heats and used passing points and the ASCS chart to select the top 16, drawing an inversion for that group to align their 25 lap main. Adding four from a B, the field was controlled by Chance Crum, rewarding him for his long ride from Snohomish, Washington. Golobic made it two runner-up finishes for the night, and Evan Margenson filled the podium.

    Saturday concluded the SDS season, and the final lap for the season produced what was probably the most exciting finish for 2017. The 53 winged 360s ran the same format but it was Bud Kaeding and Gio Scelzi that earned front row starts. Interesting that the last time Bud won the Fall Nationals was five years before Gio was born.

    A dry, slick surface made for much better racing than Friday although the rubber factor made its appearance before the halfway point in the 40 lap season ender. The first 7 laps had four lead changes between Kaeding and Jonathan Allard, racing in an event that is a tribute to his brother, Stephen.

    Kaeding made the last of the four passes to lead from lap 7 on, but as it turned out, not quite until the checkers. As laps gradually reached the 40 goal, Golobic closed on Kaeding to make this one very interesting, but it appeared there was no lane that would get the job done.

    With a couple to go, it looked as if this one would go to the final lap, and it did when entering turn 4, Kaeding was up the track a bit, Golobic closer to the middle, and Cory Eliason on the bottom. A three car drag race to the line produced a thrilling finish. Golobic had the best traction out of 4 to win over Eliason while Kaeding dropped to 3rd. The last quarter of a lap was the kind of thing any track would like on their season’s last main.

    Nonwing spec sprints were at 9 and voted to skip their heat and just run a main, offering to save some time, trying to offset some of the minutes lost by starting late again. This one had some good battling for the lead but once Kalib Henry used a lap 13 low side pass in turn 1, he drove away from the field. Making it 3 spec sprint wins in 10 days, Henry won over Terry Schank Jr. and Troy DeGaton.

    The Northwest Focus midget field stayed at 30 and a driver running a tribute to Fred Brownfield finish on his car took the win. Colton Heath took the checkers with Ryan Bernal and again Margenson in 3rd. Heath will return to California later this month as he is running the Trophy Cup.

    Gaylon and Carla Stewart are in their third year of organizing the Northwest Ford Focus Series. The first 8 races of the Series took shows at tracks in Washington and Oregon that had Focus midgets on the schedule and labeled them as tour races.

    The idea of coming to Chico for the last two tour events was very successful, drawing an excellent field from their list of 42 registered cars. The group did an impressive job, always ready in staging and creating very few yellows considering they ran 8 heats and a pair each of B and A mains the two nights.

    Perhaps one of the drivers said it best regarding the respect the teams have for the tour when he said that Gaylon and Carla did not just create a tour, they created a family.

    Next weekend it is off to Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway, no not a two week head start for the Trophy Cup, but to a show I have never seen at the famed oval. A two day IMCA five division show will get their turn at trying to run the wall around the 3/8.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA….The three day Nor-Cal Posse Shootout at Placerville Speedway was the first time the foothill quarter mile ran a trio of nights. Weather last year led to the Shootout being canceled, but this year there was no significant threat of rain.

    Thursday was expected to be particularly interesting as the first ever nonwing injected 360 race opened the Shootout with nonwing spec sprints adding to the evening. Twenty injected and 17 spec sprints were enough for a Thursday show, although track prep sessions and red flag delays created the latest finish of the three nights.

    Austin Liggett was the only driver who mostly races nonwing in the injected field. Many Placerville regulars in the winged division shed the lid with various degrees of success.

    Liggett set quick time at 11.797 while the heavier and fewer horsepower spec sprints saw Kalib Henry quickest at 12.140. Both divisions ran a dash to set the front of the main Justyn Cox took the injected dash ahead of Liggett. The spec sprint dash saw Liggett finish one spot better and Henry was 2nd.

    Liggett led the 25 lap spec sprint main until turn 4 of lap 1 when Henry squeezed under the leader to take the top spot. Once in front, Henry led all the way, driving an excellent race, dealing with traffic like a driver far more experienced than a 17 year old. Liggett was 2nd and Marcus Smith ran 3rd.

    The injected main was very good with four cars racing each other for first at one point, an exciting moment ended by a yellow. While Liggett led the first 19 laps, pressure was constant from Michael Kofoit, Cory Eliason, and eventually Justyn Cox.

    Cox ran few laps without a position change somewhere around the quarter mile, moving forward and then backward often enough that he was practically a hard charger award winner. Driving one of the more exciting races I have seen from him, Cox got under Liggett on the bottom of turn 4 on lap 20 to lead the last six for the $2000 win. Using every square inch of the well prepared track, Cox collected his first ever nonwing win over Liggett and Kofoid.

    The next two nights featured winged 360s with BCRA midget lites supporting. The lites enjoyed an improved count with 17 and 19 cars for the two nights, and it was the Kinney family that collected the increased winner’s check. Hunter Kinney dominated Friday while his father, Scott, took night two.

    The Shootout turned into a Rod Tiner/Cory Eliason trip to the bank as the team swept both nights, $3000 on Friday and $7500 on Saturday in winning checks. Eliason has been driving Tiner’s car lately with much success, but a previous driving commitment leaves the Tiner seat currently empty for Trophy Cup. Hopefully Tiner teams with a driver to run the 24th Annual event next month in order to be eligible for the 2018 Trophy Cup with its $200,000 minimum purse.

    41 and 38 were the car counts for winged 360s with a point driven format creating far more intense heats than the usual invert four, take four version. Qualifying was 100 points, dropping by one, and heats earned 50 points, dropping by 3. The Thursday main was 150 with a 3 point drop.

    The top 8 point cars Thursday did a pole shuffle thing to set the first four rows, and the top 4 from Thursday’s main got a free pass to Friday’s shuffle. Each night the 8 drivers drew for pole shuffle order.

    Thursday Eliason started on the pole and led all 30 laps with Steven Tiner and Cole Macedo putting on a show racing for 2nd. Cole, the younger brother of Carson, was 2nd on a lap 27 restart but being on the outside of a double file restart did not work well and he finished 7th.

    Eliason was followed across the line by Tiner and D.J. Netto after their late race battle was settled. Dominic Scelzi was 4th and the final locked in car. Scelzi was high point car going into the shuffle but had a tough pill draw for the order.

    Friday had no qualifying but two sets of heats, straight up by points in the first round and that lineup was inverted for round two. Offering the same point earning options as Thursday, the heats were really good, particularly round two with the top point cars starting last.

    Eliason used pole shuffle success to earn the pole with Greg DeCaires outside. DeCaires was running his last race at Placerville after a long and successful career. His son, Greg DeCaires V, will move from a micro sprint to the 4sa next year so the name on the car won’t have to be changed.

    Leading the first 10 laps, DeCaires held off Eliason until a high line drive put Friday’s winner into the lead. A 40 lap race, the final 11 times around the quarter featured a great duel between Eliason and Netto. Losing the lead to Netto, Eliason came right back with the winning pass on lap 32. The dramatic racing between the pair of Central Valley drivers put an exclamation mark on the three day event.

    Scelzi used the topside for a move to 2nd on lap 35 while Sean Becker topped that with a last turn pass for 3rd. Netto finished 4th and DeCaires ended his Placerville racing with a 5th.

    This coming weekend winged 360 racing moves to Silver Dollar Speedway for the Fall Nationals on Friday and Saturday.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Three nights of USAC/CRA racing offered significantly different tracks among Silver Dollar, Ocean, and Hanford’s 3/8. Silver Dollar was, in the words of a USAC person, ready for qualifying when the show was complete. Ocean was excellent, putting of a display of nonwing sprint car racing at its best, and Hanford was very good to end the trio of shows.

    Chico’s Thursday track was so wet that many hot lap sessions were needed before qualifying, and it still was wet. The show concluded with the largest USAC/CRA field on the week never able to showcase what nonwing racing is about. USAC Western midgets had a 20-car field with the same level of results.

    Damion Gardner led all 30 laps for the sprint win after Alex Schutte had done the same in the midget finale. The next night was Ocean Speedway and everything was different.

    Eighteen USAC/CRA cars were supported by 34 track division entries in three divisions. Ocean’s mandatory 10pm curfew leads to early starts and the very efficiently run program ended at 8:47. That ending time was assisted by all three support mains going nonstop and minimal flags for the sprint main.

    Jake Swanson led initially from the outside front row spot while Gardner was 2nd by lap 4. An entertaining battle between Gardner and Tyler Courtney for 2nd lasted a bunch of laps until Gardner took the lead with a low line drive out of turn 4 on lap 14.

    With Gardner in front, one could easily figure the race is settled. Far from it as things turned out. Courtney continued racing with Gardner and used the same piece of turn 4 three laps later to take over.

    Courtney led the next 11 laps but Kevin Thomas Jr. closed and used that popular low turn 4 pass to lead, but a yellow negated that effort. A lap later Thomas used the same turn, but this time a slider got the job done and Thomas led the last 3 for a win.

    Gardner and Swanson filled the podium after an excellent race that had only one problem…..I wanted ten more laps it was so good. The track was right and at the right time, allowing drivers to put on a show.

    The final of three in a row was at Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds with 23 USAC/CRA cars, 17 RACEsaver winged sprints, and 26 support fendered division entries.

    Zane Blanchard took the RACEsaver main with an outside pass in turn 4 on lap 5 to be the third leader in a handful of laps. Blanchard led the rest of the way with three yellows slowing the pace. Grant Duinkerken was 2nd with Jared Faria third.

    Western IMCA RACEsaver Sprint Series director, Scott Woodhouse, mentioned he was recently at the Eagle Raceway for the RACEsaver Nationals. The 115 car turnout was likely lessened by weather related issues. Woodhouse, enjoying his first visit to Eagle, now understands why that track is one of the best in the country.

    Stevie Sussex led 23 laps of the USAC/CRA main before Gardner used the bottom of turns 1 and 2 to take over. Five laps later Thomas Jr. moved into 2nd using the bottom of turn 4 and it was time for another late race pass for the Cullman, Alabama driver.

    Lap 26 saw Gardner slide up the track in turn 4 and Thomas was there to drive under the leader to take over for the last 5 laps and another win. Gardner was 2nd and Geoff Ensign 3rd after another entertaining 30 laps of USAC/CRA racing.

    Placerville Speedway will run their final point show this Saturday before presenting a huge three day race the following weekend. Thursday has two nonwing divisions, spec sprints for $1200 to win, and nonwing injected 360s for $2000 to win.

    Friday and Saturday are winged 360s, paying $3000 to win and $300 to start on Friday before finishing the three day run with a $7000 to win and $500 to start winged 360 show.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…The first two of five nights of sprint cars over a six-day span started Labor Day with the warmest night I have ever spent at Petaluma Speedway. It was not overly warm, but for the first time it was T-shirt and shorts all night, never before experienced at the track influenced by the proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

    The occasion was USAC/CRA on hand, supported by 15 super stocks and 9 nonwing micro sprints. The 18 car field of nonwing 410s showed considerable shrinkage from the two prior nights, something that might be remedied if Petaluma was on Friday to start, not end, the weekend.

    Northern California has been experiencing the warmest summer on record and Petaluma was the closest to a cool evening I have had since returning from the Midwest is late June.

    Aerobatics by Kevin Thomas Jr. and Brody Roa in heat races tore down some wood in turn 4 and between 3 and 4, but both still restarted in their respective 10 lap heat. Some track prep preceded the 30-lap main, and while the track was not nearly dry enough to produce any sliders, it was an entertaining finale.

    Damion Gardner was on the pole, something that often leads to a win, and this one seemed to be going that direction. Tyler Courtney came from west from Indianapolis and moved to 2nd on lap 22 along the lower reaches of the backstretch.

    It did not take long to close on Gardner and lap 27 was an outside pass leaving turn 4 that elevated Courtney to the win over Gardner and local all around driver, Geoff Ensign. Petaluma’s strict 10 pm curfew was in last, losing by 20+ minutes.

    Tuesday the Outlaw Kart Showcase raced mains at Cycleland Speedway, the first year of a two-day format. This seemed to work well as it took a very unexpected dose of rain to delay night two, otherwise a 10:30 finish would have prevailed. Logan Seavey won for the 2nd straight year, an amazing feat considering the 120 entries in his class alone.

    Wednesday opened the Gold Cup race at Chico where Silver Dollar Speedway hosted 44 winged 360s for a Civil War event plus 19 Hunt Series non-wing spec sprints. A loaded winged field closed the Civil War season for the series and Andy Forsberg collected his amazing 10th title.

    After preliminaries that included four invert four, take four heats with the winner and 4 fastest to transfer moving to a dash, the winged main got the green with the usual 22 hopefuls on the quarter mile.

    Michael Kofoid was on the pole and officially led all 30 laps for another win for the 15-year-old driver. He lost the lead for the length of the backstretch, but regained the top spot in turn 3 during the two best laps of the bunch.

    Mitchell Faccinto lost a right rear while racing for the lead, but it was Willie Croft who used a top turn 2 exit move to lead lap 19 for a while. Kofoid drove under Croft in turn 3 and led by inches at the line. Establishing more of a lead, Kofoid took the win over Bud Kaeding and Shane Golobic after Croft suffered a DNF.

    The Hunt series for spec sprints had Austin Liggett lead 3 laps until Klint Simpson put the Dave Brown entry into the lead with a high side pass out of turn 2. That appeared to settle the outcome, but lapped traffic changed everything. A late race turn 3 Liggett pass for the win was assisted by Simpson getting slowed behind a lapper and once again being 2nd turned out to be better.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln CA… A weekend of Sprint Car Challenge Tour racing resulted in two drivers winning their 2nd Tour main of this initial season for the Scott Russell/Kami Arnold produced series. Cory Eliason took the Placerville Friday race and Shane Golobic collected the Saturday win.

    Eliason was racing KWS/NARC Saturday in Petaluma, missing his 2nd series race while Golobic has already missed three. The other two-time winner, Mitchell Faccinto, has not missed any events.

    Friday drew 31 winged 360s and 14 Hunt Series nonwing spec sprint entries on a warm night at the foothill quarter mile. SCCT qualifies by heat race draw, inverts four and takes four, then runs an 8-car dash for heat winners and fastest four transfers.

    Justyn Cox had the pole, a location he used to lead 30 laps, normally enough for a win but SCCT runs longer mains, 40 laps at Placerville and 35 for Stockton. Eliason was 2nd by lap 9 with a low line back stretch pass and Golobic moved to 3rd by lap 13, using the same part of the clay for that move.

    Cox was sailing along but lost the lead to Eliason following a lap 31 restart and eventually wound up 4th. With 7 laps left, Cox got into the turn 4 cushion enough to allow Golobic to get 2nd. Golobic pressured Eliason but settled for 2nd with Colby Copeland 3rd.

    Point leader Kyle Hirst was among the several top level drivers that missed the heat inversion and it took a 2nd in the B main to get a 15th starting spot in the main. Hirst got up to 6th after 40 laps to protect his point lead. Drivers with a chance to overtake Hirst lost ground when 2nd in points Willie Croft was 13th and Mitchell Faccinto took a 17th, not helping his 3rd in points status.

    The spec sprint main had some early dicing for the lead until Austin Liggett used the topside of turn 4 to lead laps 14 through 25 for another win for the nonwing specialist. After finishing 2nd by inches at the prior series race at Petaluma, Liggett dominated the latter part of this one.

    Saturday was even warmer than Placerville’s unseasonable temperature with 34 winged 360s and 11 BCRA midgets on hand at Stockton Dirt track. This one turned into a rubber down track for the 35 lap SCCT main, but Hirst provided some passing and drama.

    Starting 13th after another B main transfer following a heat DNF, Hirst chased down early leader Justin Sanders by using the outside groove, one that surprisingly existed on a track that steadily increased the rubber on it.

    Hirst stormed into a substantial lead but as the laps counted towards 35 Golobic was clearly the fastest car on the track. On lap 28, Hirst tried to pass a lapper on the outside in turn 4, seemed to spin the tires, and Golobic drove under Hirst and the lapper for the winning pass.

    Hard charger Hirst came a long way from 13th but one little situation meant a 2nd. Michael Kofoid was 3rd from 7th starting so the larger track offered some passing opportunities despite a surface that led to single file restarts.

    Again, Hirst stretched his lead a bit with his 2nd as Faccinto was 4th and Croft finished 6th. With only the November 4th return to Stockton on the schedule, it looks to me that Hirst only needs to make the A main to clinch the very first SCCT title. Perhaps a sufficient B main finish could also be enough.

    The BCRA midget main turned into a Michael Faccinto romp after some early competitive laps. That is two in a row for him with both being support division nights for SCCT.

    With very hot weather now hitting Northern California, this coming weekend will be a test for teams and fans, but Saturday’s $5000 to win, $500 to start 360 race at Hanford beckons despite the triple digits.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Last night at Placerville seemed more like a Sprint Car Challenge Tour race than a weekly show. It was a point show, but a special one being the Mark Forni Classic. A major supporter of both the track and fairgrounds, Forni passed away 12 years ago. This special night was created to honor and remember him and has run each year.

    A $5000 payday for the winner was a big part of the strong 42 car field of winged 360s, so deep in quality that making the 16 car heat inversion was difficult. Greg DeCaires was one who saw his challenge to Steven Tiner’s small point lead get derailed in qualifying. Other A main types found themselves in the loaded B main and DeCaires finished one spot out of a transfer.

    Support divisions drew 41 cars in three divisions to keep everyone on their toes to make the show move along. This may be the first time I have seen a C main needed at Placerville for a point show. The other two August shows drew 34 and 26 in the sprint division, so it has been a good month on the red clay off of highway 50.

    The 8 redraw cars included Justin Sanders and Andy Forsberg, and that became the front row. Challengers for the lead included Sean Becker who was destined to finish 4th, Forsberg who slid off the track in turn 1, and Cory Eliason who hit a rut and rolled.

    Eventually it was Tiner who moved to 2nd and pressured Sanders, to the point that their dual settled the race, but neither of them took the win. Lap 23 of 25 offered a tense battle between Sanders and Tiner and both of them, looking for perhaps a slider opportunity in turn 2, would up at the top of the track.

    A car length back in 3rd, Justyn Cox drove under both and led the last 1 2/3 laps for the dramatic win. Sanders, Tiner, Becker, and D. J. Netto completed the top five after 25 dramatic laps raced before a very large crowd.

    This coming Friday Placerville races the Sprint Car Challenge tour accompanied by the Hunt Magneto series for nonwing spec sprints. Saturday the same two series move south to Stockton Dirt Track. It will be the next to last SCCT event, finishing at Stockton in November.

    The Hunt series has a trio of shows left after this Friday, a Wednesday in Chico, back to Placerville on Thursday Sept. 21 as part of a very adventurous three day event on the foothill quarter mile, and will finish in Stockton in November also, a day before the SCCT closer.

    The night before it was another special night for sprints, this time winged 410s, at Chico where Silver Dollar Speedway had a spectacular finish before a big crowd. The 18 car field of sprints put on a dramatic 25 laps for the Tyler Wolf Memorial. Tyler was fatally injured at Calistoga in 2012, a year after becoming the youngest sprint champion in the long history of Silver Dollar.

    Support for the night meant an increased purse plus lap money. D. J. Netto led 19 laps before Sean Becker made a low line pass out of turn 4 to make was figured to be the winning pass.

    Apparently Kyle Hirst did not get the memo on that. First he got past Netto for 2nd on lap 23 then used momentum from a backstretch run to power around Becker on the high side of turn 4 and win the race to the line. Hirst did this one the hard way, starting 9th, with 8 starters in front of him all capable on winning.

    Chico has their final point show this Friday, then takes some time off before presenting the Gold Cup for four days starting Wednesday, September 6th. After that event, then a couple weeks off before the season ending Pacific Sprint Nationals.

    Last Friday something very rare took place when a ceremonial groundbreaking occurred in New Mexico for a new motorsports complex. The location is 19 miles south of Las Cruces is the small community of Vado. That will be the closest city to the new track, to be built on 127 acres purchased by Royal Jones. Rue Stone will be the track manager when a mid-2018 opening occurs.

    The new facility will have a 3/8 dirt oval along with motocross, a go kart track, and a track for radio control cars. While a mid-2018 opening is planned, the time to build it right will be taken, not rush it to completion. Many of the materials for the complex were purchased from the now closed Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway.

    I was going to visit the current Las Cruces track last January, but unfavorable weather canceled the event. Won’t make it this year either, but maybe the new facility someday.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA Fans and race teams are already looking towards the 24th annual Trophy Cup, set for Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway next October. It is the highest paying 360 sprint car race in the world, featuring not only a huge payout, but also the most talked about format in racing. This year’s three day total racing purse is $165,000+ made possible by the amazing level of support within the racing community. The Cup champion is guaranteed $20,000 total payout while the Saturday A main pays $2050 to start (purse plus point fund).

    In 1994 Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San Jose CA, came up with the idea of an race that featured a main event that was fully inverted, putting the fastest cars at the rear for a passing filled race. The event was called the Trophy Cup and its remarkable history continues this year with the 24th annual race.

    It is a winged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country. The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion due to the final night main that puts the highest point cars close to the rear of the 24 car field. From qualifying on the first two nights to heat races and mains, drivers earn points and the highest total after the racing ends wins the Trophy Cup. There are two parts to the purse money, some is paid to drivers based on race finishes and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.

    In 2015 an improved format had full shows on Thursday and Friday with several changes. To make qualifying more consistently fair, the drivers are split into groups A and B. Each group has its own fastest qualifier so two drivers will earn 150 points for fast time. Heat races are within each group, i.e., the A group has their own heats and likewise with B group. Once main events start, the groups are now combined for determining lineups, based on results from the heat races.

    On Friday B group will qualify first and the order of cars within each group will be reversed. The format mirrors Thursday action and, once completed, drivers will use their higher point total from the first two nights to carry into Saturday. A driver may have a tough night on Thursday but gets another chance the next night. Saturday will not have qualifying but heats and mains, culminating with the 50 lap, invert 20 main event.

    The Trophy Cup has always been a cooperative effort among businesses, the host track, fans, and all the volunteers that shape the Trophy Cup organization. The event has earned the Short Track Race of the Year from National Speed Sport News, an award befitting the level of competition that fans have enjoyed each year.

    San Jose Speedway was the host track until closing in 1999 and the inaugural victory went to Ronnie Day. A one day format in its early years, two mains were raced and Day won the first one and started next to last as a result of his point total in the finale. His 7th place finish in the 2nd main was enough to garner the top point total for the night and the championship. The first 3 years the show featured winged 410 sprints.

    Kevin Pylant won in 1995 after running 4th in each main while the following year Brent Kaeding won his first of 4 titles in what was the last year as a 410 event and also the last year as a one day Cup. Concerns over car count prompted the change to the 360 engine and the move to a two day format allowed teams to not have to race two mains in one night.

    In 1997, drivers were in the pit area from 9 states and Mark Kinser took the treasure back to Oolitic, IN. Kinser, making his only appearance in the event, was 6th quick and won his heat and the opening night main. He backed up that performance with a 2nd in the second night’s heat and finished 2nd in the main, coming from 24th.

    Brent Kaeding won his 2nd title in 1998 despite being only 11th in points after the first night. His 2nd place finish in the final night’s main continued a trend of the champion finishing runner-up. The following year was the last for San Jose Speedway as the track closed and an era in racing concluded. Brent Kaeding was champion again, finishing the popular 2nd in the final fully inverted main after starting 18th. Terry McCarl won the Saturday main, the last race ever on San Jose’s third mile clay.

    Watsonville Speedway hosted the Cup in 2000 and Tommy Tarlton was the champion, again seeing a Cup title going to the 2nd place finisher in the final main. Tarlton started 16th as he was only 9th in points as the final 30 laps unfolded. The following year the Cup was held at Kings Speedway in Hanford and Craig Stidham won the championship, coming from 21st to 2nd in the final main. In 2002 it was Tim Kaeding winning his first Cup title, collecting the Friday main and finishing 2nd in the Saturday main, coming from 23rd. It was the 6th consecutive year that the champion finished 2nd in the final main, having to come from the back rows each year to claim the title.

    The 2003 version was one of the closest in Cup history and it was a last lap, last turn pass that made Steve Kent the champion by the slimmest of margins. Ricci Faria passed Tim Kaeding in the last turn, lessening Kaeding’s point total by five and allowing Kent to win the point battle by 2 points. Ronnie Day also came so close to winning, needing to pass only one more car for the title.

    The 2004 Cup was the last at Kings as the track closed in August the following year, at least temporarily. Ronnie Day was again so close to a title, winning the Saturday main from 18th, but coming up 5 points short of Jac Haudenschild’s total. The Ohio driver known as the Wild Child passed 34 cars over the two day span to earn the honor.

    Tulare Thunderbowl, about a 30 minute drive from Kings Speedway, took over the 2005 version on short notice after Kings shut their doors. An unusual Saturday main developed when Brent Kaeding and Mike Faria were ahead enough in points before the 40 laps started that whoever finished in front of the other would win the title. BK went from 24th to 4th, passing 5 drivers in one six lap stretch to edge Faria for his 4th title. His son, Tim, won the main on Saturday.

    The 2006 show saw Tim Kaeding win his 2nd title to total six Cup wins for the well-known racing family. TK started 19th and finished the seemingly magical 2nd in the Saturday main to capture the Cup. Then in 2007 it was Jason Meyers from nearby Clovis who won the title, finishing 3rd from 20th on Saturday to establish the 2nd largest margin of victory in the 14 years.

    In 2008 the first ever three day event drew 59 teams to Tulare and most who have seen every Cup version agree it was one of the most exciting years. Superb track conditions led to equally fantastic racing, especially for Brad Sweet. Finishing 3rd in the final night’s main event after starting 24th, Sweet collected $11,000 after edging Sammy Swindell by six points.

    In 2009 the idea of a three day winged show was dropped to help lessen expenses for teams. To control the car count, only 65 cars were allowed to enter and a flurry of entrants on the last postmark date allowed, built the field to 72. Keeping the car count to a manageable level was necessary as the fairgrounds has a state imposed curfew.

    History was made in that year when Tim Kaeding won his 3rd title and 7th for the famous racing family. The Saturday night main event winner had never come from last starting (24th). TK accomplished that feat in 2009 when he used every inch of the Thunderbowl clay to collect a thrilling main event win on the 2nd night and capture the Cup.

    In 2010 it was finally time for Jonathan Allard to enjoy victory at the Trophy Cup. Often in position to claim the title as Saturday’s main went green, problems seemed to follow Allard to deny a Cup crown. That changed in 2010 when Allard raced from 24th starting to 4th on Saturday to become the champion by a larger than usual 14 point margin.

    In 2011 Stevie Smith won the Friday main event over a 70 car field despite never racing on the Tulare Thunderbowl clay before. The second night produced a dominating main event win for Kyle Larson while the race for Cup champion reached new heights.

    A lap 48 yellow set up one of the most dramatic finishes in Cup history. Jonathan Allard was 3rd, Jac Haudenschild was 4th, and they were nose to tail on the restart as they raced each other for the title. Haudenschild passed Allard on the bottom in turn 1 of the 49th lap, Allard came back in turn 2 and they crossed the line to end lap 49 in a near tie. Had their not been one more lap, a photo finish would have settled the Cup.

    The duo entered turn 2 on the final lap side by side, Haudenschild on the top, and he used that ground to get a good push off of the turn to lead Allard down the backstretch, adding a pass on Roger Crockett to finish his final lap. Allard dropped to 4th at the line and Haudenschild had won the Cup title over Allard and Brad Sweet.

    In 2012 an 85 car field of winged sprints tested the Thunderbowl clay, and unfortunately, all too often the Thunderbowl wall. Rico Abreu won the Friday main after Roger Crockett’s lead was erased by a car flipping off the wall in front of him. Jason Meyers won his 2nd Cup title on Saturday by finishing in the popular 2nd place spot, coming from 23rd to establish a larger than usual point gap after the 50 laps were scored.

    Just when Cup fans thought they had seen it all, 2013 reached new heights for drama and excitement. A 74 car field created a pair of amazing finishes in A main racing. Friday night a photo finish between Tim Kaeding and David Gravel saw Kaeding get the win despite being 6 car lengths behind Gravel as they raced into turn 3 for the final time. TK started 10th in the 30 lap main.

    As if that was not enough drama, Saturday’s main event finish was the wildest in the 20 years of Cup action. Last lap drama exceeded any prior script when Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet raced for the win with last turn contact between the pair leading to Sweet flipping and Larson slamming the turn 4 wall. Larson limped to the line in his battered ride, shedding parts along the way, as the race was allowed to finish. Larson, 23rd starting, won the main and Cup title to cap a memorable night.

    2014 was the first for the new three day format and 84 teams jammed the Thunderbowl pit area. Kyle Hirst and David Gravel were fastest Thursday qualifiers and Hirst won the C, B, and A mains on opening night. The second night saw Gravel again set fast time and Justyn Cox was fastest in the other group. A close finish in the A main showed Colby Copeland winning by a couple feet over Roger Crockett.

    Saturday preliminary events determined the top 24 point cars for the 50 lap finale and it was a record setting race. Willie Croft became the closest to the front champion in Cup history when the 6th starting veteran won the main and title. Mason Moore and Crockett trailed Croft in the final point list.

    In 2015 rain ended Thursday night action during qualifying and the amazing feat of running two complete Trophy Cup shows on Friday was successfully done. A 68 car field ran a Friday afternoon show leading to a big slider into turn 4 on lap 9 by Rico Abreu, allowing him to lead the last 22 laps for the win.

    The 2nd show followed track prep and included qualifying as well as the complete show. This time it was Bud Kaeding finishing one spot better than in the afternoon show to win after leading the last 14 laps. Bud then finished the event with a 4th on Saturday to become Cup champion and collect the $20,000 guaranteed prize.

    Last year the format was adjusted to 8 heat races on the first two nights with the winner and high point car making the A main. Those 16 cars are supplemented by the top 4 finishers from a pair of B mains to create the usual 24 car field.

    When Thunderbowl Raceway was widened about 15 feet by pushing the bottom in, a rejuvenated track offered the return of multiple groove racing and brought back the slider. The 59 car field put on a display of racing that showcased the benefits of track widening. It was on an area of the track that did not exist a month earlier that settled the Thursday main.

    Jason Meyers came from 16th starting to take the lead with 4 laps remaining, using the bottom groove in turn 4 existed due to the widened track. Meyers raced from 3rd to 1st in that turn as Shane Golobic and Kyle Hirst were racing each other at the top of four.

    Friday’s main on a fast track turned dramatic when leader, Terry McCarl, got sideways in turn 4 on lap 25 to hand the lead to fellow front row starter, Michael Kofoid. What made this particularly noteworthy was that Kofoid was only 14 years old. Kofoid held on for the win over Jason Solwold and Sean Becker.

    Saturday’s main event saw Mr. Consistency, Shane Golobic, continue his string of strong finishes with a 4th. Golobic had a 3rd and a 4th in preliminary mains and earned the points necessary to become the Cup champion. Willie Croft won the main while Golobic, Kyle Hirst, and D. J. Netto were the top three in points.

    This year’s race drew a full field of 100 entrants months ago. Teams do not want to miss this year’s race as competing in 2017 is required to race the Trophy Cup in 2018. There are no more entries available for this year, which means next year is also sold out. The 2018 Trophy Cup will pay a minimum purse of $200,000 in recognition of being the 25th year of the race.

    The Trophy Cup organization has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation each year and every penny of entry fees is given to the cause. Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction, and other activities add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very worthy cause. The Trophy Cup has presented almost $1.5 million to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The entire event is possible only through many volunteers supporting the Cup as well as the outstanding support from the host track, Tulare Thunderbowl.

     

     

    From The Grandstands by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Northern California remains overheated with day after day temperatures above average. Yes, it is a dry heat, but when three digits are involved when describing the temperature, that is hot no matter what the humidity.

    Racetracks suffer with attendance often dropping, but this past weekend defied that trend at both Chico and Placerville. Three things that were a big part of both tracks were crowd size, heat, and Michael Kofoid. Not yet eligible for a driver’s license, Kofoid at age 15 picked up his 11th career winged sprint car win at Chico, his first at that track, and came very close to his 12th at Placerville.

    Silver Dollar Speedway had a promotion that mirrored Marysville Raceway earlier this month. Admission was $1, something I have not heard of before in California. Dennis Gage, promoter of both tracks, looked at it as a form of advertising and drawing more people due to the deal added to concession revenues.

    Marysville’s night was plagued by a 106-degree high temperature, but Gage figures the dollar night still drew 7 or 8 times as many as would have braved the heat otherwise. Chico was very successful with reportedly 2,000 on hand. I don’t know the true number, but it was the largest crowd I have seen at the quarter mile in a very long time.

    An opportunity to discuss the promotion with Gage last Friday showed how logical the idea is for a track. I mentioned that some Midwest tracks had free admission nights, but I had not encountered $1 tickets before. Somehow $1 seems like an even better deal than free, although even a math challenged person would see that it is not.

    Gage then recalled from some years ago he was running an estate sale, i.e. garage sale, and had many people purchasing lots of items. He had an overstuffed chair displayed with a sign on it proclaiming it was FREE. Nobody showed much interest and hours later it was still there. Gage then put a sign on it stating it was $2. He said the first person that saw it with the new price bought it. Does that mean next to free impresses people more than free?

    Chico had a winged 360 night and 22 cars were on hand, far outdrawing what the winged 410s have had recently. Support divisions were 7 economy sprints, 5 micro sprints, plus 14 fendered cars. The micro sprint and street stocks mains were severely lacking in entertainment value as only 4 cars started each main but for some incomprehensible reason were still given 20 laps.

    The winged 360 finale was a good one with Michael Kofoid leading 6 laps before getting momentarily trapped behind a lapped car and Michael Ing drove under Kofoid on the bottom of turn 2 to lead. However, when red flag flew, the lap did not count and Kofoid was back in front on the restart with a clear track.

    There was no repeat traffic issue and Kofoid won his 11th career main and first at Chico over Ing and Chase Majdic. The top 3 are all graduates from the Northern California Outlaw Kart scene, the training ground for many sprint car drivers over the years. Chico had 600 yards of clay added since the last race and that went very well. Marysville saw 1000 yards added with all of it coming from rice fields.

    Saturday Placerville drew a large crowd despite the above normal temperatures and they were treated to some excellent winged and nonwing sprint car racing. The nonwing spec sprints were on hand, paying the Hunt Series purse, and 15 cars appeared along with 28 winged 360s. Support classes included 26 fendered cars and 7 hardtops, the latter an exhibition type deal.

    The spec sprint main had Sean Becker leading in his first ever nonwing sprint effort until Jimmy Christian drove under him on lap 6, using the lower area of turn 2 and the back stretch. Jake Morgan used the same low turn 2 clay to take the lead on lap 11 to win the 20-lap race over Becker and Christian. Some very good two wide racing made this one quite entertaining.

    Not to be outdone, the winged main had a very dramatic finish. Kofoid led 23+ laps while Becker and Shane Golobic raced for the 2nd spot with some good two groove racing. When Kofoid stayed with his bottom line racing as traffic created a crowd on lap 24, Becker used the topside to take the lead away and lead just the last two laps.

    It was yet another time when being in 2nd seems the better place when traffic gets in the way of the leader. Kofoid had to settle for 2nd and Golobic was 3rd following 25 laps on a racy track. Some track prep after the heats seems to dramatically help the racing come main event time.

    The Sprint Car Challenge Tour is back in action next Saturday at Fernley, NV, but another softball tournament keeps that one off my schedule. Instead it is trying to figure how to get to either or both Ocean Speedway and Placerville Speedway for USAC West Coast action.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Last week’s Western Sprint Tour Speedweek started the final round of midweek racing and by week’s end the racing stretch concluded with 30 races in 38 days. Until September it is back to the normal two weekend events, a pace that will be a welcome change for a while.

    Spearheaded by Brian Crockett, the Speedweek opened Monday at Siskiyou Motor Speedway, a quarter mile located at the fairgrounds in Yreka. That city is just over 20 miles south of the Oregon border, the only city on the tour not in Oregon.

    The track opened in 1952 and closed 32 years later. Reopening in 1992, it has raced since with various names for the track over the long haul. The track has covered and uncovered stands, all with backrests. The front straight is not, it is slightly curved and the stands are slightly angled to match the track’s curve.

    The facility is run by fairgrounds volunteers and is both part of winged 360 speedweek as well as June’s IMCA modified week. The high-banked oval produces plenty of speed, lots of which was shown by Justyn Cox as he dominated the main event for the win.

    A 16-car field of sprints along with 11 sport mods were on hand. Sprint car counts are nothing special with the lack of a point fund playing a part. The payout is $2000 to win, $1200 for 2nd, $1000 for 3rd and $300 to start. Sprints time trial, then run invert 6 heats with qualifying points added to heat points. The top 6 point cars then redraw for the first three rows.

    Tuesday was over towards the Oregon coast to Coos Bay Speedway, owned by former Lincoln resident, Chuck Prather. Already involved with racing and wanting to escape Lincoln’s summer heat, Prather purchased the track several years ago. An eighth mile drag strip separate the stands from the quarter mile oval.

    Coos Bay was paved when first open in 1972 and closed and reopened four times until the last stretch as a paved track ended in 2007. It then became a dirt track and has operated uninterrupted since that change.

    Again sixteen sprints were on hand with three track divisions bringing a total of 15 cars. Yes, these were not close to big car count shows, but after my long stretch of races having some smaller and quickly run shows was fine with me.

    Kyle Hirst broke the night before in Yreka but had no such misfortune in Coos Bay and took the win. Some good racing throughout the field kept this one interesting and late restarts made the battle for 2nd good. Steven Tiner made a late race pass for runner-up ahead of Mitchell Faccinto.

    My 3rd and final night on the Speedweek path was at Willamette Speedway, outside of Lebanon, Oregon. While this track features stock car divisions, it has a long history of being part of Northwest speedweeks.

    A few years ago new ownership took over and turned the facility into a top notch race track. The three-tenths oval opened in 1964 and has operated continuously since. The track looks much newer after the extensive remodeling made it about 90% new.

    A 21 car field of sprints along with 10 super stocks were the night’s entertainment, and the sprint main was very good. Again it was Kyle Hirst leading but receiving intense pressure from Roger Crockett over much of the distance.

    Crockett got past Hirst in turn 2 at one point, but Hirst came right back to lead at the lap’s conclusion. A couple laps ended in a near tie but it was Hirst making it two straight after 30 laps. Crockett finished 2nd with Steven Tiner again on the podium with a 3rd. Justyn Cox eventually won the Speedweek title following nights at Sunset Speedway in Banks and two nights at Cottage Grove.

    That ended my Speedweek adventures as heading home for weekend races and a softball tournament overfilled the next few days. Hirst also headed south for a win and a 4th at Ocean Speedway for the two day Howard Kaeding Classic.

    Steven Tiner stayed in Oregon through Friday night when he raced at Cottage Grove then made the long drive to Placerville for Saturday. His efforts paid off with an exciting win at Placerville when he threw a turn 2 slider on Sean Becker to take the win.

    Becker finished 3rd after Kalib Henry got past him for the runner-up spot. Henry is the son of former sprint car driver and Civil War champion Mike Henry. Kalib almost won his first winged main at Placerville on July 8 before bicycling and stopping with a couple laps left. He has won a nonwing spec sprint main and, at age 17, is another on the lengthening list of young California drivers that are destined for many wins.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…A 22 races in 27 days in four states stretch ended July 4, and I can’t say I am unhappy about that. From Columbus NE on June 8th to Placerville Speedway on July 4, two Mondays, a Thursday, and two travel days were the only days lacking a race.

    When touring the Midwest, one given is that some degree of flexibility is needed as to which track to head towards. Weather forecasts change almost hourly it sometimes seems, and a certain rainout in Wisconsin on a Thursday led to being in Nebraska that night instead.

    But it all worked when the relocation much further west led to being home three days earlier than planned, but making it possible to attend two races in Micro Sprint Speedweek in Dixon and Stockton. Over 100 micro sprints in three divisions meant long one day shows with some excellent racing being the reward.

    With the July 4th falling on a Tuesday, that meant Monday was a sort of a holiday and that led to five consecutive nights in Northern California featuring sprint cars. Friday opened the string with 12 winged 410s at Chico along with 7 nonwing spec sprints.

    Chase Madjic, in a quest for his first winged win at Chico, led 18 laps before many time winner, Sean Becker, got under the leader in turns 1 and 2 and made his winning pass. Andy Forsberg started his weekend with a 2nd and Madjic took 3rd. While spec sprints were small in number, Craig Swim’s win over Tony Richards came after multiple laps of side by side racing.

    Saturday Placerville had 31 winged 360s and 14 BCRA midgets with contact determining both winners. Steven Tiner led 4 laps of the sprint main until Justyn Cox was the first to get to turn 3 on lap 5 to take the top spot. Cox looked as if a win was forthcoming, but a bump from Tiner in turn 2 of lap 19 led to a spin and Tiner was back in front.

    Tiner used the bump to pass move to win over Colby Copeland and Kaleb Montgomery. BCRA midgets had some good early laps in their 25 lap main with Randi Pankratz leading, using the low line for the effort. Entering turn 3 on lap 21, Alex Shutte squeezed between Pankratz and the berm, creating some contact at the time, and made what proved to be the winning pass.

    Sunday was Stockton Dirt Track’s turn with 47 Sprint Car Challenge Tour winged 360s supported by 17 Hunt Series nonwing spec sprints. Given the car count compounded by a 25 minute delay to start the evening due to incorrect heat race lineups, this one figured to last close to Monday, and the shortly before midnight win for Mitchell Faccinto did just that.

    With all the bonus money added, Faccinto earned $5600 for his SCCT win at Stockton. It made for an up and down weekend for his father, Monte, as Michael Faccinto flipped in a midget at Placerville and needed a hospital checkup. Michael was released as the up and down side of being a racing father was felt on consecutive nights.

    The Hunt Series at Stockton put on some excellent heat racing as track conditions were just right for some sliders. Austin Liggett won their dash and dominated the main to win. Liggett is busier than ever with running his trucking business out of hometown Tracy.

    Monday was the always tedious but rewarding drive to Petaluma Speedway for a much appreciated one division show of SCCT winged 360s. A 39 car field finished at 10 pm, the goal of the track located at the fairgrounds. Across the street is a shopping center and not far south are houses so time is of the essence at Petaluma.

    Track prep during the evening produced a racy main and Ryan Bernal won after Cory Eliason suffered a right rear flat while leading. Willie Croft and point leader Kyle Hirst filled the podium on a night where Petaluma weather did its thing.

    At 4 pm it was shorts and T-shirt weather, but by 9 pm the hooded sweatshirts and blankets were in play. The track was at its best at the right time and, with traffic playing a role, the outcome was in doubt until the checkers.

    Race number 22 in the series was July 4th at Placerville with 32 winged 360s and a absolutely packed stands, this being the fireworks night. While there was no lack of dust, the main event was still excellent with sliders playing a big part.

    It was one of those sliding passing efforts in turn 4 that got Justin Sanders past Michael Kofoid on lap 8 of the 25 lap race. Shane Golobic used his share of sliders to reach 2nd on lap 16 from his 11th place start. Ryan Bernal regained the spot a lap later from his 10th start, and it was Sanders, Bernal, and Golobic after 25 entertaining laps.

    Placerville and Petaluma are back in action this Saturday while Chico takes two Fridays off before their next race on the 21st. Saturday will start a 6 race in 8 day stretch for me without as many miles as the last string.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Hastings, NE…Thursday night’s weekly show at U. S. 30 Speedway just outside Columbus NE featured the Sprint Series of Nebraska along with five track IMCA divisions. Being at Columbus was a weather adjusted travel plan, the third time this was necessary in just two weeks. Such is the way things go in the Midwest.

    Besides enjoying the night’s racing, another plus was meeting Roger Haden, owner of Eagle Raceway as well as the RACEsaver sprints. Purchased from French Grimes for $1, the RACEsaver sprint division is one of the fastest growing race groups in the country. Haden joked that for his dollar he also got all the headaches that come with owning the organization.

    Initially a late model racer, Haden decided to end his driving when then Eagle Raceway owner, Craig Cormack, closed the track as the end of the 2005 season, unhappy with how things were going at the third mile.

    Haden was then talked into running the track and was given a rent free deal for one year. That was all it took and Haden purchased the track after that initial season. Many improvements since then along with a very successful Saturday night program has elevated the third mile to being one of the premier short tracks in the country.

    RACEsaver sprints appear to be entering a growing phase in California with the potential of more tracks in a wider geographical area becoming involved. Reportedly there are 40 RACEsaver sprints in California and a field of mid-20s has appeared upon occasion.

    The purse philosophy of RACEsaver sprints makes sense in that the pay to win is not special but the main event field receives more start money than do many 360 shows. An Eagle main pays $700 to win but $250 to start, and with engines a fraction of the cost of their higher cubic inch cousins, a little math shows the purse is like a $2000 to win 360 payout.

    Haden also runs the Sprint Series of Nebraska but is looking for someone to take that over. Between running Eagle on Saturdays, little Eagle on Fridays with karts on a tenth mile infield track, and owning RACEsaver sprints, his plate is overflowing. And as if that was not enough, his also owns a transmission business.

    The 20 car field at Columbus ran three draw heats with the top 4 redrawing for the first six rows of the 25 lap main. Toby Chapman had a good night at drawing, getting front row starts in both his heat and the main. He led all 25 laps for the win, but it was not without some drama and more luck.

    Jason Martin redrew inside row two and was pressuring Chapman on lap 7 when he got caught in a tangle with a car spinning right in front of him to end that potential battle.

    Then on lap 14 a car being lapped spun in turn 2 and both Chapman and 2nd running Stuart Snyder bounced off the spinner, but both kept going to retain their positions. Over the last 10 laps Snyder closed on Chapman but seemed to be dealing with right rear suspension issues and Chapman’s lead grew over the last trio of laps.

    The track took rubber over the evening, limiting passing opportunities and Chapman collected the win over Snyder, Jason Danley, Adam Gullion, and Matt Richards.

    Between talking with Roger Haden and seeing the Sprint Series of Nebraska run one of their 12 events this year, it was an enjoyable evening as we wind or way back to California, timing it to miss all of the current heat wave in the Golden State.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Fort Dodge, IA…It had been 6 years since visiting Junction Motor Speedway, a few miles south of Interstate 80 at exit 353 in Nebraska. Once it was a yearly thing to be at Junction when the first USAC then POWRi midget series was a must see event.

    When that series ended, seeing racing at the then four-tenths track lacked an open wheel presence. When I saw the Nebraska 360 series along with NCRA was part of the show last Saturday, a return was planned.

    Junction is a very impressive facility with 34 rows of seating offering fans options as to how high to view the now 3/8 track. What used to be the high groove is now off limits and racing on the shorter track last weekend was very good. The berm in and from what I saw it was a good idea.

    Track divisions drew 67 cars with an additional 20 sprints to fill the night. While I may be among the few as a sprint car fan, I also enjoy stock car divisions and the ten hobby stocks put on a dramatic main event. Six lead changes over a dozen laps led to a drag race deciding things out of turn four on the final lap by a couple feet. Other track divisions more than held up their end of the show. When a sport mod throws a slider you know it is a racy track.

    The sprints ran last for their $2000 to win, $350 to start main event. A jumble in turn 2 on the opening lap led to the often-victorious Jack Dover starting 16th instead of 7th. A trio of draw heats put the top 8 in passing/finishing points into the redraw.

    There was not much heat race passing with all 3 winners starting on the pole, earning 100 points for a 3 way point lead tie. Dover and Ryan Roberts went from 3rd to 2nd for a meager position gain and tied for 2nd in points.

    Forrest Sutherland drew the pole with Don Droud Jr. outside while Roberts and Jason Martin filled row 2. Roberts took the lead immediately and looked to make it a runaway win. Sliders were in abundance, although the proverbial crossover move served to often undo the passing effort.

    As laps unwound and traffic became a factor, Martin closed on Roberts and when the leader got up a bit high in turn 2, Martin seized the opportunity to close further and throw a slider on Roberts in turn 4. With 4 laps remaining, the move worked and Martin went on to win over Roberts, Droud Jr., Jeremy Campbell, and Stuart Snyder.

    An overall excellent night of racing at one of the state’s finest facilities as every division offered something. I am glad the 360s were on the schedule to prompt a return to the track just west of the small town of McCool Junction.

    Race 4 of our annual Midwest journey was again a track that offered winged 360s to prompt the drive to Spencer, Iowa. The fairgrounds track is 3/8 and is racing on Sunday this year. Clay County Fair Speedway in located on the large fairgrounds at the north edge of Spencer. Their annual September fair is a huge thing with the very large grandstands presenting multiple types of entertainment.

    Spencer’s covered stands would be a plus for most short tracks, but a 2nd set of uncovered stands adjacent pushes the capacity into the thousands. Sunday was only their 2nd race this season so some track prep learning is still needed, but the surface was much better than what I heard about from the prior Sunday.

    There were 60 cars in the tracks IMCA 5 divisions and 14 Midwest Sprint Touring Series winged 360s on hand. Their $1500 to win $250 to start race used the same ASCS passing point chart as the night before, with the top six in points after heats in the redraw.

    A sixth to 2nd run in his heat made Kaleb Johnson the high point car and he redrew outside front row while Ryan Bickett picked the pole. Early in the race Bickett used the top and dueled with Skylar Prochaska for the lead. Bickett led all 20 laps on what eventually became a tired surface since the sprints ran last.

    Greg Bakker made it interesting when he continually ran the top and moved from 9th to 3rd, pressuring Prochaska for 2nd for several laps before losing his 3rd to Kaley Gharst on the next to last lap when Gharst drove under Bakker on the back stretch.

    Bickett, Prochaska, Gharst, Bakker, and Droud filled the top five after the first winged 360 race in Spencer for 8 or so years. The show was very efficiently run, a Sunday night necessity, and a 6:05 pm start led to an 8:45 pm finish.

    Two consecutive nights I was lucky that a track included sprints and put on a good show to make the decision to be there a lucky one. After a night off Monday, more Iowa fairgrounds racing is on tap.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Civil War racing filled the weekend, starting on Saturday at Marysville with the Mel Hall Memorial. Having never missed this event, the decision to continue the trend meant going to a Civil War race instead of the Sprint Car Challenge Tour show at Stockton.

    While the SCCT drew more cars as expected, 39 to 21 for CW, the show at Marysville more than made up for the difference. When the final lap was scored at 9:55 pm, one of the best sprint car mains I have ever enjoyed at Marysville was complete.

    Mel Hall promoted the Marysville quarter mile for years and accomplished one of his major goals before passing by replacing the grandstands. Years later the pit stands were installed, offering an excellent view from the top of turns 1 and 2, although dodging clay projectiles off of right rears is part of the deal.

    Preliminaries for the 21 sprints, 21 All Star Tour modifieds, and 6 BCRA midget lites were nothing special, and some track tune up preceded main events. Whatever was done turned out to be the right thing as the track was very racy for the trio of finales.

    The small midget lite (mini-sprint) field did their thing efficiently and a father/son duo on the front row led to a family sweep of the top two spots. Scott Kinney schooled his son, Hunter, on the initial start and won the 20 lapper.

    The modifieds deserve mention as the tour runs its second year with continued solid car counts and plenty of top level drivers on hand. Bakersfield driver, Robbie Sawyer, led a few laps before a right rear gave away, yet still came back from the rear for a 4th.

    Kellen Chadwick came from 6th starting and took the lead from Cody Burke on lap 5 to win after dealing with many laps of intense pressure from Ryan McDaniel. Few yellows and some very good racing made the entertaining modified main a bonus on the evening.

    The winged 360 main, set for 30 laps, had Michael Ing and Geoff Ensign on the front row with Tyler Seavey sharing row two with point leader, Andy Forsberg. Using the top of turns 1 and 2 from the start, Forsberg moved to 2nd and put immediate pressure on Ing.

    Lap 3 was the winning pass when Forsberg dropped to the low line coming out of turn 4 to take the lead and eventual win. While his lead was never overwhelming, Forsberg was basically in charge from lap 3 on, and my attention focused on the spectacular racing for 2nd.

    While a great battle for the lead is always preferred, the four car duel for runner up honors was so good that calling it some of the best sprint car racing I have seen at Marysville is not an overstatement. Colby Wiesz, Seavey, Ensign, and Ing seemed to use every inch of the quarter mile in the battle for 2nd.

    Wiesz emerged with the runner-up spot while Seavey took 3rd from Ensign on the last lap. Wiesz commented later that he has never raced so hard for 2nd before. Seavey had begun the day in North Carolina, having raced at Millbridge the night before.

    The following night Chico ran a Civil War race in conjunction with the fair. Fans pay for the fair and the races are free. With some cars from Stockton towing to Chico, the car count rose to 31 for the one division show.

    Having just one class is rare, but it used to be that way for all Civil War shows. It was nice having just one division and the just past 9 pm finish was appreciated. It was a pair of drivers who came in from Stockton who led the 30 lap main.

    Shawn Conde was 2nd in the dash but was on the pole when Shane Golobic chose the outside front row spot. That worked well for Conde and he led 17 laps before Kyle Hirst chased him down and used a top side drive out of turn 4 on lap 18 to take the lead.

    Hirst led the rest of the way for the win but racing behind the leader, just like the night before, added spice to the race. On lap 21, Golobic and Justin Sanders were racing for 2nd in turn 4 when Golobic spun, maybe some contact between the pair, could not be certain from my angle.

    That added to what became a tough weekend for Golobic. He was leading at Stockton with a couple laps left and ran out of fuel. Racing for 2nd the next night, a spin results, and to make matters worse, he was called for a jump on the restart so his hard fought 9th place finish became an 11th.

    Forsberg added to his point Civil War lead with a 3rd, racing from the 4th row for the final podium spot. It seems odd that both Civil War nights had a leader that eventually built a relatively safe lead, and the racing behind him was so good.

    The Civil War series is next in action on July 1 at Marysville while the SCCT teams have two races in June, at Antioch and Calistoga. This was the only weekend this year that the two winged 360 series race the same night.

    The 4th edition of “The History of American Speedways” is available with 881 pages in the hard backed book full of amazing information. Put together by Allan Brown, the book has information about every known race track that ever existed in the United States.

    Included are many photographs of tracks and cars from many eras as 9,000 tracks are covered. I was able to find the track that was the site of my first ever race, and it was a one year only track. It was a one tenth mile dirt track at the north edge of Bluffton, IN that raced TQs in 1953.

    To obtain a copy, send $35 check or money order to: America’s Speedways, P. O. Box 448, Comstock Park, MI 49321.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Greg DeCaires won the Placerville Speedway point show last night to extend his point lead over Jimmy Trulli and Steven Tiner. DeCaires swept the night with fast time, heat win, and 25-lap main event victory on big trophy night.

    A 25-car field created four heats with winners plus next fastest 4 to make the main going to a redraw. Moore and DeCaires drew the front row, setting up a race long battle with last year’s champion in Moore leading initially. Not running for points this year due to a more varied schedule, this was Moore’s first point race.

    From the green, Moore committed to the bottom while DeCaires tried his luck on the top groove. The gap between the pair remained relatively constant until just past halfway when DeCaires closed and made it work on lap 15 to take the lead.

    DeCaires pulled away a bit but Moore closed as the end neared, each staying with the line used since the start. Moore dug hard and looked as if a last lap pass might occur, but DeCaires had the push off of turn 4 to score the close win with a lapped car providing some help. Andy Forsberg was 3rd from 14th starting as he is making progress with the new car.

    Two weeks prior DeCaires used a lower groove pass to win the Placerville main, getting by Trulli after the local driver had led a bunch of laps. Trulli was 2nd ahead of Jake Morgan, son of long time racer, Gary.

    Placerville is idle next weekend with the Sprint Car Challenge Tour at Stockton Dirt Track and will only race the first two weekends in June due to more SCCT racing.

    Trophy Cup entries continue to arrive at the San Jose headquarters with a May 31 deadline for being postmarked. Invitations were sent to last year’s field and starting June 1 anyone may enter.

    This year’s $165,000 purse for the three-day event is excellent, but the 2018 payout will jump to $200,000 for the winged 360 drivers. Next year is the 25th annual event and the big purse increase is to honor the long history.

    However, in order to be eligible to enter the 2018 all time record paying Trophy Cup, participation in 2017’s race is required. It is quite simple, not racing in 2017 means not racing in 2018 either. Just entering is not enough to be eligible for next year; an attempt to race is also necessary.

    As to whether the driver or car owner qualifies by racing this year, it is to whomever the 1099 is sent that is locked in to the 2018 race.

    Current entries: Blake Robertson, Geoff Ensign, Craig Stidham, Cory Eliason, Kaleb Montomery, Steven Tiner, Bud Kaeding, Jason Meyers, Mitchell Faccinto, D. J. Netto, Ken Fredenberg, Carson Macedo

    Colton Hardy, Jake Morgan, Chase Johnson, Michael Kofoid, Willie Croft, Terry McCarl, Kyle Offill, Dustin Golobic, Justyn Cox, Pat Harvey, Kyle Hirst, Giovanni Scelzi, Bradley Terrell, Jason Solwold, Shane Golobic

    Scott Parker, Brock Lemley, Zane Blanchard, Mason Moore, Colby Copeland, Gary Nelson, Tyler Seavey, Matthew Moles, Landon Hurst, D. J. Freitas, Andy Gregg.

    There are 8 additional cars entered with no driver named.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Placerville Speedway proved something Saturday night about what is needed for fans to leave thinking they saw a very good show.

    It doesn’t take a huge field of cars, dynamic heat races, or even a race long battle for the win in the main event. It only takes one lap if it is the last one.

    It was the one appearance this year of the King of the West-NARC winged 410s. A 23 car field supported by just 8 pure stocks running non-points left the pit area looking more empty than full.

    Other than Andy Forsberg’s heat win following a cushion riding 3rd to 1st effort, living up to his Mr. Excitement label, the three heats were not remarkable. The dash came and went without anything memorable occurring, the pure stocks did their thing efficiently, and shortly past 8 pm the 30 lap KWS-NARC main was on the quarter mile.

    Other than more dust that I have seen at Placerville in a long time, the main event did exactly what it needed to do, which is put on, by far, the best racing of the evening.

    Much of the dust was created by drivers putting the left front up on the berm in turns 3 and 4. From my turn 4 home on the hill above the track it was clear that the majority of the vision limiting dust was from the racing off the track, not on.

    After winning his career 100th and 59th at Chico the night before, Sean Becker led from 3rd starting after a first lap turn 3 low line move earned him that honor. Becker stretched his lead and seemed headed for a weekend sweep until Giovanni Scelzi closed on the leader.

    While pressure increased, were it not for a yellow with two laps left, it seemed as if Becker’s lead would hold. Then came lap 30. Scelzi, still 7 months away from being eligible for even a provisional driver’s license in California, was about to become the youngest KWS-NARC winner in history.

    As lap 30 unfolded, the Becker/Scelzi battle figured to be settled in the last set of turns. Becker stayed with his preferred low line with the left front up on the berm while Scelzi chose the other option, the top where some cushion awaited.

    It seemed to me that Becker stayed up on the berm just a little longer than previous laps and scrubbed off just a bit of speed. Maybe that is not what occurred, but there is no question that 15-year-old Scelzi got the push off of the upper regions of turn 4 to win by a couple feet. The Becker/Scelzi finish made the show a winner.

    Gio Scelzi has raced Placerville twice and shows a 2nd in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour in April and now a KWS-NARC win 4 weeks later. Some fans might be surprised by the success of the Fresno based teen. However, if one takes into account his racing background and experience, it is easier to understand his sprint car results.

    Gio and his older brother, Dominic, are sons of four time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi. Gio has been around racing practically since birth and used the junior sprint and then micro sprint tracks in Visalia and Lemoore to gain experience. Those tracks serve as training for racing sprints in the Central Valley just as winged kart tracks do in Northern California.

    At age 8 Gio won 24 mains and two track titles in a junior sprint, then moved to micro sprints with continued success. A Tulsa Shootout title is among his accomplishments along with other notable wins. 2016 he started his sprint car career and received the 360 Rookie of the Year award.

    With that resume it is no surprise what Gio is accomplishing this year. It will also be no surprise if he is the next California driver to be recruited for a move to the Midwest, or perhaps join a national tour.

    That is what seems to happen in the Golden State. California already is responsible for over 90% of some types of produce grown in the country. The last few years the state seems to also produce more than its share of nationally known racers.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Four of 13 events in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour for winged 360 sprints have been held. The other nine are spread out from four weeks from now to early November. The concentration of Tour races in April was not necessarily desired, but came about due to scheduling matters.

    The fourth event of the month drew a 49-car field to Petaluma Speedway along with a large crowd, continuing the trend of the series being successful at front and back gates. It was wonderful to have a one division night, plus Petaluma’s strict curfew situation led to cars being on the track promptly at 4 pm.

    The result was a good show made even better by being completed two hours earlier than the average finishing time of the first three events. There was no exodus of fans prior to the SCCT main taking the track this time. I don’t get to Petaluma more than a couple times a year now, but it was the largest crowd I can remember at the fairgrounds 3/8 facility.

    Heats were good as the four heat format moved the top 4 to the A and the first two onto the dash. Racing for the 4th place was particularly competitive and the four ten lappers ran off in quick fashion.

    Spearheaded by Janet Larson, the popular nickel dash for kids had $200 in those 5 cent coins for gathering. That part of the SCCT show seems to be gathering momentum and takes just a few minutes after the heats. Entertaining the youth now can create race fans later.

    The C main was fine but the B main was allowed by officials to become a joke. Not enforcing their own stated time limits and a plethora of yellows and reds led to the planned 15 lap race taking way too much time. When a driver ran out of fuel the yellow thankfully became checkers, yet it seemed odd when the stopped driver was given his spot back in the finish. An ignored warning among the officials about fuel preceded the dry tank occurrence.

    The A main featured a very good duel between Colby Copeland and Willie Croft on a surface that was rutted in spots. At one point, 3rd place running Andy Forsberg suffered a broken axle without hitting anyone. The race long battle for the win seemed over with a couple laps left as Copeland built a larger lead over Croft, but than a yellow flew with two left.

    A car stopped along the back stretch next to the infield to cause the restart. It seemed as if rolling into the infield was an option that was ignored, negating the opportunity to finish without another yellow. On the restart, Croft got the jump and took the win from Copeland to end an excellent 40 lap show. Copeland led 38 of 40 but not the final 2 laps.

    Points for the series after these 4 races show Sean Becker leading in the quest for the largest check in the $60,750 point fund for 13 races. Kyle Hirst is currently in 2nd, but not really, as Hirst will not run all the SCCT races. Next event is May 27 at Stockton Dirt Track.

    Perhaps part of Forsberg’s tough luck at Petaluma with the axle failure is using up a weekend’s worth of breaks the night before in Chico. Forsberg posted 8th quick, just making the inversion of the two heat format, assisted by both Dominic Scelzi and Kyle Hirst having mechanical issues leading to no time. If either of those two qualify normally, bumping Forsberg out of the inversion could follow.

    The 2nd break came in the redraw for the first four rows when the winner to be got the pole with D. J. Netto alongside. A furious battle between the pair lasted 21 laps before Netto fell back. Netto took the lead from Forsberg with a high side pass out of turn 2 on lap 3 but Forsberg used the bottom of the same turn to regain the point on lap 6.

    Forsberg claimed his win over Michael Ing and Sean Becker. Terry Schank Jr. dominated the nonwing spec sprint main with a 9 car field on hand. Forsberg leads in points by just 2 over Ing while Schank is 6 ahead of Casey McClain.

    This weekend Chico has the Bill Brownell Memorial on Friday followed by the 3rd KWS-NARC race from their 17 event schedule, not counting the opening race rainout. Bud Kaeding and Cory Eliason are main event winners to date, and Kaeding is 2 points ahead of Gio Scelzi in the title chase. The KWS-NARC point fund is $62,000 with the champion earning $10,000.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln CA…Since moving to Lincoln in June of 2002, many trips up highway 50 to Placerville Speedway have occurred. None of the 44 mile drives has been more rewarding than the April 15 journey to see the 2nd Sprint Car Challenge Tour show accompanied by the Hunt Nonwing Spec Sprints.

    Leaving two hours earlier than usual was a lucky move as spots in the sets of pit grandstands were getting very scarce, even though it was only 3 pm. By race time, the front stretch stands were sold out and only standing room in the pit area was available.

    It was not as crowded in the pits as the Outlaw race 17 days prior, but it was the largest non-Outlaw crowd at Placerville in at least 15 years. Also very crowded was the competitor area with 63 winged 360s and 31 nonwing spec sprints occupying every square foot available.

    This may have been the largest field of winged 360s ever in California for a one-day show. The Trophy Cup and the Fall Nationals have bettered 63, but those are not one-day events.

    Besides promoting Placerville Speedway, Scott Russell has been the person who has been the leader at forming the new SCCT. While plenty of people have helped along the way, Russell has been the catalyst that made it all happen.

    For a 2nd year promoter, it is an amazing success story to date with sponsor support not seen in California racing prior to this year. While only two shows have been held, the 60.5 car count average shows the level of support for Russell and his group from car owners and drivers.

    California has been the location of many racing dreams; one only has to count the number of new tracks that were to be built that never happened. Russell and friends took an idea and have made it into something that has only one flaw…they have such a level of support that they get too many cars to make curfew.

    Both races have gone well past the state mandated curfew time despite the Placerville officiating crew efficiently running the show. Nine heats, three dashes, two C mains, two B mains, and of course two A mains following qualifying everyone when it is two push start classes is a time consuming show.

    The next two SCCT events will be different. This coming Friday Tulare Thunderbowl hosts the series and getting 40 or so cars is likely. The distance from the majority of SCCT teams home area plus being a Friday will make it difficult for some to tow to Tulare.

    The following weekend it is Petaluma Speedway hosting the 4th SCCT race with two support divisions on their schedule. Petaluma probably faces the strictest time constraints of any California dirt track with a 10 pm curfew. It is also the only track in the state with a shopping center across a two-lane street from the pit area.

    Petaluma will probably draw mid-50s or more for SCCT teams with those two support divisions adding to the pit crowd and subsequent time pressures. It is also very likely the grandstands will be jammed, creating a rare win/win for another track.

    It is fitting that such a remarkable night of racing at Placerville occurred, it being the track promoted by the SCCT main man. Qualifying for the 63 wings moved along well as the track is more efficient at that than any other track in the state. The spec sprints group qualified to take care of that duty fairly quickly.

    Heats for SCCT were excellent, each of the five had a very good race for the coveted 3rd place finish with the invert 4, take 3 format. The top two of those three go to a dash and most of the heats had strong competition for 2nd.
    Spec sprints took four from each heat and their 8 lap races had some tight action also.

    SCCT dashes set the first six rows with the first dash filling the inside line of those rows. Even the dashes were better than what I usually see, not enough to change my dash attitude, but still better than expected.

    Spec sprints had the first main and Klint Simpson withstood pressure from Kaleb Henry, Austin Liggett, and Casey McClain throughout the 25-lap run. Plenty of two and three wide action made for an entertaining race with Simpson, McClain, and Liggett filling the podium.

    The SCCT main was set for 40 laps and not only was it one of the best mains I have seen at Placerville, it was exciting for all 40 times around the quarter mile. At times there were four or five drivers racing together for 2nd, so no matter how far ahead eventual winner Kyle Larson was, plenty of dramatic racing was still being displayed.

    Rico Abreu led a lap before Kyle Hirst used a topside drive off of turn 4 to lead. Abreu was challenging to take the lead back just before halfway when a plan to slide under Hirst into turn 3 went south when he slammed into the infield tire.

    That put Larson into 2nd with Justyn Cox next in line and two laps later Hirst lost the race down the back stretch to Larson as the current NASCAR Cup point leader squeezed under the defending King of the West champion. Larson led the remaining laps for the $4000 win, although he is not eligible for the $500 bonus for being a series regular. On the other hand, it is Kyle Larson Racing sponsoring the bonus, so he does not have to pay himself!

    Racing behind Larson, enjoying the lead at the track which was the location of his first sprint car win was remarkable. Furious racing for the next lower spot on the podium among multiple drivers was not settled until lap 40. Leaving turn 2 for the final lap, 15 year old Gio Scelzi used a drive off of the top side to move into 2nd and Hirst finished 3rd.

    Perhaps the evening can be summarized with a comment overheard in the parking lot following the show when a person said, “it was a late night but it was sure worth it”.


     

     

     

    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…It is hard to believe, but next year will be the 25th Annual Trophy Cup, a race born in 1994 and one that seems to get bigger and better each year.

    Dave Pusateri, owner of Trophy City in San Jose, was tired of the start up front, finish up front scenario so common in sprint car racing even back then. He came up with the idea of a fully inverted main to finish an event and called it the Trophy Cup.

    Changes over the years have always been designed to improve the event and the current format is the culmination of ideas born from experience and being willing to change.

    Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway has become the event’s home since 2005 and one could not find a better facility or promoter to work with each year. Steve Faria, promoter of Thunderbowl Raceway, gives the Trophy Cup organization whatever needed to continue to make the race so successful.

    The first three years the Cup was a winged 410 race but concern over car count led to switching to winged 360s, and this year will be the 21st since the change. The event started at San Jose Speedway until it closed following the 1999 season.

    One year at Watsonville preceded a move to Kings Speedway in Hanford. When Kings closed mid-season in 2005, it proved to be a fortunate situation as Tulare quickly agreed to take over the event on relatively short notice. The event has grown substantially at Tulare with Faria being a big part of the growth.

    While being the highest purse for winged 360 sprints in the country, the car count is less than multi-day events that pay far less. The primary reason for that is geography; Tulare is far from any source of 360 sprint teams other than the West coast. But with the format used last year, having upper 60s for car count works out fine, in fact, better than if the number was much higher.

    Thursday and Friday are preliminary nights during which drivers earn points and the better of the two nights is carried onto Saturday. Qualifying in two groups and reversing the order within the groups on night two makes that point earning activity as fair as possible. Preliminary nights invert the main by 12 in points, Saturday’s finals inverts the top 20 point cars.

    Last year it was the steady performance of Shane Golobic that led to his winning the Cup title. Opening night Golobic won the B main to transfer to the A where he finished 3rd. Friday Golobic started 10th and finished 4th to move to Saturday 2nd in points. Starting 18th in the Saturday 50 lap main, Golobic finished 4th to edge Kyle Hirst for the Cup title and the accompanying $20,000 payoff out the total purse in excess of $165,000.

    This year’s Trophy Cup will offer a similar purse to last year, but racing in this year’s event is necessary to be eligible for the huge 2018 event. Next year’s 25th version of the Cup will offer a $200,000 purse with the champion earning a guaranteed $25,000.

    Every starter in the Saturday main event next year will earn a minimum $5000 payout for the three days. To race in 2018, teams must enter and participate in this year’s race. That means just entering does not work, a team must attempt to race in Tulare this coming October to be eligible for 2018.

    Dave Pusateri’s plan is to reward teams with that huge purse that have supported the event in the past. If 65 cars race this year, then only those 65 will be offered entry forms in 2018.

    The Trophy Cup benefits Make-A-Wish and donates all entry fees plus money from various activities to the cause. This year’s race will see the total given to Make-A-Wish reach 1.5 million dollars, another reason why the Trophy Cup is such a special event for dirt track racing.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Three sprint car shows in four days, each a different sanctioning body, filled last weekend. Northern California has become a place where one must enjoy the racing when they can as another likely washout weekend lies ahead. We are not used to having our rainy season overlap the racing season so much.

    Thursday was the Brad Sweet promoted Outlaw race at Placerville Speedway with USAC Western Midgets supporting. The best weather in this event’s now three year history along with fans trading their Stockton rainout tickets for Placerville entry created a huge crowd.

    Front gates opened at 4 pm but by an hour earlier all the pit grandstands seats were gone, the only option for the fan lacking a front stretch reserved seat. I hope fans who paid the pit pass fee were told it was standing room only, which is what many fans were faced with as a seating option.

    As a result of the overly packed house, infrastructure facilities were overtaxed and I heard plenty of grumbling over no seating available and long lines for everything. Parking was also a challenge for later arriving people.

    A couple of quirks the foothill quarter mile offers made for a tough night for a pair of drivers. Shane Stewart was leading the main just past halfway, looking as if a win was likely, when he bumped the wall coming out of turn 4. That piece of guardrail has claimed many sprint cars and Stewart’s suspension damage led to a work area visit.

    David Gravel inherited the lead and went on to win, holding off a charging Rico Abreu, who settled for 2nd. Sweet had dropped to 9th early but raced his way back to a 3rd place finish to complete the podium. A good main event topped off the evening of efficiently managed racing, finishing a few minutes before 10.

    The 18 USAC Western Midgets made for a perfect number for a support division and their main was excellent featuring a trio of cars battling for the win. Alex
    Shutte led 12 laps before many time winner Ronnie Gardner took over. But instead of being a done deal, one of California’s best in a midget, Shane Golobic, drove past Gardner for the win, leading the last 13 laps.

    The event was a huge win for Sweet and the Outlaws, but assuming the event returns next year, some planning is needed to handle another likely overflow crowd.

    Friday the Civil War winged 360 group presented their 2nd of 9 races, again at Silver Dollar Speedway. A solid 26 car field successfully dealt with a track that had wind all day. Andy Forsberg won after surviving a contact pass effort by Justin Sanders, one that put Sanders in front briefly, but was erased when the yellow flew. Sanders received a flat right rear out of the passing attempt and Forsberg retained the lead and won.

    Shane Golobic pressured the many time Civil War champion but settled for 2nd while Sean Becker was 3rd. The earlier March race had the same podium trio, but it was a finishing order of Golobic, Becker, and Forsberg.

    One of the most important changes ever in the Northern California sprint car scene took place over the off season with the formation of the Sprint Car Challenge Tour. What this new series has accomplished led to significant changes elsewhere, serving as the role model for how to promote a series.

    From the beginning, the purse for each race as well as the point fund was made known to everyone. I have lost count of the times I have asked a driver what the championship will pay for a series they are running and gotten the same answer; they have no idea.

    Making the purse and point fund known is one thing, the SCCT acquired the sponsorship to offer previously unheard of payouts for a winged 360 series. Paying $2500 to win a race, up to $3000 for a series regular, and a point fund offering $10,000 for a title led to drivers committing to the new series in bunches.

    Unlike some point funds around the country that drop dramatically, the SCCT point fund is $9,000 for 2nd, $8,000 for 3rd, etc. It seems as if additional contingency sponsors come on board daily.

    The much anticipated opening race for the new Sprint Car Challenge Tour finished the weekend with Antioch Speedway hosting the historic event. Before even one of the large 58 car field had fired, the prospect of a lengthy show and not making curfew was clear.

    Antioch Speedway’s access from pit area to track works fine for self-starting divisions, but pushing 58 cars out onto the track along the access road outside turns 3 and 4, then firing them with not enough push trucks helped consume too much time. Other items contributed to the overly long show such as slow response to towing a car or restarting one, etc.

    Cory Eliason erased some of the disappointment of sliding off the track at Hanford the night before while leading an Outlaw race by leading all 30 laps to win over Shane Golobic and Sean Becker. The top 3 ran unchanged the entire distance with passing opportunities slim and none.

    The Hanford race was excellent according to Kyle Hirst. He stated that he wished the track was like it was on Friday all the time. Make the slightest mistake at Hanford and you went backward. Logan Schuchart winning from 19th in Hanford is testimony to it being a remarkable race.

    Next up for SCCT is April 15th at Placerville where another large field of winged 360s will be joined by a full field of Hunt Spec Sprint entrants. Two weeks after that, Petaluma Speedway will present the 3rd SCCT race.

    KWS-NARC finally gets to race this weekend at the Kern County Raceway dirt track. The northern part of the state is expected to get drenched all day Friday, but Bakersfield is far enough south that any rain potential seems far less.

    The newly formed West Coast Sport Mod Tour is scheduled to race Petaluma this Saturday, an event that is facing weather issues. The first two races were rained out, if this one continues that trend a zero for three start would be especially frustrating for the people who put in so much work to establish this tour.

    At least the TV weather people have stopped saying “we need the rain”.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Northern California weather has been excellent for a while, allowing Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico to race both nights of the Silver Cup last weekend. Friday was excellent, Saturday was also despite finishing two hours later than the previous night. The weekend was completed with a visit to Chowchilla Speedway for the first race by the 7th promotional effort in the track’s 18 years.

    The Silver Cup has a history of rain issues, but it was the week prior’s Mini Gold Cup that lost Saturday to mid-day rain following a dominant Kyle Hirst win on the opening night. The abnormal amount of rain during what is California’s rainy season left the Chico pits is such marginal condition that little rain was needed to make the place unusable on the 2nd night.

    Last Friday was an open 360 night, leading into the first of 9 Civil War races for winged 360s on night two. Friday drew 28 sprints plus 17 nonwing spec sprints and 13 street stocks. Officials and drivers were on their A game on Friday and a 9:20 pm finish was the result.

    R. C. Smith led 5 laps on Friday in the spec sprint main until 5th starting Austin Liggett used a turn 2 pass to lead the last 15, building a large lead over the distance. Terry Schank Jr. and Michael Kofoid filled the podium, Kofoid’s 3rd career nonwing race.

    Saturday was the 2nd race of the revitalized Hunt Spec Sprint Series and 25 cars meant just one less than the opener two weeks earlier in Marysville. This time was a runaway for Liggett from the pole, the result of winning a dash. Liggett missed qualifying due to an ignition issue, but won his heat from last starting in what became a dominating event for the Tracy based driver.

    Friday’s winged 360 main featured a superb battle between two long time Silver Dollar Speedway many time winners, Sean Becker and Andy Forsberg. Their race only had two lead changes, officially, but an intense battle over the 25 laps.

    It was Becker, then Forsberg after a lap 9 low line move in turn 4, followed by Becker regaining the lead on lap 14 and surviving pressure from Forsberg the remaining laps. Jason Statler was 3rd after the crowed pleasing battle, but it was the Becker/Forsberg duel that stole the headlines.

    Saturday’s 2 hour later finish was due to two factors: an overly wet track requiring lengthy packing and hot laps, and 3 divisions with enough cars for a B main. Along with 31 Civil War entrants, the spec sprints had 25, and the modified tour drew 31. It turned out to be one more division than needed.

    The winged main was on a much different track than Friday as running after the modifieds meant a rougher track. Shane Golobic led all 30 laps with challenges much of the way making it an interesting race. Maneuvering around a rutty track as well as dealing with traffic and challengers kept the Fremont driver very busy.

    Justin Sanders presented the final challenge, looking very much like he would get the lead over the last couple laps, but contact with a lapper led to positions lost. Just like Friday, it was Becker and Forsberg in the same order, only for 2nd and 3rd this time.

    Sunday afternoon Chowchilla Speedway opened their season, one that alternates open wheel and stock car shows on most Sundays. The third mile oval had been silent for two years as the promotional revolving door has seen the track close 6 times since the 2000 opening.

    Joe Diaz and Kris Koontz are the new promoters and began with a $1200 to win winged 360 show with nonwing spec sprints getting $1000 for a victory. USAC Speed2 midgets and micros finished the opening day menu. Car counts showed how difficult it can be to rejuvenate a closed track with 11 360s, 4 spec sprints, 7 speed2 midgets, and 5 micros.

    Ryan Robinson led all the way in the winged main, stopped after 19 of 20 were scored when a yellow flew and the race was called at that time. Austin Liggett added to his weekend earnings with an easy spec sprint win. The track paid the $1200 and $1000 winning purse despite the car count. The winged main paid $700 and $500 for 2nd and 3rd while the spec sprints got $500 and $400 for those spots.

    Jesse Love from Redwood City won the Speed2 midget main after Tom Patterson left some room on the bottom of turn 2. Only 12 years old, Love is obviously a talented young man since he won the junior late model main the night before at Madera. The late model is full sized, it is the age limit that makes it a “junior” class. How many 12-year-old drivers have won the same weekend on different track surfaces and much different division of cars? Danny Carroll closed the show with a micro sprint win.

    A Stanislaus State student, Liggett winning 3 mains in one weekend leads me to wonder who was the last to do that in California, or has it ever been done? Liggett started in spec sprints and has raced USAC West Coast events more recently, picking up a win at Las Vegas. He is committed to the Hunt Series this year after moving into an obviously very strong car.

    Ryan Robinson will spend the next few weeks in the Midwest, joined by his sister Jodie as both will race Kunz midgets. David, their father and a two time Civil War champion, said in late May they will tow the 1R 360 sprint in their open trailer to Ohio for some racing in that state as well as some shows on their way home.

    While it was typical daytime dirt racing, it was still good to see the track get another try. Future Chowchilla shows will have a car count minimum to pay the full purse. Open wheel racing returns on March 26.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…The Northern California parade of rainy days took enough of a break to allow Marysville Raceway to be the first dirt track north of Bakersfield to race this year. The special event was the Sherm and Loree Toller Memorial with 18 winged sprints, 26 nonwing spec sprints, and 8 sport mods.

    The spec turnout was the largest I have seen in a very long time, showing the likelihood of a resurgent Hunt Wingless Sprint Tour for 2017. Now under the leadership of Petaluma promoter Rick Faeth, the tour is paying more for purse and point fund and the car count was especially impressive given the February 25 date.

    Both sprint groups qualified, spec sprints in groups, with the wings moving the 3 heat winners plus the next 5 qualifiers to a redraw. Spec sprints ran a dash to set the first four rows, and preliminaries were complete creating hope for an early finish on a chilly night. Not to be, however.

    The show ran past 11:30 before a diminishing crowd along with chilly low 40s playing a part. A very good spec sprint main fell apart trying to run the last two laps, shown by four red flags before it was mercifully called. Running 3rd when the race was trying to finish was the place to be when trying to get to the checkers was abandon.

    Kalib Henry led 17 laps until sliding up the track in turn 2, allowing Klint Simpson to take over. 23 of 25 were scored when things went south, starting with a turn 4 red coming to the checkers that nearly collected Simpson. Three tries at a restart resulted in the same number of reds, with the last one deciding the podium.

    What had been excellent racing for the win before the series of reds ended with contact between Simpson and David Johnson on the backside for yet another flip. The race was called and Cody Spencer was declared the winner from his 3rd place spot when the final red fell. An unfortunate end to the spec sprint evening after the large field had done so well until those last 2 laps.

    The winged main was similar in that the top 2 fell by the wayside, this time after 7 laps. Geoff Ensign led from the start but slid into an upright car in turn 2 that had flipped while 2nd running Andy Forsberg bicycled and packed the front end with mud. Forsberg started at the tail and raced up to 3rd at the checkers.

    D. J. Netto was the beneficiary of the lap 8 troubles and won over Justin Sanders and Forsberg. Spencer’s spec sprint win came ahead of Terry Schank Jr. and Troy DeGaton.

    Scott Russell, promoter of Placerville Speedway and one of the founders of the new Sprint Car Challenge Tour, was on hand and is busy preparing not only for his track’s season but the Tour opener on April 1 at Antioch. Russell and his staff are making certain everything is ready for the much anticipated opener of the new series.

    As for his track, Russell has to be patient as Placerville has received so much rain that he cannot get onto the oval yet. The city has had 56 inches of rain this season, exactly double the average for this date. Recent years were below average by a significant amount.

    Also on hand was Tony Hunt, a former nonwing pavement sprint driver who won several championships along the way. Hunt ran some winged dirt shows before switching his focus to his vocation, a stunt car driver.

    With a bunch of USAC Western States championships, Hunt is obviously well qualified for his current work. He recently spent an extended time in Iceland working in the Fast and Furious movie and mentioned he is at Sonoma Raceway doing some work this week with Florida next on his agenda. For some years Hunt was a fellow Lincoln resident but now lives in neighboring Rocklin.

    The coming weekend is the first of two consecutive where Silver Dollar Speedway is in the spotlight. This weekend is to be a pair of 410 shows with the Saturday effort being a King of the West-NARC Sprint Car Series event. It will offer a new format as well as the beginning of the return to NARC days when 410 racing was a club run series. Hopefully the wet Saturday forecast will change.

    The following weekend at Chico features 360s for a pair of shows. The Saturday event will be the opening Civil War show, paying $4000 to win after Friday night has paid $2000 to the winner. Civil War races are going back to a single file restart plan.

    Maybe these new format twists will some day lead to a passing/finishing point series where passing cars in preliminary races becomes important again.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Yuma, AZ…The plan was simple. From our Yuma base, drive to Tucson for a Saturday afternoon sprint show, then return to Yuma in time for the main events at Cocopah Speedway.

    Making it happen required no skill but a ton of luck as the two tracks are 251.6 miles apart. If luck was on my side, this would become the furthest apart pair of tracks at which I saw racing on the same day.

    Tucson’s 3/8 mile oval is now known as Wildcat Raceway with new management in place after being closed last year from mid-January until the reopening happened on January 28 of 2017 with a late model event.

    The track is wider and, for a sunny daytime sprint show, produced very good racing. The inner oval is larger and closer to the stands to serve the mini-sprints division. Advertised start time was 1 pm which made seeing the show and getting back to Cocopah by 9 pm possible, giving me a chance for those Yuma main events.

    Things started badly when I found out the 1 pm start time was for track packing and hot laps. Racing did start at 1:55 and I was feeling the tension from losing 55 minutes, now hoping for at least the last two mains at Cocopah.

    Wildcat was racing winged and nonwing 360s plus winged mini-sprints on the inner track. Used to 125+ cars in the spacious Tucson pits for the now relocated Wild West Shootout, the 39 sprints on hand left unoccupied real estate like I have never seen at the Los Reales Road facility.

    Turns out, those 39 put on a very good show and having twice as many likely would have not been any better. With a mid-70s sunny day the track went dry slick as expected, but that seemed to make the racing even better.

    I was impressed how much the staff had their act together, this being only their 2nd race. The flagman was very good and only the longer than advertised intermission failed to continue with the efficient plan. Part of that extra time was giving the first main time to get ready as heats ran off quickly.

    The dozen mini-sprints ran a 20 lapper, the length of all the mains, a lap count that made sense in terms of tire wear and size of fields. Too often I see a small field being given way too many laps making a race less entertaining, not more.

    With a few laps left, the leader was bumped by 2nd place, resulting in being stuck together. Third place at the time, Chad Fife, became the beneficiary and won the first ever main event on the new inner oval.

    Thirteen nonwing sprints ran two heats with the full field in each, inverting the lineup for round two, and from those 8 lap races somehow creating an invert 4 main event lineup. Mike Martin led a lap before flipping off of the turn 2 wall, putting Brady Short in front.

    That lasted 9 more laps before Steve Sussex used the upper areas of turn 2 to take over. Sussex looked to be a certain winner with a dominating drive until misfortune came in the form of contact with a lapped car low in turn 1 as Sussex attempted the pass.

    R. J. Johnson drove the upper groove to score a late race pass for the $3000 win with Short and Sussex completing the podium crowd. A very good main included some sliders and tight battling for the lead most of the way.

    The winged 360s certainly held up their end as the 14 car field on hand put on their show. Alex Pettas led a lap until Rick Ziehl used a low pass in turn 2 for the lead. That lasted only 3 more laps before Johnny Herrera grabbed the lead and eventual win. Racing behind Herrera was good and Ziehl finished 2nd over Lorne Wofford with Herrera’s winning pay also $3000.

    Wildcat Raceway races again on the 17th and 18th with sprints both nights, 6 pm races this time. That weekend is reportedly drawing some Northwest entries and a larger car count is expected. Being able to again enjoy action from Tucson’s stands and see both a very competitive and efficient show was rewarding.

    I had figured leaving Wildcat Raceway by 5:30 made a 9 pm arrival at Cocopah possible with at least some of the four main events still to occur. It was 5:05 leaving Wildcat and 8:34 arriving at Cocopah. The track was quiet which meant intermission and mains were next!

    I got seated 10 seconds before the first main went green in a stroke of luck that created a day where everything clicked. Three of the four mains were good, in fact the modified main was exceptional. The tiniest of delays over the 12+ hours since leaving Yuma that morning would have meant missing at least part of the first main.

    This coming weekend Cocopah races 3 times as the opening shows for the inaugural Arizona Mod Tour. Over 160 drivers are pre-entered among the 3 divisions, which will be especially interesting for a track that has 104 pit parking spots.

    The early January Wild West Shootout had right at 135 cars for the Arizona Speedway series, but the mod tour will put up bigger numbers, at least at some of the 8 races, in its first year.

    While Lincoln CA continues to get pounded by rain and wind, a seemingly constant pattern since our January 4th departure, I will need to shop for more sun screen to follow the Arizona Mod Tour.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Yuma AZ…2017 will be the year of the racing series in Northern California as two new, one remodeled, and three continuing series will offer options for fans. Four series are sprint car shows while another pair feature IMCA modifieds or sport modifieds. Finally, the dust seems to have settled and schedules are apparently set for the year.

    Returning is the King of the West series for winged 410s with 18 races spread over 10 tracks. One race on the schedule of particular note is the first ever appearance at Kern County Raceway, west of Bakersfield.

    Last year I made first time appearances at the Kern County Raceway complex and a February dirt show revealed a nice facility and a uniquely shaped oval. Nestled against interstate 5, turn 2 was pushed in a bit so as to not get any closer to the highway that it is. That early season tow to the south will be a very interesting show.

    KWS shows will pay $3000 to win, $1800 for 2nd, $1400 to 3rd, and $500 to start. The points fund has also been published and the champion will pocket $10,000 with the next four spots earning $7500, 6000, 5000, and 3500.

    The Civil War series for winged 360s has a different look this year with 9 races creating visits to Chico, Watsonville, Marysville, and Tulare. A win pays $2500 with the following spots offering $1400, $1100, $800, and $725 with $400 to start.

    There is a trio of shows paying more to win, one each will award $3000, $4000, and $5000 to the winner. The point fund payout is $6000 for the champion, followed by $3000, $2000, $1500, and $1000 for the top five in the list.

    Fewer CW races is a result of one of the new series being created by a group of racing people, known as the Sprint Car Challenge Tour. With backing from Elk Grove Ford and Abreu Vineyards, among many others, the money for this new winged 360 series is very impressive.

    The 13 race series will visit 7 tracks and pay $2500 for a win. Sponsorship will boost the winner’s share to $3000 most of the time while the next four finishing positions will pay $1800, $1400, $950, and $725 with $400 to start. Added to this payout is a long list of contingency awards, a list that seems to expand daily.

    A very impressive point fund to the tune of $60,750 will see the champion collect $10,000 and the next four earn $9000, $8000, $7000, and $6000. The SCCT has certainly raised the bar for winged 360 racing and hopefully the format will be something different than what has dominated sprint car racing in Northern California for too long.

    Not new but reworked is the Hunt Magneto Wingless Series, now being led by Petaluma Speedway promoter, Rick Faeth. A big increase in sponsorship dollars for the 12 race series at 5 tracks has made for a reworked payout and point fund.

    Winning a Hunt race in a spec sprint is a $1200 deal with $650 and $500 going to other podium finishers and $175 to start. The champion will receive $1500 of the point fund and contingency sponsors are being added steadily.

    Non-sprint car series include the renamed modified tour to now be called the West Coast Modified Series. In its 2nd year, the 2016 version showcased good car counts and a bigger and better series is in place for this year.

    New to the scene is the West Coast Sport Mod Tour, created by Brian Cooper and Jerry Bartlett, sport mod drivers themselves. The timing seems perfect for this growing division to have a tour and an 8 race schedule is wisely taking it easy for the first year, visiting 5 tracks in the process.

    Bonus pay from the tour will be added to the track payout, a $4775 point fund opens eyes, and they are also adding contingency sponsors on a regular basis. Over 30 sport mod drivers have signed up for the tour.

    The winged 360 pair of tours has only one date in conflict so it would not be impossible to win both titles.

    We are on our way to Cocopah Speedway for the next 5 races in our two months of suffering in the Arizona sunshine while Lincoln CA has an overabundance of storms. I am hoping by the time the 5th Yuma race takes the green some answer about Winter Heat will be available.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Somerton, AZ…During the latter stages of this four week trip it was nice to see one more sprint car race, and a dramatic way to end my open wheel season at that. Arizona Speedway, located just south of our Apache Junction base, ran a two day post-Thanksgiving ASCS show and taking in the first night before a move to Yuma presented an entertaining evening.

    A 31 car field raced on Friday with qualifying preceding a quartet of invert six heats. Heat winners plus the next 12 in passing/finishing points moved directly to the A main, a 25 lap race that started straight up by points. On hand from Central and Northern California were D. J. Netto, Colby Copeland, and Buddy Kofoid.

    A 23 car field of nonwing cast iron 360 sprints were supporting along with 22 pure stocks. The nonwing group ran three draw heats with the top 4 going to a redraw. Shon Deskins won their main with plenty of close racing and position duels making for a good race.

    Heat races for the ASCS group clearly showed that Christopher Bell, Aaron Reutzel, Netto, and Copeland were the fastest of the field. Being the top 4 point cars after heat racing, they filled the front two rows and the battle was on among the fab four.

    Bell led from the pole until 3rd starting Reutzel dove under a car they were lapping in turn 4 to lead lap 8. That was a short lived state when Reutzel exploded a right rear on the backstretch and Bell led again.

    Again, a short lived state of affairs after Bell slowed on the restart and went to the infield work area. Netto led very briefly before pitting and Copeland became the leader and last of the big four to enjoy that honor.

    Bell restarted at the rear after his work area visit, and things got muddy at that point. At the drivers’ meeting, officials made it very clear that entering the track from the infield work area must be done in turn two or a DQ would result. Stressing that rule made it abundantly clear to me, but when Bell was pushed onto the front stretch under yellow and pushed off, the infraction left no question as to outcome.

    Or so I thought..the ASCS officials, after a moment to think it over, announced over the radio that Bell could restart at the rear. I do not understand how officials can clearly state a procedural rule at the drivers’ meeting and then not follow their own rule.

    Copeland pulled away to a huge lead and was very fast on the third mile, at least until contact with a lapped car coming out of turn 4 put him into the wall, ending his night when a win was 3 laps away. Now the top four cars, easily the fastest in the field, had all experienced problems while leading.

    Billy Chester became the fifth and final leader to claim the $2000 win while Bell came back for a 2nd over Reece Goetz. The action on the track was furious with multiple grooves making for a dramatic race for my first time Arizona Speedway sprint car night.

    At Cocopah Speedway the next night for day two of their IMCA post-Thanksgiving annual, I met new track manager Tom Dalen and received some hopeful news about the future of Winter Heat. Dalen flagged at the track for some time, a task he also did at his former home track in Minot, ND. In fact, one year Dalen flagged the season at the Minot track then continued that job at Cocopah for a full year on the flagstand.

    As the world knows, the 2017 Winter Heat series did not happen and reportedly did not look at all promising for any future return. That outlook is now somewhat improved as several people have stated an interest in resuming the series in a year.

    While naming names is not appropriate at this time, suffice it to say they are people within the racing world that are the types anyone would want on board for such a series. While it is far from being resumed, the Winter Heat series return now has some hope of becoming a reality.

    The last four weeks in the Southwest have been very enjoyable and it will not be long before a return, this time for seven weeks.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Las Vegas, NV…A month of Southwest racing started last weekend with the two day USAC show at Arizona Speedway, located a few miles south of highway 60 in Apache Junction.

    Things did not start well when late afternoon rain canceled the practice session on Thursday. Some small dust storms were visible from the track but I was told later that the Apache Junction area tends to not get the messy dust attacks.

    Friday’s track was heavy and narrow thanks to the unplanned watering the day prior. With 34 USAC national 410s and 31 USAC Southwest cars, the numbers were just right for a quartet of heats and a single B main for each class. Southwest used draw heats with passing/finishing points determining the top 18 with a B tacking on four more.

    The 410 format included time trials, invert six, take four heats, and six more from a B with provisionals bumping the field to as high as 26. Both nights the show was very well run, something that is a wonderful trait of a Jonah Trussel owned track.

    Trussel owns Arizona Speedway, land and all, with a motocross and other fun things also on the property. He also has a long-term lease at the fairgrounds east of Casa Grande where he runs Central Arizona Speedway. Trussel rescued the Casa Grande track from what looked to be a long spell of no racing after closing a couple years prior.

    Chris Windom won the 360 main Friday by a small margin, surviving Brady Bacon digging hard out of turn 4 on the final lap. One of several running both classes, Windom then won the 410 main after Ronnie Gardner led the first four. Windom used a turn 2 slider to lead the last 26 laps for the sweep.

    Saturday the track was much more racy and a very good nonstop 360 main helped create an early finish. Ryan Bernal led 3 before Bacon used the topside out of four to lead through lap 10. Bernal came back on 11 but a lap later Bacon used the low line along the back side to lead the rest of the way. The first half was really good until Bacon took over and ended the drama.

    The 410 main was Windom again, leading one lap before Damion Gardner used a turn 4 slider to lead the next 4 times around the third mile. Windom tossed a turn 2 slider at Gardner that put him in front the remainder. Gardner made it fun to watch as he tried everything possible to regain the lead, but came up a few feet short at the line.

    Friday’s crowd was pretty big and Saturday was the proverbial packed house. The track has several sets of bleachers along the front and a larger new this year set in turn 4. I was told by a fan that the turn 4 new seats came from ASU. It was an enjoyable two days of action and doubled my lifetime race visits to Arizona Speedway. That number will grow considerable come January.

    With Cocopah Speedway no longer offering the five race Winter Heat series for winged 410s, the Grand Canyon state will start the 2017 season at Arizona Speedway for the huge six day Wild West Shootout. Featuring super late models plus two modified divisions, sprint car fans that are disappointed at the demise of the Yuma races should consider the WWS.

    Now at 111 races for the year in my notebook, several of the top ten of this year would be the WWS shows last January when it was in Tucson. The long running series, starting at Casa Grande as Early Thaw, then moving to Tucson, will provide a whole new look at Arizona Speedway. Big money will draw big stars to the track for six races in 9 days.

    The WWS is owned by Chris Kearns and Kevin Montgomery and they leased the track from Trussel to present this new chapter in the successful series. Arizona Speedway is slightly smaller than the prior two ovals used but wide and if last weekend is a sign of things to comer, record crowds and excellent shows figure to make January’s WWS a great way to start 2017 racing.

     

     

    From the Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Kingsburg, CA…The 23rd Annual Trophy Cup was the beneficiary of a makeover for Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway that was a big factor in having an excellent event. Thunderbowl promoter, Steve Faria, moved the berm in ten feet at each end and that proved to be just what was needed. Far fewer sprint cars getting into the wall and some excellent racing was the result of the change.

    For a purse in excess of $160,095, it was surprising only 59 cars were on hand for the Thursday opener. Danny Faria Jr. missed Thursday but raced Friday because he was a pre-entered driver and he received no points for all races and automatically started at the back. In his heat his finish was ignored for points, so all cars after him moved up one place in point results.

    There were 80 cars entered but some lacked a driver and other circumstances took away a couple. But many of the 21 no shows were just that, a no show. In retrospect, it was all good as the 59 who appeared put on an excellent display of racing and the earlier ending times made it better.

    Thursday and Friday are identical shows except for the qualifying being done in reverse order. Groups A and B switch for Friday and the order within each group was reversed. The Thursday track remained so good that separate groups was probably not needed. Justyn Cox was 2nd to come out in group A on Thursday and ran a 13.931 for their fast time while Willie Croft turned a 13.943 in group B and came out 37th for the night.

    Each driver earned 150 points with a one point drop per spot so if qualifying groups were united after time trials it is like having 20 cars in the top ten. That makes points even tighter as entering the Thursday main only 10 points separated the top 12 cars.

    Heats on the first two nights are invert six by points with 36 to win and 3 point drop. Transfers are determined by the heat winner plus the top point car from each of the 8 heats, 16 total moved to the A main. Thursday heats were decent, but was it ever the best is yet to come night.

    With the drop from 10 heats to 8, now 8 B main cars are needed and having two B mains meant the top 4 from each went to the A main. The B mains were invert 6 by points and two very good 20 lap races filled the 24 car A field. Noteworthy was Colby Copeland taking the last spot from 13th starting, passing several cars the last couple of laps. Also Terry McCarl jumped a restart and had to race hard to overcome the two place penalty and managed a 4th.

    Thursday’s invert 12 by points A main was exceptional with the early laps featuring a duel between Shane Golobic and D. J. Netto. There were sliders galore, something missing from Tulare prior to the widening. Unfortunately, one slider gone bad occurred on lap 10 and Netto and Bud Kaeding were involved. After that it was Golobic and the team cars of Kyle Hirst and Tim Kaeding until Jason Meyers moved to 3rd with six laps left.

    Three laps later Meyers, coming from 16th starting, used the bottom of turn 4 to go third to first while Golobic and Hirst were at the top of turn 4, deciding who would come out of that slider first. Meyers used a piece of Thunderbowl Raceway that did not exist a month ago to win over Golobic and Hirst. Night one was over at 10 pm, in part due to an excellent officiating team.

    The bar was set high after Thursday racing and the next night not only failed to clear the bar, it didn’t even approach it. I knew things were not good when there were no sliders in the B mains and zero dust, the opposite of Thursday. The 2nd B main drivers mostly ran the bottom, the one that did not exist a month ago.

    Qualifying favored the first group (B this night) with Shane Golobic turning 13.595 to Cory Eliason’s 13.868. Group B had 14 cars in the 13 second bracket while the second group had just 3. The important factor is within each group it was fair, the goal of having two groups.

    Friday’s A main will always be memorable not because of excellent racing but the winner being 14 year old Buddy Kofoid. It will also be memorable because Terry McCarl’s turn 4 error handed the win to Kofoid. The race was no doubt going to be a flag to flag top 3 running unchanged as challenges were zero. McCarl’s misfortune turned a mundane main event into one that is now memorable.

    After two nights the point race was the closest in the 23 years of Trophy Cup racing. Saturday had no qualifying but invert 8 heat races for the top 48 in points. With 36 to win and a 3 point drop, point leader Kyle Hirst took his 6 point lead into these heats.

    I figured there were 9 drivers with a realistic chance of being the champion. The heats on Saturday are traditionally tough to pass ones but this year a prolonged hot lap session offered a racier track for the top 48. Tim Kaeding had the best result and led Kyle Hirst by 2 points following the heats which reduced the field of potential champions to 4.

    Shane Golobic, one of the four, was tied for 3rd, five points behind Kaeding. You don’t usually win this type of event without some luck along the way and Gio Scelzi scratching from a heat was a bit of luck. Scelzi’s bad luck moved Golobic up a row, starting 6th instead of 8th.

    The other piece of luck was huge when disaster struck Kaeding just after he had taken the point lead. Seconds after the pass that put Kaeding on top, a car out of shape in front of him led to a pit visit and elimination from the list of hopefuls now at two.

    Hirst still was the point leader on the restart but Golobic quickly drove past him to finish 4th, two places ahead of Hirst. Complete payout will be coming in the near future, but one thing certain is Golobic’s popular championship earned the Fremont, CA driver $20,000. The San Jose State graduate might have used his degree in mechanical engineering to reach such a level of consistency.

    My assessment of the three days is racing was better than the last couple of years, certainly in part due to the wider track. Track conditions were mostly good as competition was as intense as ever. One Saturday heat had all 8 cars racing in a group through turn 4. Thursday’s main was exceptional, Friday’s lacked passing but made up for it with Buddy Kofoid’s surprising win, and Saturday had an excellent three car battle for the title for many laps.

    The 24th Annual is set for Tulare Thunderbowl on October 19-21, 2017 when another chapter will be written in the event with the unique format.

     

     

     

    Golobic Trophy Cup Champion

     by Ron Rodda

    Tulare, CA…A dramatic 50 lap main event concluded the 23rd Annual Trophy Cup at Thunderbowl Raceway and Shane Golobic earned the points necessary to become the event champion, claiming the $20,000 prize.

    Heat races separated the contenders for the title, leaving four main candidates to claim the honor. With the A main inverting 20 by points, Tim Kaeding was outside row 10, being the high point car. Kyle Hirst was 2 points behind and filled the inside row 10 spot.

    Row 9 had Golobic outside and Jonathan Allard inside, both 5 points behind Kaeding. The main offers 150 points to win with a 3 point drop so Hirst needed to just finish in front of Kaeding while Golobic and Allard needed two spots.

    Starting outside row 1, 2014 champion, Willie Croft, dominated the main and led all 50 laps for the win. D. J. Netto used a topside turn 2 pass on lap 26 on Henry Van Dam to finish 2nd from 10th starting, while Van Dam was 3rd at the conclusion.

    While the race for the podium was smooth, the 2nd race for most points behind the frontrunners was another story. Allard saw his chance end after only 6 laps when he flipped off of the turn 2 wall. At that point Hirst led in points and continued to do so for many laps.

    Following a long green stretch after the lap 6 red, the mandatory lap 35 fuel stop lap was reached, necessitating a yellow and then a red. On the restart, Hirst had Kaeding right behind him and Golobic next. Hirst was still ahead in total points until lap 37 when Kaeding took the point lead only to have a car sideways in front of him.

    Kaeding had to pit for repairs, ending his chance, and Hirst was able to continue after contact with the sideways car. On lap 38 Golobic made his move, getting barely in front of Hirst on the low side of turn 2, then adding to the lead with a topside drive out of turn 4.

    Once in the point lead, Golobic maintained the advantage over the last 12 laps as the track started to take rubber and hamper any challenge Hirst had left. Golobic had a 3 point advantage over Hirst while Netto finished 3rd in points, 10 behind the winner.

    The 24th Annual Trophy Cup is set for October 19-21 in 2017 at the Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway.

    A main. 1. Willie Croft 2. D. J. Netto 3. Henry Van Dam 4. Shane Golobic 5. Steven Tiner 6. Kyle Hirst 7. Bud Kaeding 8. Jason Solwold 9. Aaron Reutzel 10. Justyn Cox 11. Mitchell Faccinto 12. Ryan Bernal 13. Buddy Kofoid 14. Terry McCarl 15. Jason Meyers 16. Colby Copeland 17. Mason Moore 18. Parker Price-Miller 19. Tim Kaeding 20. Bradley Terrell 21. Justin Sanders 22. Jonathan Allard 23. Sean Becker 24. Cory Eliason

    To ten points 1. Shane Golobic 455 2. Kyle Hirst 442 3. D. J. Netto 435 4. Willie Croft 423 5. Jason Solwold 421 6. Henry Van Dam 417 7. Steven Tiner 416 8. Aaron Reutzel 412 9. Bud Kaeding 410 10. Mitchell Faccinto 409

     

     

    Kofoid Claims Cup Win

     by Ron Rodda

    Tulare, CA…It’s a name that is not well known beyond his Northern California home, but that will change after tonight’s 30-lap main event at the 23rd Annual Trophy Cup. Buddy Kofoid, 14 years old and a 2nd year sprint car driver, won the main event to collect $3000 and his biggest career win.

    Running a format identical to the Thursday opener except for the qualifying order reversed, Kofoid was 5th quick in his group to start 5th in his heat. His 3rd place heat finish meant a trip to a B main where he started 6th, being the highest point car in the invert 6 field.

    The top four moved to the A main and Kofoid was 3rd behind Bud Kaeding and Jonathan Allard to make the show. With a 12 inversion in the A main by points, Kofoid had the right number to be 12th and start on the pole with an accomplished veteran, Terry McCarl, alongside.

    Unlike the dry, slick and very racy Thursday track, tonight’s version was fast, making passing more of a dream than reality. McCarl led from the green with Kofoid and Jason Solwold following. A red with 7 down did nothing more than delay the parade with no pressure on the top 3.

    A flag to flag top 3 unchanged appeared to be a cinch when the mistake happened. It wasn’t the 14 year old, however, it was McCarl who half-spun in turn 4 as lap 25 was trying to end. McCarl kept it running despite facing the wrong way, drove into the infield and headed back to the surface, but the yellow had flown.

    The drama now was could Kofoid keep Solwold and now 3rd running Sean Becker in check. One lap was scored before a red delayed the drama, but upon restarting Kofoid ran the last few laps smoothly and collected his huge win.

    Becker made the last 5 times around the Thunderbowl clay interesting as he tried every move available to get past Solwold, but was unable to do so and settled for 3rd.

    Tomorrow the Cup concludes with fully inverted heat races for the top 48 in points with the top 20 point cars after the heats earning a main event spot. The A main Saturday inverts the top 20 in points with 4 B main transfers behind and is 50 laps with a break sometime after 20 laps. The Saturday A main purse is $101,200 of the $162,095 total.

    A main…Buddy Kofoid, Jason Solwold, Sean Becker, Shane Golobic, Jason Meyers, Aaron Reutzel, Cory Eliason, Justin Sanders, Bud Kaeding, Tim Kaeding, Kyle Hirst, D. J. Netto, Steven Tiner, Colby Copeland, Bradley Terrell, Jace Vander Weerd, Gio Scelzi, Terry McCarl, Blake Robertson, Mason Moore, Scott Parker, Kaleb Montgomery, Cody Lamar, Jonathan Allard (DNS)

    Top ten in points, best night used
    1. Kyle Hirst 280 2. Shane Golobic 274 3. Jason Solwold 274 4. Jonathan Allard 274 5. Sean Becker 273 6. Buddy Kofoid 273 7. Tim Kaeding 273 8. Cory Eliason 271 9. Jason Meyers 271 10. Mitchell Faccinto 268
    Ties broken by better qualifying time

     

     

    Meyers Wins Trophy Cup Opener

    by Ron Rodda

    Kingsburg, CA…Jason Meyers had a long way to go to reach the front from his 16th starting spot in the 30 lap main. The opening night of the 23rd Annual Trophy Cup provided a very racy track and Meyers was up to the task, taking the lead on lap 27 to score the $3000 victory.

    A 59-car field appeared, split into two groups for qualifying with each group’s fastest car receiving 150 points, dropping by one each spot. Justyn Cox led A group with a 13.931 and 2014 Cup champion, Willie Croft was quickest in group B at 13.943.

    Each group raced 4 heats, inverting six by points, and moving the heat winner plus the highest point car into the A main. A pair of B mains provided very good racing as the track got steadily better with the top 4 from each creating a 24 car field.

    The main inverted 12 by points, putting Shane Golobic and D. J Netto on the front row while top point car Croft was 12th and 2nd place Sean Becker filled inside row 6.

    Netto led from the green with Golobic and Cox in pursuit. The 2015 champion, Bud Kaeding, took 3rd on lap 6 with a topside drive out of turn 4 and Golobic used the same move two laps later to now lead.

    Netto threw a turn 4 slider on Golobic to regain the lead on lap 9 but Golobic was right back in front a lap later, driving under Netto in turn 1. Disaster struck with 10 complete when Bud Kaeding’s big slider on Netto in turn 4 went awry, driving Netto into the wall and eliminating the 2nd and 3rd place cars.

    Buddy Kofoid and Cox ran behind Golobic on the restart before Tim Kaeding used top side momentum out of turn 4 on consecutive laps to run 2nd by lap 14. Kyle Hirst took 3rd with a dozen laps left after a low line run along the back side and took 2nd from his teammate TK with a turn 2 slider with 7 to go.

    Jason Meyers moved into the top 3 on lap 24, using the bottom of the front stretch and took advantage of a lap 27 duel between Golobic and Hirst at the top of turn 4 to run the bottom and pass both out of that corner.

    Once ahead, Meyers led the last four to win while Hirst finished 2nd after passing Golobic out of turn 4 on the next to last lap. Meyers earned 100 points for winning the passing-filled main with a two point drop per position.

    Friday night the same program will run except group B will qualify first and the order within each group will be reversed. Drivers will use their better point night of the preliminary pair for Saturday’s finale.

    A main..1..Jason Meyers, 2. Kyle Hirst, 3.Shane Golobic, 4. Jonathan Allard, 5. Tim Kaeding. 6. Mitchell Faccinto, 7. Cory Eliason, 8. Buddy Kofoid, 9. Sean Becker, 10. Terry McCarl, 11. Ryan Bernal, 12. Justyn Cox, 13. Jason Solwold,. 14. Colby Copeland, 15. Henry Van Dam, .16. Robbie Price, 17. Domonic Scelzi, 18. Willie Croft, 19. Bud Kaeding, 20. Steven Tiner, 21. Billy Butler, 22. Bobby Butler, 23. Kyler Shaw, 24. D. J. Netto

    Top ten points after one night 1. Kyle Hirst 280 2. Jonathan Allard 274 3. Tim Kaeding 273 4. Jason Meyers 270 5. Shane Golobic 269 6. Mitchell Faccinto 238 7. Sean Becker 266 8. Buddy Kofoid 263 9. Jason Solwold 258 10. Justyn Cox 255

     

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…A night at Hanford’s 3/8 mile last Friday was particularly enjoyable when the surface turned out to be one of the better California dirt tracks I have seen this season. Track prep, temperature, winds, and the stars were all in the right place and a main event that was top notch resulted.

    A 35-car field of winged sprints plus two support classes with another 16 entrants made up the menu. It was a King of Kings 360 race but a bunch of 305s were also part of the mix. Several cars were on hand only because Placerville had to reschedule after significant Northern California rain.

    The format was the usual with qualifying preceding invert 4 heats with the winners plus next fastest 4 going to a dash. The 8 dash cars redrew, little changed during the few laps of the dash, and Bud Kaeding shared the front row with D. J. Netto.

    Bud led initially with Netto and by lap 3 Rico Abreu in pursuit. Netto took the lead out of turn 2 on lap 5 using the top groove and hit traffic five laps later but a couple well placed yellows helped that issue. One lap before the midway point, Abreu used a turn 1 slider to take 2nd and as the top 2 crossed line to finish lap 19, Abreu was right on Netto’s rear nerf.

    I expected a turn 1 slider and that was what happened and Abreu had the lead by turn 2. Netto had several more opportunities to wrest the lead away from Abreu, but each slider fell just short of completing the move.

    A yellow with five left showed 5 of the top 9 at that point were cars that would have been in Placerville if not for the rain. One of that group, Terry McCarl moved into 3rd with four to go and created an Abreu, Netto, and McCarl finish. McCarl had to come out of the B main and started well to the back in the 22-car field.

    The track seemed to have better lighting than I remember and another plus was King of the West announcer, Gary Thomas, handling post race interviews, setting a new track record for efficiency in the process. I had only committed to one night at Hanford but the sprint count and racing made the effort worthwhile.

    Two late driver changes have occurred for this week’s Trophy Cup and they are a pair of very accomplished sprint car stars. Aaron Reutzel has moved into an entry spot that became available and Kevin Thomas Jr. has done the same.

    Reutzel, a Clute, Texas resident, came out of micro sprints and has built a successful career in sprint cars. Running the ASCS National tour, Reutzel is 7th in points with a pair of two-day shows remaining on the schedule. He gained a great deal of attention when he made his winged 410 debut at the 2015 Winter Heat in Arizona and was very impressive.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. has raced in a midget, late model, stock car, and mostly nonwing sprints this year. The Cullman, Alabama driver now claims Avon, Indiana as home and has raced 77 shows this year with 13 wins. Starting his career in BMX bicycles, the driver known as KT has raced most of his events in Indiana.

    Reutzel and Thomas are just two out of a very talented 70+ field of drivers that will be after the title for the 23rd Annual Trophy Cup later this week. A minimum of $162,095 will be paid over the three days at the newly shaped Tulare Thunderbow Raceway.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Tulare Thunderbowl is back!! Well, it never went away, unless becoming a less racy track represents being gone. Promoter Steve Faria moved the berm in ten feet at each end and it is a much improved track. The original plan was to go 15 feet in, but doing so would have created issues with the flow from straights to turns.

    At first glance it did not seem much different, but when cars were packing the extra space was evident. When the three division open wheel show was complete, the difference was very obvious, and it was all for the better.

    As previously noted, the Trophy Cup has had an oversupply of flips off of the Tulare wall in recent years. The fast line eventually became right up to the wall, allowing no margin for error. Sliders were a thing of the past as the track raced too narrow.

    That has now all changed and even with only one race completed since the makeover, the results are clear. Seeing three wide coming out of turn 4 with considerable space between cars showed what ten feet can do.

    Both ends of the track offered chances to throw a slider in hopes of picking up a spot, and that has been missing for some time. Turns 1 and 2 did not get as dry as the other end, perhaps due to the afternoon sun caressing 3 and 4 but ignoring 1 and 2 because of the fall season sun angle.

    One and two did develop a significant cushion but it looked to be at least 4 feet from the wall, not next to it as in the past A bunch of passes or near passes occurred with sliders after entering turn 1 low and sliding up the track about halfway.

    The other end offered huge slider attempts with space to spare. The high line around turns 3 and 4 eventually reached the top, about a foot from the wall, but there was no cushion. A few brushes with the wall occurred with no problem and the lower lines were still useful. All in all, a very good debut for the new layout.

    King of the West winged 410s had 20 on hand and Kyle Hirst continued his excellent season with another win. While he enjoyed the lead, Bud Kaeding and Justyn Cox put on a show racing for 2nd. At one point Cox threw a huge slidre on Kaeding in turn 4, but Bud had enough grip to edge Cox at the line. Bud edged Justyn at the line for the runner up spot.

    Having a chance to catch up with Tim Kaeding was a bonus. He was pleased with his summer living in Brandon, SD and mentioned he may wind up running three sprints divisions in one night at Badlands. His car owner sold a 410 to add a 305 to the stable so a night of running 3 sprint classes has potential.

    Tim started his career racing micro sprints around San Jose and mentioned his first time at speed in a sprint car. He and his brother, Bud, were in their father Brent’s car and grandfather Howard’s at the 1994 Trophy Cup. They were on the track just to pack when, much to their surprise, the green came out. Tim described the experience as something well short of smooth.

    Just 13 USAC Western midgets were on hand and Alex Shutte dominated the main for 28 laps. The issue for him was, the race was 30 laps. A tip over with two left likely cost Shutte the win due to a 3 second gap in communication. The race director radioed to stay yellow but about 2 seconds earlier the red was thrown. Neither person was at a fault, it was just a timing thing. The problem for Shutte was, his car did not restart, would not go in gear was what I heard. That handed the win to Ronnie Gardner.

    A 19 car field of IMCA Racesaver sprints ran a trio of heats with the top four from each going to the redraw to set the first six rows. When Blake Robertson redrew outside row one, things were settled before running a lap.

    This afternoon word came that Placerville made the inevitable decision to not race their two day special this weekend. Friday’s forecast now calls for 1 to 2 inches of rain, but the event that received so much support is not going away. October 28th a one day version will race the Friday format for the Saturday purse, meaning $7000 to win with spec sprints in support. Half of a great thing is still a great thing.

    Of course the weekend prior is the 23rd annual Trophy Cup with 80 entrants set to test the newly configured Thunderbowl. Based on last Saturday, this could easily become one of the best Cup events.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway finished their season last weekend in the usual manner with the Fall Nationals for winged 360s. Last year had a pair of excellent main events and 2016 followed that trend with another top-notch duo. When all is said and done, it is really the A main that makes a racing evening entertaining or not.

    Friday drew 42 winged 360s plus 8 of the track economy sprints. Andy Forsberg started his successful weekend with a new track record, his 11.406 bettering the mark by 13 thousandths. The format used the regular invert 4 with the heat winners plus next four fastest to garner a top 4 going to a dash. A redraw set the dash lineup.

    Heat racing was very good although a non-call on an obvious jump start played a part in the podium at night’s end. No point in having a start line if it is not going to be properly enforced.

    Kyle Hirst and Dominic Scelzi shared the front for the 30 lap main and, given Hirst’s success this year, a win or podium at least figured to a cinch. Hirst backed that theory by leading 23 laps until, heading to the white flag in turn 4, became entangled with a lapped car to end his run.

    Civil War point leader Forsberg was 2nd at the time, having owned the spot since lap 5 after a low turn 3,4 drive. The meant the King of the West point leader, Hirst, and CW leader, Forsbeg ran 1-2 for many laps.

    Hirst established a decent lead but 15 laps of green meant traffic and Forsberg caught him mid-race. Hirst split a pair of lappers on lap 20 to create a little larger lead, but 3 laps later suffered his misfortune.

    Now leading, Forsberg had Dominic Scelzi to contend with and, according to Forsberg, he missed his spot coming out of turn 2 on the last lap and Scelzi powered past him on the back stretch high side to take the win away. Forsberg was 2nd over Chase Majdic.

    The economy sprint main went to Cameron Haney. The basically spec sprints with a wing class is lingering abound ten cars for a best turnout and race Chico and Marysville during their season.

    Saturday brought in 52 winged 360s and 13 spec sprints and, for some reason a different and far less entertaining format. Friday heats were good, Saturday’s were boring. Since when does a two day show completely alter the format for day two? But again, it is just the A main that makes a show or not, and the 2nd day 40 lapper was even better than opening night.

    Colby Copeland was fast time for group one at 11.888 in an unusual deal as he drove the winning car from Friday. The season long driver, Cory Eliason, was in New Orleans on a trip planned before moving into the Harley van Dyke ride. Scelzi was in another ride for Saturday. Hirst was quickest in group 2 at 11.867, the 43rd car out after Copeland was out 3rd. A very consistent track for qualifying may have been the result of being too wet early, requiring a long hot lap session.

    Forsberg and Sean Becker ran top two in the dash to claim front row status and set the table for another hard fought battle for the win between the two veterans. Becker led a pair before Forsberg came high out of turn 4 to take over.

    Lap 7 Becker was back in front after a low turn 4 drive as Forsberg drove over the cushion just a bit. Hirst got past Becker on lap 15 following a drive through turn 4 on the bottom while Forsberg went to 3rd.

    Forsberg got right back into 2nd a lap later, then on lap 17 ran the topside of turns 1 and 2 and drove past Hirst on the backstretch, using a piece of clay about the same spot that Scelzi had used on him Friday night.

    Once in front, Forsberg held the spot for the last 24 laps to win over D. J. Netto and Hirst. Tight racing filled the main and Forsberg did not let this one get awayh. Between the long hot lap sessions and a heat 1, lap 1 over the turn 3 fence flip creating a long delay, it finished 59 minutes later than Friday.

    Spec sprint action saw once San Jose Speedway winged regular, Tony Richards, claim the win following a 3rd to lead drive on lap 9. Casey McClain and Cody Fendley joined Richards on the podium.

    The event was dedicated to the memory of Stephen Allard and closed the Silver Dollar season with two entertaining main events on nights with perfect weather.

    Chico opened the October post-season Saturday and the rest of the month offers special events every weekend. For me it is a Bakersfield double with Tulare in the middle this coming weekend. Friday the Bakersfield dirt track runs their first night of a 5 division stock car show, which is always excellent. High car count, a very well run show, and plenty of excellent action will start the weekend.

    Saturday is special in its own right as the newly configured Tulare Thunderbowl makes its debut when King of the West winged 410s, USAC Western midgets, and Racesavers get to be the first to show how the track will react to the now much wider corners.

    Sunday it is back to Bakersfield for the paved track along I-5 for winged sprints on the very fast paved half mile. I was at the adjacent dirt track in February but this will be the initial paved track event for me.

    Next weekend the two day Placerville race occurs and it is building momentum daily. Expect jammed pits for this one before a week later it is the 23rd edition of the Trophy Cup. Even the last weekend of October has options with a two day micro sprint race at Delta Speedway in Stockton, certain to draw over 130 micros, Marysville races a sprint car multi-division effort on the 29th, and Tulare is also in the mix with a two day stock car show.

    Between fall weather and weekly specials, it is obvious why October is one of my favorite months.

     

     

     

    History Of The Trophy Cup

    October 20-22 the Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway will again host the Trophy Cup. This year’s three day total racing purse is $162,095+, made possible by the amazing level of support within the racing community. The Cup champion is guaranteed $20,000 total payout while the Saturday A main pays $2050 to start (purse plus point fund).

    In response to drivers commenting on the level of attrition in recent Cups, the turns are now much wider, an additional 15 feet of racing room was carved from the bottom at each end. The berms now reside 15 feet further from the wall, an adjustment that is expected to add an additional racing groove to the 3/8 mile oval.

    It all began in 1994 when Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San Jose CA, came up with the idea of an race that featured a main event that was fully inverted, putting the fastest cars at the rear for a passing filled race. The race was called the Trophy Cup and its remarkable history continues this year with the 23rd annual event.

    It is a winged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country. The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion due to the final night main that puts the highest point cars towards the rear of the 24 car field. From qualifying on the first two nights to heat races and mains, drivers earn points and the highest total after the racing ends wins the Trophy Cup. There are two parts to the purse money, some is paid to drivers based on race finishes and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.

    Last year a new and improved format had full shows on Thursday and Friday with several changes. To make qualifying more consistently fair, the drivers were split into groups A and B. Each group has its own fastest qualifier so two drivers earned 150 points for fast time. Heat races are within each group, i.e., the A group has their own heats and likewise with B group. Once main events start, the groups are now combined for determining lineups, based on results from the heat races.

    On Friday B group will qualify first and the order of cars within each group will be reversed. The format mirrors Thursday action and, once completed, drivers will use their higher point total from the first two nights to carry into Saturday. A driver may have a tough night on Thursday but gets another chance the next night. Saturday will not have qualifying but heats and mains, culminating with the 50 lap A main with the top point car starting 20th..

    The Trophy Cup has always been a cooperative effort among businesses, the host track, fans, and all the volunteers that shape the Trophy Cup organization. The event has earned the Short Track Race of the Year from National Speed Sport News, an award befitting the level of competition that fans have enjoyed each year.

    San Jose Speedway was the host track until closing in 1999 and the inaugural victory went to Ronnie Day. A one day format in its early years, two mains were raced and Day won the first one and started next to last as a result of his point total in the finale. His 7th place finish in the 2nd main was enough to garner the top point total for the night and the championship. The first 3 years the show featured winged 410 sprints.

    Kevin Pylant won in 1995 after running 4th in each main while the following year Brent Kaeding won his first of 4 titles in what was the last year as a 410 event and also the last year as a one day Cup. Concerns over car count prompted the change to the 360 engine and the move to a two day format allowed teams to not have to race two mains in one night.

    In 1997, drivers were in the pit area from 9 states and Mark Kinser took the treasure back to Oolitic, IN. Kinser, making his only appearance in the event, was 6th quick and won his heat and the opening night main. He backed up that performance with a 2nd in the second night’s heat and finished 2nd in the main, coming from 24th.

    Brent Kaeding won his 2nd title in 1998 despite being only 11th in points after the first night. His 2nd place finish in the final night’s main continued a trend of the champion finishing runner-up. The following year was the last for San Jose Speedway as the track closed and an era in racing concluded. Brent Kaeding was champion again, finishing the popular 2nd in the final fully inverted main after starting 18th. Terry McCarl won the Saturday main, the last race ever on San Jose’s third mile clay.

    Watsonville Speedway hosted the Cup in 2000 and Tommy Tarlton was the champion, again seeing a Cup title going to the 2nd place finisher in the final main. Tarlton started 16th as he was only 9th in points as the final 30 laps unfolded. The following year the Cup was held at Kings Speedway in Hanford and Craig Stidham won the championship, coming from 21st to 2nd in the final main. In 2002 it was Tim Kaeding winning his first Cup title, collecting the Friday main and finishing 2nd in the Saturday main, coming from 23rd. It was the 6th consecutive year that the champion finished 2nd in the final main, having to come from the back rows each year to claim the title.

    The 2003 version was one of the closest in Cup history and it was a last lap, last turn pass that made Steve Kent the champion by the slimmest of margins. Ricci Faria passed Tim Kaeding in the last turn, lessening Kaeding’s point total by five and allowing Kent to win the point battle by 2 points. Ronnie Day also came so close to winning, needing to pass only one more car for the title.

    The 2004 Cup was the last at Kings as the track closed in August the following year, at least temporarily. Ronnie Day was again so close to a title, winning the Saturday main from 18th, but coming up 5 points short of Jac Haudenschild’s total. The Ohio driver known as the Wild Child passed 34 cars over the two day span to earn the honor.

    Tulare Thunderbowl, about a 30 minute drive from Kings Speedway, took over the 2005 version on short notice after Kings shut their doors. An unusual Saturday main developed when Brent Kaeding and Mike Faria were ahead enough in points before the 40 laps started that whoever finished in front of the other would win the title. BK went from 24th to 4th, passing 5 drivers in one six lap stretch to edge Faria for his 4th title. His son, Tim, won the main on Saturday.

    The 2006 show saw Tim Kaeding win his 2nd title to total six Cup wins for the well-known racing family. TK started 19th and finished the seemingly magical 2nd in the Saturday main to capture the Cup. Then in 2007 it was Jason Meyers from nearby Clovis who won the title, finishing 3rd from 20th on Saturday to establish the 2nd largest margin of victory in the 14 years.

    In 2008 the first ever three day event drew 59 teams to Tulare and most who have seen every Cup version agree it was one of the most exciting years. Superb track conditions led to equally fantastic racing, especially for Brad Sweet. Finishing 3rd in the final night’s main event after starting 24th, Sweet collected $11,000 after edging Sammy Swindell by six points.

    In 2009 the idea of a three day winged show was dropped to help lessen expenses for teams. To control the car count, only 65 cars were allowed to enter and a flurry of entrants on the last postmark date allowed, built the field to 72. Keeping the car count to a manageable level was necessary as the fairgrounds has a state imposed curfew.

    History was made in that year when Tim Kaeding won his 3rd title and 7th for the famous racing family. The Saturday night main event winner had never come from last starting (24th). TK accomplished that feat in 2009 when he used every inch of the Thunderbowl clay to collect a thrilling main event win on the 2nd night and capture the Cup.

    In 2010 it was finally time for Jonathan Allard to enjoy victory at the Trophy Cup. Often in position to claim the title as Saturday’s main went green, problems seemed to follow Allard to deny a Cup crown. That changed in 2010 when Allard raced from 24th starting to 4th on Saturday to become the champion by a larger than usual 14 point margin.

    In 2011 Stevie Smith won the Friday main event over a 70 car field despite never racing on the Tulare Thunderbowl clay before. The second night produced a dominating main event win for Kyle Larson while the race for Cup champion reached new heights.

    A lap 48 yellow set up one of the most dramatic finishes in Cup history. Jonathan Allard was 3rd, Jac Haudenschild was 4th, and they were nose to tail on the restart as they raced each other for the title. Haudenschild passed Allard on the bottom in turn 1 of the 49th lap, Allard came back in turn 2 and they crossed the line to end lap 49 in a near tie. Had their not been one more lap, a photo finish would have settled the Cup.

    The duo entered turn 2 on the final lap side by side, Haudenschild on the top, and he used that ground to get a good push off of the turn to lead Allard down the backstretch, adding a pass on Roger Crockett to finish his final lap. Allard dropped to 4th at the line and Haudenschild had won the Cup title over Allard and Brad Sweet.

    In 2012 an 85 car field of winged sprints tested the Thunderbowl clay, and unfortunately, all too often the Thunderbowl wall. Rico Abreu won the Friday main after Roger Crockett’s lead was erased by a car flipping off the wall in front of Crockett. Jason Meyers won his 2nd Cup title on Saturday by finishing in the popular 2nd place spot, coming from 23rd to establish a larger than usual point gap after the 50 laps were scored.

    Just when Cup fans thought they had seen it all, 2013 reached new heights for drama and excitement. A 74 car field created a pair of amazing finishes in A main racing. Friday night a photo finish between Tim Kaeding and David Gravel saw Kaeding get the win despite being 6 car lengths behind Gravel as they raced into turn 3 for the final time. TK started 10th in the 30 lap main.

    As if that was not enough drama, Saturday’s main event finish was the wildest in the 20 years of Cup action. Last lap drama exceeded any prior script when Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet raced for the win with last turn contact between the pair leading to Sweet flipping and Larson slamming the turn 4 wall. Larson limped to the line in his battered ride, shedding parts along the way, as the race was allowed to finish. Larson, 23rd starting, won the main and Cup title to cap a memorable night.

    2014 was the first for the new three day format and 84 teams jammed the Thunderbowl pit area. Kyle Hirst and David Gravel were fastest Thursday qualifiers and Hirst won the C, B, and A mains on opening night. The second night saw Gravel again set fast time and Justyn Cox was fastest in the other group. A close finish in the A main showed Colby Copeland winning by a couple feet over Roger Crockett.

    Saturday preliminary events determined the top 24 point cars for the 50 lap finale and it was a record setting race. Willie Croft became the closest to the front champion in Cup history when the 6th starting veteran won the main and title. Mason Moore and Crockett trailed Croft in the final point list.

    Last year rain ended Thursday night action during qualifying and the amazing feat of running two complete Trophy Cup shows on Friday was successfully done. A 68 car field ran a Friday afternoon show leading to a big slider into turn 4 on lap 9 by Rico Abreu, allowing him to lead the last 22 laps for the win.

    The 2nd show followed track prep and included qualifying as well as the complete show. This time it was Bud Kaeding finishing one spot better than in the afternoon show to win after leading the last 14 laps. Bud then finished the event with a 4th on Saturday to become Cup champion and collect the $20,000 guaranteed prize.

    This year the format is set for 8 heat races on the first two nights with the winner and high point car making the A main. Those 16 cars will be supplemented by the top 4 finishers from a pair of B mains to create the usual 24 car field. After two preliminary nights, drivers carry their better point night into Saturday where the top 48 in points run heats for additional points.

    After Saturday heat points are added to the preliminary night total, the top 20 point cars move directly to the A main. Those 20 will be fully inverted by points with the 4 B main transfers filling the last two rows. The Saturday A main, set for 50 laps with a break, pays a total of $101,200, counting racing purse and point fund which automatically is split among the 24 A main drivers.

    The Trophy Cup organization has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation each year and every penny of entry fees is given to the cause. Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction, and other activities add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very worthy cause. With last year’s record $150,000 raised, the Trophy Cup has presented over $1,270,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The entire event is possible only through many volunteers supporting the Cup as well as the outstanding support from the host track, Tulare Thunderbowl.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Three nights of USAC/CRA racing ended a stretch of 8 races in 9 days, the only time all year that opportunity presents itself in California. Silver Dollar Speedway included USAC Western States midgets to make an enticing menu of nonwing racing on Thursday.

    Robert Dalby led 19 midgets in qualifications with a trio of heats preceding their 30-lap main. Frankie Guerrini led 16 laps until Alex Schutte used the top line of turn 4 to lead the last 14 times around the too quick quarter mile. Fifth starting Schutte pulled away while a good battle for 2nd went to Guerrini over Cory Elliott.

    Jake Swanson ran a 13.353 in qualifying to set a new USAC/CRA track record with 37 cars in the pits, the largest field in the speedweek series. What is interesting about the Chico race is some Northern based teams shed the wing for a one time a year effort, so you never know who will show up.

    The sprint main was led by Damion Gardner from the outset, but a lap 8 restart saw Gardner slow to go in turn 4, perhaps some communication issues, and Brady Bacon was the beneficiary. It took 17 laps but Gardner moved back to the front and won over Bacon and Thomas Meseraull.

    After the track the night before went rubber down in the winged main, Thursday was the other direction, too tacky all night. The USAC/CRA cars had no way to “back it in” while entering the turns, making it somewhat disappointing for someone like me who was looking forward to some sliders.

    Exceptional race directing led to a finish a bit past 9:30 as USAC officials were on top of their game. The 2nd night followed that pattern but night three showed a much less efficient show, but none of the lack of time awareness was due to USAC officials. USAC did their job right on night 3 but the track personnel dropped the ball.

    Watsonville was nearly 30 degrees cooler and Ocean Speedway had a nearly perfect show. A 26-car USAC/CRA field was accompanied by 48 track division cars in four divisions. Track personnel and USAC officials were on the same page and another 9:30 finish was the result.

    Gardner was quickest at 12.555 on the quarter and a trio of heats plus a B main moved along well. Track division mains ran smoothly with NO post race interviews. At every opportunity the track was manicured without causing any delay, and a great surface for the main event was the result.

    Ryan Bernal led until Gardner threw a lap 4, turn 2 slider at the leader to take over. The pair continued the duel until Bernal got sideways a bit on the backside during lap 16 to allow Meseraull to move into 2nd.

    As the laps wound down, Meseraull closed on Gardner with the top 3 running nose to tail with 5 laps remaining. Meseraull waited until the final turn to squeeze under Gardner on the bottom of turn 4 to edge Gardner at the line with Chad Boespflug in 3rd. It was a dynamic race to cap an excellent night of racing.

    The 3rd and final night speedweek and me was at Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford. My first visit to the 3/8 this year started well but went south when main events started.

    Another 26-car USAC/CRA field meant about 20 teams made every race over the 8-day series. Jake Swanson was again fast time, a 15.548 lap on the racy oval. Just at in Watsonville, three heats and a B main set the field for the final 30 laps of the speedweek.

    Turns 1 and 2 turned into a bottom line preference for most of the field while the other end offered a top and bottom groove. Soon after the initial green the top line through 3 and 4 became the longer but faster way and Brady Bacon used that path to lead all the way for a win.

    Bernal was again the chaser and a couple times drew alongside Bacon in turn 3, but Bernal’s bottom line was not as quick at Bacon’s cushion running effort. Bernal finished 2nd to Bacon with Richard Vander Weerd in 3rd. Gardner was named speedweek champion.

    The USAC/CRA main was full of flags, leading to a fuel stop with 6 left, but partly caused by the track’s slowness at removing a car. USAC uses a 45-minute window for fuel stops, not a set number of laps.

    IMCA Racesaver 305 sprints were one of three support divisions with a 20-car field showing how the division is strong in the Central Valley. Starting with 6 cars a couple years ago, the potential of 30+ cars is there according to Blake Robertson. Enjoying a few minutes talking with Robertson, we are in agreement that Eagle Raceway in Nebraska is an excellent track.

    The recently completed Racesaver Nationals at Eagle drew the largest field of any type of sprint car in the country this year and Blake finished 2nd in the final main on day 3. However, his success locally shows what I believe is a significant problem with the division.

    Robertson wins every Racesaver main event I see, and starting 12th in Hanford due to the IMCA point inversion was a minor delay to becoming the leader. In turn 2 of lap 3 Robertson took the lead on the high side and went on to win again. A good race among 3 cars for 2nd occurred well behind Blake’s ride. He has a good car and is a very talented driver but having a variety of main event winners is better for any division.

    Single digit turnouts mini stocks and IMCA stock cars kept their races quickly finished but their overly long post race interviews took as long as the main event. The Racesaver main ended at 10:09, USAC was all staged and was ready to go already for some time, but a 15 minutes interview session was still considered proper despite the approaching state mandated 11 pm curfew.

    Three track divisions, the same number of long interview sessions, and nearly 45 minutes was consumed. The USAC main was allowed to finish past curfew but it was all so unnecessary.

    Placerville Speedway has released details for the mid-October two day for winged 360s. Friday will be $3000 to win and the final night is $7000. Friday is Trophy Cup like with points for qualifying and heat finishes. Top 16 in points go to the A and the top 8 among them will compete for starting spots in the first four rows. It seems a car will be at each end of the track and race against the clock in a progressive deal.

    Saturday lines heats up by Friday points so a Saturday only car can still play. Two heats for all will be straight up by points the first round, then inverted fully for round two. Both heats combined generate points to determine main event lineups.

    With dwarf cars both nights and spec sprints Friday only it will potentially be an overly packed pit area necessitating officials be on their A game. I bet there will not be any long interview sessions delaying the next race!!!

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA… The first half of a six race week has concluded with three good nights of action showcasing 8 racing divisions. It started at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds on Sunday at Delta Speedway, the seventh mile oval that presented 4 divisions of micro sprints.

    The junior sprints are for the young set while restricted, nonwing, and super 600 classes offer drivers from early teens to early senior citizen. With Washington state providing some teams as well as Oregon, the pits were will filled with 89 cars.

    As the evening progressed, the track got better and my favorite class, the nonwing micros, had an excellent main. The show was well done but some unavoidable delays added minutes to the evening. Fourteen junior sprints showed with the other three divisions having 20+, creating some B mains.

    Tyler Smith captured a win in a close finish in nonwing while Brandon Carey controlled the super 600 main. Restricted racing showed Nicholas Panella taking the win while Dylan Bloomfield took the completive junior sprint main.

    More visits to Delta this year than usual have led to the place growing on me as the small oval always means action somewhere. The track offers regular shows on September 17 and October 8 before the two day season ending event on October 28 and 29. The two day drew over 130 micro sprints last year.

    Monday was the long awaited USAC/CRA show at Petaluma Speedway, the track that I really have to want to attend to make the traffic fight to get there acceptable. This time route altering along the way with the help of real time traffic updates made the drive tolerable, made up for by a personal track record drive home on the more direct route.

    With 30 USAC/CRA sprints plus 20 nonwing micro sprints and 13 super stocks the numbers were just right for a timely show. A 10 pm finish was fine, but that was made later by some fence repairs following sprint car miscues.

    At least half a dozen 360s were in the field but they certainly did not dilute the show. In fact a 360 (Jason McIntosh) was 7th quick following qualifications and Terry Schank Jr. was 14th to more than hold up the smaller engine group. Chase Johnson, normally a winged racer, caught people’s attention with his quick time at 13.885. It was nice seeing something other than invert 4 heats, one of which was won by Steve Sussex is a car that was announced as having a 360.

    The 30 lap main had Chad Boespflug and Logan Williams on the front row, a spot Boespflug used to lead initially before 3rd starting Geoff Ensign used a low turn 4 move to take over. Ensign built up a lead and thoughts of a local driver winning seemed very possible. Damion Gardner had other ideas and the 8th starting veteran worked his way forward and finished the climb on lap 19. Racing down the back side in the lower groove, Gardner drove past Ensign and led the rest for the win. Ensign and Boespflug completed the podium while Kelvin Lewis won the 600 main.

    Last night the first of four nights that comprise the Gold Cup drew 52 winged 360s and 16 nonwing spec sprints to Silver Dollar Speedway. Some heat race reds threatened to create a marathon program, but between efficient event organization and fewer flags a 10:50 finish followed.

    The show of the night, and unexpected it was, came in the spec sprint 25 lap main. With track conditions being just right, the best ever spec sprint main I have seen finished with a pass about 100 feet from the line.

    Nick DeCarlo led before he dueled with Klint Simpson for many laps, trading the lead multiple times include 3 times in 3 laps as the end neared. While it certainly figured one of the pair would emerge with the win, exiting turn 4 on the final lap Josh Vieira drove past Simpson on the outside, leading the last 100 feet for the win. Moving from 4th to the win in 4 laps, Vieira helped create the excellent main.

    The winged 360s ran their 30 lap track on a rubbered surface that made for a snoozer except for one thing. Would Mitchell Faccinto’s right rear make it all the way? It did and I believe a first time ever event occurred as a result.

    Faccinto, son of former sprint car driver Monte, had a remarkable night. He set a track record in qualifying, a 11.419, won his heat, then the dash, and completed the amazing effort with the main event win.

    The drama mostly was would his right rear fail. Tires were starting to go and it seemed as if Faccinto was smoking the RR more in turn 4 than was Kyle Hirst in 2nd place. The tire made it and Hirst along with Shane Golobic filled the podium.

    What a week for Monte Faccinto. His older son Michael wins a big dollar USAC midget race and a few days later Mitchell has his record night at Silver Dollar.

    The next three nights are much anticipated as it will be three nights of USAC/CRA racing for me, Chico tonight then Watsonville followed by Hanford. Temperature forecasts for the 3 days are 95, 70, and 98. Sounds like a two-wardrobe series.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Last Friday Chico ran their final point show, leaving next week’s four day Gold Cup and the two day Pacific Sprint Nationals on Sept. 30/Oct. 1 to close their season. Six nights of special event racing will offer every open wheel division with winged and nonwinged 360s, winged and nonwinged 410s, plus USAC midgets, also sans wing. Unlike the season opening races in March, there should be zero chance of rain for the season closing events.

    Sean Becker led the winged 410 final point main, partly due to moving from inside row 2 to the pole following a jump call on D. J. Netto in his 3C debut. Becker led 14 laps before Bud Kaeding drove under the leader in turn 4 to lead the last 11 for the win. Kyle Hirst used a last lap pass for 2nd and Becker completed the podium.

    The ten point shows for winged 410s showed Becker finishing top 5 every night with 3 wins topping the pont standings. Andy Forsberg was 2nd in points with a win and 7 top five nights while Mason Moore in 3rd had a win and 4 top five evenings.

    The nonwing spec sprints ran their final point race with a more dramatic evening than the 410s. Incoming point leader Terry Schank Jr. had a piston fail in his heat race despite being the 2nd night after a rebuild. That left him in the pits come main event time and 2nd place in points Angelique Bell needed to finish 3rd to take the title, and she did.

    Becoming the first woman sprint car champion at Silver Dollar, she held 3rd over the last 7 laps to claim the title. Schank finished one point behind and final race winner, Jeremy Wilson, was just 7 behind Bell. Schank won four of nine point races and would have won the title if he could have somehow taken the green and immediately dropped out. Cars must take the green to earn main event points.

    Garth Moore had an owner’s championship at Chico previously when that year’s driver champion, Sean Becker, did so driving more than one car. That left the owner title in Moore’s hands. His son, Mason, evened the score on Saturday with his first track title in Placerville to cap his fine season at the foothill high-banked quarter.

    Moore won the title by a significant margin over Greg DeCaires while 14 year old Michael “Buddy” Kofoid finished 3rd. Many time track champion, Andy Forsberg, is now a Petaluma regular as key sponsorship comes from that area. Forsberg redrew the front row for the 25-lap point season closer and proceeded to dominate the field, making it two in a row in Placerville for the Auburn veteran.

    Another excellent track surface showed how well promoter Scott Russell has refined his track prep skills. Admitting it was a steep uphill climb to learn the technique, it has become a series of well-prepared tracks over the latter part of the season. Along with Kami Arnold, the first time promotional duo has Placerville Speedway running smoothly, successfully handling the daunting task of running a race track in their rookie season.

    Placerville is off until the September 24th when an enticing pair of divisions is next on the clay. King of the West 410s is accompanied by BCRA midgets, one of my favorite combinations. The last BCRA race was a good one, especially for Matt Streeter who collected the win on August 20.

    The track also has the first two-day show in my history of attending the hillside oval. Mid-October is a two night winged 360 race that is shaping up to be something special. The following weekend is the Trophy Cup in Tulare, also for winged 360s, creating back-to-back special events for the division.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…It has been a week since we lost Bryan Clauson. In that time the scope of what Bryan meant to so many people has become clear. The times I spoke with him he was always a true gentleman. For years every time I go to a “fendered” race night I think of the late Gary Jacob, the most dedicated racing journalist I have ever known. Now every time it is an open wheel night, Bryan will be on my mind. Both of those men will never be forgotten.

    The recently completed Knoxville 360 Nationals had 93 cars on hand, racing for a purse of $101,340 for the three days combined. The upcoming Trophy Cup, also for winged 360s, has a three-day total purse of $162,095. It will be 3 or 4 thousand more when all is paid since the Cup champion is guaranteed $20,000. This means if the champion does not earn the 20 from the purse, additional money is paid to reach the 20 mark.

    The Saturday main event at the Trophy Cup this year will pay $101,200. That includes the point fund because to earn part of the point fund a driver must make the Saturday A main. That is one 50-lap race paying just $140 less than the entire 360 Nationals. Drivers do race all 3 nights of the Cup while the 360 Nationals they just race two nights. But the extra $60,000 plus paid does help with the additional night drivers race.

    So why does the 360 Nationals draw nearly 50% more cars based on current entry level for this year’s Cup? Geography may play a big part since Knoxville may have far more 360 sprints within a given radius than does Tulare. But that was not a hindrance in the past when 80+ cars showed up in Tulare for the event.

    One factor that has an increasing effect is the loss of drivers to events east of California. The list of names who will not be at this year’s Trophy Cup due to commitments at other races are all A main drivers, and also very popular with the crowd. California is losing drivers at an increased pace to race elsewhere in the open wheel world, and now I see it trickling down to modifieds also. It seemed strange to see an IMCA modified main event at Algona, Iowa last month and the top 2 finishing cars were from California.

    But even the loss of talent to other series and locales does not fully explain the shrinking entry level for the Trophy Cup. Other drivers take their place as first time entrants to some degree. Based on what drivers are saying who have not entered this year yet ran the event for years, the reason for the entry level being where it is can be placed on the track design.

    There is no question, Tulare is the toughest track to race in the state. Fully walled, the 3/8 oval has become the most unforgiving oval drivers see all year in the Golden State. That fact results from one characteristic of the oval, the fastest line around Tulare Thunderbowl, sooner or later every night, is up against the wall. That leaves zero room for driver error and the tiniest of mistakes means flipping off of the wall. Former Trophy Cup entrants who are not as of yet in the 2016 field say the same thing, the track has become too expensive to run.

    One trait of the Trophy Cup over the years is always looking for ways to make the event better. This has been shown by format changes to improve the show and, with the addition of a 3rd day, gives drivers a better chance of making the Saturday A main. After the two preliminary nights, drivers use their better of the two point totals for Saturday.

    If it changed back to two nights, then a flat at the wrong time can mean a driver has just lost their chance at making the A main Saturday. Paying a minimum of $2050 for last place in the final night A main, that figure equals or exceeds the first place pay for many 360 mains.

    Plus, drivers are not saying it is the expense of a three-day event that is the issue, it is the track. Now the good news, the Tulare Thunderbowl will be significantly different when the 23rd annual Trophy Cup takes place this October. The berms at each end of the track will be moved in 15 feet, changing the track width from 60 to 75 feet.

    What this is expected to do is dramatically decrease the “parts consumption” by moving the top line well away from the wall while creating an all new lower line opportunity. I recently spoke with the 2014 Cup champion, Willie Croft, as to how to improve the Trophy Cup. His answer, echoed by others, was to move in the berm. He would have been happy with a car width, but he is getting a lot more than he hoped for.

    If the expectations are met with this year’s event, that is better racing and less accidents with the much wider track, then maybe some of the teams that don’t want to run the wall in Tulare will find out it is no longer the best way around the Thunderbowl. Putting the event back on their schedule may follow.

    Last Friday was my 3rd visit to Ocean Speedway in 9 years. I have a good excuse, Silver Dollar Speedway also races on Friday and it is 256 miles less driving round trip. With Silver Dollar idle and Ocean running USAC West Coast 360 sprints, it was an excellent time for the long drive.

    Later this month the tracks biggest winged 360 race will be held with the Johnny Key Classic on the 20th. In 2011 it was the Key race at Ocean where Bryan Clauson made his winged sprint debut. My last time at Ocean was August 2014 also for the USAC West Coast races and two years later the organization put on an excellent show.

    Ocean Speedway has withstood noise complaints from not that nearby houses and has become the quietest dirt track in the state. A very strict muffler rule along with an equally strict 10pm curfew matches what All American Speedway in Roseville has for procedures. The difference is, AAS is in a housing area while Ocean is out in the country.

    Four support divisions did their thing with efficiency and some good racing included. Track tune-ups occurred every opportunity so when the just past 9 pm green waved for the 16-car USAC field I had hope for an early finish before my long drive home.

    A fast, smooth track led to some hectic racing among the field with Ryan Timmons leading 8 laps before contact with a challenging Geoff Ensign put Timmons into the back stretch fence. This was the only flag needed before the white and checkers.

    Ensign led on the restart and established a substantial lead at times, but the nonstop nature of the last 25 laps meant traffic and Jace Vander Weerd caught up with the Sebastopol driver. On lap 29 Ensign proved again how being 2nd is sometimes the better option. He was blocked just for an instant when lapping a car and Vander Weerd sped past on the outside coming out of turn 2. Jace led the last five laps for the win over Ensign and Steve Sussex.

    Ocean Speedway hosts the bigger engines of the USAC/CRA teams on September 9. That one just might require another 256 additional miles to watch the USAC/CRA teams on their version of Speedweek. Ocean Speedway is located on what I feel is the best maintained fairgrounds in the state.

    Since returning from the Midwest trip, four Saturdays have been spent at Placerville Speedway. Each night the track has been excellent with racing to match. First year promoter Scott Russell has learned the tricky techniques of track prep at the foothill quarter mile, and good shows are the result.

    Placerville was the early race track home for Bryan Clauson. When just a young lad he would frequent the facility as his father, Tim, was a regular competitor in the sprint division. Living in San Jose during that time my Saturdays were spent at San Jose Speedway and Placerville was a place I may have seen twice until 2002.

    Last Saturday was the annual bike night with many young fans getting a chance to ride all or part of the oval. No 4th division was on the menu to allow the extra time needed at the break for the bike deal. The pure stock and limited late model part of the evening was better than usual and yellows were much less than usual. The sprints went last as always and put an exclamation mark on the evening.

    A 17 car field included plenty of strong entries, one of which is Mason Moore. He won the July 23rd main when he raced from 4th to the lead in 4 laps. This time he led 8 laps before Andy Forsberg used the top of the back stretch plus some of the adjacent hill to take the lead from 6th starting.

    A trio of yellows made for the always interesting double file restarts but Forsberg held off Moore and later Sean Becker for the win. The last restart with 5 to go saw some of Forsberg’s creative driving. Choosing the outside line, he drove up to the cushion approaching turn 4 then blasted off of the cushion to establish a decent lead which worked for his win over Becker and Moore.

    Placerville races the next two Saturdays, then only once in September before the two-day finale in October.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…A recent Midwest trip resulted in success every race night with 18 races in 20 days, lacking any reasonably reachable event on two Mondays. Rain caused two change of venues, but at least there was somewhere to go close enough to make the change of plans.

    Modified racing is so good in our visited states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Nebraska and offer events relatively close together. That makes the division the focus of the trip with some sprint car action included when convenient. Two nights featuring sprint cars were part of the experience, and both were special in their own way.

    In 2014 I was at the then labeled Jackson Speedway twice, once for the rescheduled Folkens Brothers Trucking special and again for a regular show. It was certainly a decent facility and raced Saturdays with sprints and IMCA divisions.

    Jackson Motorplex

    I knew the Minnesota track had undergone some remodeling, but it was a shock, in a good way, to see the now labeled Jackson Motorplex. Only the concession stand remains from the original track, and I was told that will be replaced after this season.

    Everything else is new as huge grandstands with backrest allow a great view of the half-mile, despite the pits being in the infield. That location is to change eventually to outside turn 1. A wall now encloses the backstretch with a several thousand pound, or so I was told, gate that serves as the infield entrance.

    I knew the Friday night sprint shows car count was not large, but the 11 nonwing sprints, the same number of 305s, and 16 of the headline 360s was less than hoped for. This is a big track, maybe too big which I have heard may be adjusted after this season. Racing was not particularly good this particular night, but I did not care as it was special just to attend a race at what is now a showplace.

    Thousands of excellent seating options at Jackson

    Heading west the next day, the choice was another track that runs sprints, this time 305s at Eagle Raceway, just east of Eagle NE. This was my 4th or 5th time at Eagle and every visit has been very good racing except this time. This time the show did not get a rating of very good because it was outstanding! Simply put, it was one of, if not the best weekly show I have ever seen.

    Eagle does everything right, including the best flagging I have ever seen. The yellow is thrown only if absolutely necessary as opposed to some tracks that seem to go yellow every chance they get. Car count is excellent with the 139 total for five divisions ranging from 24 to 33.

    That called for 17 heats, 5 B mains, and 5 A mains in a show that was so well run that even with a 15-minute intermission, it took just 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. They started 4 minutes early at 6:26 and were done at 9:41 after 27 races.

    At the driver meeting it was mentioned that if any A main goes nonstop, “everyone gets in free” from that race. I assume that means the following week, and it was also mentioned that it had happened about 12 times this season. That score went up to 15 the night I was there.

    Five divisions running full field mains and five yellows total! The sport compacts would have made it 4 of 5 with an all green race except a car that pulled off of the track did not get far enough into the infield. And it was not just such super efficient mains, it was also great racing.

    Every main had a flock of drivers racing for the lead for the first bunch of laps before the contending group slimmed to 2 or 3. Even the IMCA modifieds were throwing sliders on the very racy high-banked third mile.

    Ending the night with a non-stop main, the 305s put on a very good show. Joey Danley used a perfect slider to take the lead in turn 4 of the 10th lap, but Stu Snyder had an answer for that with a late race low turn 4 pass to win. Having seen Eagle’s weekly show when they ran 360s and now the 305 show twice, the IMCA sprints can put on just as good a show.

    Eagle had a huge crowd as it was $5 admission night and, with the busy concession business, they may have done as well as a full-price night. With satellite concession areas they handled the throng’s food needs in a timely fashion.

    If I decide to do this many mile travel thing next year, at least one visit to Eagle is certain to be part of the itinerary.

    Back in the Golden State a return to Placerville Speedway for the first time in July came at a good time as BCRA midgets were part of the menu. Their 18 car field offered a trio of heats and decent main although Alex Shutte was dominant once he took over on lap 8, coming from 7th starting.

    The sprints drew 18 cars and had one of the best Placerville mains in a very long time. The track was excellent, contributing to the multi-line racing. Greg DeCaires started 3rd but was the first to use the bottom of turn two launching pad to lead six laps before Andy Gregg used the same clay to grab the lead.

    Gregg was in control until Mason Moore completed a thrilling run from 5th to the lead in just four laps, using the bottom of turn two successfully before finishing the drive with a low turn 4 pass for the lead.

    Moore led the last 6 laps for the win over Sean Becker and Gregg with position battles among the top 4 drivers very intense.

    This weekend with our heat wave continuing (108 today), my first race at Chico since June will precede another night at Placerville, this time a King of the West race.

     

     

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Just four months from now the 23rd version of the Trophy Cup will take place at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Again some adjustments have been made as the format of the event is something that evolves as changes become necessary.

    All procedures remain the same as last year except for the ones detailed here. The first two nights will offer 8 heat races instead of the prior 10, a change necessary to have full fields for heats. A main direct transfers will still be the heat winners plus the highest point car from each heat.

    Heats will provide 16 main event cars with an additional 8 coming from a pair of B mains. The top 40 point cars not earning a main event spot after heats will be assigned to an invert six B main with the point car in position 1, 3, 5, etc. going to B main one and the evens to the other. Four C mains transfers, two to each B, will create a 22-car field with six inverted by points.

    Four B main transfers from each, 8 total, earn no B main points but get their point total from heat racing back for the invert 12 by points A main. B main transfers could become part of the top 12 inversion. This format is used both Thursday and Friday before the final night during which the top 48 in points run heats with a series of main events capping the night.

    The purse this year, combining racing payout and point fund payout, totals $162,095. As of June 22, the following list has the currently entered drivers.

    Bud Kaeding, Dominic Scelzi, Geoff Ensign, Justyn Cox, Ken Fredenberg, Ryan Bernal, Bradley Terrell, Willie Croft, Giovanni Scelzi, Colton Hardy, Jason Statler, Mason Moore, Jeremy Chism

    Pat Harvey, Steven Tiner, Craig Stidham, Matthew Moles, Shane Golobic, Justin Sanders, Koen Shaw, Kyler Shaw, Jonathan Allard, Cody Lamar, D. J. Netto, Tommy Laliberte

    Brock Lemley, Luca Romanazzi, Cory Eliason, Scott Parker, Luke Didiuk, Devin Madonia, Mike Faria, Danny Faria Jr., Andy Gregg, Matt Peterson, D. J. Freitas, Jace Vander Weerd, Richard Vander Weerd

    Landon Hurst, Jake Morgan, Jason Myers, Trent Canales, Blake Robertson plus there are eight additional cars entered without a driver listed

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

     

    Springfield, Oregon…Last weekend’s racing at Silver Dollar and Placerville Speedways offered a six-division night in Chico and the next chapter in the Civil War series at Placerville.  A 15-car field tested the high-banked quarter in Chico and 32 cars showed for the Civil War show.  Both nights had dominating performances by an outside row 1 starting driver.

     

                Chico finally ran the sprint main after five often long mains for support divisions preceded the 25 lap 410 winged finale.  Mason Moore led initially before Sean Becker took over with a high line effort earning him a lap 5 pass for the lead and eventual win over Andy Forsberg and Jonathan Allard.  Action was good on a racy track to partially justify the long wait for the sprints.

     

                The Civil War series always draws a strong field of winged 360s and with no KWS race, some of their regulars were able to join in the fun.  A big crowd is about a certain for a CW race and Placerville continued that trend.  The common format of invert 4, take 4 heats with winners and fastest 4 creating the 8 car dash was in play.

     

                Steven Tiner ran 2nd in the dash and used the outside front row starting spot to lead all 30 laps.  By the time ten laps were scored, it was obvious only misfortune was going to keep Tiner from the podium top spot as he was dominant while circling the foothill quarter mile.

     

                Very good action behind him continued all race long as Andy Forsberg, Greg DeCaires, Mason Moore, and Colby Copeland battled for podium finishes.  A lap 27 pass by Moore for 3rd settled the matter and it was Tiner, DeCaires, and Moore on the podium at night’s end.

     

                Last weekend stretched my level of patience when Chico ran six divisions with the sprints the final main to run.  Now I fully understand and support the need for multiple divisions to help pay the bills.  What I do not understand is making the crowd wait until the last race to see the marquee division race their main.

     

                There is absolutely no doubt in my mind than the sprints are what draw the fans in Chico.  When the track has more than 4 divisions, which is most of the time, the sprints should race no later than 4th in the main even order.  Last Friday as well as the prior week when there were 5 divisions I see people leave before the final main.

     

     It is the end of a work week, people get tired, and I find it impossible to believe that those leaving early did not care to see the sprint main.  I do believe they got tired of waiting through all the fender class mains.  Will they not return for another race, thinking the top division will require sitting through too many preliminary mains?  It was around 2 hours last Friday from the time the first main came on the track until the sprints had their turn.

     

    That leads to complain number 2.  Support division mains should have a time limit that is enforced.  A 30+ minute support division main ruins the flow of the evening.  My first visit to Luxemburg, WI I saw the neatest idea in place.  In the mains, after the 3rd yellow, any further yellow saw 2 laps subtracted from the main event.  That creates peer pressure to keep going and not create time consuming yellows as well as causing lost laps from the main even total.

     

    My last time at Eagle Raceway the final evening’s main was for 305 sprints.  They had some yellows and were checkered with around 7 laps left, just when it was getting really good.  Their time limit was reached and, even although it was not yet 10:30 pm, that was it.  At first it was frustrating, but when I realized the track’s policy also avoids some seemingly never ending support division main, than it was all good.

     

    Eagle Raceway realizes it is an entertainment business.  They also realize there is nothing entertaining about a drawn out support division main.

     

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Northern California racing on Memorial Day weekend is centered on a pair of Civil War events for winged 360s. For several years, the holiday weekend’s Saturday is a CW race at Marysville while the next night is less than an hour north in Chico.

    This year the CW duo was presented on two distinctly different race surfaces, and except for a flat right rear in Marysville, would potentially had the distinctly same winner each night. Cory Eliason led 2/3 of Marysville before a valve stem failure ended that bid for a nice check, and the next night in Chico there was no flat and no disappointment as he collected the win.

    Marysville had a 39-car field and large crowd for their first of two CW nights the year. The format is four heats, moving the top 4 to the A main with the heat winners and fastest four others making up the dash field. Eliason drew the dash pole and blasted to that win, again getting the pole for the main. Eliason was so fast in the dash that labeling him the main event best bet took little calculation.

    Kingsburg, CA driver Eliason led with Bradley Terrell in pursuit until Andy Forsberg used a low line to take over 2nd. Eliason was electric as he sped around and between lapped cars only to suffer the tire failure when victory seemed assured even with ten laps remaining.

    Forsberg has lost his share of wins due to various misfortunes, but Saturday it was his turn to win one after the Eliason bad break. Forsberg led the final ten with Shane Golobic closing until a near tip in turn 2 on the next to last lap. Recovering from that saved a 2nd for Golobic but erased the potential of a down to the wire battle. Jonathan Allard ran 3rd the last 10 laps to complete the podium.

    Sunday at Chico is not only the traditional CW race but also the county fair shares the fairgrounds. Fans get into the fair for $10 and the race is free, guaranteeing a big crowd, many of who are not usually at a dirt track. Announcer Troy Hennig does an excellent job of informing the novice fans as to the finer points of sprint car racing, and the officiating crew did a top-notch job, leading to a 9:40 finish.

    A 51 car field made for the first ever CW two group qualifying plan, something I did not even know was in the rules. Officials wisely ran a pair of C mains instead on one large one with just the winner tagging the B. The heats were either excellent or lousy, depending upon whose opinion you accepted. I say excellent.

    The track for heat racing was dry, slick and a bit dusty and made for the best Chico heats in a very long time. The invert four take four scenario often sees little passing on a fast track with the attention centered on who wins and gets a dash invite. The Chico heats saw six drivers behind the inversion making a top 4 with passing galore dominating the ten lap heats. Yes, too many yellows and reds from the slicker track, but worth the downtime to see all that passing and great battles for top 4 spots.

    The unfortunate likelihood of having this racy heat track is that a rubbered quarter mile is almost certain to show during main event time. It was around the halfway mark when the track changed to more of a one groove thing, but it was still very good while it lasted. Hoping for a dry, slick passing frenzy in heats and main is just unrealistic.

    Eliason again drew the dash pole from the 8 car field, a good omen for the Harly Van Dyke 5H car, and he had no problems on the way to the dash win. Forsberg redrew 6th starting but was 2nd after one lap until Allard drove by on the front stretch on lap 4. After 12 laps Allard slid off of turn 2 following slight contact while lapping a car and Forsberg had 2nd again.

    Forsberg was closing after 18 laps to pressure Eliason, but following a yellow a lap later, Eliason drew away from his Auburn based competition to win over Forsberg and Mason Moore, having another fine run in the X1.

    In less than a month, Eliason will depart for an extended racing venture in the Midwest, driving the 5H Van Dyke entry in both 360 and 410 events.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…When the yearly release of track schedules occurs, certain races are labeled as must do, and May 14 was one of those nights. Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare had a very full menu with King of the West winged 410s, USAC West Coast 360s, winged 305s, and the first event in the All Star Modified tour since the first ones were rained out.

    I figured this one would go well past curfew, but it was a mere five minutes of overtime, brought about by three factors. The officiating crew did a top notch job, starting early and having all preliminary races done by 8:30. Race teams were very reliable at being ready on time, and the prelims went very smoothly with no reds or significant yellows.

    Main events were not as smooth and the 305s were the worst, getting in only 12 laps before consuming their allotted time. Those dozen times around the racy 3/8 mile were still entertaining, the modifieds had a last lap, last turn pass for the win, USAC ran some multi-car leader battles, and Rico Abreu made certain the KWS main left nobody disappointed.

    The pits looked like it was Trophy Cup time with haulers everywhere. The 87 total entrants included 23 KWS, 17 USAC, a new record 20 of 305 sprints, and a very strong 27 car field of IMCA modifieds. Those numbers were a good thing as only the mods needed a B main, a time saving convenience.

    Austin Liggett, a 2nd year student at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock, led all 30 laps from his outside front row start, but Trey Marcham and Brody Roa pressured him plenty to keep the tension level high. Those three filled the podium, a spot where Liggett accepted the huge trophy and other accolades.

    My notes show only one yellow, another break towards avoiding a late night. Liggett is a nonwing spec sprint graduate and has a few wing 360 nights in his diary. With both he and his father being very busy this year, putting together a winged car for 2016 may be long delayed.

    The IMCA modified main was next and five yellows drew things out a bit, but the last gasp pass by Troy Foulger for the win was a reward for not getting cut short on time. Bobby Hogge IV looked as if he had it won when his huge smoke display with 11 laps left altered those plans. It was an outstanding opener for the new tour, one that will be very difficult to match.

    The 305 sprints have gone from ten or so to double that number in a year but their main ran out of time after several found out how treacherous the Thunderbowl walls are when one runs the fast groove. Sooner or later, the fast way around the place becomes next to the wall where little or no margin for error exists.

    The 305 class is a mixture of veterans and newer to the sport types. If 20 cars becomes the norm, I could see the need for some sort of skill levels, maybe 6 or so run a 15 lap main from the lesser skilled group, and the rest run together in their main. Having a significant difference is speed among the group as it is now is neither safe nor fun to watch.

    Reds on the first start, after one lap and again as lap 13 was trying to end spelled the end at a dozen laps scored and another win for Blake Robertson. Unlike the times I have seen him win in the past, he had to work hard for this one, taking over on lap 9 with an outside pass in turn 4.

    This was, by far, the best 305 race I have seen in California, making me recall the ones I have seen in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. The front part of the pack put on a good show and raced with the experienced Robertson. Matt DeMartini and Albert Pombo joined Robertson on the podium.

    The finale was a 30 lap KWS race with two yellows and a like number of reds leading to a fuel stop with nine left. The final red was a particularly disappointing one, it was a Rico Abreu flip off of the turn 4 wall after a huge slider went bad. It was not a real hard wall bang, but enough to bounce off and flip. We will never know it his slider would have gotten him the lead, or if the nearly race long leader, Willie Croft, would have successfully driven under the coast to coast racer to continue leading. Abreu was an unexpected entrant after racing in Delaware Friday.

    The final 9 post-Abreu departure laps were less thrilling and Croft continued his strong season with the win over Colby Copeland and Shane Golobic. Croft, Abreu, and Copeland put on a show with some great laps before the lap 21 mishap. Abreu had the crowd excited with his wall running and slider efforts, making it all the harder to accept not having him in the Trophy Cup field this year.

    Not counting Trophy Cup shows, which are in a class all their own, this may well have been the best night of racing I have ever enjoyed at Tulare Thunderbowl. It sure made the effort of traveling 500 miles to see a race worthwhile. Officials were certainly on their game and, for the most part, racers were also.

    Thunderbowl’s next event is not until July 22/23 when the Peter Murphy Classic will become a two-day show. Talking with Peter on Saturday about the changes in format revealed some interesting things in the works, but nothing is set as of now.

     

     

    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…A recent conversation with Rico Abreu showed how confused the situation is regarding Winter Heat at Cocopah Speedway in Yuma, AZ. Rico had called the hotel across the street from the track to make reservations for Winter Heat and was told the event will not be happening. That is not necessarily correct.

    The track, casino, hotel, entertainment center (Cocopah Wild), and convenience store are all owned and therefore controlled by the Cocopah Indian Tribe. Decisions are made by a Tribal Council and there has been no decision yet as to the future of Winter Heat.

    Earlier this year when track manager Greg Burgess left for an opportunity to serve in the same capacity at the half-mile in Longdale, OK, the future of Winter Heat became unknown. The 2016/17 dates had already been released, but things changed when the track lost Burgess.

    Under the leadership of Washington state transplant Burgess, the track had been upgraded with a menu of significant improvements that made it one of the top facilities in the western United States. It was also Burgess whose leadership led to the creation of Winter Heat.

    While it was the foresight and effort of Burgess that saw Cocopah’s growth, it was only possible because the Cocopah Indian Tribe was willing to sign the checks. It appears as the loss of the valuable Burgess has led to Winter Heat having its current uncertain status.

    But one thing is clear, there has been no decision yet if a year three of Winter Heat will happen or not. The hotel person telling Rico wrong information shows the communication problems between the different entities. The track states when a permanent track manager is hired, the new manager and Tribal Council will make a decision as to if and when.

    While it is great that California’s series of drought years ended with the 2015-16 winter, it is time for summer which means the end of rain. It seems as if every other weekend is rainy and the first weekend of May followed that trend. Cancellations saw all three Friday options in the state again not race, and a bunch of Saturday tracks followed.

    Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico has lost four out of ten race nights, a very poor batting average for a California track. Placerville Speedway has only lost one race and that is unexpected due to its foothill location which breeds rainstorms. The Thursday/Friday rain schedule has helped Placerville get its Saturday shows in.

    May 7 was an example of the new promotion team of Scott Russell and Kami Arnold refusing to let rain spoil another party at the foothill quarter mile. A very wet track took a while to widen, but it turned out to be an excellent night of racing. Footing in the pit area was sloppy at best in many areas, but the commitment of Scott and Kami to run this race should be appreciated by racers and fans.

    The 23 car field of winged 360s was bolstered by the King of the West cancellation at Petaluma Speedway, and drivers who would not have been in Placerville if Petaluma raced eventually dominated the podium.

    Andy Forsberg drew the pole, had Sean Becker alongside, and the 25 lap main was fast and messy. With eleven laps scored, the lap count was at 89 so a fuel stop was looming. When the final 14 luckily went nonstop, the time out was not needed and Forsberg had the $2000 win over Becker and Dominic Scelzi.

    Forsberg was on his way to Petaluma, although only a few miles from the Lincoln home of his 7C ride, when the cancellation news arrived. It was back to Lincoln for an engine change and a return to the track at which he has been so successful.

    Next weekend the weather forecast is dry and warmer, so all tracks in the Golden State can be in action. With the wet winter and spring, it is really the Green State.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Rico Abreu will not race in California again until September. This may qualify as good news for all of the other Northern California sprint car teams after his sweep last weekend.

    Friday at Chico in a 410 and Saturday in Placerville with a 360 in charge, Abreu led all 25 laps each night after defying some odds and redrawing the front row twice. It is a one of out of sixteen probability to draw the front two times when an eight-car redraw is done. Of course, he might have won no matter which row he started, but it would have certainly been more difficult.

    Chico drew 21 sprints plus another 41 cars is a quartet of support divisions. Drawing the pole, Abreu had Sean Becker alongside on the initial start. From my vantage point, Abreu got away with a jump. Also from my vantage point, I see no official near the chalk line to enforce the start rule.

    Becker and Jonathan Allard pursued the leading Abreu and by lap 10 Becker was applying some pressure. Five laps later Allard got past Becker low in turn 1, but another five later Becker regained 2nd to finalize the podium. Abreu bounced the right rear off of a lapper late in the race without damage. There were some moments of intense pressure of Abreu.

    Wyatt Brown won the economy sprint main over a six-car field. Economy sprints are essentially a nonwing spec sprint without the “non” part. The class was showing signs of growth last year so this first night for them turnout may not yet reverse the pattern.

    Placerville got a 40-minute late start Saturday but won the curfew battle by five minutes. Their four-division show had a very strong 24-car field of 360s but the rotating 4th division (dwarf cars) had 28 show up to make a large 62-car turnout for the three support divisions.

    Drawing the pole again, Abreu lost the lead to Jonathan Allard after 11 laps, a low turn 3 effort, but a red appeared and the pass disappeared. A lap 13 restart saw Mason Moore get past Allard for 2nd and it was Moore who chased Abreu to the checkers with Allard 3rd for the second consecutive night.

    All four mains were completed in 78 minutes, 15 of which were consumed by the sprints. Only the dwarf car main lost laps, five of which went away in the interest of time. The track was excellent so the extra water was not a bad thing other than the longer packing session. Keep the water and pack earlier would seem to work.

    Comparing the two nights, Placerville keeps an eye on the chalk line plus the double file restarts make things more interesting. Sometimes a driver comes out ahead with double file, sometimes not. Moore’s pass for 2nd came from the bottom line out of turn 4 on a restart, but he may be on the other end of the restart result in the future.

    Co-sanctioned races aside, to me the King of the West season really starts this Saturday at Placerville. The track has had two good-sized crowds for two point shows, but this Saturday will likely jam the place.

    Friday rain is forecast which does Chico no favor, but does not seem to be heavy enough to ruin Placerville’s dance a day later. The state had an unusual weekend April 8/9 when every race in the state was canceled except for Yreka, which is nearly to Oregon.

    Normally our rain moves in from the north, erasing plans for tracks on a north to south pattern, but this one came up from the south. Areas south of Sacramento had far more rain while north of the capital city got enough to cancel but not nearly as much.

    While it was an all-Abreu weekend, both main events were very good as the pressure was there from talented drivers trying to find a way around the Rutherford based star. Now for over four months, there will be one less obstacle in their way in search of a win.

     

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Andy Forsberg is off to an excellent start to his busy 2016 season, leaving his footprints on podiums all over Northern California. Starting with 3 consecutive wins, he has followed that string with 3 consecutive thirds, including one that paid more than most wins.

    Last week had visits to the three most commonly attended tracks for me, starting with the very successful Wednesday show at Placerville. Promoted by Brad Sweet, early week rain again threatened the foothill quarter just like last year. Again it was his father, Don, and a helpful crew of volunteers that covered the track in plastic on Saturday prior, adding some pit area coverage this year.

    With the help of equipment not available last year as well as more people, Don noted it was a tenth of the effort this year compared to the 2015 fantastic plastic chore. A few hours of work had the $1000 worth of plastic rolls spread and held in place with weight.

    This all worked to the benefit of Forsberg who used a great move out of turn 4 to take the initial lead, using that popular upper limit groove and challenging the wall in the process. Leading 14 laps, the top of turn 2 on lap 15 was where Jason Johnson drove past Forsberg for the eventual win. Forsberg was happy with a 3rd, assisted by a Kyle Hirst destroyed right rear and Brad Sweet sliding off of the tricky turn 2.

    This year USAC Western Midgets provided more action and their 22 car field was the perfect number for a midweek adventure. Shane Golobic led for a while before Ronnie Gardner ran the top of turn 4 for a winning pass. Gardner’s ride seemed faster than anyone else and he drove away from the field to win with relative ease.

    The Placerville crowd seemed even larger than last year, something I thought not possible, with people occupying every useful square inch of the pit area. The show did seem to move along somewhat slowly and just finished as the magic 11 pm hour arrived, the state mandated curfew for fairgrounds tracks.

    Two days later Silver Dollar Speedway opened their season after losing both days of the Silver Cup earlier in March. Starting their season with a Civil War race seemed strange, and the 43 car field put on a great night of racing.

    Tony Gualda made his first Chico appearance very successful when he won the C main, earned a 4th in the B, which qualified him for the A main where he finished 12th. Gualda followed a path of outlaw karts, to micro sprints, then nonwing spec sprints, and now winged sprints. The Hollister based driver accomplished his feat at Chico with a very stacked winged 360 field on hand.

    The 16 car field of spec sprints provided support with very little delay resulting and it was another win for Terry Schank, Jr. When he started the 20 lap main on the front row the likely outcome was set before the initial green. Schank is just too good to be anywhere in the front half of the field when the lineup is posted.

    The Chico Civil War main was excellent, turning into a great Kyle Hirst and Willie Croft battle. Four lead changes over the last six laps on a track that had its challenging spots kept the crowd entertained with Croft prevailing over Hirst and Forsberg with another podium finish in 3rd. The following night Forsberg took another 3rd at Petaluma while Croft won over Rico Abreu.

    On Saturday maybe I should have gone to Petaluma instead of Marysville, despite being an hour and a half longer drive home I would have been home sooner from Petaluma. Marysville had 86 cars and an overly long session of heat races. What happened to the concept of yellow/checker heat finishes when an 8 lap race was taking too long?

    Sprint cars qualified shortly after six and started their main event at 11 pm. By that time, the stands had lost many fans as the drawn out show was too much. At least the sprint main was the 3rd of 5 main events, something Chico should also do on their point nights. With the sprint main ending at 11:42, there were still two stock car mains to run to create a six hour show.

    None of the time issues bothered Cody Lamar and he led all the way for his 2nd career win, both at Marysville. A very strong 29 car field of sprints included several drivers that will not be track regulars but were taking advantage of the chance to race. With special events at Chico the next two Saturdays, Marysville is idle until April 16 when they get a chance to redeem the efficiency score.

    At Placerville a chance to ask Shane Golobic about his first ever USAC National Midget win offered some insight as to how he took the checkers at the Du Quoin indoor race. Teammates with Chase Johnson and running Matt Wood Racing cars, Golobic noted the assistance of Tim Clauson as a factor in his winning.

    A good pill draw for heat racing started his night and he won his heat. Using a passing/finishing point system, Shane was 4th in points heading to the qualifier where a 3rd row start and 4th place finish earned more points to become 5th overall.

    The 50 lap main, on a track Golobic described as between Tulsa and Indianapolis in size, had changing track conditions. Following Shane Cottle for 20 laps, Golobic was signaled to try the top of turns 3 and 4. He used a run out of turn 2 to try the top and a couple laps later used that part of the track and took the lead for the eventual win. Winning any USAC National midget race is difficult and doing so indoors even more.

    As of now, Golobic has around 20 races planned in the Wood Racing midget between USAC and POWRi sanctioning. He will not chase Watsonville points, missing five or six races this year, but will be kept busy racing sprints in California when not on the USAC/POWRi trail.

     

     

    From The Grandstand

     by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Scott Russell will complete the trifecta of the sprint car world this year. He has been a driver, car owner, and will now be a promoter. Along with Kami Arnold, the duo will be in charge of Placerville Speedway, the very popular foothill quarter mile east of Sacramento.

    Russell first raced in 1995 with a five year stint in outlaw karts and was competitive at Red Buff, Cycleland, and predominately Prairie City, a now closed track. After a year off, he purchased the Hooker Hood operation out of Tennessee and made his debut on July 4th in 2000 at Placerville.

    Understandably nervous, Russell credits fellow driver Jimmy Trulli with support both in the technical and nerve settling departments. To add to the stress, Russell had the pole for a heat race after never even having fired off a sprint car before the July 4th show.

    Leading the heat until Vern Morrison passed him on the final lap, the heat race gave him the confidence that he really could drive a sprint car. Russell raced just a few times in 2000 in order to be eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2001. He was successful the following year and was named RoY for both Placerville and the Civil War series.

    Scott’s last year of driving was 2013 after being 2nd in points at Placerville on three occasions and 3rd in points another two years, having won two mains. Part of Russell’s retirement as a driver was work connected. Being gone every week for work led to Andy Gregg becoming his driver in 2014.

    A couple years back Russell joked with then promoter Allan Handy about taking over the track. Handy, a long time fixture at the track, wanted to stay on through the 2015 season as it was the track’s 50th year. Part way through last season the talks turned serious and now it will be the Russell/Arnold team in charge.

    Handy will still be on hand in an advisory role to continue an over 30 years involvement with Placerville. Last year Russell shadowed Handy to learn about what the job is all about. Scott will focus on the track and grounds while Kami’s attention will be on the concession areas.

    Russell was able to take a leave of absence from his job so his full time work site this year is the track. He has a one year deal to start after which an agreement up to 11 years total is available. With help from some volunteers and the support of the fair board, numerous improvements have already taken place.

    The list includes:

    1) improving access at the pit gate by widening a narrow lane
    2) added lights in the work area
    3) adjusted and repaired track lights
    4) removed some obstacles from the upper pit area
    5) improved the staging area
    6) remodeled concession and rest room areas
    7) redid ticket window and added 2nd gate entrance
    8) painted stands, infield tires, etc.
    9) plans to add TV sets in concession area
    10) remodeled pit area barn
    11) made raceceivers mandatory for all track divisions
    12) double file restarts!!

    Teams can expect more tech for both safety items and rulebook enforcement. Additional personnel have been hired to work in that area. And finally, Placerville will have an end of season special event when a two day winged 360 sprint race in mid-October will end what should be the first of many successful seasons under the leadership of Scott Russell and Kami Arnold.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln CA…Greg Burgess surprised me in November on 2011 when I saw him at Cocopah Speedway where he had moved to become the track manager. Relocating from Shelton, Washington meant he moved from a wet and occasionally sunny climate to the sunniest city in the country.

    I had met Greg in the Northwest when he was a race director and have talked with him much over the last five years. That 2011 surprise turned into 2016 shock when I was told of his relocating to Oklahoma.

    Starting in a few days, Burgess will assume the role of general manager/promoter of Longdale Speedway, just south of Longdale Oklahoma. With a grand opening in March of 2014, the track will be in just its third season when Greg takes over the half-mile within walking distance of his new home in Longdale.

    Longdale Speedway is owned by Jessie Hoskins, also owner of the Muskogee OK track as well as several businesses under the Hoskins umbrella including trucking, gypsum mining, and construction.

    When he began looking for a track manager, Hoskins called IMCA and asked for a list of their top promoters. Greg’s name was at the top of the list and several phone calls later and a visit to Oklahoma sealed the deal.

    Burgess had expected to retire in Yuma, but a new opportunity along with a new set of challenges provided a chance to grow as a track manager. Working with a new owner and experiencing a new way of doing things gives Burgess an opportunity to grow and further his skills.

    He is leaving Yuma on the best of terms with the Cocopah Indian Tribe, the track owner, as well as his staff and friends with whom he has built relationships that he values. Greg follows the theory of work hard and treat people as you want to be treated and there will be a job somewhere. His new job in Longdale will benefit from these standards.

    As to what will happen to Cocopah Speedway, there are already applicants for the now vacant position and many more are expected. When the new track manager is chosen, they will meet with the Tribal committee and make decisions on Cocopah Speedway, including whether or not to have a 3rd Winter Heat series. If there is a series, it will occur on the already released dates.

    Greg Burgess states moving to Yuma was one of the best things he ever did. Now he will see if moving to Longdale can match or exceed that experience,

    For the 2nd year Marysville Raceway successfully raced the last Saturday in February, offering the Sherm and Loree Toller Memorial race. This year weather was very good and the right number of cars allowed a timely paced race to end before 10 pm.

    A 22 car field of winged 360s were joined by 10 nonwing spec sprints and 17 IMCA sport mods before a large crowd to open the 2nd season for promoter Dennis Gage at the sister track to Chico, also under Gage leadership. Narrow early, the track changed over the prelims to a very race surface, one to the liking of Andy Forsberg.

    Redrawing 4th starting, Forsberg, took just 3 laps to take the lead, using the top line to drive past Mike Monahan out of turn 4. Leading the last 23 laps. Forsberg started his season with a win over Justin Sanders and Billy Wallace. Sanders became the show as the race went on as he moved forward steadily from 16th starting.

    Sanders was closing on Forsberg when the laps ran out for the defending track champion following a dominating 2015 season in Marysville. Terry Schank Jr. also started 4th in the nonwing spec sprint main 20 lapper, took the lead from Peter Paulson on lap 7, and added another win to his long list of successes.

    This weekend is to be the huge Silver Cup two-day event at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico with winged 360s, spec sprints, and modifieds but the forecast is poor for Friday and even worse for Saturday. After a mostly dry and well above normal temperatures streak during February, the El Nino thing seems to have returned.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…They have much in common. They are young, well spoken, talented, and will soon start a new phase of their racing career on the same team. Both come from a California racing background and emphasize a trend among the open wheel scene in the Golden State, namely to further a racing career, moving east is necessary.

    While the duo were crossing Oklahoma today driving to Columbus, IN to start their new adventure, a phone interview with Carson Macedo and Ryan Robinson provided details on both their career and how joining the Keith Kunz USAC midget team came about.

    Of the two young men, Macedo faces the biggest change. Both of the drivers will follow the USAC National Midget series, adding POWRi events along the way. While Robinson had 20 starts is a midget last year, Macedo has never raced a midget, just practiced. Just 14 years old in 2015, Robinson collected one podium finish along the way as well as a ton of experience.

    2015 was a very good year for Macedo, winning the King of the West championship in winged 410 sprints. Adjusting to a midget won’t take long for the Central Valley driver. At 19 years of age, Macedo shows maturity far beyond his age with a goal of being his best and getting better every race night.

    Ryan is the son of a successful sprint car racer, David Robinson, Jr., known as “Powerfeed” during his career. Long ago I asked him the story behind the nickname and it had to do with an equipment mishap at work. One of dad’s late career wins at Placerville still brings back memories to Ryan. When Ryan became more involved as a driver, David stopped racing to support his son.

    Ryan’s career started the same way many Northern California drivers did, outlaw karts. First racing box stock at age 5, his debut at Lakeport started an eight year career, winning 22 times in his last year alone. In 2014 at age 13, Ryan practiced in a sprint and made his midget debut at Jacksonville, IL.

    Racing an Abreu kart, Robinson had support from the Napa Valley based family, leading to some micro sprint rides and eventually the lone 2014 race in a midget. Joining the Kunz team was also due to Abreu support. Besides the 20 Midwest starts last year, Robinson ran a sprint at home, hitting California tracks at Hanford, Watsonville, Placerville, Petaluma, Tulare and Yreka plus Coos Bay and Medford in Oregon.

    Running 23 sprint races last year, Robinson noted he still was making little mistakes that kept him off of the podium. He ran an Abreu sprint with Rod Tiner as his crew chief. That combination will continue this year when Robinson drives Tiner’s car in ten or so events, starting this coming Saturday at Marysville.

    Ryan continues his high school education through an online program. He has his sights set on Rookie of the Year in USAC as well as earning some wins. There is no question Ryan will develop into a top notch USAC/POWRi driver; it is unfortunate for California fans it will happen many miles away.

    Carson Macedo credits the Tarlton racing family for helping him to build a career. Along with Jason Meyers, the two supporting racers paved the way for the Kunz ride. It was also the Tarltons who stepped up early in Carson’s career when he was at a crossroads.

    While Northern California has outlaw karts to serve as a training ground, Central California has micro sprints at Visalia and Lemoore. At just 4 years of age, Carson started racing in a junior sprint, winning 2 titles and collecting over 50 wins.

    Moving to the restricted class at age 10, another ten or so wins came his way before it became apparent the financing to move up the next step to opens was not in place. Up stepped the Tarlton family, not to put Macedo in an open class micro sprint, but into a winged 360 sprint car.

    Starting his career at Kings Speedway in Hanford, Carson now has 8 wins including prestigious victories at the Forni Classic in Placerville and a Gold Cup win in Chico. Mix in the KWS title last year and Macedo has accomplished quite a bit in a short time.

    Running the entire USAC National Midget schedule with some POWRI included, Macedo will see little racing in California in a sprint car. He will be in Tulare for the two day show the 2nd weekend on March, but may miss two events at the same track that he would like to race, the Peter Murphy Classic and the Trophy Cup. Carson hopes to put a winged 410 team together and race around Ohio to keep himself even busier.

    California grows over 200 different crops for the country. It also grows accomplished open wheel drivers.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Phoenix, AZ…Spending 5 so far weeks in Arizona has provided much better weather than Northern California and a good supply of race nights also. Following the Yuma sprint car series, an excellent late model/modified Wild West Shootout series took place in Tucson. That particular series will move next January to Arizona Speedway, joining the November Western Worlds as events making that move.

    The last two weekends of January meant it was Canyon’s turn with our accompanying relocation to Peoria, northwest of Phoenix. The Winter Challenge featured nonwing 360 sprints, IMCA modifieds, and a trio of support divisions each show. Five races and five very good or even better sprint car mains made the series a winner.

    A substantial increase in car count for sprints over last year averaged a fraction under 20 cars, which proved to be enough given the overall car count. Bryan Clauson won 3 of the 5 mains with Josh Hodges collecting the other two. Saving the best for last, Hodges and Clauson put on a spectacular race over the 30 lap distance on the fifth night.

    By the 3rd lap, Hodges led Clauson and the following 27 laps of the one yellow main featured a classic duel between the pair. Clauson tried every move and slider possible but just did not have a piece of track useful enough to make a pass. Hodges won the final race of each weekend while Clauson took the others.

    IMCA modified racing was also excellent and it was a Ricky Thornton Jr. and Hunter Marriott show as one was winning while the other was putting on the pressure. Modifieds drew a 35 car average and will look towards Yuma this weekend for another five race series.

    Lacking electricity and running water, Canyon has survived many years despite the relative shortage of creature comforts, once even being the site of nationally live televised sprint car racing on Sunday afternoons. But rather than power lines and plumbing, I much more appreciate the new road into the facility than opened last spring.

    My vote for worst road imaginable for getting to a race track was the Achilles heel for Canyon for many years, getting worse each year with the growing holes. Last spring a shorter and now paved entry road has made the drive enjoyable compared to the prior adventure.

    It took my some years to appreciate Canyon to its fullest and hopefully this month’s visit will not be my last. The race director is absolutely on top of things and the show’s efficiency is 2nd to none.

    A chance to chat with Lauren Stewart, Clauson’s significant other, offered a chance to gather some information about the amazing 200 race goal for the Indiana couple. She stated the idea came up a couple of years ago and is only possible through sponsorship and supportive car owners. All races must be open wheel to count, so my idea of finding a street stock ride upon occasion was no help.

    Six months back they took the schedules and created a spread sheet that has 197 races listed. This is leaving December blank as another dozen opportunities will be waiting in New Zealand. Owner help is critical, allowing a switch of car type if weather gets in the way, a nearly last minute option in some cases.

    I do not think I could handle watching 200 races in a year, so the effort required to race 200 times and all over the place is huge. While sponsorship and car owner help is critical for any racing, this goal of the Clauson camp takes that to a new level.

    By the time we finally return to Northern California the local season will be on the edge of starting. Things mostly remained similar to last year with the exception of Placerville Speedway. Now promoted by Scott Russell and Kami Arnold, the foothill based quarter mile has a full schedule and something that has been missing for a long time.

    An end of year special has not been part of the Placerville season for as long as I can recall, but a two day mid October event is on the calendar this year. For winged 360 sprints, the Nor-Cal Posse Shootout will close the first season for the new promotional team and it is great to see a season ending special on the list.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Somerton, AZ…At this point, 4 of 5 events have been held in the 2016 Winter Heat Shootout at Cocopah Speedway. This first stop in our month plus trip to Cocopah twice, USA Raceway in Tucson, and Canyon Raceway in Peoria has felt the effects of El Nino, more in the Phoenix area than Yuma.

    This season is predicted to be a particularly strong El Nino year, which is when the ocean currents and winds are such than a series of strong storms come from the Pacific to finally bring a wet season to California. Northern California has a less than normal rainfall in about a third of the El Nino years while the southern part of the state gets lots of rain every time.

    Next in line after heading through California is Arizona and the January through March prediction is for well above normal rain, particularly for the southern third of Arizona. Cocopah wisely postponed Wednesday’s show to Thursday, then dodged two short rain showers and finished just as a third helping of sprinkles appeared. The rest of the series should have no issues and the 10 day forecast for Tucson is nothing but sun, so drier days are ahead.

    Every time I get to Cocopah it seems as if some additional improvement has taken place. Track manager Greg Burgess continues to make the facility into one of the best in the west with two significant changes since last January. A large men’s restroom was built and the space between concession stand and front gate is now all concrete.

    The Cocopah Indian Tribe, owners of the facility since 2005, reopened the place in 2010 and have put in the neighborhood of a million dollars into improvements. This turns a track that was closed for ten years into an excellent facility that figures to get even better over time. It is rare that a 10 year closed track reopens, and very rare to see the quantity of improvements at the speedway that have occurred here.

    The car count is up substantially over the initial year with 33 teams on hand in 2015 and a tiny bit under 45 being the average over the first four nights this year. Quality and quantity both showed significant increases and four of five nights pay $12000 to win and $1000 to start. Further money was added this year with a point fund paying the top 5 and additional bonuses and incentives added.

    The wonderful format deletes the tedious qualifying but instead requires drivers to pass someone to earn the needed points. Draw heats with passing/finishing points are followed by qualifiers, inverting six by points from the heats and using the same point chart again.

    Heat race draws are critical, but so is moving forward in the qualifiers. I would like to see the main event have a redraw for the top 6 or so in points rather than the straight up by points grid. I recognize the top point driver earned those points, but some luck of the draw was also part of that success.

    No matter how many cars or how good the show, there is certainly something special about watching sprint cars race on New Years Day. The opening show on that date was Dale Blaney’s night , finishing 2nd in both heat from 3rd and qualifier from 5th starting. That amassed enough points to start on the pole and he dominated the race on a one groove track.

    Saturday the car count matched Friday at 46 and Kyle Larson won from outside front row being the 2nd car in points. Larson drew the pole and won his heat and went from 5th to 2nd in his qualifier for his total. Greg Hodnett led 7 before spinning by himself in turn 2 on lap 8. He kept going but an unnecessary yellow was thrown.

    Race director, Tommie Estes Jr., made the right call by placing Hodnett in the restart lineup in a spot that was consistent with where he would have been had not the yellow been showed. Larson inherited the lead and won with some very good position racing behind him.

    Postponing Tuesday’s race at the 1pm press conference was the right call when steady rain fell that evening. Drivers Wayne Johnson, Danny Lasoski, Christopher Bell, Greg Hodnett, and Dale Blaney were joined by Estes and track manager Greg Burgess in an entertaining and informative discussion, which included the likely dates for the return of the series.

    With January 2017 having four weekends, the Yuma racing figures to start of December 30 and 31, then January 3, 6, and 7. A few years back the end of the year weekend raced the nonwing 360 Roger McCluskey Classic at Tucson, but that event is no more.

    Wednesday brought a forecast of occasional evening rain which indeed did fall, but oddly enough, at the right times. The break following the heats, needed to do qualifier lineups, saw a little rain, then the 2nd planned break between qualifiers and a pair of B mains had a little more moisture. The third rain came during victory lane interviews so only a bit of delay was caused by the light rain.

    Larson drew well again and his outside front row heat win preceded a 6th to 3rd qualifier to become high point, joined by his own team’s driver, Shane Stewart on the front row. A few hotly contested laps between the pair occurred before Larson established a lead, one he held for 24 laps.

    Larson got into some traffic, Stewart closed, and drove around his car owner on the outside in turn 1 on lap 25 for the win. On this particular night, Larson and Stewart seemed to be the class of the field, but Larson is now gone to run another event.

    Friday the 8th saw the return of the sun and 44 teams for another round of Cocopah speed. What turned into the best night of the first four started with Danny Lasoski earning the pole via his high point total. He won his heat from 3rd and finished 3rd in a qualifier from 6th starting.

    Sharing the front row with his nephew, Brian Brown, Lasoski led a dozen laps before 7th starting Shane Stewart moved to 2nd, still a ways behind the leader. Hitting traffic, Lasoski had Stewart right behind him six laps later and the real race was on.

    Stewart started driving deeply into turn 3, a spot he closed on Lasoski, while turn 2 was more beneficial to the leader. It seemed as if one of these laps Stewart was going to make the high side run stick, and lap 26 was when he did, taking one from Lasoski just as Lasoski had done the same thing last year even later in the race. Even with a yellow with three left, Stewart was in control to win a second race in the same year, the first accomplish that.

    Every visit to Cocopah Speedway, it is clear how much effort track manager Greg Burgess puts into this place. Surrounded by helpful staff, one in particular stands out. Fellow Washington state transfer, Paul Finn, was again on hand to help any way he can. To top it off, Finn refuses to take any pay for his many hours of work, and Finn was also instrumental in getting Burgess on board to take over the track after its first season following reopening.

    For us, tradition means relocating to Tucson, trading the Winter Heat Showdown for the Wild West Shootout. A return to Cocopah early next month is in the plans.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…A season that started early January at Yuma for Winter Heat has concluded with the two day Thanksgiving Thunder show at Bakersfield Speedway. Yuma had very good racing and, with Fred Rannard Jr. and Ben Deatherage on hand, displayed excellent announcing.

    Bakersfield Speedway also had very good racing with an excellent car count, but suffered with the worst announcing I endured all year. The Bakersfield announcers need to go to Cocopah Speedway in January and get a lesson on how to be an announcer. Bakersfield is a well-run venue, has excellent racing every time I am there, and deserve much better announcing.

    Next year will start at the same venue when the Winter Heat Showdown takes place at Cocopah to start our extended Arizona plans. The Wild West Shootout at USA Raceway in Tucson follows, then off to Canyon Speedway Park for two weekend of Winter Challenge racing. The trip concludes with a return to Cocopah Speedway in February, our first time to take in the five race Winter Nationals series.

    I estimate I have been to 19 Turkey Nights. While some of the years were good, the most recent version of the event at Perris Auto Speedway was probably the best racing of all my years of Turkey Night viewing. The downside….only 22 cars on hand.

    It had been just over a month since a national USAC midget race, and that one was in Illinois. Asking Midwest teams to tow to Southern California for a one night of racing plan seems to no longer work. Adding support divisions to put more cars in the pits does not seem to be an answer, this is a midget race and needs to remain so.

    Perhaps if national USAC midget races were scheduled in the Southwest the weekend before Turkey Night it would turn things around, but that is easy to suggest, far from easy to make happen. Tracks already have November events in place, traditional races for the venues, and only a small collection of tracks is possible for November racing.

    Last year Turkey Night had something around 35, a small turnout at that number, and a drop to low 20’s this year changes the reaction from surprise to shock. But wait….if there had been twice as many would the racing have been any better? I think the answer to that is “no”.

    Following qualifying, a trio of heats moved the top 5 from each into the inversion and each of those were well raced with a battle for positions all race long. Then following a too long break, the 98 lap main event was probably the best I have seen over my Turkey Night career.

    Tanner Thorson’s win followed 80 quality laps of racing (minus the 18 laps consumed by yellows), superb battles among the podium seeking drivers, drama filled by tire issues etc, and topped off by some great sliders on a surface that was perfect for the main event.

    I used to factor the car count into the equation when assessing an event, and I was as shocked as anyone about only 22 cars. However, in retrospect, I was completely happy with the evening because the racing was so good.

    The starting field was 10 or so cars less than the format allowed, but that did not lessen the racing but very likely made it better. Fewer cars, fewer yellows, and the names fans want too most see race a midget were there. It was a good night of racing, and the opportunity to hear the top quality announcing of Scott Daloisio was a bonus.

    Maybe the solution is so simple as making Turkey Night into a POWRi sanctioned event.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Casa Grande, AZ…The Western Worlds in Tucson, a joint effort by Kevin Montgomery and Chris Kearns, have had two excellent nights of racing for the event formerly at Canyon Speedway Park in Peoria. Along with the site change, this year is a sprint car only show with National 410s and Southwest/West Coast 360s providing support.

    Friday was probably an even better night than the opener, finishing a little earlier, and drawing just one car less per division. The same format on a track that was more racy earlier again ran 8 heats, three B mains, and two mains for the 67 cars on hand. Gaps between races were lesser than Thursday but a couple of time consuming cleanups kept the finishing time later than expected.

    Friday’s Southwest/West Coast main, set for 30 laps, was a Josh Hodges, Brody Roa, and Steve Sussex parade for much of the race, and then things went south. Sixth starting Justin Grant has just used the bottom of turn 1 to take 3rd when apparent contact put him sideways on the front stretch, just before the flag stand.

    In an instant, Grant was sideways and recovered to continue, but after he was straightened and going a completely unnecessary yellow was thrown. Not a word ensued over the radio, but Grant getting his spot back certainly makes it clear it was a mistake, one that proved costly.

    On the restart, it appeared one car was slow to go and a huge pileup followed just past the finish line involving the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th running cars. The thing is, if the incorrectly thrown yellow had not happened, neither would have the restart melee that damaged much equipment.

    After cleanup time was done, Hodges led the last 6 remaining laps with Andy Reinbold in 2nd and R. J. Johnson in 3rd. Johnson made a low turn 2 move on lap 27 to take 2nd, moved Reinbold to 3rd, and that was the podium. Hodges’ win followed missing the main on Thursday by one spot in a B main. What a difference 24 hours made.

    The 410 main was much smoother and had some excellent racing among four drivers over the 30 laps. Matt Rossi used the pole to lead 9 laps before Tracy Hines used a low line to lead just a single lap before Rossi used an outside pass in turn 2 to regain the top spot.

    Brady Bacon was 3rd through all this until moving a spot forward on lap 13. Using the low line leaving turn 4 on lap 17, Bacon took over and led the remaining laps. Hines took 2nd as Bacon became the leader and Bryan Clauson moved to 3rd a lap later.

    Clauson advanced to 2nd on lap 19, a low turn 4 pass, and the final 11 laps maintained the Bacon, Clauson, and Hines order. An entertaining final 11 laps produced no lead changes but plenty of good racing as three of the best battled for the $5000 win.

    Saturday night will use accumulated points from the two preliminary evenings to set lineups with a $7500 payday waiting the 410 Western Worlds champion and $3000 awarded to the Southwest/West Coast Saturday winner

     

     

    Ballou Wins Another

     by Ron Rodda

    Tucson, AZ…Robert Ballou is having an incredible year, and Thursday night at USA Raceway in Tucson another chapter in his book of success was written. Winning the opening night of the Western Worlds at the 3/8 track, Ballou collected his 13th USAC National win to continue his march to the season title. USAC Southwest/West Coast sprints provided further action and Justin Grant won their main on the chilly evening.

    A 34-car field of USAC National entries was led in time trials by Brady Bacon with a new track record at 15.275, followed by four invert 6, take 4 heats. With B main transfers and provisionals added, a 24-car field took the green for 30 laps on USA’s clay.

    Damion Gardner led a couple laps from the pole before 3rd starting Jerry Coons Jr. moved to the lead with Bryan Clauson following him into 2nd, shuffling Gardner to 3rd. Despite starting 14th, Ballou was 4th by lap 4’s conclusion, and used a topside drive through turns 1 and 2 on the next lap to move to 2nd, Coons still leading and Clauson now 3rd.

    Ballou quickly cut into Coons’ large lead and survived a lap 14 cushion jump in turn 1, losing ground in the process. Traffic came into play just past the halfway point to allow the top 3 to battle each other, and that same traffic played a huge part in deciding the race.

    As Coons came out of turn 2 on lap 25, he came upon a lapped car, contact ensued, and Coons bumped the wall and flipped to end his excellent run. Ballou was rewarded for his 14th to 2nd drive with the lead following the restart and went on to collect the $5000 winner’s pay. Bacon got past Clauson on lap 25 to finish the podium battles, Bacon earning $2500 and Clauson $1250 for the finish.

    The combined Southwest/West Coast USAC 360s had 13 drivers from the National ranks joining them to create a 35-car field. They used a draw heat format with passing/finishing points moving the top 16 to the A main. A pair of B mains added the top 3 from each to create the 22-car field.

    The field inverted six by points, assigning Gary Taylor and Steve Sussex to the front row. Sussex led from the green, establishing a huge lead early in the 30 lap event. Taylor and Justin Grant followed Sussex until contact with the turn 2 wall led to Sussex stopping in turn 3, handing the lead to Taylor.

    Nick Aiuto, an 11th place starter, ran the topside successfully, mixing in some low groove moves, and took 3rd on lap 14, driving under Charles Davis, Jr. into turn 3. Three laps later a high side pass out of turn 2 had him in 2nd, and a top side drive out of turn 4 on lap 18 led to Aiuto leading.

    That lasted just a lap when a cushion jump in turn 4 got Aiuto sideways, but he collected it and continued with Taylor back in the lead. Two laps later, Grant threw a slider on Taylor in turn 1 to become the final leader. Grant led the last 9 laps to win the $1500 check for his efforts.

    Brady Bacon made progress over the last few laps and took an $800 2nd while Taylor was a $600 third. Friday night the program repeats with all cars competing, earning points for both nights to set Saturday lineups.

    USAC National main: 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Bryan Clauson, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Damion Gardner, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Kevin Thomas Jr., 8. Ryan Bernal, 9. Richard Vander Weerd, 10. Tracy Hines, 11. C.J. Leary, 12. Josh Hodges, 13. Danny Faria Jr., 14. Brody Roa, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Matt Rossi, 17. Aaron Farney, 18. Jon Stanbrough, 19. Jake Swanson, 20. Cody Williams, 21. Mike Spencer, 22. Jerry Coons Jr., 23. Chase Stockon, 24. Chris Windom

    USAC Southwest/West Coast main: 1. Justin Grant, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Gary Taylor, 4. Bryan Clauson, 5. Brody Roa, 6. Nick Aiuto, 7. Charles Davis Jr., 8. C.J. Leary, 9. D.J. Johnson, 10. Chris Windon, 11. R.J. Johnson, 12. Danny Faria Jr., 13. Rick Ziehl, 14. Matt Rossi, 15. Trey Marcham, 16. Chad Boespflug, 17. Mike Martin, 18. Terry Schank Jr., 19. Stevie Sussex, 20. Brian Hosford, 21. Andy Reinbold, 22. Josh Shipley

    Finishes courtesy of Lance Jennings

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…After some feedback from people, the 2016 Trophy Cup dates have been changed to match the traditional 3rd weekend in October. Now the event will be held October 20-22 at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway, and a few format changes have been finalized for the 23rd annual version of the event.

    Following the A and B group qualifying, Thursday and Friday will have 8 heats, eight cars each, and they will be invert 6 heats. As this year, the winner and high point car from each heat will go directly to the A main.

    The remainder of the cars, less the 16 cars already in the A main, will be put in one list by points, and the top 40 from that listing will race one of the two B mains. The first B main will be the odd position cars in the point list, the 2nd B main the even position cars, and B mains are invert 6 with the top 4 from each moving on to the A main, retaining their point total for the lineup.

    Additional cars will have run a C main and the top 4 will join the B mains, two to each. Friday and Saturday A mains will continue to invert 12 by points and B main transfers will, as usual, get their point total back for the inversion. Drivers will use their better point total from the two preliminary nights for Saturday racing.

    On Saturday the top 48 in points will race in six heats, inverting 8 by points, and the top 20 in overall points will earn spots in the A main after the heats. B main racing will be the next 20 in points plus the top 4 from C main action. The B main will be straight up by points and the top 4 will start the A main in rows 11 and 12. That leads to a significant change for the Saturday A main as next year the top point car will start 20th.

    One thing that will not change is the Trophy Cup support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year an event record $150,000 was presented to the Central Valley chapter, making the Trophy Cup their biggest supporter. With help from the Cup, the Central Valley chapter of Make-A-Wish was able to fulfill a record number of wishes. The Trophy Cup has now presented $1,270,000 to Make-A-Wish since starting the donations.

    Last weekend all three of Northern California’s sprint car traveling series held their final race and honored champions at Stockton Dirt Track. Friday a strong 26 car field of nonwing spec sprints were part of a three division night and Austin Liggett was one who survived the turn 1 and 2 preliminary racing carnage to win the main event. San Jose driver, Gary Nelson, Jr. was the series champion.

    The 2nd night at Stockton settled two championship battles and Andy Forsberg took honors back to his Auburn base, winning the main event and in the process taking yet another Civil War title for the veteran. The winged 360 series drew 41 cars to Stockton despite being such a late season event.

    The winged 410 King of the West series crowned Carson Macedo champion after Jonathan Allard won the main. Macedo showed why naming him one of the best young talents in the state is an accurate statement. A twenty-car field was on hand for the all wing night.

    Stockton was the final sprint car racing in Northern California for the year. Madera Speedway has a winged sprint race coming up on the third mile paved oval, but Madera is south of the tree that marks the line between Northern and Southern California. Madera is offering the King of the Wing Sprint Car series on November 20, something that would be fun to see, except Arizona is the plan for me by mid-month.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Having seen every lap of all 22 years of Trophy Cup racing, there are some years that have faded into a distant memory at best. Other years, such as the year Tim Kaeding became the first driver to win the final night A main from 24th starting, are still fresh in my mind.

    The Cup benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation and this year’s check presentation was a new record, $125,000 for an amazing donation. The total is now over 1.125 million!!

    The just completed 22nd version of this amazing series was, in my opinion, one of the best, certainly among the top 3. One factor that will always be remembered is the Thursday night rain, the first time even one drop has fallen at a Cup race. Just under half of group B was left to time trial when the track got too wet, and it only got wetter after a short attempt to use trucks to save the oval.

    Track promoter, Steve Faria, was quoted as saying if he could get on the track by 1 am it would be ready for noon racing Friday. He did, and it was, although it was past 1 pm on Friday before things got started. B group had to qualify from the top and, while I did not notice the time, it seemed around 5:30 when the afternoon show was complete.

    I fully expected a less than exciting afternoon race since we all know how well daytime dirt racing does. I figured tons of dust followed by a rubber-dominated track and single file racing ending the first ever day Cup race. Luckily and surprisingly, it was an excellent show with some of the most dynamic heat races in Cup history.

    The format this year used the same plan on heat transfers both preliminary shows, that being the winner and high point car both went directly to the A main. Last year that idea was used one show and the 2nd preliminary night just moved the top 2 from the heat to the A main. The top 2 idea resulted in too many front row cars in the invert 6 heat making the A, and too few of the row 3 cars. The winner plus high point idea spread the transfers more fairly over the 3 rows.

    The daytime show as well as the 2nd show on Friday both followed a similar scheme. The race for the heat win was mostly mundane as a large lead for a driver was common. Fans who focused solely on the leader missed some of the most dramatic racing in 22 years of Cup racing.

    With the point structure in place, the 2nd fastest car in a given heat had to finish 2 places ahead of the fastest car to be top point and a main event transfer. Watching those battles over the 20 heats, 10 each show, produced some great moves, some not so great, but drama almost every heat.

    It seemed to me that drivers were attempting moves that would only be tried at a Trophy Cup heat because it was necessary to pass cars to transfer.
    These were certainly not the overdone and often uninteresting invert 4 and take 5 heat races. No way can a car go backwards from a heat race start and make the A main directly from a heat at the Trophy Cup. This was, after all, the Trophy Cup were passing is required to earn your way onward.

    Rico Abreu ran away with the “Thursday” main after using a big slider to take the lead from Dusty Zomer. In his first Cup appearance, Zomer was on the pole of both preliminary mains, the beneficiary of the invert 12 by points grid. By lap 15 of the 30 lapper Bud Kaeding was 2nd but did not seriously challenge for the lead and the top two finished in the same order with Tim Kaeding third.

    Now we know that Bud Kaeding came so close to sweeping the preliminary mains while becoming the champion. The real Friday show, one that ended just past 12:30 am Saturday, was a Bud Kaeding win assisted by Sheldon Haudenschild getting collected while leading. Bud won relatively easily over Jason Meyers and Shane Golobic and the long day/night doubleheader was complete.

    This was an endurance test for all, officials, crew, drivers, and fans with the latter having the obviously easiest task. My 14 hours and 20 minutes at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway was a piece of cake compared to what the others endured. Jac Haudenschild was worn out after the warm and humid afternoon show and sat out the 2nd one.

    Support for the Trophy Cup has been excellent since it moved to the 3/8 track but this year was at an even higher level. Promoter Steve Faria stated he would add the Thursday purse to Friday’s if it became a two-day show. Luckily, the gamble was taken on trying two shows in one day and it worked, other than the late finish.

    Last year’s Saturday track for the 50 lap main event was not very racy, no doubt making a difference on the final result. This year it was excellent and the final race of the event lived up to expectations. Of the 22 years, the Saturday main event was easily top 5 on its own, and the preliminary shows were among the best ever.

    While winning the 50 lapper matters to the first across the line, the true focus is on the back of the pack and who can move forward, gathering more points and winning the title. This year a slight change left the win at 150 points but change the drop to 3 rather than 5. With drivers taking the better of their two preliminary nights to Saturday, the point totals of the front 2/3 of the field are higher than when a two day race. The 3-point drop assists the back of the pack group that does not have the chance to improve their total as much.

    Abreu’s best preliminary night was 277 which is only 9 points off the maximum, so there is not much to gain on a 2nd prelim night. Adding his Saturday heat points in, he was at 310 entering the final main and the high point driver, getting the 24th starting spot. Bud Kaeding started 20th, 8 points behind Abreu. That meant finishing 3 positions ahead of Abreu was necessary as well as not letting Tim Kaeding, Jason Meyers, and Carson Macedo get ahead of him.

    The first half of the 50 laps had Bud Kaeding more than 3 spots ahead of Abreu, especially after Abreu’s nose wing was knocked askew. Bud was the point leader for much of the 50 laps but Abreu was always within distance of changing that. With about a dozen laps remaining, Abreu was in position to make a couple passes and take the point lead, seeming to be running well, when a shot to the tail tank quickly became a DNF.

    When the misfortune hit the talented driver, Abreu looked to be ready to turn the last dozen laps into a remarkable duel with Kaeding, but now it was up to Carson Macedo to take over. That he did, creating a some of the most exciting laps in Cup history as he challenge Kaeding.

    One late lap was a near dead heat and Macedo nearly drove around Kaeding on the outside in turn 3 a lap later. Macedo slipped up the track in turn one on lap 49, Willie Croft got past, and the threat to Kaeding’s title was over. Bud’s Cup championship makes 8 for the family when added to Brent’s four and Tim’s trio of titles.

    The race for the win was also good with turns taken in the lead by D.J. Netto, Travis Rilat, Dusty Zomer, Sheldon Haudenschild, and finally the leader over the last 10 laps, Terry McCarl. It is difficult to watch it all when two race long battles are taking place throughout the pack.

    Two of the many memorable things about this year start with D. J. Netto on Saturday, finishing 2nd in the B main from 17th starting in a thrilling drive, then leading the first 8 laps in a continuing ride the wall effort before misfortune ended his run. Also Mitchell Faccinto riding the top of the turn 4 wall before steering it down the wall and back on the track to continue was like a thrill show maneuver.

    While the car count at 67 meant over 20 teams did not show up, the performances put on by those who were in the pit area way more than made up for the missing. Tulare Thunderbowl continues to be the toughest track in California to run. The fast way is always up to the wall before the show is over, and so little margin of error exists.

    The home of the Trophy Cup is like the format itself; it is not easy and that is the way it is supposed to be.

     

     

    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Tulare raced last Saturday, sort of a tune up for the Trophy Cup starting in two days, and it would have truly been a tune up if winged 360s were on board. Instead it was winged 410s under the KWS banner and their 29 car field was assisted by 17 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s.

    An obvious change to the 3/8 mile track is a new backstretch wall, moved out reportedly 12 feet. The result, besides an obviously wider backstretch, is now a car running the top coming out of turn 2 will not be pinched by a wall such as before. Some cosmetic adjustments to the facility have it ready for the 22nd annual Trophy Cup with its $160,000 purse and a few more than 90 entrants.

    The format is the same as last year with two adjustments. Both nights the heat winner and highest point car will go directly to the A main, something done only one night last year. A change to the Saturday A main points now has a 3 point drop per position, down from 5 last year.

    The heats will be the most interesting sprint car heats I have seen all year with the top 6 qualifiers in each of the ten heats inverted. Some basic analysis leads to the assumption that the front row and inside row 2 are racing for the win and their chance to go directly to the A main.

    Outside row 2 and the row 3 starters figure to be competing for the high point car transfer spot. Since the heats come in two sets of five for qualifying groups A and B, a five point difference between each heat starting position will be involved. Since heats offer 36 points to win with a 3 point drop per finishing position, the outside row two starter needs to finish 4 places ahead of the outside row 3 driver to better the point total.

    Taking a win from 4th starting is another option to transfer so to me the outside row two spot is sort of a wild card starter….could win or finish with more points than the row 3 cars. If the high point car is also the heat winner, then the 2nd highest in points gets the other transfer.

    Weather is forecast to be upper 80s so having A and B groups will be a welcome part of the format. In 2013 when there were not two groups, once the qualifying order hit the halfway point, drivers were out of luck as to generating a good qualifying time.

    Each qualifying group has its own fast qualifier, so that means there will be two cars with 150 points, two with 149, etc. Friday mirrors opening night format except no pill draw and Thursday’s B group qualifies first with the order of the group reversed. Whoever qualifies last on Thursday overall will be first out on Friday.

    The 4th row of a heat will have to be in a win or else mode in the ten heats as coming out high point car in very unlikley. If a top team finds themselves in that spot following qualifying woes, it will be very interesting. Each heat is practically a little main event on its own.

    The USAC main last Saturday was good with position battles dominating the action over the 30 lap pace. Jace Vander Weerd was cruising with the lead, a spot he held after Kyle Smith led lap one but lost it to Vander Weerd’s low turn 4 drive.

    D. J. Johnson and Bud Kaeding along with Smith put on some entertaining laps dueling for positions behind the leader. As the 30th lap and 120th corner appeared, Johnson challenged Vander Weerd to a drag race to the line for the win. The near photo finish went to Vander Weerd over Johnson and Kaeding.

    Bud Kaeding led the KWS race for 4 laps before Tyler Walker blasted out of turn 2 to take the lead for the remaining laps. Kaeding ran top 3 until getting collected with 3 to go. Carson Macedo and Jac Haudenschild followed Walker across the finish line after some very entertaining laps with Shane Golobic and Dominic Scelzi contributing to the battles. Walker’s win will make him someone to watch carefully in the Trophy Cup.

     

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway closed their season with two nights of racing, and they were among the best I have ever seen at the Chico quarter mile. Friday’s main had fantastic laps over the last part of the race and Saturday’s main was equally thrilling, but this time it was for all 40 laps. Both nights left the feeling of not wanting either race to end, it was that good.

    The occasion was the Fall Nationals for winged 360 sprints and car count was excellent with 54 on Friday and two additional teams on Saturday. Support came from 8 economy sprints on night one and 14 nonwing spec sprints the 2nd night. Weather was great on Friday and Saturday had the strongest wind I have ever seen in Chico with gusts to 40.

    That wind was from the north, meaning directly towards the main grandstands so my pit location kept it to my back, once nearly pushing me off of the seat. Perhaps a sign of thing to come, when the A main came on the track the wind suddenly lessened to a more reasonable breeze.

    Opening night had some of the better heat racing of the year as drivers raced either for the win and dash spot or for fifth place, the final transfer spot. The top 48 qualifiers ran a quartet of invert 4 heats with the usual winner plus next 4 fastest to transfer forming the dash field. Chico also used the A and B qualifying groups plan, something done for the first time anywhere at last year’s Trophy Cup. Nice to see copying of the Trophy Cup ideas, even nicer if the larger inversions would also be equally considered.

    Sean Becker and Willie Croft shared the front row Friday with Carson Macedo in row 2 alongside Tyler Walker. Picking one of those four to win would be a good bet, except it wasn’t. It took patience and some stick to it mentality, but 9th starting Kyle Hirst had other ideas, ones that took hold over the last 6 laps.

    For 23 laps Becker led Macedo in a race that mostly lacked excitement. Only Hirst’s commitment to the topside provided some interest, he took 3rd at the halfway point, but was back in 5th three laps later. Not giving up on the top groove, Hirst picked up 2 spots on lap 24, using the top line out of turn 4 with success.

    Duplicating the move a lap later, HIrst was now 2nd when lap 25 ended and two turns later he had the lead, using the top edge of turn 2. Macedo took 2nd on the same lap and passed Hirst for the lead with two left, but Hirst came right back to lead the final pair.

    Hirst won over Macedo and Becker after six exciting laps, in sharp contrast to the first 24 times around the high-banked quarter. Some great action during the last 20% of the main turned it into a very good race. Wyatt Brown won the economy sprint main and a good night of Fall National racing was complete.

    Saturday’s wind forecast direction was accurate except the strength was greater than called for. After the winner was DQ’d for weight, John Clark won the spec sprint main to clear the way for 24 drivers to challenge the junky looking track for 40 laps and the Fall Nationals title, a tribute race to honor the memory of Stephen Allard.

    Between the laps turned on Chico clay in two days and the brutal wind on Saturday, the track looked like anything but one that would provide one of the best mains I have seen at Chico, or anywhere else for that matter. A driver told me the wind pushed his car severely on the backstretch and in turn 4 so strong was the wind earlier. Maybe it’s sudden lessening for the A main was an omen.

    One way to judge a main event for racing action is to consider the number of laps that had a change in the top 3. Saturday’s main had 15 laps with a podium hopeful change, and the other 25 laps had furious racing for those spots. Multiple lead changes and a down to the wire finish completed the qualifications to make this one special.

    Kyle Hirst used his outside front row start to lead 7 laps until exiting with mechanical issues, giving the lead to Willie Croft. That lasted 5 laps before Justin Sanders raced into the lead down the backstretch. Fifteen laps later, Andy Forsberg filled a gap between Sanders and the bottom of turn 3 to take the lead with a dozen laps left. The space was just inches wider than Forsberg’s car, but he cleanly made the pass.

    Shane Golobic pursued Forsberg over the last 11 laps until Sean Becker, another driver having a remarkable race, used the top of turn 4 on the last lap to take 2nd, coming very close to Forsberg at the line. Golobic finished 3rd to end a remarkable 40 laps on Chico clay.

    Forsberg’s dynamic win came after starting 10th and Becker’s superb drive came after his 18th place start. It was a tough evening for grandstand dwellers with the wind in their faces all night, but the reward was a remarkable main event, making it all worthwhile.

     

     

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…In just two weeks the huge Trophy Cup event will again enjoy the hospitality of Tulare Thunderbowl Speedway, writing another chapter in its long history. Changes have occurred over the years in venue, format, number of days, etc. but one thing that has never changed is the level of excitement generated by the event.

    This year’s three day total racing purse is approximately $160,000, made possible by the amazing level of support within the racing community. The Cup champion is guaranteed $20,000 total payout while the Saturday A main pays $2050 to start (purse plus point fund).

    In 1994 Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San Jose CA, came up with the idea of an event that featured a main event that was fully inverted, putting the fastest cars at the rear for a passing filled race. The event was called the Trophy Cup and its remarkable history continues this year with the 22nd annual event.

    It is a winged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country. The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion due to the final night main that puts the highest point cars at the rear of the 24 car field. From qualifying on the first two nights to heat races and mains, drivers earn points and the highest total after the racing ends wins the Trophy Cup. There are two parts to the purse money, some is paid to drivers based on race finishes and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.

    Last year a new and improved format had full shows on Thursday and Friday with several changes. To make qualifying more consistently fair, the drivers are split into groups A and B. Each group has its own fastest qualifier so two drivers will earn 150 points for fast time. Heat races are within each group, i.e., the A group has their own five heats and likewise with B group. Once main events start, the groups are now one for determining lineups, based on results from the 10 heat races.

    On Friday B group will qualify first and the order of cars within each group will be reversed. The format mirrors Thursday action and, once completed, drivers will use their higher point total from the first two nights to carry into Saturday. With these changes, a driver may have a tough night on Thursday but gets another chance the next night. Saturday will not have qualifying but heats and mains, culminating with the 50 lap, fully inverted race.

    A minor change from last year will have both nights using the same procedure to determine the A main transfers from each heat. Both nights it will be the heat winner plus the highest point car from each 10 lap race that will move directly to the night’s A main event.

    The Trophy Cup has always been a cooperative effort among businesses, the host track, fans, and all the volunteers that shape the Trophy Cup organization. The event has earned the Short Track Race of the Year from National Speed Sport News, an award befitting the level of competition that fans have enjoyed each year.

    San Jose Speedway was the host track until closing in 1999 and the inaugural victory went to Ronnie Day. A one day format in its early years, two mains were raced and Day won the first one and started next to last as a result of his point total in the finale. His 7th place finish in the 2nd main was enough to garner the top point total for the night and the championship. The first 3 years the show featured winged 410 sprints.

    Kevin Pylant won in 1995 after running 4th in each main while the following year Brent Kaeding won his first of 4 titles in what was the last year as a 410 event and also the last year as a one day Cup. Concerns over car count prompted the change to the 360 engine and the move to a two day format allowed teams to not have to race two mains in one night.

    In 1997, drivers were in the pit area from 9 states and Mark Kinser took the treasure back to Oolitic, IN. Kinser, making his only appearance in the event, was 6th quick and won his heat and the opening night main. He backed up that performance with a 2nd in the second night’s heat and finished 2nd in the main, coming from 24th.

    Brent Kaeding won his 2nd title in 1998 despite being only 11th in points after the first night. His 2nd place finish in the final night’s main continued a trend of the champion finishing runner-up. The following year was the last for San Jose Speedway as the track closed and an era in racing concluded. Brent Kaeding was champion again, finishing the popular 2nd in the final fully inverted main after starting 18th. Terry McCarl won the Saturday main, the last race ever on San Jose’s third mile clay.

    Watsonville Speedway hosted the Cup in 2000 and Tommy Tarlton was the champion, again seeing a Cup title going to the 2nd place finisher in the final main. Tarlton started 16th as he was only 9th in points as the final 30 laps unfolded. The following year the Cup was held at Kings Speedway in Hanford and Craig Stidham won the championship, coming from 21st to 2nd in the final main. In 2002 it was Tim Kaeding winning his first Cup title, collecting the Friday main and finishing 2nd in the Saturday main, coming from 23rd. It was the 6th consecutive year that the champion finished 2nd in the final main, having to come from the back rows each year to claim the title.

    The 2003 version was the closest in Cup history and it was a last lap, last turn pass that made Steve Kent the champion by the slimmest of margins. Ricci Faria passed Tim Kaeding in the last turn, lessening Kaeding’s point total by five and allowing Kent to win the point battle by 2 points. Ronnie Day also came so close to winning, needing to pass only one more car for the title.

    The 2004 Cup was the last at Kings as the track closed in August the following year, at least temporarily. Ronnie Day was again so close to a title, winning the Saturday main from 18th, but coming up 5 points short of Jac Haudenschild’s total. The Ohio driver known as the Wild Child passed 34 cars over the two day span to earn the honor.

    Tulare Thunderbowl, about a 30 minute drive from Kings Speedway, took over the 2005 version on short notice after Kings shut their doors. An unusual Saturday main developed when Brent Kaeding and Mike Faria were ahead enough in points before the 40 laps started that whoever finished in front of the other would win the title. BK went from 24th to 4th, passing 5 drivers in one six lap stretch to edge Faria for his 4th title. His son, Tim, won the main on Saturday.

    The 2006 show saw Tim Kaeding win his 2nd title to total six Cup wins for the well-known racing family. TK started 19th and finished the seemingly magical 2nd in the Saturday main to capture the Cup. Then in 2007 it was Jason Meyers from nearby Clovis who won the title, finishing 3rd from 20th on Saturday to establish the 2nd largest margin of victory in the 14 years.

    In 2008 the first ever three day event drew 59 teams to Tulare and most who have seen every Cup version agree it was one of the most exciting years. Superb track conditions led to equally fantastic racing, especially for Brad Sweet. Finishing 3rd in the final night’s main event after starting 24th, Sweet collected $11,000 after edging Sammy Swindell by six points.

    In 2009 the idea of a three day winged show was dropped to help lessen expenses for teams. To control the car count, only 65 cars were allowed to enter and a flurry of entrants on the last postmark date allowed, built the field to 72. Keeping the car count to a manageable level was necessary as the fairgrounds has a state imposed curfew.

    History was made in that year when Tim Kaeding won his 3rd title and 7th for the famous racing family. The Saturday night main event winner had never come from last starting (24th). TK accomplished that feat in 2009 when he used every inch of the Thunderbowl clay to collect a thrilling main event win on the 2nd night and capture the Cup.

    In 2010 it was finally time for Jonathan Allard to enjoy victory at the Trophy Cup. Often in position to claim the title as Saturday’s main went green, problems seemed to follow Allard to deny a Cup crown. That changed in 2010 when Allard raced from 24th starting to 4th on Saturday to become the champion by a larger than usual 14 point margin.

    In 2011 Stevie Smith won the Friday main event over a 70 car field despite never racing on the Tulare Thunderbowl clay before. The second night produced a dominating main event win for Kyle Larson while the race for Cup champion reached new heights.

    A lap 48 yellow set up one of the most dramatic finishes in Cup history. Jonathan Allard was 3rd, Jac Haudenschild was 4th, and they were nose to tail on the restart as they raced each other for the title. Haudenschild passed Allard on the bottom in turn 1 of the 49th lap, Allard came back in turn 2 and they crossed the line to end lap 49 in a near tie. Had their not been one more lap, a photo finish would have settled the Cup.

    The duo entered turn 2 on the final lap side by side, Haudenschild on the top, and he used that ground to get a good push off of the turn to lead Allard down the backstretch, adding a pass on Roger Crockett to finish his final lap. Allard dropped to 4th at the line and Haudenschild had won the Cup title over Allard and Brad Sweet.

    In 2012 an 85 car field of winged sprints tested the Thunderbowl clay, and unfortunately, all too often the Thunderbowl wall. Rico Abreu won the Friday main after Roger Crockett’s lead was erased by a car flipping off the wall in front of Crockett. Jason Meyers won his 2nd Cup title on Saturday by finishing in the popular 2nd place spot, coming from 23rd to establish a larger than usual point gap after the 50 laps were scored.

    Just when Cup fans thought they had seen it all, 2013 reached new heights for drama and excitement. A 74 car field created a pair of amazing finishes in A main racing. Friday night a photo finish between Tim Kaeding and David Gravel saw Kaeding get the win despite being 6 car lengths behind Gravel as they raced into turn 3 for the final time. TK started 10th in the 30 lap main.

    As if that was not enough drama, Saturday’s main event finish was the wildest in the 20 years of Cup action. Last lap drama exceeded any prior script when Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet raced for the win with last turn contact between the pair leading to Sweet flipping and Larson slamming the turn 4 wall. Larson limped to the line in his battered ride, shedding parts along the way, as the race was allowed to finish. Larson, 23rd starting, won the main and Cup title to cap a memorable night.

    Last year was the first for the new three day format and 84 teams jammed the Thunderbowl pit area. Kyle Hirst and David Gravel were fastest Thursday qualifiers and Hirst won the C, B, and A mains on opening night. The second night saw Gravel again set a fast time and Justyn Cox was fastest in the other group. A close finish in the A main showed Colby Copeland winning by a couple feet over Roger Crockett.

    Saturday preliminary events determined the top 24 point cars for the 50 lap finale and it was a record setting race. Willie Croft became the closest to the front champion in Cup history when the 6th starting veteran won the main and title. Mason Moore and Crockett trailed Croft in the final point list.

    The new three day Cup menu for winged 360 sprints came about after two years of using Thursday for nonwing 360 action did not meet expectations for support. Despite having a much larger than usual purse, nonwing car count was unimpressive. Not wanting to revert to a two day event, the new winged format covering a trio of days was the answer.

    The Trophy Cup organization has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation each year and every penny of entry fees is given to the cause. Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction, and other activities add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very worthy cause. The Trophy Cup has raised over $1,135,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The entire event is possible only through many volunteers supporting the Cup as well as the outstanding support from the host track, Tulare Thunderbowl.

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    From The Grandstand

    by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Following the USAC night at Chico, I followed the series to Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds, or the more commonly used way to refer to the track, Hanford. Under the leadership of Ron and Rose Vander Weerd, the 3/8 oval has a sprint car dominated schedule with 17 of 19 nights featuring some flavor of sprint cars.

    The track’s bread and butter are the King of Kings winged 360s with several USAC West Coast nonwing sprint nights also. An unusual doubleheader this coming weekend has King of Kings on Friday and the resumption of the King of the West winged 410 series on Saturday. The six visits I have on my schedule will be the most in 15 years, despite living further from Hanford than ever.

    Between Chico having some once a year nonwing racers and other teams using up equipment in the series, it figured the 31 car Chico turnout in USAC/CRA sprints would drop in Hanford. Drawing 19 meant a few less than I expected, but the top teams were there.

    Support divisions were normally IMCA sanctioned, but their Nationals in Boone, IA last week meant no points allowed and the Hanford field shrunk considerably as a result. The track was the best I have seen in my 3 visits this year as the learning process seems to have been successful.

    Damion Gardner was only 8th fastest in the 19 car list and just 4th in his heat, but was on the pole for a 30 lap main. Gardner jumped into the lead with Richard Vander Weerd and Ryan Bernal chasing. R. Vander Weerd closed on Gardner and use a lap 4 top side drive off of turn 4 to take the lead.

    R. Vander Weerd was flying around the 3/8, opening a good lead in just 3 laps, but on the 7th trip around spun off of the top of turn 3 following a cushion jump, putting Gardner back in front.

    Again 2nd, Bernal was now pursued by Mike Spencer and the pair closed on Gardner, especially over the last few laps, but Gardner successfully withstood all challenges and collected the win. Spencer passed Bernal high out of turn 4 on lap 21 but lost the spot back to the Hollister driver a half lap later low in turn 2. Bernal made it close, but settled for 2nd to continue his excellent string of finishes while Spencer was 3rd.

    The fact that Hanford is racing at all may be due to a nearby track, Plaza Park Raceway in Visalia. The Friday night micro sprint track made enough noise several years ago to prod a nearby home owner, namely Ron Vander Weerd, to check the place out.

    The direct result of that visit was his twin sons, Richard and Jace, along with his daughter, Jenna, soon were racing micro sprints at Plaza Park. One year the podium at the track’s Outlaw Nationals were all Vander Weerd drivers, but Jenna soon ended her racing career while the boys moved into sprint cars.

    Following the sequence from junior sprints to micro sprints to sprint cars is fairly commonly done in the area as both Plaza Park and Lemoore Raceway have busy micro sprint programs. The Vander Weerd twins became nonwing sprint racers and eventually added wing racing to their resume.

    Hanford’s track went through a series of promoters since a mid-season sudden closure in 2005, challenging Chowchilla Speedway for the record of most opening and closing cycles in the state. When the trend repeated during the 2014 season, the Vander Weerd parents stepped up and saved the track from a potential long term closure.

    Ron Vander Weerd said he wanted some place close by for his sons to race and that played a part in his decision to promote the track. With a three year lease and important support from area businesses, Hanford’s track was back with solid leadership and an attractive schedule of events.

    The Vander Weerd family has a strong background in business with dairy and home construction keeping them busy while Jenna runs a battery distribution business. While the plan is for the track to be financially successful, there was also a level of altruism involved by not letting the track sit idle.

    My 4th visit this season this coming Friday should have a strong winged 360 field and, with the Nationals in Boone complete, the support classes will draw much better now that points are involved. A long drive, but worth it.

     

     

     

    9/11

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Tuesday’s Outlaw Kart Showcase, held at Cycleland Speedway just over 12 miles south of Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, was a huge event with over 220 outlaw karts in action. The large payout and everything associated with the event was made possible by many people within the industry providing support.

    As with any event, someone must take responsibility of making it happen and Mike and Janet Larson put countless hours of time and tons of energy into making it happen. Their efforts were rewarded with a large crowd and jammed pit area on the Tuesday before Gold Cup.

    Despite all the “celebrity”, accomplished sprint car, and long tow racers it came down to locals who claimed the big money and fame. Daniel Becker won the A main, accomplishing a feat that escaped him during the regular season when he competed against less than a third of the number of karts on hand Tuesday.

    Colby Copeland took the overall championship for most points along with the $5000 prize for his evening. Following him in points were Becker and Tyler Seavey, all track regulars to some degree as Copeland is often away driving a sprint car.

    The event marked the beginning of Gold Cup week at Silver Dollar Speedway and two nights are complete of the four total. Opening night brought 50 winged 360s and 24 Hunt Magneto nonwing spec sprints to fill the pit area. The winged sprints ran a Civil War point show and spec sprints a Hunt series event.

    Andy Gregg was fastest at 11.930 for the CW group and a quartet of 12 car invert 4, take 4 heats moved the winners plus the next fastest 4 into a six lap dash. Sometimes a piece of luck is needed and finishing 3rd in his heat did not put Sean Becker into the dash as he was 2nd fastest in his heat. That changed when the fastest qualifier in heat 4 missed the transfer, slowed by some contact, and Becker was next in line for the dash assignment.

    Becker’s luck continued when he drew the pole spot for the dash, run on a dry, slick track which worked to his benefit, winning the dash for the 30 lap main event pole. What transpired in the main for Becker was not due to luck, but careful management of tire wear and patiently waiting for a chance to make his move.

    Before the winged sprint B main and the pair of A mains, a lengthy track maintenance session seemed to have little effect. By the end of the B main, rubber began to appear and the spec sprint main increased that factor. That led to a relatively bland winged main except for the question of tire wear. Justin Sanders took the lead on the start from the outside front row with Becker and Kyle Hirst in pursuit. Due to the one lane track, single file restarts were mandated and the top 3 ran unchanged for 28 laps.

    On lap 29, Becker, who started closing on Sanders 6 laps earlier, took a look outside of Sanders in turn 2, then dropped to the bottom and swept pass the driver with the 2nd most wins in the country to win by leading the last two laps. The final corner saw Hirst drive around Sanders for 2nd to set the podium. That made back to back wins for the Becker brothers between Cycleland and Chico.

    The spec sprints lineup had Austin Liggett starting 4th following their dash for a 25 lap main. Liggett drove the top of turns 1 and 2 and had the lead on the backstretch during lap one and went on to dominate the race for the win.

    Liggett, a California State University Stanislaus student, has raced numerous times with the USAC West Coast group as well as some winged racing. He used his quick car and experience to run away with the main. Shawn Jones was 2nd and Shane Myhre was 3rd by a couple feet.

    Thursday is one of my favorite with the USAC/CRA nonwing 410s joined by the USAC West Coast midgets for two divisions that race once a year at Chico. Midgets did race in August, but that was a BCRA sanctioned event. If I had to pick only one Chico race to attend a year, this would be the one. The 2nd night of Gold Cup racing lived up to my hopes despite a Ryan Bernal domination, winning both mains.

    It took some time for Bernal to take the lead in the midget main but he led all 30 laps of the sprint finale. While the Hollister based versatile driver cruised, relatively so at least, in the sprint main, the racing behind him was very intense and equally entertaining.

    Drawing 31 sprints and 28 midgets, the car count met expectations and then some, bolstered by several sprint drivers shedding the wing for a once a year foray into a different genre. Heats in both classes were four in number and had plenty of good racing in search of a top four finish. B mains filled the field, each leading to a 30 lap main and no unnecessary track prep session delayed the evening.

    On a fast but multi-groove track, the midgets put on one of the better mains I have seen, bringing back memories of the wonderful two day Cornhusker Classic shows at McCool Junction, NE. Michael Faccinto led from the pole with Chase Stockton and Trey Marcham in pursuit. Starting 6th, Bernal moved into 3rd on lap 7 with a topside drive out of turn 4.

    Lap 12 saw Faccinto drop to 4th, Stockton take the lead, and Bernal moved to 2nd just ahead of Shane Golobic. Two laps later, Bernal again used the top side of turn 4 to take the lead, a location he enjoyed the last 12 laps to record a win.

    With a dozen laps left, Golobic moved to 2nd and slowly closed on Bernal, eliminating the gap with about 8 laps left. Smoke pouring from Golobic’s ride added to the drama as he closed on Bernal, but no late race pass was going to happen and Bernal won over Golobic and Stockton. A smoothly run, very competitive race seemed over too soon.

    While the sprint car main lacked a battle for the lead, the other podium spots were contested over the entire 30 laps. Bernal had the pole and used that plus a fast ride to lead all the way for a sweep on the night. Winning by a quarter lap, Bernal’s dominance made it easier to focus on the very competitive racing for the other two podium locations.

    Cody Williams was 2nd and Austin Liggett, steering a 360 powered ride, had 3rd until a lap 4 Jake Swanson pass in turn 4. A lap later Andy Forsberg used the bottom of turn 4 to take 3rd until Keith Bloom rode the cushion out of turn 4 to move Forsberg back a spot.

    Forsberg came back following a restart and picked up two spots quickly to again sit in 2nd with Williams 3rd as the lap count passed the half way point. Mike Spencer used the popular top side of turn 4 to move to 3rd on lap 17 and took 2nd a lap later, using the same Silver Dollar clay.

    Lap 24 was not kind to Spencer, sliding up the track in turns 1 and 2, dropping to 7th with Forsberg and Kevin Thomas Jr. now behind, but not close to Bernal. That was the final order with Liggett coming back from 9th on lap 23 to finish 4th, just ahead of Swanson. Forsberg’s 2nd matched his Petaluma finish and earlier he had set quick time in a what is a rare nonwing appearance for the Auburn veteran.

    While a battle for the lead is always nice, this one had such excellent action behind Bernal that it matched the midget main for entertainment value.

     

     

    9/8

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…It had been 2 years since visiting Petaluma Speedway, more due to traffic than anything else. Last season several times a visit to the 3/8 clay track was planned, then Saturday afternoon traffic over the 105 mile trip showed more red than green. With options much closer and easier to get to, Petaluma was replaced by an easier drive.

    Labor Day this year featured the USAC/CRA teams in Petaluma and, traffic bad or not, that was one not to miss. Using alternate routes because the usual bad traffic spots were as awful as ever, the drive there was about 45 minutes longer than the drive home over a more direct plan. Most important of all, it was worth the effort.

    A 26-car field of nonwing mostly 410s was assisted by 22 micro sprints and 20 super stocks, just right for a timely Monday night show. The micros are mostly Delta and Dixon regulars and their support of Petaluma this year has been good. The super stocks are a track group whose main was a test of endurance for both fans and sprint cars drivers sitting in staging. Micros did their thing promptly.

    One time ever have I stayed comfortable in shorts and t-shirt at Petaluma and that was Monday. The beginning of an intense heat wave, peaking this Friday during the Gold Cup, brought very unusual 90+ degree temps to Petaluma, leading to a comfortable evening at the fairgrounds oval.

    Qualifying was a series of new track records, starting with a Cory Kruseman’s 13.681 effort breaking the old record, but that turned out only fast enough for a 10th quick evening. Showing the track stayed fair, Kruseman was first out and eventual fast time Jake Swanson came out 24th, turning a 13.457 to be the one to wind up with the track record after an entertaining qualifying session.

    Noteworthy was Geoff Ensign’s 4th fast effort in a 360 powered entry. Throw in a heat one win for Ensign and I had to confirm the announcer was correct, and Ensign did say it was a 360 bolted in the 24B car. Ensign also led a dozen laps of the entertaining, competitive and flawed main event before contact led to an infield spin.

    A trio of passing filled heats were among the best I have seen all year as only the top 4 of the invert six heats went directly to the A main. Fourteen starters in the B main elevated the top 10 onto the A main to fill the field. The micro sprint main was a Steven Garris win, leading the last 16 after passing David Prickett low in turn 4 on lap 5.

    Cody Williams led a lap before Ensign used the bottom of turn 4 to move C. Williams back a spot while Austin Williams was 3rd. Ensign enjoyed the lead while the Williams brothers dueled for 2nd. A. Williams was 2nd when front stretch contact with Ensign put the leader into a spin, moving A. Williams to the lead, C. Williams 2nd, and fast timer Jake Swanson now 3rd.

    Drivers had discovered the benefit of racing in the infield, at least 15 feet into the forbidden space in turn 3. My back stretch view was perfect to gauge the turn 3 action and cars were completely off of the racetrack with a few more feet still to their right before reaching the intended race surface.

    All four corners received their share of infield racing but turn 4 was the worst since huge clouds of dust resulted form the unapproved action. Some of the large tractor tires were finally placed on the track with five laps left. There was a unique aspect to the race with the 3/8 oval becoming more like 5/16 with the shortcuts, but dust made the race almost unsafe in turn 4.

    Swanson used the bottom of turn 2 plus some infield to take 2nd on lap 20 and more infield racing in turn 4 two laps later had Swanson in the lead and Mike Spencer in 3rd. Spencer wheeled a back up after hot lap oil issues prompted the change.

    With the turn 4 infield hosting lead changes, A. Williams led lap 23, Swanson came back on lap 24, and Spencer took over on lap 25. Leading the last five laps, Spencer took the win over an opportunistic Andy Forsberg, 2nd from 10th starting after tangles in front of him and a drive down the front stretch inner edge (or infield?) on a restart garnered him the 2nd spot.

    Ryan Bernal moved into 3rd late in the race to finish the dusty podium after 30 laps of passing featuring six lead changes, some unusual racing, but all very entertaining. Once the relatively small berm was worn away, it was open season on corner cutting driving.

    Last Saturday Placerville Speedway had a very good winged 360 main, especially for Sean Becker who won from 6th starting. Logan Seavey was 2nd with a very good run after the 26 lap race, one extra time around the foothill quarter after a late call for the white flag. Greg DeCaires was 3rd to practically cement his track title.

    With one point race left on the 19th, DeCaires leads Mike Benson by enough points that staying home is about the only way for DeCaires to not win the title. Andy Gregg’s DNS in the main following early evening issues moved the previous 2nd place point car to 3rd. Excellent track conditions hosted the 17 sprints at Placerville for the three division show and Becker used a drive off the top of turn 4 to lead the last 11 laps.

     

     

    9/3

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway closed their point season last Friday with a very entertaining night of action. Next week the 4 day Gold Cup happens on the same quarte mile followed by the two day Fall Nationals the first weekend of October. These six nights are the biggest of the season and, if recent track surfaces are an indicator, racing will be excellent.

    Last Friday Sean Becker captured his 5th track title at Chico, 91 points ahead of Jonathan Allard. Only Becker, Rowdy McClenon, and Michael Ing ran all 13 point nights and Allard missed a pair. Allard won six times while Becker, Keith Bloom, Carson Macedo, Colby Copeland, Tanner Thorson, Rico Abreu, and Tyler Walker had single wins. Winning six of 11 starts is quite an impressive year at Chico for Allard.

    The final point night had a good main, led initially by Kyle Hirst until a lap 14 pass by Allard led to his sixth point win. Using the top line out of turn 4 for his winning pass, Allard led the last 11 for another win, this time over Tyler Walker and Sean Becker. Walker dove low into turn 3 on lap 16 to take 2nd and Becker used the top of turn 2 three laps later for 3rd.

    The nonwing spec sprints returned after some time away and brought 13 entries. Terry Schank Jr. came from 10th to win over Jake Morgan and Cody
    Fendley. Schank took 7 laps, three less than my prediction to get the lead from outside row 5 and claim his 3rd track title.

    An unusual breeze towards the stands brought some dust into view, but a racy track was an acceptable trade off. The street stocks took advantage of the track and put on their best main ever. A little dusty but racy is better than no dust and too hard to pass.

    An eight race in nine days stretch will test my personal endurance with six or seven tracks involved. One of the group of events will be the outlaw kart special at Cycleland Speedway just south of Chico. Over 220 karts are entered in three divisions, all reaching saturation well in advance of the September 8th event. Entries were closed some time ago with over 160 open division karts registered.

    Taking an innovative approach for a format, the Trophy Cup served as a basis for deciding how to do things, and passing will be necessary to make the A main. The top 20 point karts out of the 10 heats, inverting 8 from group qualifying, will be decided after 8 laps of very hard racing.

    A large group of kart regulars mixed with some seasoned sprint car drivers but first time is a winged outlaw kart will provide a very interesting show. The crown jewel of the evening will be the 50-lap finale, inverting all 24 karts by points. The next time you will see that happen is October 17 at Tulare Thunderbowl, only it will be winged 360 sprints.

    The money is huge compared to the usual outlaw kart payout. The top open division main is paying $1000 to win the main with $500 and $250 going to fellow podium finishers. The overall points is a $5000 prize for the top driver and the 24 A main karts get two payouts, one for the race and another from the point fund. The total purse is in excess of $25,000 and many prizes and contingency awards are part of the Showcase.

     

     

    8/12

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…It was a history making night last Saturday at Placerville Speedway when they offered the largest payout to win the main event in track history. The $10,000 winner’s check was the most any main event winner had won at Placerville in its 50 years of racing.

    Originally a $5000 to win race, further sponsorship elevated the winning share to twice that amount. The occasion was also a point race for the Civil War series, so the 29 winged 360s in attendance was certainly fewer than I expected. Some potential entrants were in Iowa and the majority of the entries were Placerville regulars.

    The CW format for a four heat night inverts 4 in heats with the heat winners and next four fastest to transfer running a dash. Cory Eliason and Sean Becker started the dash on the front row and, due to the finish, also started the 30 lap main in the same spots.

    Eliason jumped to the lead, Becker in pursuit, and Carson Macedo ran 3rd until a lap 6 low turn 4 drive by Kyle Hirst dropped Macedo to 4th. Seven laps later Macedo was back to 3rd when Hirst got over the turn 4 cushion while Becker pressured Eliason.

    Cushion climbing seemed to be the rule of the night and when Eliason went over the turn 4 ledge on lap 15, briefly though it was, Becker was able to close and drive under Eliason out of the turn to take the lead.

    Eliason repeated the cushion bumping on lap 19 and Macedo was back to 2nd. Becker led one more lap before sliding up too high in turn 2, reportedly due to a lack of brakes, and Macedo drove under for the lead and eventual win. During the turn 2 lead change, Jonathan Allard passed Eliason for 2nd while Becker slipped to 5th.

    A final podium pass on lap 23 saw Hirst back to 3rd while Macedo raced to victory over Allard, putting on a 360 spin show in turn 4 to show his excitement over winning. It was a very dramatic main event, one that was worthy of being labeled the highest paying race in track history.


    Carson Macedo won the highest paying race ever held in Placerville.


    Support racing came from the BCRA midget lites (mini-sprints) with a fine 24 car field bolstered by 5 Southern California long tows. Their main was good and infrequent competitor Charlie Caraccilo won over Scott Males and R. C. Smith.

    A completely packed grandstand plus lots of people in the pit area showed how big this race was to the sprint car community.

     

     

    8/4

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…It is a rare occurrence when I watch a driver win his very first career main event. One that is still in my memory is Chris D’Arcy when he won what I would guess was his one career main at Hanford quite a few years back. Using the entire track, including some brushing of the front stretch wall, D’Arcy put on quite a show collecting that win.

    Last Friday another of those very infrequent moments occurred when Koen Shaw made a rare visit to Silver Dollar Speedway and came away with his first career sprint car win. Anyone watching the 25 lap main who was not aware of Shaw never having won a main would have thought he had a large collection of main event trophies.

    His drive was strong and steady, 100 left turns with no mistakes of any kind and he had to withstand two huge obstacles to get the win. One was the nearly incessant string of restarts, 7 yellows to be exact. Chico does not use double file restarts, but each of the seven erased a Shaw lead of some amount.

    As the Fresno based driver came through turn 4 expecting to see the white flag waving, it instead was another yellow and his certain win was again in doubt. A large lead was gone and two laps followed with more challenges to his history making moment, but Shaw was successful at holding all rivals at bay.

    The 2nd obstacle was even a larger hurdle to conquer, keeping one of the track’s most successful drivers from taking away the win. Following a low turn 2 pass of Korey Lovell on lap 4, Jonathan Allard was in 2nd for the last 20 times around the Chico clay.

    Far more experienced drivers have faced the same challenge that Shaw had, keeping Allard from finding a way around to take the lead. Many times Allard got his nose up to the halfway point on Shaw’s 88K car on the backstretch, but turns 3 and 4 high side line was used by the young driver to keep the lead.

    Each yellow added to the drama, although several of them eliminated potential traffic issues for the leader. Shaw drove an excellent race to win over Allard and Sean Becker, and the crowd obviously enjoyed watching the history making race. The infrequent 360 night drew 24 cars, putting on perhaps the best race of the year at Silver Dollar.

    Saturday Placerville had winged 360s and BCRA midgets, a very attractive combination, with 21 of each as part of a four divison night. BCRA heats were very good as was the race for 2nd in their 30 lap main after Shane Golobic dominated the last 28 laps.

    Golobic ran the topside of turns 3 and 4 on lap 3 to pass Nick Chivello and run away with the main event win. A mid race restart showed 4 cars between Golobic and 2nd place so dominating was his drive. Racing for 2nd was good between Chivello and Frankie Guerrini with Brian Gard also in the mix. Chivello prevailed over Guerrini after 30 times around the racy quarter.

    Mike Benson led the 360 main for 8 laps until Sean Becker used the lower line through turns 3 and 4 to take the lead for the last 17 times around. Golobic used the bottom of turn 4 on lap 18 to finish 2nd while Benson won a duel for 3rd with Cory Eliason. A good main, and one that served as an appetizer for this coming Saturday.

    August 8th at Placerville Speedway will be the Mark Forni Classic. Originally set for $5000 to win for winged 360 sprints, it will now be one of the highest paying races ever for the division. Saturday’s winner will earn double the initial purse, $10,000 to win, and a large and talented field is a certainty.

    The talented Placerville regular group will receive pressure from many teams from around the Northern California area. It is also a Civil War sanctioned race so CW regulars plus some of the King of the West teams will certainly make for a very talented collection of drivers.

     

     

    7/29

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Last weekend was an excellent time to travel south with Hanford and Tulare filling Friday and Saturday with races less than 30 minutes apart. Keller Auto Speedway at Kings fairgrounds offered winged 360s, modifieds, and sport mods while Tulare Thunderbowl ran the huge Peter Murphy Classic. Winged 410s, nonwing 360s, and racesaver 305s jammed their pit area for the longest show I have ever seen in Tulare.

    Hanford’s Friday night winged 360 series has done well on car count all season and the 27 on hand last Friday continues that trend. Having a 410 race the next night nearby helped bolster the count and support divisions had just enough cars to add to the show without taking too much time.’

    Late July weather in the Tulare and Kings county world will either be hot or very hot. A mid-90s weekend was acceptable keeping in mind that it is a dry heat. Both tracks are listed as 3/8, Tulare is higher banked and has much better announcing, and Hanford has a longer history of Central California sprint car action.

    Hanford has continued to tweak their sprint car format and have settled on the Civil War series way of doing things. The track seemed dry to start things and several track prep sessions during the evening helped for a short time. Turns 1 and 2 were mostly run the bottom but 3 and 4 provided multi-groove racing and a very good last few laps to the sprint main.

    Mitchell Faccinto set quick time at a relatively slow 15.902 before a trio of heats and a dash led to Ryan Robinson and Jason Meyers on the front row. There is a contrast, Meyers being a veteran with numerous accolades and championships, and Robinson, a 14-year-old rookie out of the winged kart ranks.

    Young Ryan is the son of a talented former driver, David, and the Foresthill based rookie has impressed me both times I have been to Hanford. Faccinto’s fast time is also an example of a relatively young driver dong well and his father, Monte, was also a successful sprint car driver. Surrounding these two on the A main grid besides Meyers were Jonathan Allard, Kyle Hirst, and more youth, Carson Macedo.

    Meyers led over Robinson until Allard took 2nd with a bottom turn 2 pass on lap 6 while Ryan Bernal moved to 3rd. The racy turn 3 and 4 area worked for Allard when he passed Meyers to lead following a high side lap 14 excursion. Things remained unchanged until a bottom turn 1 pass by Bernal for 2nd on the 19th lap, some contact leading to Meyers running over Bernal’s front during a later yellow

    Allard continued to prefer the higher groove in turn 4 and Bernal used the bottom to take the lead on lap 25 and held on for the win over Allard and with Hirst finishing 3rd. The last handful of laps was very good as the two groove 2nd set of turns made for exciting action.

    Seeing Hanford have success as a Friday track is nice after the years of less than successful race programs. A weekly schedule is not the plan for next year as twice a month or so seems to be working. Promoter Ron Vander Weerd along with a group of sponsorship supporters are saving the track from being idle and doing so with a well thought our approach. Track prep issues can be solved to fix that situation.

    The 2nd year of the Peter Murphy Classic at Tulare took several steps forward, particularly in terms of purse. I was told around $30,000 was added to the purse by Murphy and his group of supporters. The King of the West main paid $11,000 to win, $5000 for 2nd, and the usual winner’s pay of $3000 for 3rd. An impressive $1000 to start, double the usual, means over $20,000 added without looking at 4th to 12th increases.

    The USAC West Coast field also was racing for a much higher purse, $4000 to win instead of the usual $1500. Again, their entire payout was bolstered by Murphy raised money, creating what I assume to be the highest paying or nearly so West Coast race ever.

    A 29 car field of USAC teams along with 36 KWS cars was about 10 more for each class than a regular show might have drawn. USAC did create some lost time due to 8 flips, but cutting their main short when it was such a special purse for the division was very frustrating. Seven laps short of being done, the USAC official called for the checkered flag. Making matters worse, then 9 racesaver sprints came out to run 15 laps for peanuts while the USAC big purse race was not allowed to finish. Fans sitting around me showed their displeasure at that decision.

    Bud Kaeding led initially until Matt Mitchell used a big slider in turn 4 to lead lap 3 through 12. On the 13th lap, Mitchell slid up to the turn 4 wall and 12th starting Ryan Bernal had the lead. Quickly stretching the gap, Bernal lost the potential win when he tried to split two cars at the line and the gap shrunk, leading to a ferocious flip by the leader.

    Bernal walked away from the battered car, a testament to the strength and safety measures of the ride. Mitchell led on the restart and stayed there until the premature end. Richard Vander Weerd was 2nd and Danny Faria Jr. 3rd after a heat race flip.

    The King of the West portion of the evening was very good, less delays and some outstanding main event racing. Carson Macedo led a lap before Jason Meyers assumed the lead while Macedo dropped to 3rd behind Kyle Hirst. Using what would become a key piece of Tulare clay, Hirst took the lead on lap 6 driving off of the top of turn 2. Three laps later Meyers used turn 4’s bottom to lead again for just a lap before Hirst made the same turn 2 move.

    One lap short of the 30 lap main’s halfway point, Meyers repeated his turn 4 move and more Hirst pressured followed. On a lap 22 restart, the race changed when Aaron Reutzel slid past Hirst on the bottom out of turn 4 and closed on Meyers.

    Perhaps noticing the success Hirst had at the very top of turn 2, Reutzel used the same spot and on lap 27 came off of turn 2 like he had just found another 100 horsepower. That was the winning pass and Reutzel won over Meyers and Hirst following an excellent 30 laps.

    With a 12:58 am finish this technically was a two day show, but 2016 it will be a more traditional two day event. It will be interesting to see how much money is paid out next year as this event is growing by the proverbial leaps and bounds. A very popular driver when he raced around the Golden State, Peter Murphy is getting the support needed to keep this a must see event. And speaking of seeing it, one of the largest Tulare crowds I have ever seen added to this year’s race being a classic.

     

     

    7/21

    From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda

    Lincoln, CA…Our Midwest trip went very well, great weather, 18 races in 6 states, and almost every night offered excellent racing with strong car counts. The approximate 5500 mile journey meant a lot of driving hours, but it was certainly rewarded.

    While I was gone, the Western Sprint Tour held their speedweek in Oregon and, according to a couple drivers I spoke with, it was well done. The organization of the racing, format, and payoff were well received with the newer version of Willamette Speedway getting very favorable comments.

    Returning to the arid Golden State meant trips to Chico and Placerville last weekend. Seeing Sandy Dunlap at the Silver Dollar pit gate and Kristine Shelton in Placerville made it feel as I was really back home. Kristine and her husband, Ted, handle pit gate chores in Placerville, a rare husband and wife combination to fill that capacity.

    Chico ran 5 divisions with three of them being sprint cars. Headlining winged 410s had 15, the nonwing spec sprints surprised with 17, and the econo sprints, basically a winged spec, had the largest field I have seen at 12. I have come to appreciate less than 20 car fields as the main event has the potential for fewer yellows, meaning more entertainment.

    Second in points, Sean Becker, lost an engine early and Jim Richardson came to his rescue so he could run the main. The usual plan of two heats with the top 4 from each redrawing for the main led to an Andy Forsberg and Rowdy McClenon front row. Chase Majdic, in a 360, moved up to inside row 2 after the Richardson scratch, and Jonathan Allard filled the outside of that row.

    Forsberg quickly took control with Majdic in pursuit and Bud Kaeding, using a turn 4 slider, was 3rd after 4 laps. Stretching his lead, Forsberg was in control of the main, at least until a front wheel came off to end a dominating run. Just after the yellow flew, Kaeding, having lost 3rd to Allard on lap 16, tried a turn 4 slider three laps later that left him backed into the wall.

    Majdic now led on the restart, Allard in 2nd, and Becker was 3rd with the potential of a 360 winning adding more drama. Majdic did hold the lead until lap 23 when the much more powerful 3C of Allard took the lead to win over Majdic and Becker.

    The spec sprint main was good, especially for Terry Schank, Jr. Using a top side line, Schank drove from 6th starting to the lead in 8 laps to win over Cody Fendley and Casey McClain. It was nice to see a good sized spec sprint field on a track that was very good for main event racing. The econo sprint main was a win for Brandon Powell off of the pole.
    Saturday was King of the West night at Placerville and a 28 car field meant a four heat format. Preliminaries went smoothly and a dry, but very racy track greeted the winged 410s for 30 laps. More dust than I have seen for a long time flew during the main and Kyle Hirst used an outside front row start to lead all but lap 8 for the win.

    Shane Golobic was 2nd when Hirst slipped up the track in turn 4 as lap 8 was closing and Golobic had the lead. That lasted about ¾ of a lap when contact with an infield tire put Hirst back in front and Andy Forsberg into 2nd.

    On the restart, Colby Copeland threw a big turn 3 slider at Forsberg to take the runner-up spot, but just before the halfway mark Copeland dropped to 6th and Andy Gregg was 3rd.

    Copeland worked his way forward again and used the top line leaving turn 2 on lap 25 to retake 3rd. Some great racing the last five laps led to Copeland taking 2nd with two laps left and Forsberg held off Dominic Scelzi for 3rd. Despite the dust, it was an excellent main on one of the raciest tracks I have seen in Placerville this year.

    This coming weekend in a huge Central Valley pair of races, Friday at Hanford where winged 360s will battle the next chapter in the Milk Can series. Then Saturday the Peter Murphy Classic takes place at Tulare, offering a tremendous purse for the King of the West teams and USAC West Coast nonwing 360s. As an added bonus, the highest finishing Tulare finisher than raced Hanford gets an additional $1000.

    The $11,000 to win and $1000 to start KWS evening is the result of the excellent support Peter Murphy receives for this special. Third place pays the usual KWS winner purse and it is a can’t miss weekend in the Central Valley.

     

     


     



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