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From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…While California is basking is sunshine and warmer than normal temperatures for May, other areas are a different matter. The first 15 days of this month will see above normal temperatures for 10 of those days. While the upper Midwest has tracks that are still to race due to their seemingly unending winter, our drier than normal stretch has kept rainouts to a bare minimum.
Losing the first 5 or 6 races to an already shorter than some locations schedule puts tracks in a financial hole that can be very difficult to climb out of during the season. Throw in another couple or so likely rainouts yet to come and the impact is huge. California promoters have their own set of issues to deal with trying to run a track in this state, but wet weather is not usually one of them.
Chico has raced three times in May, two being Friday point shows and the Bradway Memorial taking place on the 4th. May’s first Friday had 27 winged 410s on hand with the next night’s Bradway bringing a few cars to the Silver Dollar Speedway a day earlier. Nine nonwing spec sprints kept that class from completely falling into oblivion.
One driver in town a day early was Fresno based Dominic Scelzi. Son of a now retired drag racer, Gary, Dominic had a dynamic run at last year’s Trophy Cup, leading 41 laps of the Saturday night 50 lap finale, thrilling the huge Tulare Thunderbowl crowd with his wall banging run. Last season Scelzi raced at 11 tracks and won a heat race at each one.
Scelzi started on the pole for the Chico 25 lap main and led 9 laps before Jonathan Allard won after a turn 4 slider on lap 10 led to his leading the rest of the way. Shane Stewart and Rico Abreu finished behind Allard’s 45th career Chico win. Rowdy McClenon led all the way in the spec sprint main for his 2nd this year at the track.
The following Friday a 19 car field of winged 410s along with another 9 car nonwing spec sprint field were joined by a dozen economy sprints, showing this division is for real. It was Jonathan Allard again, reaching the 46 career Chico win level, leading the last 18 laps. Allard got under Willie Croft in turn 4 with a lapped car creating some congestion that played to Allard’s benefit.
Rowdy McClenon made it 3 for the year in Chico, passing Ron Laplant on lap 9 after the leading Laplant bicycled a bit in turn 2. The economy sprints show signs of creating a full field some day with the 12 cars led to the checkers by Tony Richards. An economy sprints main 11 months prior had just five cars. The division did not grow much last year but pulling 12 cars last Friday gives the class much promise. DNF’s are too common in the class, however. Tony Richards was a San Jose Speedway regular when I was in those stands weekly. Living on a street right behind the middle school where I toiled, I recall Richards once telling me he was thrilled to have had a break even season at San Jose. Winning every week now would not create that successful bottom line.
Chico has only one real race the rest of May. Not counting other motorized activities at the fairgrounds, the one race is Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the best deal of the year for race fans in Northern California. The annual Civil War race during the fair offers free admission to the track for the fair crowd. For about half the price of a usual Civil War show, fans can take in the fair, or you could say for the price of a county fair fans can see a free Civil War event.
The first Saturday in May I chose Placerville’s only 2013 appearance of injected nonwing sprints over Chico’s high paying winged 410 event. A paltry 15-car field of sprints were on hand as were a paltry group of fans in the stands. Making it worse, of the 15 cars, six were Placerville regular winged 360s, running a very rare nonwing show for that group.
The heats were a good show but an opening lap spin moved Ryan Bernal from 4th starting to outside front row. The way Bernal has been driving, that was the same as just making the winner’s check out to him before a lap was scored. Max Adams led 4 laps before Bernal used the top of turn 2 to lead the last 26 times around the racy quarter.
While Bernal dominated, multiple cars racing each other in several grooves kept the interest level high. James Sweeney used the high line coming out of turn 4 to pick up a couple positions and finish 2nd ahead of Adams. There was some very good racing, but that car count is another matter. Jimmy Trulli drove his 360 powered winged sprint in 3 divisions in a like number of weeks. A week with the winged 410s, followed by a wing shedding effort with the nonwing injected group, and then a point show. His 7th, 5th, and 3rd in that order meant a trio of good outings.
Last Saturday was back to normal for Placerville with a good-sized crowd and 27 winged 360s. Billy Strange Jr. led 3 laps until 6th starting Andy Gregg used that often successful groove, the top side and cushion riding turn 4, to take the lead. Once in front Gregg was not to be denied his 2nd Placerville win this season.
Behind the fleet Gregg some very good racing for position among Joey Magaruh, Andy Forsberg, and Jimmy Trulli kept things interesting. Starting 9th, Forsberg used the bottom of turn 2 to take and keep 2nd while Trulli gained 3rd when Magaruh slipped over the turn 4 cushion. The best pure stock race I have ever seen at Placerville occurred when the two dominating cars tangled and started 10th and 11th in a single file manner. A photo finish with one of the fast ones winning made it a fun race to view. Remember the old days when the fast cars started at the back?
Willie Croft won his 2nd King of the West race last weekend to join Gregg among the drivers having a very good early season. This weekend will be interesting as the King of the West series makes their first Nevada appearance this season, a two day junket to Fernley 95A Speedway. An excellent $1000 to start payout is being offered for the NV races.
Lincoln, CA…I certainly appreciate a track that sees an issue and makes an adjustment. Small though it was, the change of main event order at Chico following the prior week’s crowd severely dwindling come winged 410 finale time was appreciated. Last Friday, racing five division again which will occur regularly, Silver Dollar Speedway moved the 410 main event to 4th in the order of things and I observed nobody leaving before the checkers flew over Andy Forsberg’s wing.
Having a goal of running the winged 410 main by 9:30 would be an excellent plan, meaning the main event order could flex depending on how things are going. A smoother evening when compared to a week prior helped a great deal with timing, also. The track is coming up with an ongoing series of promotions and is off to the best start in some time.
After a very tough race night the previous Friday, Andy Forsberg had some good fortune to help erase the ambulance ride memory following the heat one flip seven days before. A 22 car field of winged 410s was assisted by 11 economy sprints and 35 additional cars in a trio of fendered divisions. Andy Gregg was fast time and started outside row 2 in the invert four array.
Jonathan Allard had the pole next to Sean Becker while Forsberg filled the inside spot in row 2 alongside Gregg. When Allard had to pit with ignition issues before the green, Forsberg moved up to the pole while Allard went to the back. Running the 25 laps with just a single stop, Forsberg led the distance with Becker putting intense pressure on most of the way.
Kyle Hirst got past Michael Tarter on lap 22 to take 3rd from 9th starting while Becker finished 2nd for the 3rd consecutive point race. Becker has chased Roger Crockett, Willie Croft, and now Forsberg across the Silver Dollar finish line and the most recent was the closest battle of the trio. Ron Wyman won the econo sprint main to become the 3rd winner of the division’s three outings.
Chico had a very good sized crowd on hand and the next night Placerville had more fans on hand than even the jammed packed season opener. The 2nd King of the West race created a true sold out grandstands, not some phony hyped so-called sell out. Fans could still watch via pit pass as Placerville continues to draw exceeding well.
A 32 car field of winged 410s along with a dozen mini-sprints (or midget lites as they are also called) provided the entertainment, and a very good job they did, too. Cory Eliason was quick time at 10.286 while recognition is due Jimmy Trulli for his 8th quick time with a 360 engine, less than .3 off of the 410 quick time. Both had mixed results later in the evening, Trulli with a solid 7th with his little engine that could, and Eliason an 18th after some main event misfortune.
Heats were just OK, but what can one expect from invert four, take four heats? The dash proved nothing with the front two rows finishing the dash in the same order, making the dash a true pre-main event race. Shane Golobic started the dash on the pole with Jason Statler alongside and they protected those spots while Kyle Hirst and Andy Gregg remained unchanged in row 2.
Four yellows and a pair of reds fell during the 30 lap main, led by Golobic with Statler and Hirst in tow. Entering turn 3 on the 5th lap, Hirst dove under Statler for 2nd and moved into the lead on lap 8 when Golobic got sideways in turn 4. A yellow appeared just in time for Golobic to negate the pass.
Two laps into the resumption, Willie Croft took 3rd, using the top side coming out of turn 2, and Hirst raced Golobic for the lead, often side by side around the tight quarter mile. With five left, Croft became a DNF and Statler was back in 3rd. Lap 27 was ending when Hirst rode the cushion in turn 4 and got past Golobic to take the lead and win, leading the last four. Golobic was 2nd and Tommy Tarlton was 3rd after Rico Abreu pushed Statler off the track in turn 4 on the final circuit.
Two excellent main events on consecutive nights with a large and an oversized crowd at the two tracks made for a successful weekend of Northern California sprint car racing. Chico runs another multi-division Friday show this week and follows with the high paying Bradway Memorial on Saturday. Placerville runs injected nonwing 360s, the only time this season to offer fans at Placerville a look at that style of racing.
Lincoln, CA…A steady diet so far this season of Chico on Friday and Placerville on Saturday will continue until some variety next month. Similarities exist between the two quarter mile ovals with both tracks pulling good crowd numbers, good competition so far, and a decent sprint car count. One glaring difference is in starting on time.
Placerville advertises a 7 pm start time. The last two Saturday nights have seen opening ceremonies at 6:50 and 6:55. Fans very much appreciate a track that starts on time and Placerville fans likely have come to expect that. Chico is much different, not in their advertised start time which is also 7 pm, but in the complete lack of ever starting on time.
Last Friday Chico drew a very good 23 car field of winged 410s, bolstered by several teams on hand to prepare for the King of the West opener the next night at Antioch. While the tire brand remains unchanged from what teams have used so far this season, compound and width differences make the KWS tire quite different.
Todd Wanless opened fans’ eyes with a fast time 11.620 run far from his Queensland base of operations. Wanless started racing in a different class than perhaps any other sprint car driver, trotter horse racing. His first racing using much more horsepower was road course action, creating a much different path to sprint cars that most drivers.
The night suffered from numerous reds and yellows with each of the five divisions doing their part to prolong the show. It all began with the first heat of the night when Andy Forsberg performed a seemingly harmless roll in turn 2. It proved to be anything but harmless when the impact led to the fear of a broken back.
As his father Richard related the next night, the Chico EMR crew did a very professional job of removing Forsberg from his car, leading to his first career ride to the hospital. Tests showed no serious problems and a stiff and sore Forsberg raced the next night at Placerville.
The main was on a drier and therefore slicker track than usual. Multiple groove racing lasted until some rubber appeared and even although Willie Croft led all 25 laps, it was a good battle between him and Sean Becker that kept the remaining portion of the once large crowd entertained. Running well past 11 pm, a large percentage of the grandstands gathering left before the major reason for being there.
Not to short change the other four divisions, there is no doubt the winged 410 sprints are the reason the majority of the crowd is there. To run the division last on a night when things are running late leads to people leaving before they got to see what the came for. How many of those people will think twice about coming back? It is time to move the winged 410s up in the main event order, especially now that 5 divisions are the normal for Chico, even six on occasion.
Croft, Becker, and Rico Abreu formed the podium following the late finish with Abreu coming from 7th starting to join the front row. The econo sprints drew 10 cars to add further hope to this division becoming something. However, the nonwing spec sprints were at 7 cars again with Rowdy McClenon winning to add to a 2nd in the opening point race. Also showing promise is the newly sanctioned IMCA modified class with 13 on hand including several visiting cars. Their main ended five laps early due to time issues, curtailing a great side by side race for the win. Ryan McDaniel has now won the track’s first ever IMCA sanctioned race for track points. Last month he won the first ever sanctioned race for state, regional, and national points.
Placerville drew 23 winged 360s plus 41 additional cars in three support classes. Jimmy Trulli set quick time with a 10.559 before the 20 car field inverted four to race the 25 lap finale. Mason Moore used his outside front row spot accompanied by a good start to lead 5 laps before 4th starting Andy Gregg powered into the lead on the high side leaving turn 4. Andy Forsberg used the same spot to take 2nd on lap 8 but slid up the track leaving turn 2 twelve laps later to drop back. That put Moore back into 2nd but Gregg was very fast and also smooth to race to the popular win over Moore and Justin Sanders.
Placerville features winged 410s this Saturday when the King of the West appears, then follows May 4 with the only appearance of injected nonwing sprints this season at the foothill quarter. That one could be especially good since there is no Civil War race that night and hopefully some of the track regulars in the winged 360 division will run that night.
Lincoln, CA…Northern California’s attempt at becoming an arid desert-like world failed to become a reality when Thursday rain last week led to some tracks canceling their weekend plans. After a very successful point opener a week prior, Silver Dollar Speedway was too wet for heavy haulers and Friday was lost. Placerville Speedway did open their season on Saturday and was the beneficiary of other tracks having to cancel. Their packed stands meant another track had a good first race of 2013.
Chico’s tacky but smooth surface means plenty of high-speed action at their opening point race with 19 winged 410s representing the largest count of the five divisions. Only 7 nonwing spec sprints showed as the class seems on a road to oblivion. A dozen streets stocks were good for that group while 7 mini stocks is enough for that level of division.
A very low buck sprint class, at least in comparison to other sprint divisions, the econo sprints had six entries. Winged and using cost cutting engine rules, the econo class needs to grow to about ten and that would then be fine. A very large crowd appeared at Chico creating something that has not been seen too often in recent years, a long line at the ticket window. The downside was how slowly the line moved before a 2nd window was opened.
Doug Emery won the econo sprint main, Ron Laplant made a mid-race pass for the spec sprint trophy, and Roger Crockett made it two for three at Silver Dollar this year in capturing the winged 410 finale. Crockett, Sean Becker, and Willie Croft ran unchanged in the top three spots for all 25 laps, but it was certainly not a snoozer.
With only a single yellow with three laps scored slowing the pace, tearing around the high banked oval 22 times without a break is what made the main so good. Becker was constantly pressuring Crockett the whole way, drawing alongside a couple of times, while the podium finishers dealt with lapped cars as well as each other.
Between the rainout and this week’s non-racing event at Chico, two weeks off will follow the successful point opener. That makes it very difficult to maintain any momentum resulting from having a large crowd for the opener. Hopefully the rain is done until early winter and April 19th will see more cars and a similar crowd.
Placerville was packed last Saturday, and that is an understatement. I have read race stories about events that I was on hand for claiming a “packed house”, when it was anything but packed. Placerville had one of the largest crowds I have seen in my 10 years of being a regular at the foothill quarter. Plenty of cars and the trademark efficient Placerville organization made it all a big win for the track.
A 30 car field of winged 360 sprints is misleading as several entrants will not normally be on hand. Assisted by a dozen limited late models, 16 pure stocks, and 19 dwarf cars, the pits were jammed with both cars and people. On the smallish quarter mile, 12 limited lates is a full field so all divisions were well populated.
Andy Forsberg was quick time for the umpteenth time at Placerville. After the quartet of invert six, take four heats, 7 the 8 fastest qualifiers all earned a transfer. Showing passing was happening, the quality heats were followed by a zero inversion pill. As an official said over the track radio following the revelation of the inversion, “there shouldn’t be a zero pill”.
What the draw did was put Forsberg on the pole and Kyle Larson outside. On hand due to a cancellation, Larson was making a rare appearance at a track that was the site of his first ever sprint car race on March 17, 2007. Qualifying 37th out of 40 cars that night and ending the evening with a 17th in the B main, March 17 was absolutely no sign of things to come.
Larson learned quickly and won his first ever sprint main on the same track later that season, August 4th to be exact. I missed than one as Haubstadt, IN was my location on that Saturday evening. Now at age 20 one of the most accomplished drivers ever at that age, Larson and the veteran Forsberg would have been a much better show from the 3rd or 4th row. Still, starting in front set up the two-car shootout before the green even flew.
Being on the slightly better outside line, Larson jumped into the lead and successfully dealt with Forsberg and traffic to lead all 25 laps to win over Justin Sanders and Willie Croft. Forsberg was 2nd with 5 to go but lost a pair of spots late in the run. Rico Abreu was in 2nd for a pair of laps before spinning, removing a potential battle for the win among friends. Sanders is a driver to watch as he is producing strong runs each race night this year.
Both tracks point openers gave the fans their money’s worth. Hopefully most of those fans will make many returns to the facilities.
Lincoln, CA…When track schedules appeared over the last couple of months, one of the most surprising, in a good way, was the Tulare Thunderbowl list of events. The most race nights that I can remember for the popular 3/8-mile oval are on the 2013 menu and every night is anchored by sprint cars. Thirteen nights, two of which are now completed, will conclude in October with the 20th annual Trophy Cup, the highest paying Cup ever. Last year new front stretch wall construction led to a very truncated season, making it seem as if the track hardly raced in 2012.
I don’t recall the year, but in the early to mid-90s a Sunday afternoon race in Tulare was my first time at the track. Back then, it was a flat smallish quarter that produced lackluster racing for the stock car divisions on hand. First racing in 1988, the present version is far superior to the initial facility. Major positive changes occurred when Steve Faria became track promoter, and with involvement from Don Sharp, the track has now become one of the best around. Even with the stubborn turn one ruts, the place is still a favorite.
Twenty-three miles away is another track that has seen a great deal of positive growth under new leadership. When Scott and Lisa Woodhouse took over Kings Speedway in Hanford, the track was in distress after several unsuccessful attempts to remain active. Closing mid-season in 2005, Kings appears to have overcome that period of uncertainty and has an aggressive schedule this year. Eleven of 17 race nights are sprint car led and, with something called cooperation between tracks in place now, Kings and Tulare never race on the same night.
One series that is featured several times at both tracks is the USAC West Coast series for nonwinged 360 sprints. This Central California series has 16 points shows at 4 tracks with Kings holding six nights, Tulare five, a trio at Bakersfield, and two times at Santa Maria. Three events are complete as of now, two at Tulare and a single Bakersfield race.
Northern California now has a similar series that is completely committed to dirt tracks. Called the USAC Western Classic series, the prior inclusion of paved tracks is now gone and ten events at six tracks are on the 2013 list. The downside is the spacing between races, six weeks at times, and having three of the ten in a six-day span. Some races are combined with the 410s of USAC/CRA, another wrinkle, so a pure nonwing 360 injected series for Northern California is still a dream, one that races twice or so a month.
The West Coast series has drawn an average of 21 entries for three races with two wins for Ryan Bernal and just this past Saturday a win at Bakersfield for Richard Vander Weerd. Time trials were part of the Bakersfield evening while Tulare ran draw shows. I liked the Tulare plan where the ASCS finishing/passing point chart was used and the top 8 in points drew for dash spots. Defending champion, Bud Kaeding, is three for three at finishing 3rd. The series pays $1500 to win, $800 for 2nd, $600 goes to 3rd, and $200 to start.
Austin Liggett is a USAC West Coast regular, shown here at Tulare.
At age 16, Austin Liggett may be the youngest West Coast regular. The Kimball High School junior from Tracy has raced since age 5, starting in quarter midgets where he collected in the neighborhood of 200 wins. At age 9 he started also racing micro sprints at Visalia and Lemoore, a division adding about 15 wins to his career total.
When just 14, Austin made his sprint car debut at Chowchilla, going from 15th to 8th finishing in the main event, driving a nonwing spec sprint. His first nonwing injected race was in 2011 at Santa Maria, running the West Coast series. The same year saw his first sprint car win, a spec sprint effort at Merced, one of his 4 wins total in spec sprints. He is still chasing the first injected win, likely to come soon based on his Rookie of the Year award in West Coast sprints last year.
His father, Tim, is the car owner, a piece purchased from Dennis McCowen, and previously driven by Dean Alexander and Tyler Smith. A Tom Reitz engine makes it move as do help from his sponsors: Excel Environmental, Lucas Oil, Home Connections, Tool Technology, Kings River Commodities, Shine Photography, M. J. Gilbert Construction, and Simpson.
Austin got into racing after trying some play day laps at Livermore’s Tri-Valley quarter midget track, perhaps the result of his step-grandfather having raced in Illinois and Wisconsin. Goals include winning some USAC West Coast Races, trying winged sprint racing, and competing at the 2014 Chili Bowl. Committed to the full USAC West Coast series, expect to see him occupying the top podium spot soon.
Lincoln, CA…The Silver Cup two day event very successfully opened the season at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, making track history in the process while enjoying excellent weather for a change. Over the years, the Silver Cup has been marred by more than its share of wet weather as March in northern California usually brings some rainouts with it. For 2013 to date, the rainfall total is the lowest since 1920 and the 3rd lowest on record. That trend led to the first two weekends of March being dry and the ten day forecast shows more of the same.
While modifieds have been part of Chico’s menu for years, Saturday was the first ever IMCA sanctioned event as well as the first of 8 races in the Nor-Cal Challenge IMCA modified series took place. With two events at each of four venues, the series has a conservative schedule to fulfill a long overdue need for this type of series for the dirt track racing scene.
Car counts were just right for the three division Silver Cup agenda. Winged 360 sprints drew 29 and 31 for the two shows, nonwing spec sprints had 14 and 18, and a much larger than usual modified field had 25 and 29. Qualifying took a long time as everyone time trials. The specs and modifieds did group qualify at 3 at a time, but it was still tedious.
Track conditions were as diverse as possible. Friday was very tacky and developed ruts as the evening progressed while Saturday started dry and got drier. A couple of wetting sessions helped and fans who attended both nights got a look at two versions of the high-banked quarter. Friday’s crowd was very good and Saturday saw a packed stands to get things off to a good start in Chico.
Greasy early led to tacky and rough late on Friday with the modifieds suffering the most from the surface. Some drivers flourish on that type of surface and Andy Forsberg seemed to do just that on Friday. Setting fast time preceded a 3rd place heat race run during the quartet of invert six, take four heats. When the zero pill was drawn, Forsberg was assigned to the pole for the 25 lap main, joined by Tacoma, WA driver, Mitch Olson on the front row.
Olson was one of a bunch of out of state drivers bolstering the 29-car field, several of whom made a big impact on the crowd. Jumping into the lead on the start, Olson was initially chased by another out of state driver, Norman, Oklahoma teenager, Christopher Bell. The 18-year-old Sooner State micro sprint graduate was certainly one of the stars of the weekend, showing great skill at negotiating the tricky oval on his first appearance ever at the fairgrounds. Bell wheeled the Finley Farms 77 in such an exciting fashion that fans now hope he races more in the Golden State.
Lapping cars by the 6th circuit, the Olson, Bell and Forsberg trio raced unchanged in order until Forsberg took 2nd on lap 19, then used the middle of turn 1 to drive past Olson two laps later. Once in front, Forsberg drew away and recorded his 104th career win over Olson and Bell. Three reds were needed during the frantic pace.
The nonwing spec sprints ran two heats before their zero pill put USAC West Coast driver, Austin Liggett, on the pole with Scott Hall alongside. It was inside row 2 starter, Colton Slack, that chased Liggett initially with Hall in 3rd. The order remained stable until Liggett got sideways in turn 4 on lap 17 and Slack moved into the lead.
That lasted half a lap after Slack bicycled in turn 2 and broke in to process, putting Liggett back in front. D. J. Johnson finished 2nd ahead of Hall after the 20 laps were scored during which 3 yellows were needed. In modifieds, Nick DeCarlo won from 19th in an excellent show of what the class can do. The first night was not an IMCA sanctioned race, so the honor went to Saturday when Ryan McDaniel won the initial Iowa-based organization sanctioned main.
Saturday was probably the largest Silver Cup crowd I have ever seen and they certainly got their money’s worth. Steven Tiner was one of the 2nd day only teams to appear and his fast time was 13.289 after Forsberg had gone 12.183 on Friday. Having two such diverse tracks was interesting, making for much different driving styles.
The six pill meant Justyn Cox and Greg DeCaires had the front row. Continuing to impress, Chris Bell was inside row two with Roger Crockett alongside. Cox led a lap before DeCaires used a topside move out of turn 4 to take over on lap 2 while Crockett moved into 2nd. By lap 9, Bell was 3rd after a turn 2 slider and the topside parade was on.
Lap after lap the trio of DeCaires, Crockett, and Bell ran in freight train style and things were beginning to look a little snooze inducing when Crockett changed all that. Trying the bottom of the track in spots, Crockett suddenly drew close to DeCaires and we had a two groove, three-car battle carrying on. Lap 19 was when Crockett put a perfect slider on DeCaires in turn 4 to take the lead and go on to win. Mitch Olson continued his excellent Silver Cup effort with a turn 3 slider one lap after Crockett’s winning pass to finish 2nd ahead of Bell.
Crockett has become the Silver Cup dominator, winning the Saturday main three times in a row that he has been on hand. Not racing the event in 2012 and having both days rained out in 2011, Crockett won in both 2010 and 2009 on the final night of the event. That makes in three straight over the five-year span.
The nonwing spec sprints were led by Joe Stornetta for 12 laps before a nudge on the left rear created enough of a wiggle to allow Scott Hall to make a pass for the win. Austin Liggett was 2nd over Rowdy McClenon after the 20 main was scored, shortened from 25 laps due to time issues. The now IMCA sanctioned modifieds put on another good race and Ryan McDaniel’s win came after DeCarlo broke while leading.
Just like Marysville did the week before, the large turnout and good racing on display got the season off to an excellent start for Chico. Hopefully these shows will be a sign of things to come for the pair of quarter miles.
Lincoln, CA…The driest year since 1920 for Northern California was the weather story for the first two months of 2013. Approximately 1.25 inches of rain fell during the 59-day stretch and March started with more of the same. That allowed Marysville to open their season with a successful show, the first outdoor race in Northern California this year. The long range forecast looks good for Chico racing their two day opener next weekend. Only a mid week shower is expected so the oft rained out Silver Cup should start the Silver Dollar season.
Challenging a 93 year old record for lack of precipitation over a two month stretch would normally create concern and we would hear the “drought” word regularly. However, a wet November and December has us in relatively good position on the water front for the approaching summer. California depends heavily on the spring snow melt to fill our many reservoirs. The Sierra range has plenty of snow on the ground, leading to a promising outlook for our water needs.
Over the past few years, it seems as if March races are 50/50 at best, but with one weekend concluded we are one for one. Marysville drew a huge crowd, one of the largest I have ever seen at the Simpson Road quarter mile, and a very pleasant evening of weather and racing was the reward. While the total car count for two divisions of sprints was 36, nobody seemed to care about that after having gone without a Northern California race since October.
Dubbed the Sherm Tollar Memorial, the season opening show pays tribute to the long time race personality with this 4th annual event. Sherm was a friendly and well respected man who served in many capacities at area race tracks, mostly at Marysville during the years I knew him. Having two very competitive main events on this night was an excellent way to start the season and remember Sherm.
The 24 car field of winged 360 sprints included a trio of Fresno area long tows, Tommy Tarlton, Dominic Scelzi, and Koen Shaw. Tarlton will keep busy racing here and there in both 360 and 410 classes while Shaw travels extensively to the north from his Fresno area base to run the Civil War series. Scelzi showed great promise with his Trophy Cup effort last October and has a busy plan between some 410 racing and the increased visibility of the Rebel winged 360 sprint series at Hanford and Tulare.
Andy Gregg’s fast time effort preceded a trio of invert six, take five heats on a surface that became steadily faster. Hot laps were very greasy and, sitting in my favorite spot atop the pit stands, got to enjoy a steady pelting of wads of clay. Luckily that attack was complete by heat race time while the smooth track got faster each race.
The fastest six qualifiers that made a top 5 redrew on the front stretch to settle the first three rows. Sean Becker drew the pole with Andy Gregg alongside. Given the fast track and the fastest cars up front, it figured to be someone winning from the first row or two. It was, but a very intense battle filled the need for drama while the 30 laps counted down.
Gregg led initially before coming to a stop with less than a third of the laps scored. Becker inherited the lead and, after another quickly dealt with yellow, battled furiously with Tarlton for the rest of the 30-lap run. The duo put on a great show racing each other while weaving through traffic much of the time. With a few laps left, the lead pair made contact in turn 2, almost ending Becker’s drive, but he gathered it up and posted the win over Tarlton and 10th starting Greg DeCaires.
The dozen nonwing spec sprints ran two heats and a 20 lap main, relatively docile compared to the winged battle. Scott Hall made a contact pass on the bottom of turn 4 on the 7th lap to take the lead and score the win. Billy Wallace made a late race pass for 2nd to finish ahead of Josh Vieira.
It was certainly nice to see such a large crowd for Marysville’s opener and, after getting started behind schedule, the show was well run. Seeing the spec sprint main come on the track just as the last winged car left after the B main was a pleasant surprise.
Marysville is back in action on the 16th when the opening race in the Civil War series should draw 35+ winged 360s to challenge the fast quarter.
Tucson AZ…Seeing sprint cars in action has added another piece of pie to the racing dessert in the Arizona desert. We have spent a portion of January in the Grand Canyon state for years and 2013 will be the longest stretch yet. While late models and modifieds dominate the first three weekends of racing, last weekend also had winged 360 sprints at Central Arizona Raceway.
Located at the fairgrounds 6 miles east of the interstate, Casa Grande’s track was closed during the latter part of the 2008 season, a situation that was no fault of the track itself. As explained to me by a fairgrounds employee, the county had significant issues with the fairgrounds people regarding the proper handling of money. The track did everything correctly, it was the people in charge of the fairgrounds that failed to follow proper procedure.
It took until fall of 2012 to iron out the situation and the track reopened Thanksgiving weekend with the same promoter, Benji Lyons, with Art Lacy a partner in the venture. Previously in Tucson during the CAR closure, the Wild West Shootout returned to Casa Grande, the place where the event was born. Tucson had the Winter Extreme series, also for late models and modifieds, on the same dates, so something had to change.
The change came from CAR when they moved their series one weekend earlier and dropped late models on the 2nd weekend, which was Tucson’s first .weekend. Winged 360 sprints replaced late models and, while staying in Tucson on Saturday over car count uncertainty, when I heard 19 that was enough to drive the 70 miles north for Sunday’s chapter.
Sunday’s 19-car field of sprints was comprised mostly of Arizona and New Mexico drivers. Lou Kennedy was on hand from his Canadian home, reportedly keeping the car locally while looking at some upcoming Florida racing. Logan Forler, Lake Havasu City AZ, had won the day before on a track much different than the Sunday early evening version. A trio of draw heats awarded passing/finishing points and the top 8 in points redrew for the first four rows of the 25 lap main.
Royal Jones, Josh Hodges, and Loren Wofford won heats with Wofford’s win from 3rd making him the high point car. Lance Norick and Wofford redrew the front row with Forler and Canadian driver, Lou Kennedy, sharing row two. Steve Stone and Rick Ziehl filled the 3rd row for the 25-lap run that had 4 yellows and a red.
Wofford got a strong start and led with Forler and Norick in pursuit. Kennedy took 3rd on lap 2 and three laps later Forler used a smooth slider in turn 4 to take the lead while Kennedy took 2nd. Several high speed laps followed with Forler and Kennedy racing side by side but Forler had the lead each time they crossed the line.
That great action lasted until lap 10 or so by which time Forler had stretched his lead over Kennedy and Wofford and that became the podium order. Hodges was 4th, the final lead lap car, while Jones was 5th.
This first experience at viewing sprint cars at CAR was worth the change of venue for that Sunday. The track will race nonwing sprints 4 times this year and winged sprints another two times. Their regular season opener is next month, leading to the first full season in five years. The promotion team has a ten-year lease, so the future looks bright again for the Central Arizona 3/8 oval.
Hemet, CA…The 72nd Turkey Night for USAC midgets this year was probably the best one I have seen in my last 20 years. Having viewed something like 18 of the last 20 offers some perspective on the event, and this year’s version was more like what fans hope for from this significant race. Compared to last year, everything was better: car count, crowd size, racing, announcing. The only missing ingredient was having no sprint cars as part of the night.
The big thing this year was the return to dirt. The last bunch of years it was at Irwindale Speedway, an hour or so away from the new home at Perris, or maybe a few hours away depending on the infamous traffic of the greater L.A. area. Irwindale is a superb facility in every respect except one major flaw, it is currently closed. The official word I was given at Turkey Night was that there is nobody in line to operate Irwindale and there is no current plan to reopen in 2013.
All is not bleak on the Southern California racing scene, however, as the track at the San Bernardino fairgrounds will reopen for a December 15th race, one last time as a paved track, before receiving a layer of dirt to run some degree of schedule in 2013 as a newly christened dirt track. That track has been closed all year because the fair board did not want racing. Something precipitated change at the small quarter, and a “new” dirt track will create a Perris, San Bernardino, and Victorville trio along the same interstate.
Turkey Night has had several venues during its long history, but dirt has not been part of it since 1998 when it was held at Bakersfield Speedway, just over the Grapevine from the L. A. basin. It was at Ventura in 1997 and Perris in 1996, so it was 16 years between Lake Perris Fairgrounds appearances.
The last couple of years at Irwindale the Turkey Night glow dimmed with smaller fields and fewer fans. The track closing after the 2011 Turkey Night with no change in sight during the winter made the event organizers either skip 2012 or move. While a big deal was made out of the decision to move it to Perris, there was no other place even remotely adequate for the race anywhere south of the horsepower-demanding Grapevine along interstate 5. Tulare was mentioned briefly, but this is a Southern California event and being north of the Grapevine means a different climate in November.
The 60 car field sent the fastest 14 in time trials directly to the A main with an additional 8 coming from each B main. Throw in the usual provisionals, and a 34-car field took to the smallish half mile following an hour of waiting. Set at 98 laps, all yellow flag laps were to count until reaching 75 after which only green flag laps were added to the total. Thirteen laps were scored under yellow, so one could argue it was an 85-lap race, and a very good 85 laps it was, too.
Darren Hagen set fast time on a track that favored an early number in the pill draw. His effort earned him the pole in the straight up alignment and he used it to grab the lead for 3 laps before Jason Leffler used the top coming out of turn 4 to take over. Hagen came back on lap 8 to retake the advantage while Kyle Larson dueled with Chad Boat for 3rd.
On lap 9 Leffler went up a bit in turn 2 and Larson had 2nd and began to close the gap between himself and Hagen. That took a few laps and Larson moved to the lead on lap 22 with a low line effort leaving turn 4. Leading the remaining 77 laps, Larson added the Turkey Night title to his long list of success, surviving tire wear and intense pressure from first Bryan Clauson and later Tracy Hines.
Clauson nearly made a pass on Larson several times but his drive ended when contact with the turn one wall led to a flip after 78 laps. Examination of tires during the red showed most everyone had little left and the unwanted flurry of yellow flags for flats was the result. At least no yellow flag laps counted since the field was past the 75 mark.
On the lap 79 restart Larson had Hines to contend with while Brad Sweet was in 3rd until his exit later. Hines put intense pressure on Larson, made a pass a few times, but Larson was always able to regain the lead before crossing the line. The final flat and resulting yellow came with one lap to go when Hines became the final right rear victim.
The final restart showed Larson in front of Ryan Bernal, making it a Northern California lead duo, with Jerry Coons Jr. in 3rd. Coons got under Bernal on the last set of turns for 2nd to finish several car lengths behind Larson. The winning Elk Grove based Larson started 3rd, Coons came from 17th, and Bernal started 22nd to take third. If I have seen a better Turkey Night, I don’t remember where or when.
The pit pass wrist bands read “Back on Dirt! 11/22/12”. After the show provided by the 72nd Turkey Night race, next year better read something like “Still on Dirt! 11/28/13”.
Lincoln, CA…With 122 sprint cars, a decent crowd on Thursday and huge crowds the next two nights, nearly 30 red flags over the three days, and dramatic racing every time the green appeared, the 19th annual Trophy Cup lived up to expectations in racing and action. While a handful of drivers dominated both nonwing main events on Thursday, the racing that night showed how thrilling sprint cars are without aluminum on top. Those 37 entrants were followed by 85 winged sprints that created perhaps the strongest field in Cup history.
While the first two days were warmer than usual, qualifying results for winged sprints almost exactly matched last year. In 2011 the range of qualifying order for the fastest 12 was from 3rd out to 66th. This year the range was from 3rd to 65th. Since there are six heats for the top 48, using the top 12 as a measuring tool seems logical to me as they form the 3rd row of the invert six heats. There seemed to be discussion about having a fair track for qualifying this year that did not exist last year, but results were the same.
Last year it was 15th fast Jac Haudenschild who won the title, this year 6th quick Jason Meyers is the champion. Meyers was more in control of the title during Saturday’s 50 lap main than is usually observed. A large number of drivers who, after qualifying on Friday could be labeled true contenders, had issues and fell from the battle. Meyers was one of the few from the top 12 qualifiers that was not involved in anything except circling Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway at speed.
Dave Pusateri holds the nose wing raffle prize signed by drivers.
Thursday night’s first ever nonwing Trophy Cup had late drop outs and some no shows leading to 37 of 50 entrants on hand. The group has numerous entries that could be labeled as emerging drivers, with signs of talent needing accompanying consistency. With two main events, one invert 10 for 30 laps and the second invert 20 for 50 laps, it didn’t matter to Bud Kaeding how many were inverted or lap count. He won both, but was not event champion due to being 16 points behind entering the mains. Point leader after heat racing, Ryan Bernal, was 2nd in both mains to win the overall by 9 points.
So dominant were the top drivers in the nonwing field, the top six in each main were the same, just in slightly different order. In the 50-lap finale, those six started in the last six positions with everyone passing the at least 14 cars in front of the last 3 rows. Going from 20th to 2nd meant Bernal passed the most at 18, one more than Bud Kaeding’s 18th to winning run.
Bernal was fast qualifier compared to Kaeding’s 14th, leading to a 13 point deficit before the first heat. Bernal picked up another 3 points in his cushion, winning his heat from 6th while Kaeding was 2nd from 4th. Bernal passed 31 cars total for one heat and two mains, a very good night’s work for the Hollister based champion.
Being 9th in points, Kaeding had the outside front row start in the first main while Bernal was outside 5th row. Kaeding led all 30 while Bernal made a last lap pass for 2nd. In the 2nd main, Kaeding started 18th and took the lead on lap 45 with a turn 2 slider on Peter Murphy, the same time Bernal followed him into 2nd. It was a dominating performance by two drivers with the point battle gap settled in preliminary events. The nonwing portion of the Cup will be back next year with a substantially higher purse than the $21,000 paid this year.
Craig Smith’s sharp looking car.
Friday brought the winged cars into the pit area for a very full show that showed how running the top of the Thunderbowl clay requires a deft touch. Being the fastest way around, the drivers that misjudged things even a tiny bit bounced off of the wall, flipping more times than normal, and one of those incidents decided the main event outcome.
Roger Crockett was sailing along in the lead from his outside front row start in the 30 lapper with 14th starting Rico Abreu in 2nd just before the halfway point. Abreu used the top of turn 2 for the runner-up pass and five laps later Shane Stewart drove into 3rd. Neither was apparently going to mount a charge at Crockett when misfortune for the Oregon driver changed everything. A car flipped off of the wall between turns 3 and 4 and Crockett could not avoid running into the mess.
The result was instead of likely winning, as only 5 laps were left and a large lead belonged to Crockett, he finished 11th which is 20 points less. Crockett did finish 34 points behind Meyers so one cannot conclude the bad luck cost him the title, but certainly a better than 5th place point finish.
Peter Murphy’s car had many stickers with names of breast cancer fund donors.
Abreu inherited the lead and win with Meyers and Stewart following. Points after Friday had Meyers 14 ahead of Stewart while, despite winning the main, Abreu was in 4th behind Kyle Hirst. Qualifying 24th was an issue for Abreu, but when it was all over three of the top 5 in final points did not time that well. Besides Abreu, Crockett timed in 21st and Hirst was 19th.
Saturday’s heats for the top 48 in points were completely inverted and Stewart and Meyers both finished 3rd to leave the point gap unchanged. It appeared to be a two horse race for the title, barring any bad luck hitting either driver. Filling the 12th row of the fully inverted 24 car field, Meyers needed to have one car between himself and Stewart when the 50 laps was complete.
For the majority of the main, Meyers had that needed running order, and the cars between count reached three cars by the halfway point and five by lap 29. When Stewart flipped on lap 35 along with another Haudenschild flip, the title race was over if nothing catastrophic happened to Meyers, which, of course, did not occur.
The Saturday main was a showcase for young Dominic Scelzi. The teenager led 40 of the first 41 laps, speeding around the Thunderbowl track right up to the wall, in a show of speed more like a many year veteran, not someone in his first full year of racing a winged sprint. Kyle Hirst drove under Scelzi in turn 3 of lap 42, slid up the track in front and led the rest of the way. Scelzi encountered some mechanical issue and faded to 10th but not before capturing the support and appreciation of the packed stands.
Jayme Barnes drove the 1st ever Trophy Cup car from North Dakota, one that proved any sponsor is a good sponsor.
Tim Kaeding’s ride was dubbed the Make-A-Wish car and all body panels will be donated to the Trophy Cup, signed by TK, and made part of next year’s auction. North Dakota produced the first ever entered from that state when Jayme Barnes drove a Williston based entry. Having been to Williston several times, I consider it one of the most unusual cities anywhere. Jobs go unfilled, workers earn $75,000 a year but struggle to find a place to live, all because the oil fields in the Williston Basin are a huge source of black gold.
The outstanding event was capped off by presenting another $60,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring the total to $800,000 given by the Trophy Cup. Every penny of every entry fee is donated to Make-A-Wish plus all the money raised by numerous events. As is the case every year, the huge number of volunteers that make this race and all the accompanying activities possible are much appreciated by the head of the organization, Dave Pusateri.
Next year’s Trophy Cup will mirror this year’s schedule with October 17-19 being the dates teams will converge on Tulare and test the Thunderbowl’s new clay. Yes, all new clay will greet race teams for 2013 races and the Cup champion will receive $50,000. The Thursday night nonwing night will have a substantial purse increase, also.
With 87 winged 360 teams receiving priority entry forms next May, the possibility exists of no further entries being accepted if most all return their paperwork in time. Next year’s 20th Trophy Cup absolutely will be the last one……….at least with Dave Pusateri in charge. We all know this event is too good to go away, and it won’t. It is now a firm deal, organizing the Cup will stay within the family and, while other members of the family run the event, Dave will step back and be an advisor.
Continued support from the staff of Thunderbowl Raceway, Southwest Contractors of Bakersfield, and all the volunteer group means the Trophy Cup will continue to present great racing with its unique format.
Trophy Cup Payout
The top 24 in overall points for the two-day Trophy Cup share in the point fund payout. Those 24 drivers are also the teams that qualify for the final A main on Saturday. For the three nights, a total of $114,910 was paid with $81,255 going to the point fund drivers. The list of point fund drivers plus their total earnings for the 19th Annual Trophy Cup is:
Jason Meyers $20,000
Kyle Hirst picks up the 50 lap Trophy Cup feature win driving for Dennis Roth Jason Meyers picks up the 2012 Trophy Cup title for car owner Tom Tarlton Travis Branch Photos
Meyers Trophy Cup Champion by Ron Rodda
Tulare CA…Starting 23RD due to being the 2nd highest point car, Jason Meyers finished 2nd after 50 laps and won the Trophy Cup by accumulating the highest point total. Entering the finale, Meyers trailed Shane Stewart by six points and with a five point drop per position, needed to finish two places ahead of Stewart. From lap 10 until the end, Meyers had that needed cushion, one that reached 7 cars at one time.
When Stewart was involved in a lap 35 incident, he restarted at the back and the only way Meyers was not going to win the title was if some issue struck the 21X entry. Once Stewart fell behind, there was no other driver with a reasonable chance of catching Meyers as long as no incident collected the Clovis driver. Meyers’ final point margin was 14, a relatively large gap compared to Trophy Cup results from past years.
While Meyers was in control of the Cup for most of the 50 laps, the race for the win was an entirely different story. Completely inverted by points, having the top car start 24th means the first two rows are the B main transfers. Outside front row starter, Dominic Scelzi, drove way beyond his 16 years of age and minimum sprint car experience, thrilling the huge crowd with his top of the track and wall challenging run.
Jonathan Allard chased Scelzi until finding the unforgiving Thunderbowl wall in turn one and Daryn Pittman took up the chase on lap 4. Pittman ran 2nd until overheating problems on lap 17 put Shane Golobic behind Scelzi. A lap later Tim Kaeding, driving with back pain after a heat race incident, took 3rd on the back stretch.
The top trio remained unchanged until Golobic flipped off of the turn 4 wall and T. Kaeding was 2nd ahead of Jayme Barnes. Kaeding dropped out a lap later with handling problems and Meyers was now 3rd and 5 cars ahead of Stewart. Scelzi and Barnes ran a few furious laps in a great lead duel until a Barnes slider in turn 4 on lap 36 got him a brief one lap lead.
Contact a lap later in turn 4 as they raced side by side led to Barnes falling back two spots and then dropping out, elevating Meyers to 2nd and Kyle Hirst into 3rd with 13 laps remaining. Hirst used a turn 4 slider to take 2nd from Meyers while Stewart struggled to come back from his trip to the back but trailed Meyers by 7 cars.
On lap 42 Hirst raced under Scelzi into turn 3 and made what became the winning pass with the slider. A lap later Meyers moved into 2nd while Scelzi dropped back and Rico Abreu, the Friday winner, was now 3rd. The last 7 laps belonged to Hirst and he claimed the win.
Meyers raced with Abreu for 2nd place honors and several attempts by Abreu came up just short and Meyers was 2nd over Abreu, Paul McMahan, and Roger Crockett. Stewart hustled back up to 6th after being 12th on lap 36, but the 3 cars between himself and Meyers was two more than Meyers needed to take the title. Heat race results moved the top 20 cars in total points directly to the A main.
The evening started with a trio of D mains, moving the top 3 into the C main. Next up were six very tough heats as they are completely inverted by points from Friday. The six top point cars start 8th in the 10 lap races and Stewart, Meyers, Jac Haudenschild, and Abreu all finished 3rd for the best result. Heat points left the gap between them unchanged except Abreu was scored 6th when a muffler fell off during his heat, resulting in a DQ.
Stephen Allard won the C main and was joined by Trevor Turnbull, Matt Peterson, and Brent Kaeding. The B main moved Jonathan Allard, Dominic Scelzi, Cory Eliason, and Greg DeCaires to the 50-lap finale. A race long battle for the final transfer spot had 5 cars racing together for the honor at one point. The track taking rubber during the B main caused tire wear concern for the 50 lapper, but a track prep session improved conditions and only the planned fuel stop was needed.
Jason Meyers, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Southwest Contractors of Bakersfield, received $20,000 overall for his Trophy Cup championship. The 24-car field that took the green in the Saturday main also share the point fund that guarantees $2,000 minimum for overall Trophy Cup earnings.
With 122 cars participating in the three nights at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway, huge crowds, and the success of other activities connected to the Trophy Cup, the 19th annual event was memorable. The tentative dates for 2013 are October 17-19 with a Thursday nonwing night starting the event.
Next year’s 20th Annual Trophy Cup will award the winged champion with a check for $50,000. There are 87 car owners that will receive priority entries next May. If all return their forms on time, the 2013 Cup will be full and no additional entries will be accepted.
D main 1—Jimmy Trulli, James Sweeney, Bobby McMahan, Brad Furr, Jeremy Chism, Geoffrey Strole, Nick Davis, Steve Dyer
D main 2---Jace Vander Weerd, Chase Johnson, D. J. Netto, Billy Butler, Koen Shaw, Roberto Kirby, Randy Price, Pat Harvey Jr., Jake Haulot
D main 3---Brent Kaeding, Kurt Nelson, Chad Hillier, Danielle Simpson, Garrett Netto, Steve Jaquith, Heath Duinkerken, Sam Wright
C main---Stephen Allard, Trevor Turnbull, Matt Peterson, Brent Kaeding, Trulli, Sweeney, B. McMahan, D. J. Netto, Vander Weerd, Nelson, Hillier, Johnson, Butler, Andy Ferris, Nick McColloch, Dylan Black
B main---Jonathan Allard, Dominic Scelzi, Cory Eliason, Greg DeCaires, Bud Kaeding, Jason Statler, S. Allard, Mark Dobmeier, Trey Starks, Kenny Allen, Cole Wood, Zach Zimmerly, Danny Faria Jr., Justyn Cox, Bud Kaeding, Brent Kaeding, Peterson, Turnbull, Mike Faria, Eric Humphries, Mike Henry, Mason Moore, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Andy Gregg
A main with starting position---Kyle Hirst (17), Jason Meyers (23), Rico Abreu (19), Paul McMahan (11), Roger Crockett (20), Shane Stewart (24), Daryn Pittman (5), Henry Van Dam (14), Greg DeCaires (4), Dominic Scelzi (2), Tommy Tarlton (9), Kraig Kinser (6), Craig Stidham (21), Willie Croft (7), Jayme Barnes (10), Jac Haudenschild (22), Tim Kaeding 13), Shane Golobic (8), Terry McCarl (16), Steven Tiner (15), Kyle Larson (12), Jonathan Allard (1), Andy Forsberg (18), Cory Eliason (3)
Top 24 in points---Meyers 446, Stewart 432, Hirst 424, Abreu 421, Crockett 412, P. McMahan 393, Stidham 379, Van Dam 379, Haudenschild 370, Pittman 362, Tarlton 351, DeCaires 347, Kinser 338, McCarl 333, Kaeding 332, Barnes 331, Croft 330, Scelzi 329, Tiner 325, Forsberg 318, Golobic 315, Larson 311, Eliason 271, Allard 259
Rico Abreu and crew celebrate their win on the opening night of the Trophy Cup from Thunderbowl Raceway Tulare Ca Travis Branch Photo
Abreu Wins Trophy Cup Main
by Ron Rodda
Tulare, CA…Rico Abreu not only survived a rough and tumble 30 lap main at the 19th annual Trophy Cup, he led the last five laps to claim the win to open the two day winged portion of the event. A track that was fastest next to the wall all the way around the 3/8 oval led to numerous drivers banging off of the wall, some with race ending consequences. Leading the last five laps, Abreu did his share of cleaning off the wall but stayed upright to secure a popular win before a large crowd.
Shane Stewart was 2nd and leads in points after one night of winged racing, six ahead of Jason Meyers while defending champion, Jac Haudenschild, is 12 back of Stewart. The next three in line are Craig Stidham (15 back), Abreu (17 back) and Andy Forsberg (19 back).
Qualifying for the 85 car field was led by Paul McMahan at 13.876, earning him 150 points with a one point drop per spot. There was just under a half second between fast time and the important 36th quick time, the last spot to make the inversion. Six heats for the fastest 48 inverted six and took only the top 3 directly to the A main. This led to a talent filled B main that moved six more to the finale. Heats are 36 points to win with a drop of 3 per spot.
Jonathan Allard won the C main and transferred to the B along with Henry Van Dam, Kenny Allen, Jason Statler, Bud Kaeding, and Mark Dobmeier. Bud Kaeding started his journey with a 2nd in one of the D mains, passing 3 cars for that transfer spot. He then started 18th in the C and finished 5th, followed by a 24th to 6th run in the B main. Starting 24th in the A main, Bud was one of the several rollover victims and was 20th in the final rundown after running 12th at the time of the flip. He had passed 46 cars in main event racing at that point.
Allard was leading the B main when a dramatic turn of events occurred when he drove under a car going into turn1 and contact saw him flip and come to rest in front of Cory Eliason, the 2nd place car. Despite stopping to avoid running over Allard, Eliason was sent to the back and Van Dam inherited the lead.
P. McMahan used a last lap pass to win over Van Dam, Daryn Pittman from 18th starting, Kyle Hirst, Trey Starks, and Bud. These six moved onto the 30 lap finale and, like all the preliminary mains, everyone got their points back for the next main’s starting grid.
Running the top of the Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway surface was costly as shown by the six reds needed in the A main while only a single yellow was thrown. Only one lap was scored before the first red and four times the red flew in just the first six laps. With a 12 inversion by points, Roger Crockett was cruising in the lead from his outside front row start, initially chased by Van Dam until Jason Meyers took 2nd with a back stretch pass on lap 3. Three laps later Andy Forsberg took 3rd using the top of turn 2 for the move. Rico Abreu, starting 14th, avoided the early race carnage and took 3rd with a turn 4 slider on the 8th lap and five laps later got past Meyers for 2nd.
Some furious laps followed with Crockett holding off Abreu despite the eventual winner throwing every move in the books at Crockett. Coming from 11th, Shane Stewart stayed clear of the mishaps also and took 3rd on lap 18 and closed on the lead duo. Disaster struck and ruined Crockett’s strong drive after 25 laps were scored when yet another red flew for a car flipping off the wall between turns 3 and 4 right in front of Crockett and he had nowhere to go and was collected.
Crockett’s misfortune was Abreu’s good luck and he assumed the lead on the restart and won over Stewart, Meyers, Kyle Hirst, and Daryn Pittman. The Friday main awards 100 points to the winner with a 2-point drop per spot. Night two will see another set of heats, inverting 8 by points, and taking the top 20 point cars to the A main. The Saturday main will invert all 24 cars by points and award 150 to the winner with a 5-point drop.
Finishes with starting spots in parenthesis:
C main—Jonathan Allard (2), Henry Van Dam (1), Kenny Allen (9), Jason Statler (10), Bud Kaeding (18), Mark Dobmeier (17), Mike Henry (5), Stephen Allard (14), Matt Peterson (6), Trevor Turnbull (13), Mason Moore ((3), Chase Johnson (16), Nick McColloch (12), Jimmy Trulli (15), Mike Faria (4), Daron Clayton (7), Andy Ferris (8), Dylan Black (11)
B main---Paul McMahan (6), Van Dam (2), Pittman (18), Kyle Hirst (8), Trey Starks 12), Bud Kaeding (24), Justin Sanders (3), Dominic Scelzi (15), Andy Gregg (17), Kraig Kinser (5), Evan Suggs (13), Dobmeier (23), Cory Eliason (4), Eric Humphries (11), Cole Wood (19), Bobby McMahan (20), Statler (22), Justyn Cox (9), Allen (21), Tyler Wolf (14), Allard (1), Garen Linder (16), Sean Becker (7), Zach Zimmerly (10)
A main 1. Rico Abreu (from 14th) 2. Shane Stewart (11) 3. Jason Meyers (8) 4. Kyle Hirst (16) 5. Daryn Pittman (23) 6. Andy Forsberg (5) 7. Steven Tiner (13) 8. Craig Stidham (9) 9. Terry McCarl (4) 10. Jac Haudenschild (12) 11. Roger Crockett (2) 12. Kyle Larson (17) 13. Henry Van Dam (1) 14. Tommy Tarlton (22) 15. Tim Kaeding (7) 16. Danny Faria Jr. (21) 17. Willie Croft (15) 18. Bradley Terrell (20) 19. Greg DeCaires (18) 20. Bud Kaeding (24) 21. Paul McMahan (10) 22. Trey Starks (19) 23. Shane Golobic (6) 24. Jayme Barnes (3)
Top twenty-four in points: 1. Shane Stewart 277 2. Jason Meyers 271 3. Jac Haudenschild 265 4. Craig Stidham 262 5. Rico Abreu 260 6. Andy Forsberg 258 7. Terry McCarl 252 8. Kyle Hirst 250 9. Steven Tiner 249 10. Roger Crockett 246 11. Tim Kaeding 244 12. Paul McMahan 237 13. Henry Van Dam 237 14. Kyle Larson 234 15. Willie Croft 227 16. Shane Golobic 226 17. Jayme Barnes 221 18. Tommy Tarlton 221 19. Danny Faria Jr. 221 20. Daryn Pittman 221 21. Bradley Terrell 217 22. Kraig Kinser 216 23. Greg DeCaires 216 24. Justin Sanders 214
Winner Winner Winner...Bud Kaeding(29) picks up the 30 lap and the inverted 50 lap Non Wing Trophy Cup feature event with Ryan Bernal(73) picking up the overall Non Wing Trophy Cup Title from Thunderbowl Raceway Travis Branch Photo
Bernal Wins First Ever Nonwing Trophy Cup
by Ron Rodda
Tulare, CA…The first time nonwing 360 sprints were a part of the Trophy Cup the event title was captured by Hollister, CA driver, Ryan Bernal despite Bud Kaeding winning both main events. Bernal built a 16 point lead after qualifying and heats but lost only 7 of those points back to Kaeding by finishing 2nd in both mains.
A 37 car field appeared to contest the first ever nonwing Cup show, using the original one day format not needed since the event became a two day show in 1997. Bernal set quick time at 15.298, the 21st car out to test the Tulare Thunderbowl’s 3/8 track. Bud Kaeding qualified at 15.841 to earn 13 points less than Bernal as the 14th quick overall. That deficit proved too much to overcome for Kaeding as Bernal finished right behind him in main event racing.
Five heats inverted six and took the top 3 to the first A main. Bernal won his heat while Kaeding finished 2nd to add 3 points to the gap, now at 16. A 20-car field for 30 laps included the B main top 5 with the top ten inverted by points. This meant D. J. Netto and Bud Kaeding shared the front row while as top point car, Bernal started 10th.
Kaeding led all 30 laps with Austin Liggett 2nd until Andy Forsberg took that spot with a low turn 4 pass on lap 6. Kaeding ran the wall in turns 3 and 4 while Forsberg stuck to the bottom to pressure Kaeding until suddenly heading to the infield on lap 18, moving Kyle Hirst to 2nd and Danny Sheridan to 3rd. Four laps later Bernal passed his teammate for 3rd and when Hirst bumped the turn 4 wall on lap 29, Bernal moved into 2nd to set the finish. Kaeding won over Bernal and Hirst but picked up only 2 points on that 16-point deficit.
The 2nd main needed 4 more B main cars to create a full 20-car field, fully inverted by points. Bernal started 20th, Kaeding 18th, and Hirst in between at 19th for the 50 lap finale. With a five-point drop per spot, Kaeding needed two cars between himself and Bernal to overcome the 14-point difference. Kaeding had that margin for a while, but by the halfway mark it was obvious that, barring any issue, Bernal was going to win the Cup and maybe the main also.
Kelly Nichols led from outside front row starting spot until a front stretch mess after 12 laps saw him leave and James Sweeney take over the top spot. Two laps later Peter Murphy used the top of turn 1 to take the lead and Kaeding moved into 3rd, coming from 18th in just 15 laps. On the 18th lap Kaeding dove into turn 3 under Sweeney and had 2nd with Danny Faria Jr. in 3rd.
That order stabilized until Bernal took 3rd on lap 28, using the high line leaving turn 4. Murphy continued in the lead until the 45th time around the very racy oval when a turn 2 slider by Kaeding got him the lead and Bernal followed him into 2nd. The last five laps were a tremendous duel between the two nonwing stars, leading to a last lap turn 3 slider by Bernal that came up just short and Kaeding had both main events while Bernal was 2nd both times. Murphy was 3rd after 50 entertaining laps.
The $21,000 nonwing night will be followed by two nights of winged 360 racing with approximately $89,000 on the line to finish the 19th Annual Trophy Cup.
First main with starting spot. 1. Bud Kaeding (2), 2. Ryan Bernal (10), 3. Kyle Hirst (8), 4. Danny Sheridan (6), 5. Peter Murphy (11), 6. Danny Faria Jr. (7), 7. Rick Kirkbride (12), 8. Mike Spencer (5), 9. Geoff Ensign (13), 10. Mike Martin (17), 11. Andy Ferris (19), 12. Cory Kruseman (17), 13. Austin Liggett (4), 14. Andy Forsberg (3), 15. D. J. Netto (1), 16. Richard Vander Weerd (9), 17. Rusty Carlile (14), 18. Chris Ennis (16), 19. Kenny Perkins (20), 20. Kyle Miller (15)
Second main with starting spot. 1. Kaeding (18), 2. Bernal (20), 3. Murphy (15), 4. Hirst (19), 5. Faria (16), 6. Sheridan (17), 7. Netto (7), 8. James Sweeney (1), 9. Kirkbride (13), 10. Martin (8), 11. Kevin Barnes (15), 12. Liggett (10), 13. Perkins (5), 14. Geoffrey Strole (3), 15. Forsberg (9), 16. Terry Nichols (2), 17. R. Vander Weerd (12), 18. Ferris (6), 19. Spencer (14), 20. Ensign (11)
Top 20 in points. Bernal 429, Kaeding 420, Hirst 412, Murphy 401, Faria 398, Sheridan 394, Kirkbride 366, Netto 361, Martin 349, Liggett 344, Forsberg 327, R. Vander Weerd 322, Spencer 320, Ensign 305, Perkins 302, Ferris 294, Sweeney 256, Barnes 251, Strole 240, and Kruseman 240.
The top 20 in points are part of the $8,100 point purse.
Lincoln, CA…Just 48 hours from this moment the Tulare Thunderbowl pit gates will open for the record number of sprint car teams that will cross their threshold. A total of 137 cars are entered in the three-day event, easily an all time Cup record due to the two divisions of sprints. I would guess the total is a record for the western US for a multiple day sprint car event, and most of remainder of the country also.
Of course some of the pre-entered teams won’t be able to tow to Tulare, but the vast majority will be on hand for the approximately $110,000 to be paid over the trio of days. If last Saturday at nearby Kings Speedway is any sign, the Thursday first ever nonwing Cup night will not only be a night not to miss but may steal the thunder from their winged counterparts.
This year’s nonwing night is somewhat of a trial effort, one that has met expectations with the number of entries, and besides the usual squadron of nonwing regulars from the USAC West Coast series, has a strong group of nonwing non-regulars. When you mix the likes of Ryan Bernal, Richard Vander Weerd, Bud Kaeding, Cory Kruseman and Daron Clayton with drivers such as Brent Kaeding, Kyle Hirst, and Andy Forsberg, a can’t miss show is the result.
Consider that pool of talent will race the first ever nonwing event following the famous Trophy Cup format and, while the purse is much less, the drama should match the next two winged nights of racing. A pair of A mains will invert 10 by points for 30 laps, then come back with a full inversion for the 2nd main, set for 50 laps with a planned fuel stop along the way. The 2nd main will be a full 20 car field as additional cars as needed will be taken from the B main to fill the field.
Friday and Saturday the fun continues with the $20,000 champion’s check being the focus of the 90 entered teams. A steady performance is the ticket to winning, starting with being within the top 15 to 20 cars after qualifying is complete. Defending champion, Jac Haudenschild, qualified 15th last year but that 14 point deficit to the fast timer came with multiple opportunities to overcome the margin. His 21st starting to 2nd run in the Saturday main offset the 9 points in arrears he faced entering the finale and he won by a relatively large 11-point margin. Haudenschild easily overcame a 15th fast time trial effort.
Last weekend we headed south and greatly enjoyed the Friday night racing at Bakersfield Speedway, a location not visited for several years. The 169 car field in five stock car divisions was superbly run with tons of great action. Although the show repeated the next night and staying for that was considered, Kings Speedway’s offering was too good to pass up.
Labeled the Cotton Classic, the Saturday special at Kings drew 32 winged 410s and 24 nonwing 360s plus the largest field of vintage super modifieds, by far, I have ever seen. The Central Valley is home to numerous vintage cars from the days long gone and 14 supers plus another 9 mixed vintage cars produced a great 23 car total. Several hot lap sessions with the vintage groups offered the large crowd a look at the old as well as new open wheel designs.
The winged main had some moments, but once Kyle Larson parlayed a well timed restart effort from his 2nd place location into a low turn 4 pass of Tim Kaeding as that lap ended, Larson’s lead grew steadily. It was clear that misfortune was the only thing that would change the top podium spot, and a yellow with two left helped lead to that happening. The 29th time down the backstretch Kaeding flew past a slowing Larson, reportedly a victim of fuel starvation, and it was Tim Kaeding collecting the win over Jason Meyers and the 2012 series champion, Jonathan Allard.
The nonwing main ran 30 laps and 27 of them had an excellent duel between Ryan Bernal and Richard Vander Weerd at the front of the pack showcasing the excitement of nonwing sprints. R. Vander Weerd drove low into turn 3 to take the lead from Austin Ligget on the second lap. Bernal’s low line pass out of turn four on lap 4 moved him into 2nd and the duel was on. Traffic along the way kept the battle close and very entertaining and Bernal collected the win over R. Vander Weerd with Andy Forsberg 3rd . A lap 21 pass coming low out of turn 4 put Bernal in front.
The crowd was excellent and seeing that many people in the Kings Speedway stands was as rewarding as the racing on their fast 3/8. The track went through some tough times since closing during the 2005 season and not doing well with two interim promoters. Scott Woodhouse is bringing Kings back to a much healthier status and this race night was a positive sign for the future.
Trophy Cup Contest
With the 19th annual Trophy Cup starting in a few days, it is time for the guess the fast time contest. This year there will be two winners, one each for wing and nonwing time trials, and each winner receives two shirts. If one person should happen to win both, then the 2nd closest guess in the winged qualifying will be the second winner.
To enter, just e-mail your guesses for fast time for both the winged and nonwing nights to: firstname.lastname@example.org and include your shirt size request and your name and city. Each winner will receive a white and a black event shirt. In event of a tie, the earlier received entry is the winner. Winners will be contacted for a shipping address.
For reference, last year’s quick time at the Trophy Cup was 13.811 for winged 360s and the most recent time nonwing 360s raced at Tulare, the fast time was, 16.101. Next Wednesday, the 17th, is the last date to enter and win the beautiful and unique Trophy Cup shirts.
Lincoln, CA….Randy Hannagan raced in the Trophy Cup since it was located about 10 minutes from his San Jose CA home. Even moving to the Midwest did not curtail his racing in the prestigious event, finishing 6th last year in overall points for the two day event. Having raced in the Cup last year, he returned his priority entry form this year months ago and was set for another Tulare appearance.
Hannagan won’t be able to race the 19th Annual Trophy Cup next week, but he does have thousands of reasons he will be missing from the packed Thunderbowl pit area. Having won the NRA Sprint Invaders title this year is the problem. The organization requires the driver to attend the banquet in order to collect any point fund earnings and that event happens to be on October 20th, the date of the final night of the Cup.
An appeal to the association president apparently was not enough despite Hannagan having entered the Trophy Cup months ago. His car owner was available to take his place at award night, but that was not allowed as a substitute for Hannagan’s presence. At least Hannagan will still be allowed to race the Cup next year due to his unusual circumstances.
As of today, there are 92 entries in the winged portion of the three-day event. The expectation is that a few will not make it to Tulare next week and organizers wanted at least 80 cars on hand. Assuming mid-80s at least for car count, that means the 2013 Trophy Cup will have zero openings available. All cars that attempt to race this year’s Cup will receive priority entry forms for the $50,000 to win race in 2013.
The nonwing Thursday field is at 50 creating 142 entrants who paid an entry fee, all of which is given to Make-A-Wish. Trophy Cup founder, Dave Pusateri, has stated there will be a Cup race as long as the Make-A-Wish Foundation is a major beneficiary of the event. It won’t take too many more Trophy Cups to reach the million-dollar mark for the total given to Make-A-Wish.
Last Saturday a visit to Marysville for the first time since the new clay was added showed what I had been told was accurate. The track is much smoother now but very fast and once the sun drops seems to get even faster. I have never seen so much clay in the air during hot laps. The clay came from property owned by the promoter, Paul Hawes, and is obviously some excellent stuff.
An all sprint show drew 25 winged 360s and 17 nonwing spec sprints for an action filled evening, some of which was unconventional. Can’t say when the dust settled, there was none, so when the clay stopped flying Andy Forsberg had collected the winged win and Clint Simpson matched him in spec sprints.
Peter Paulson started on the pole and led 3 laps before David Sprigg led following a Paulson spin. Seventh starting Clint Simpson was right behind Sprigg and an entertaining duel followed. Simpson and Sprigg raced out of turn 4 on the 21st lap, bumped each other along the straightaway, and Simpson led at the line and went on to win. The contact damaged Sprigg’s front suspension and he slammed very hard into the turn 1 wall, thankfully escaping injury in the scary impact.
The winged main was led by Billy Wallace for 17 laps before 6th starting Andy Forsberg made a turn 2 pass with lapped traffic creating a bit of a crowd. Sean Becker also got past Wallace for 2nd and battled Forsberg for the win with lapped cars making things even more interesting. Forsberg claimed the win over Becker and Wallace after the 30-lap race had been cut to 25 over fuel concerns. It was easily the fastest track I have ever seen at the facility, and by Tuesday I had the clay cleaned off my apparel.
This coming weekend two race nights are much anticipated, first being a Friday at Bakersfield Speedway after several years since visiting the third mile. it is the first night of two for the big season ending special and plenty of fenders will be on hand including a large turnout of powerful late models.
The next night will be a great pairing of winged 410s and nonwing 360s at Kings Speedway in Hanford. Dubbed the Cotton Classic, a large field of both divisions is likely. Third year promoter Scott Woodhouse has gotten Kings Speedway back on track again after the facility went through struggles following a sudden closing in 2005. It was that midseason closure that led to the Trophy Cup becoming a Tulare event.
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