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From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…The last sprint car action of 2013 and the first of 2014 for my viewing pleasure utilized the same piece of clay, namely the quarter mile at Canyon Speedway Park a few miles northwest of Phoenix. Last November was the Western Worlds and was my first racing event at the desert oval in quite a few years. It seemed strange after such a lengthy absence prior to return to the facility last weekend for the Winter Classic.
We were able to take in the first two races of the six race schedule, one that concludes this weekend with a trio of events. We spent much of January in sunny and mild Arizona, first at Tucson International Speedway with one race at Arizona Speedway mixed in for variety. Tucson drew star filled fields of late models and modifieds with most of the late model drivers from back east and plenty of North and South Dakota based modified drivers included.
Arizona Speedway is a high-banked racy quarter mile that will be in its 4th season, a track that could be somewhat considered as Manzanita East. Stands, fencing, and various other items that are now part of Arizona Speedway came from Manzanita Speedway. Owner and promoter, Jonah Trussel, is a very hands on type person, as is Kevin Montgomery at Canyon, and Trussel acquired the rights to promote Central Arizona Raceway earlier this month. The Casa Grande track was in limbo after the prior promoter moved on. Arizona Speedway and CAR will host sprint car events, but Canyon is far more involved in open wheel action with a schedule dominated by big events.
With three tracks operating in the Phoenix metropolitan area and the ability to race year round with the mild winter, the Arizona scene for racing looks bright. The only issue is something called summer when triple digits make outdoor activities trying, no matter how dry the air is.
Last year were at Canyon Speedway Park in late January, unfortunately so was the rain and the first weekend of the Winter Classic was completely rained out. When Friday evening was canceled, I checked the forecast and saw gloom and doom and headed for home. This year the only reason to check the forecast was to see how close to 80 the temperature would be. As nice as the weather was for our earlier Grand Canyon State adventures, Canyon got the best days of our trip.
On tap were USAC Southwest nonwing 360 sprint cars with a 24 car field both of our nights, and over 30 IMCA modifieds plus enough pure stocks, winged mini-sprints and mod lites. The sprint format used draw heats and moved the top 18 in passing/finishing points directly to the A main. Of the group, the top 6 in points were inverted. The ASCS point chart, my favorite version of all the passing point options, was used.
Josh Pelkey and Casey Shuman were on the front row of Friday’s 30 lap finale. Pelkey led 12 laps while 13th starting Brady Bacon worked his way forward. That effort culminated with a bottom groove pass out of turn 4 on lap 13 and Bacon had the lead for the remaining laps. A lower groove effort by Bacon was the ticket for a win over Pelkey and R. J. Johnson, a 14th place starter. A two groove track made for excellent racing on Friday as after Shuman in 4th, Ryan Bernal was 5th and he started 15th.
Saturday followed the same format leading to Ty Mihocko and Bernal on row one. Starting 4th, Dave Darland was behind Bernal until they reached traffic, leading to a high out of turn 4 effort by Darland. Bernal chose low when they encountered traffic, Darland went high and made the pass for the win over Bernal and once again, R. J. Johnson, a 15th place starter. Most drivers ran the top, but watching Bernal and Darland deal with traffic as well as each other made this one good.
With nearly three times as many races over a three month period as I had watched for a career total at Canyon before, it almost feels like becoming a track regular at the facility that was once labeled the “Diamond in the Desert”.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Casa Grande,AZ…It had been almost 9 years since I had seen racing at Canyon Speedway Park. An attempt to end that long void earlier this year was met with a three-day weekend completely rained out at the end of January. We entered Arizona for the first time ever when it was something other than January following the 320 car count Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas with Canyon the destination.
The occasion was the 46th annual Western Worlds at the track once nicknamed the Diamond in the Desert. Formerly named Canyon Raceway, the high-banked quarter mile is a rarely seen venue for me, I think twice ever not counting the January loss this year. Spending three days at Canyon showed me it was a lucky choice to make a first time visit to Arizona in November. It also was my first time with sprints and midgets to enjoy as any prior visits were IMCA modified shows.
These were also my first races at Canyon since coming under the leadership of Kevin Montgomery. Canyon was once the host of weekly live sprint car TV broadcasts on Sundays but apparently hard times fell on what was once the home of nationally viewed races. Montgomery took over as promoter a couple years back and the track is having nothing but success since.
Despite the rustic last quarter mile or so of road needed to reach the facility, Canyon seems to run the most high profile events of any track out west. It is clear that Montgomery is not shy about risk taking as the Western Worlds $7,500 to win in both midgets and sprints showed.
I recall reading in the RPM literature how a track’s schedule never should show “regular racing” on a given night. Canyon seems to understand that theory because reading the poster for each of their events always catches my eye, even from 800 miles away. With great weather for the week, the Thursday crowd seemed pretty good for that night, and the following two nights led to a packed house on Saturday.
Right at 50 USAC Southwest and West Coast sprints raced the event and just over 30 USAC National midgets, all nonwinged of course to make it even better. The sprints were split between Thursday and Friday with 27 and 23 while midgets all raced both preliminary nights. Everyone was on hand Saturday for last chance type races and finales.
The sprint format was wonderful for a while, draw heats with passing/finishing points then a set of qualifiers, really another round of heats, with 6 inverted by heat points and more passing/finishing points accumulated. Then it was not as good when the A mains on the first two nights were lined straight up by points.
R. J. Johnson ran away with the Thursday sprint main and Bryan Clauson did the same on Friday. Some excellent position racing took place behind them, but the straight up start worked to their advantage to dominate. Both were high point cars with Johnson going from 6th to 2nd in his heat and 6th to 3rd in a qualifier. Clauson was perfect on Friday, winning a heat from 8th and qualifier from 6th. Clauson passed 15 cars in those two 8 lap races so he certainly earned the pole.
Saturday’s main took the 8 locked in drivers from the first two nights and did a redraw thing for the dash to set the first four rows. Clauson went from 7th to 5th in the dash and used the bottom of turn 2 to take the lead and win in the sprint finale, collecting the $7,500 for his effort. Four yellows slowed the main but nothing slowed Clauson.
For the three days, I felt the midgets put on better show, less tire, less engine equals more exciting racing. Their format was a standard qualifying, invert six heats, and four moving to the A main. Tanner Thorson got sideways in turn 2 and a quick recovery did not keep Christopher Bell from taking over and leading the last 23 laps for a win on Thursday.
On Friday the same format resulted in Darren Hagen starting 4th and winning a very competitive main full of multi-groove racing and position battles. Points earned both nights moved the top 8 to Saturday’s final race with the field filled by qualifiers and B main transfers.
By winning the sprint main, Clauson was the driver who could take the $5000 bonus by winning both mains. Starting on the pole following a dash win, Clauson went backwards for a while and a Hagen/Bell duel for the lead was outstanding. A very top groove coupled with a bottom that was very useful made for some top notch racing for the Western Worlds final main.
Running 4th at one time, Clauson was only 3rd with 11 laps left but used the bottom of turn 4 on the 25th lap to grab 2nd. One more pass meant a lot more money for the former Northern California resident, and he made that pass in the most dramatic fashion possible.
Building momentum entering turns 3 and 4 for the final lap, Clauson used the cushion while Hagen committed to the bottom. They left turn 4 together but Clauson’s midget had more speed and he edged Hagen at the line for the win and bonus in a most exciting fashion.
For not having seen racing at Canyon for so long, it was an outstanding way to return. Track conditions were great and the very well run show was slowed only by driver mishaps. Being a track with no electricity, Canyon relies completely on generators. However, electric racing certainly dominated the Western Worlds.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Barstow, CA…Opposites. Hot and Cold. Up and Down. Thursday night of Trophy Cup and Thursday night of Oval Nationals. October 17 in Tulare came with at least 15 flips, many yellows, and a race that once over brought more relief than entertainment. Two weeks later, the same division of sprint cars presented an excellent program in Perris with zero red flags and only 4 yellows the entire night.
On a nearly perfect surface, 35 nonwing injected 360 sprints under USAC sanctioning put on a smooth and very efficiently run show with a 9:10 pm conclusion and excellent main. Charles Davis Jr. started things with a 16.739 quick time, leading to four invert six, take four heats that had their own share of action. Some good competition for the final transfer spot made the heats very worthwhile and the fastest 8 of those 16 transfers ran a dash.
Ryan Bernal had some luck getting a transfer to the dash since he needed either Danny Faria Jr. or Jon Stanbrough to falter in heat 4. Stanbrough was the loser in a bumping incident and Bernal got the dash spot and the pole to boot in the 8-invert plan for the five lap effort.
Richard Vander Weerd won the dash from the outside front row over Faria to create the front row of the 30 lap main. The track was showing some dust in turns 1 and 4 by now, but along with that came some sliders, certainly an acceptable trade-off. R. Vander Weerd, the Trophy Cup nonwing champion 14 days prior, led 4 laps until 2nd running and 3rd starting, Mike Spencer used the top of turn 4 to take the lead.
Spencer controlled things until 8th starting Bryan Clauson put a mid-race turn 3 slider on Bernal for 2nd and closed on Spencer. Lap 20 a big turn 3 and 4 slider put Clauson in front, Spencer 2nd and 12th starting Matt Mitchell now 3rd with some traffic in front of the lead trio. With only a single yellow through lap 12, the race then slowed twice, after 26 and 27 laps had been counted.
Stating later he received some good input from his father, Spencer used another turn 3 and 4 slide effort to pass Clauson and led the last 3 times around the racy half. A last lap effort by Clauson saw him bang the turn 4 wall, staying upright, but stopped while Spencer took the checkers over Mitchell and Bernal.
An excellent night of racing was impacted by not only being a Thursday but also it was Halloween. Looking ahead, next year if Perris uses this same weekend then Halloween falls on the Friday night of the Oval Nationals, and even worse, a year later it would be on Saturday.
Friday a 53-car field of USAC sprints were assisted by 15 senior sprints and 20 lightning sprints (mini-sprints) in a late running evening. Showing how the average of sprint car drivers has become lower, a senior sprint is for a driver age 45 and over. Showing my age, when I first began writing in 1992 at San Jose Speedway, many sprint car drivers were 45 or older and the under 21 driver was unheard of. Now the under 21 sprint car driver includes some of the best around.
Time trials were led by Dave Darland at 16.126 with the top 40 in qualifications running one of five invert 6, take 4 heats. It took just over 80 minutes to run a C main for qualifiers 41 and higher and 9 total heats for the 3 classes. Just as the night before, some excellent racing took place during heats as drivers vied for the valuable top 4 finish. Then the show’s pace slowed considerably, starting with a time consuming B main. The B was on a very racy surface, but the dust was flying.
As it turned out, the A main might have been better if the track did not receive a grooming that ate more clock. Track prep was probably needed since increased dust would have been unacceptable, especially with the breeze blowing into the stands. Nic Faas led all 30 laps off of the outside front row as the main inverted six of the heat transfers. At times Faas had a half straightaway lead while racing for 2nd was close all the way. Chase Stockton had that spot for all 30 laps also, but the pressure on the Indiana driver was also there all the way.
Bryan Clauson was 3rd for a lap before Brady Bacon used the low line around the half-mile to take 2nd on lap 2. Bacon raced with Stockton most of the final 28 laps before taking a 3rd. The lap 2 Bacon move was the last podium pass on a track that, while not exactly one lane, had a more preferred lane than I recall seeing at Perris in the past. Clauson was 4th, Mike Spencer 5th and Dave Darland wound up the top six point cars and received a free pass to Saturday’s main.
The final night of the 18th Annual Oval Nationals drew 2 less nonwing 410s but otherwise the same counts. Heats were again good, especially being invert 4, and taking only 2. A pair of B mains elevated another 5 each to the A with added provisionals eventually making a 27 car field.
Of that large group, only one ever led the 40 lap test and that was Dave Darland, capturing another Oval Nationals crown and the $15,000 accompanying check. A dash for the six Friday locked in cars put Darland on the pole, but fellow front row starter, Mike Spencer, won the dash over Darland to switch the two in the A main grid.
Darland led with relative ease until a lap 32 red
created an interesting finish. Bryan Clauson had started 4th and
reentered the top 3 on lap 30 with a move under Nic Faas in turn 2. Two
laps later he used the bottom of turn 4 to take 2nd from Spencer and the
red was what he needed as Darland was well ahead before the stop.
It was announced that tomorrow (Monday) the 2014 schedule will be released so the Ovals vs. Halloween thing will soon be known. My sprint car season is not over as later this month a Canyon Raceway Park visit will provide more nonwing entertainment. In between is the Duel in the Desert, not sprint cars but one of the best racing events I see all year when a ton of cars invade Las Vegas Dirt Track.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…After 19 years of annual events, I thought nothing that much new would occur at the 20th Annual Trophy Cup. I just expected another year of excellent racing action using the best format ever invented. What I did not expect is three days of such dramatic racing that the first 19 years seem almost routine compared to what occurred on the Thunderbowl Raceway clay.
Things started on a disappointing note when only 29 of 41 pre-entered nonwing cars showed up on Thursday. The purse, over $32,000 was something like 2 ½ times as much as the usual payout for the nonwing 360 field. The previous Saturday at nearby Kings Speedway in Hanford, 27 drivers were on hand for the much smaller purse. Being on a Thursday is, of course, a factor, but with a year’s advance notice it would seem like more teams could make necessary arrangements to run this race.
On the other hand, maybe having only 29 was a good thing or the nonwing night might have taken 3 days to run on its own. A plethora of cars getting upside down and multiple hospital runs made a small field into a large mess. For the record, each of the 4 drivers that visited the hospital was OK other than the expected bruise or two and soreness.
The total count of cars getting upside down on the Thursday night is debatable, but I am going with the Lance Jennings count at 14 with 10 during the 2nd main. The Tulare welding truck made so many appearances for fence repair that I had it scored 12th in the 2nd A main, and on the lead lap.
After racing 30 laps nonstop at Hanford less than a week earlier, many of the same drivers were on hand in Tulare for a much different night. Two cars were done for the night after hot laps and Ryan Bernal followed suit following hard ride into the turn 4 wall in qualifying. The small field shrunk to the point that a B main was not needed.
While a berm built up, the track was smooth, but fast and maybe some drivers were just plain driving over their head. The high point car, Andy Forsberg, was taken out and done just 8 laps into the first A main, driven into the turn 3 wall by an overly aggressive competitor.
After Matt Mitchell set quick time and some decent heats, Max Adams led the first 2 laps of the invert 12 opener and Danny Faria Jr. the rest to win over Geoff Ensign and Austin Liggett. With all events earning points, the first main ended with Faria the point leader, followed by Adams, Liggett, and Richard Vander Weerd. Their success was rewarded with the last two rows location in the 2nd main, oddly enough the place to be in this fully inverted main.
The 2nd main was messy, to say the least. Requiring nearly an hour and a half to complete 40 laps, it resembled a nonwing destruction derby at times, such as when, with 10 laps complete, 4 cars were strewn around the oval, three of which I believe flipped. One was the race leader, Matt Mitchell, who had something go very wrong to get upside down in turn 2.
Geoffrey Strole used the outside front row spot to lead 8 laps before 14th starting Mitchell used the bottom of turns 2 and 4 to go 3rd to 1st on lap 9. Mitchell was 8th in the first main and was running very well when disaster ended his run. Landon Hurst led on the restart until Richard Vander Weerd used the bottom of turn 2 on the 35th lap to make the winning pass.
R. Vander Weerd collected the win and Trophy Cup title. Kyle Hirst was 2nd in the final main ahead of Hurst, Bud Kaeding and James Sweeney. For all the problems this night of racing produced, it still came down to the wire. If Hirst could have gotten past R. Vander Weerd, Hirst would have won the Cup title by a half point.
The top ten in nonwing points were, Richard Vander Weerd (324.5), Kyle Hirst (315), Bud Kaeding (307), Danny Faria Jr. (301.5), Max Adams (283.5), Landon Hurst (281.5), James Sweeney (280), Austin Liggett (273.5), Scott Hall (257.5), and Matt Mitchell (254). R. Vander Weerd earned approximately $5,550 for his evening of work.
The next two nights were far smoother running, unlike last year when the winged nights produced more than their share of red flags. The 81-car field was the 2nd largest in Tulare Trophy Cup history, just four less than last year’s top turnout. With 14 entrants not showing, it turned out to be a good thing, making for 14 fewer drivers to face a qualifying abyss.
Some solution to the time trial thing must be out there, but every new idea carries its own issues. One thing seems clear to me, this year was absolutely not fair. While getting a decent qualifying result held up through 38 cars, the following 43 drivers faced degrading track conditions. Evan Suggs was 20th quick, the 38th car out, but following him only Jac Haudenschild and Jonathan Allard could make the top 24 group, surrounding Suggs with 19th and 21st quick.
Considering the top 24 qualifiers, 22 came from the first 38 cars and 2 from the following 43 cars to hit the track. Brad Sweet was able to turn a 9th quick lap as the 33rd qualifier, but shortly after that the track must have gone south. When drivers such as Shane Stewart and Sean Becker drew 76th and 77th to qualify, ideas of winning the Trophy Cup became hoping to make the 48-car inversion.
Last year was much better, Jonathan Allard was 7th quick and was the 64th car to qualify. That was not because it was slick early, Craig Stidham was 5th quick and was the 3rd car to time in. I don’t recall the start time for qualifying last year nor the weather, but this year’s low 80s day with a 4:30 qualifying date did not work for the last half of the pill draw list.
Keeping in mind that points for qualifying, heats, and mains are compiled to find the champion, every time a driver is on the 3/8 mile their final standing is being created. This year’s half point drop per qualifying position made the point gaps smaller and Tim Kaeding’s fast time (15th car to time in) was only a half point better then 2nd quick, Carmen Macedo (2nd to time in).
Friday heats were excellent with great racing for the 3rd and final transfer spot dominating the six heats, inverting six by points. Preliminaries continued until a 24 car field was set for an A main, inverting 12 by points. After 30 laps the first photo finish in Trophy Cup history was recorded, or perhaps the first transponder finish is more accurate.
Shawn Wright led a lap before David Gravel ran the upper line to take over, leading all but the last foot or so of the main. Starting 2nd, Gravel was chased by T. Kaeding from 10th starting for the last 10 laps. Coming to the checkers, Gravel’s engine soured and Kaeding moved under the Connecticut driver to win by 0.003 seconds, according to the transponder readout.
This was the most talked about main event finish in Trophy Cup history, but only for 24 hours. Some thought Gravel seemed to be the winner, but luckily the result made no difference in Gravel’s final point standing of 8th. Tim Kaeding tied Kyle Hirst for 4th in final points and Kaeding got the spot due to a faster qualifying time. Had Gravel been the Friday main winner, Hirst is now 4th and Kaeding 5th, but they are teammates with Roth cars so it is kind of the same either way.
Just when one figures Friday’s main cannot be topped for a finish, Saturday’s main does just that. Very tough heats for the top 48 in points move the top 20 in the point list to the A main, no matter where they finish in a heat. Incoming high point car, Tim Kaeding, finished 4th from 8th while 2nd in points, Kyle Larson, had the same result.
They were still the top 2 in points entering the fully inverted main, sharing the 12th row and a 3.5 point difference favoring Kaeding. With a 5 point drop per position, whoever finished ahead of the other was the top candidate to win the Cup, assuming they both moved forward during the 50 laps.
I figure every sprint car fan in the country pretty much knows what unfolded during the main. Steven Tiner led 18 laps from outside row 1 before 7th starting Brad Sweet took over. Early on, T. Kaeding was ahead of Larson, but that changed in time and Larson had the point lead. Jason Meyers made a run and was ahead of Larson and had the point lead for a few laps. Going where few have gone successfully on the Tulare clay, Larson passed Meyers on the topside of turn 2 on lap 39 and led the Cup point battle the last 11 laps.
A final yellow with 3 laps left set up a finish that made Friday’s seem mundane by comparison. Larson had the title sewn up, barring some mechanical issue, but wanted the race win also. Last lap Larson is against the wall from the middle of turn 3 and 4 on, Sweet a few feet below the top, and contact at the exit of turn 4 left Sweet upside down and Larson battered.
Video of the situation indicates Sweet slid into Larson, leading to a battered and bruised sprint car limping across the finish line with Larson hanging on for the main event win and Trophy Cup title. No question about it, Larson deserved the win and title with his performance over the two days, but should he have gotten both honors?
Everyone I have spoken with agrees with me in that the red absolutely should have been thrown and the race restarted. Yes, Larson would have had the Trophy Cup title he wanted so much taken away by a last turn, last lap mistake not of his doing. Jason Meyers very likely would have won the title as beneficiary of the turn 4 tangle. I guess it was the most unusual finish to any main event I have ever seen and, coupled with the Friday transponder finish, should provide discussion for some time.
Recognition to a driver who overcame pill draw blues in dramatic fashion goes to Sean Becker. Pulling the 77th pill, his qualifying time on a worn out track got him a spot in a non-qualifier heat where he finished 2nd to move on to the C. That led to disaster when a turn 4 skirmish saw no laps completed for Becker and a DNF.
With nothing going right on Friday, Becker made the most out of it one could imagine, starting with a Saturday D main visit. A 2nd place finish moved him to the C, starting 9th and making a charge off of the top of turn 4 on the last lap to earn the 4th and final transfer spot.
Becker started the B main in 22nd and continued his amazing night with another 4th and final transfer finish. Since the 4 B main transfers are always the lowest 4 point cars and therefore fill the front two rows of the fully inverted main, Becker started the finale on the pole. It would be incredible if he won the main, but a wall banging adventure on lap 12 ended his great evening.
It is a guess, but I would certainly bet that Sean Becker was the first driver in Trophy Cup history to make the A main on Saturday after starting the evening in the D main. The concept of “running the alphabet” at a Trophy Cup just does not happen, but having a driver of the caliber of Sean Becker in a D main is equally rare.
As always, the biggest winner at the Trophy Cup was the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year’s contribution will be $132,000, bring the total for the 19 years the Cup has donated to the Foundation to $932.000. Next year the million dollar mark will be reached, an amazing level of support from a race. The donations started in year 2 of the event.
Every year the Trophy Cup seems to be more dramatic and special than any year prior. I think the 2013 version will make the 20th Annual unbeatable for thrills and spills. Then again, maybe not!
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Kings Speedway in Hanford ended the sprint car portion of their season in grand fashion, hosting 27 winged 410s and a like number of nonwing 360s. Being a King of the West sanction, having race director Mike Andreeta on hand kept the show moving along. The nonwing portion was the final USAC West Coast point race and Danny Faria Jr. claimed the title. One more King of the West race is scheduled to conclude their season.
It is great to see Kings Speedway draw people and cars like the October 12th show did, the Cotton Classic being the event title. Named after a major crop in the area, the Classic produced an entertaining conclusion to my racing weekend, coming after a great Friday show at Bakersfield Speedway with 154 stock cars in five classes.
Tim Kaeding produced fast time before a trio of invert four, take five heats preceded a B main that moved 7 more to the finale. In between a dash set the first four rows and all that preliminary action led to Garrett Netto getting the pole with Kyle Hirst alongside. Jason Meyers and T. Kaeding filled row two, all of which helped create 30 laps of excellent action on the racy 3/8.
Hirst got the jump to lead 7 times around before Meyers passed him on the bottom of turn 4 on the 8th circuit to take over. Hirst was right back on top a lap later, using the lower area of turn 2, and a yellow flew with 10 complete. On the restart, T. Kaeding moved into 2nd by using the bottom of turn 4 as the green reappeared. Hirst, T. Kaeding, and Meyers put on a very good show, racing each other while the last 16 laps went nonstop.
Hirst got a bit sideways in turn 2 on the 20th lap and T. Kaeding and Meyers were past him in an instant, Hirst falling to 3rd. Turn 2 continued to be the site of drama when Meyers regained the lead on lap 24, using the lower piece of clay to get the drive off of the turn to pass T. Kaeding.
Finishing the race in dramatic fashion, T. Kaeding used that popular bottom of turn 2 spot to take the lead on the last lap and held it to the line to win over Meyers and Hirst. The track was perfect, the top 3 put on a show racing each other, and the dramatic finish put the icing on the cake.
The USAC race also was very good and Netto was on the pole for this one, also. Running both divisions, Netto winding up on the pole of both mains defied the odds, and came after winning both dashes. Other drivers running both divisions were Kyle Hirst and Bud Kaeding.
Netto led a lap before Marcus Niemela used his outside front row spot to take the lead in turn 2, using the bottom. Fourth starting Hirst took the lead on lap 4, leaving turn 4 on the bottom for the move. That lasted only one lap and Niemela led again after a drive down the backstretch. Lap 9 saw Hirst used a turn 2 slider while Niemela went high in the turn and Hirst led again over Netto and Niemela.
Again Niemela used the backside for a pass, regaining 2nd before Netto pitted just before the halfway point, elevating Richard Vander Weerd to 3rd. Hirst built a larger lead while Vander Weerd got past Niemela for 2nd with ten to go. Hirst reached traffic, Vander Weerd closed, and on the next to last lap Hirst slid off the top of turn 2 with the help of a bent steering part.
Hirst’s misfortune allowed both Vander Weerd and Niemela to get by with Vander Weerd leading the last two laps for the win. The fifth and final lead change settled this one with the Vander Weerd win coming over Niemela and Hirst. Danny Faria Jr. was 8th, good enough to claim the 2013 title. Faria had a strong latter part of the season, claiming 3 in a row at one point, to earn the championship.
Just over 22 miles from Kings Speedway in Hanford the sprint car center of attention will focus this week on Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. The 20th Annual Trophy Cup has drawn 42 nonwing sprint car entries and 96 winged teams in pursuit of the record purse of approximately $165,000. The nonwing field is considerably tougher than last year’s first version and the winged group is, as always, exceptionally talented.
Often given credit for the best format in racing, the Trophy Cup is also famous for its support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Another huge check will be presented to the Foundation on Saturday night, made possible by the large number of activities that are the source of the funds. All 138 of the race teams have been a part since every dollar of the entry fees is donated to Make-A-Wish.
A couple of changes have been made, starting with qualifying. Instead of a one-point drop per position in qualifying results, it will be a half point this year. This will lessen the point gap at event’s end and it is the highest point total that determines the Trophy Cup champion.
With support from Abreu Vineyards, a bonus program for heat races has been added to the purse. On Friday, the fastest qualifier starts 6th in each of the heat races. If that driver wins the heat, a $500 bonus will be paid to that driver. If the fastest qualifier in a heat does not win, a $200 bonus will be paid to the driver that passes the most cars in that heat. If event of a tie for most cars passed, the bonus will go to the driver with the better finish.
On Saturday the highest point cars start 8th in each heat. The same $500 or $200 bonus will be paid following the procedure used on Friday. The heats for the fastest 72 qualifiers on Friday or the top 72 in points on Saturday are the only heats eligible for the bonus.
The race event that so many race teams and fans wait for is just two days away from invading Tulare. The Trophy Cup has a long history of exciting racing combined with its dynamic format, and the 20th Annual starting this Thursday in Tulare expects to continue that tradition.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…The first Saturday of October was the last winged 360 race of the season for Marysville’s quarter mile with 30 winged and 14 nonwing spec sprints on hand. Nice weather plus an exciting finish on a very good track surface made it a winning night for the track and a pair of drivers.
Track preparation was just right, one sign being the pit stands were not under siege from clay rockets being thrown from right rears. Zero dust meant it did not go too far in the other direction, either. Whatever was done, if the same process could produce the same surface weekly it would be wonderful. Of course, weather conditions make track prep a puzzle to solve every race.
The nonwing spec sprint main was led by Rowdy McClenon until less than a handful of laps remained. Dealing with a deflating tire as well as a closing Cortney Dozier, a little backstretch contact between the pair put Dozier into the lead and 3 laps later the win. Shawn Jones was 2nd over Peter Paulson while McClenon’s tough luck had him cross the line in 9th.
The wing format inverted six and took four out of the heats with the fastest six making a transfer going to a redraw. All that activity put Andy Gregg on the outside of the front row, a starting spot he used to full advantage by leading 29 ¾ of the 30 lap race. Unfortunately for Gregg, the only time past the flagstand that matters is the last one.
Shawn Wright was in 2nd for 16 laps before 7th starting Becker used the top of turn 4 to take the runnerup spot. Becker closed on Gregg, using the top of turn 4 each lap to put pressure on the leader. The last turn of the last lap was when Becker used the very top groove in turn 4 to squeeze past Gregg and finish the excellent evening of racing with his exciting pass. Eleventh starting Jonathan Allard was 3rd over Wright and Mason Moore.
Next week will bring one of the most awaited events in the country when the 20th Annual Trophy Cup is hosted by Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Somehow this event seems to continue to get better and this year follows that patters. Trophy Cup records will be set for car count and purse with 137 cars entered and a purse that is approximately $165,000, drawing the usual very strong field of teams.
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 20th annual event.
It is a winged and nonwinged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country. The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion from the final night main that puts the highest point cars at the rear of the 24 car field. From qualifying on opening night 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, part is paid in the usual racing method and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.
Last year was the first time ever to include nonwing 360 sprints for a very special Thursday night of racing. The nonwing sprints return this year, chasing a much larger purse with the $32,175 total paid between racing and point results. Qualifying and heat races will award points and two main events will be raced. The first main will invert 10 cars by points while the second main completely inverts the field. Point totals will determine the overall champion to conclude a very busy night of racing.
The next two nights winged 360 sprints follow a similar format with a full program each night. Drivers qualify only on Friday and that night’s point results are used to create lineups for Saturday’s preliminary races. When the final 50 lap main goes green on Saturday, a 24 car inversion will test the highest point cars as they race their way to the front to gain maximum points.
After qualifying, each time a driver is on the
Thunderbowl Raceway clay, points can be earned by passing cars. There is
no being complacent while cruising around the 3/8 oval while in 3rd
place in a heat race. More points can be earned by racing into 2nd, for
example, and when the two days of points are earned in the winged
action, the champion is the top point driver.
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
closing 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
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.
Last year 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.
The Thursday purse for nonwing sprints is $32,175, much more than the division usually races for. The Thursday show will have two mains for the top 24 in points. The first main will invert 12 by points while the second main inverts all 24. With the increased payouts for both winged and nonwing nights the total paid out over the three days will approach $165,000 to set a new event record.
A significant change this year is a one half point drop
per position in qualifying. Cutting the drop from a full point to one
half will make for closer than ever point standings. It will also make
passing cars in every race all the more critical as each car passed
earns more points for a driver.
The Trophy Cup organization has supported the
Make-A-Wish Foundation every year and every penny of entry fees is given
to the cause. Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction,
and other items add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very
worthy cause. The Trophy Cup has raised over $800,000 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.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Chico’s season closed is the usual way, the two day Pacific Sprint Nationals. This was once a three day event with winged 360s only, drawing over 90 cars. The field was split between Thursday and Friday while Saturday was a main event only night. The last year of that format was 2009 when 74 sprints made for a large enough field to make the three day deal work.
The following year was the first of the two day Fall Nationals and the sprint field fell to mid-50s, but everyone ran each night. Then in 2011 the show was changed to a three division effort, adding nonwing spec sprints and modifieds. This year continued that plan and created a packed pit area and maybe too full of a plate to comfortably run given the state mandated curfew.
Friday opened with 46 winged 360s supported by 32 total cars in two support classes. Early qualifiers dealt with a still slick track, dooming some to C or B main assignments later that evening. One glaring example was Jonathan Allard, a superb qualifier at Chico, but coming out 3rd led to a 35th quick time.
The last six cars to qualify produced five of the fastest six times. Now if that is not a glaring example of pill draw skewing a race night, then I don’t know what would be. Only Sean Becker broke the late qualifier dominance with his 4th quick coming as the 20th car out.
Between these time trial results and the 2nd night offering a freight train main event, partly due to a marathon of pre-qualifying hot laps, the idea of passing/finishing point draw heats needs to be considered. California seems fixated on time trial formats that produce heats where there is often no incentive for a car running a heat in 4th place to even think about trying to be 3rd.
A time trial format too often produces heats where following is the norm, not trying to pass. Also, the Friday heats inverted 4 and took 5 to the A main, so the fastest car in each heat did not have to pass anybody to make the dash, and could go backwards one spot and still benefit from the dash invitation. At the same time, a driver could start 10th and race up to 3rd in a heat and get nothing for the effort. Heats took top 2 to the dash, plus the 2 fastest qualifiers that did not finish top two but did make top five.
Friday’s main was on a very good track surface, led initially by Andy Gregg. Sean Becker used the bottom of turn 2 on consecutive laps to move from 3rd to the lead, enjoying that spot from laps 11 to 21. Gregg came back to lead lap just lap 22 with a low turn 4 pass, but Becker used the top of the same turn to regain the lead a lap later.
Becker held off Gregg for the win while Tim Kaeding took 3rd from 12th starting for the final podium spot, using the low area of turn 2 for that move on lap 26 of the 30 total. The nonwing Spec Sprint field saw Dustin Thompson led 2 laps before Rowdy McClenon took over to win over Colton Slack and Don Emery. McClenon won the track title with 4 wins during the season. Slack finished one spot better the next night, winning over Scott Hall and Geoff Ensign.
Saturday brought extended hot laps but a track that produced a much wider range among the fastest six. Allard’s quick time came as the 18th car out and the next five were spread over the next 17 qualifiers. A fairer track than Friday for qualifying, yes, but at what price to the track surface come main event time?
Heats were excellent, although I heard a fan grumbling at the track conditions compared to Friday. Some fans don’t get it; good racing is not going fast with less passing. Good racing was the Saturday heats with an abundance of sliders for passes or near passes, certainly the best set of heats I have seen this year at Chico.
It would have been a perfect track for a main event, unfortunately modified and spec sprints heats and mains plus a winged sprint dash, C, and B mains were yet to happen. By main event time, the track had been used up and it all started with the long hot lap sessions followed by 100+ more laps as the 52 car field of winged sprints qualified.
Mason Moore was in the right spot for Saturday’s main, that being the pole, and he led all 30 laps for the big win. Tim Kaeding was 2nd for all 30 laps, pressuring Moore much of the way, but as long as Moore stayed on the bottom no pass was going to occur without divine intervention. Rico Abreu ran 30 laps in 3rd to continue the trend.
Drivers fussed about tire wear so the planned 40 lap main was cut to 30, eliminating the drama of tire conservation. Drivers fussed about the dash format on Friday and successfully got that changed. The dash was to have taken the top 2 from each heat into a redraw and then add the two fastest qualifiers who did not make a top 2 onto the rear. Instead, all cars were in the redraw after the drivers made their wishes be known…. at least some of them had complained. The fastest two qualifiers could go from 4th starting to 5th finishing and still have an equal chance of drawing the front row of the dash.
While needing a top 2 finish in a heat to go to the dash made for some very good heat race drama, a passing/finishing point format can make even a race for 3rd or 4th very important. And no way does a car go backwards in a heat and still get rewarded in that format.
Marysville is the focus of sprint car action this weekend, offering winged 360s and spec sprints. Things move south in a big way the following weekend with the Cotton Classic at Hanford featuring winged 410s and nonwing injected 360s, then it all comes down to the Trophy Cup at Tulare, the one so many fans and teams wait for each year.
Lincoln, CA…It was great to sit in the Hanford and Tulare grandstands last weekend, the first time this season at Kings and the 3rd night this year for Tulare. A rare Friday night show in Hanford coupled with Tulare’s race just 25 or so miles away the next night made the trip south mandatory. When Northern California had rain on Saturday and canceled every track north of Madera, being 240 miles south of Lincoln proved very convenient.
While still in a rebuilding mode, the Rebel Cup winged 360 series shows promise, particularly when the young talent from the Fresno greater area is taken into account. Names such as Steven Kent, Mitchell Faccinto, Carmen Macedo, and Luca Romanazzi are graduates of nearby Plaza Raceway’s mini-sprint program and know how to get around a track in a sprint car, too.
A 20-car field of Rebels along with 21 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s made for perfect numbers for the all 360 evening. Three support divisions had 24 cars total so their one heat and a main program did not impact the show’s length too much.
When living in San Jose and prior to the track’s 2005 first time closing, Kings Speedway often offered an agenda that was worth the 5 hour round trip. My favorite was when Rebel Cup was paired with the Bandit Sprints, a nonwing 360 division that essentially became USAC West Coast years later. The Rebels drew low 20s, the Bandits mid-20s, and the quality of the fields was excellent.
In 2005 the track closed mid-season, leading to the Trophy Cup moving to its current home in Tulare. Two following attempts at promoting the 3/8 mile were unsuccessful and the track’s future was not bright. Along came Scott Woodhouse and now the place seems to be, well, back on track. Despite being a Friday and facing competition with both high school football and Fresno State football, a large crowd was on hand for this rare Friday fling.
USAC ran their main 1st, well after D. J. Netto was quick time at 15.761 and a trio of heats helped create the grid for a 30 lap test. A six inversion assigned Danny Faria Jr. and Marcus Niemela to the front row, a spot that allowed Niemela to lead initially. Faria and Bud Kaeding were in pursuit but when Niemela slid up and a bit off the track in turn 2, a lap 3 lead change followed and Faria led.
With Kaeding now 2nd, Richard Vander Weerd was in 3rd for a pair of laps before Vander Weerd used the bottom of turn 4 to take 2nd on lap 5. Two laps later Vander Weerd drove past Faria on the bottom of the back stretch to now lead. Just two laps elapsed before Faria again took the lead, using a drive off the bottom of turn 2. Faria led laps 9 to 30 for the win, creating a significant gap between himself and the Vander Weerd/Kaeding duo after a few more laps.
A mid-race excursion off of turn 1 dropped Kaeding back several positions but he came back by lap 22 and was the bottom car of a three wide departure from turn 2, using that move to regain 2nd. That was the final podium pass and the Faria, Kaeding, and Vander Weerd trio ran the last 10 laps with no changes in order.
The winged main put fast timer, Justyn Cox, starting 4th after his 13.902 quickest effort. A very strong front row of Steven Tiner and Andy Forsberg plus Craig Stidham inside row 2 made for a fast front of the pack group. Tiner led all 30 laps, Forsberg ran 2nd all the way, and Stidham followed all the way in 3rd. Sounds like an uneventful race, but that was hardly what it was.
At times Tiner pulled away and it looked as if he was in control, then Forsberg would make up the space and challenge for the lead. From the last half of the main to the checkers, that was the scenario, repeated challenges as the laps were used up. One final effort leaving turn 4 on the last lap came up just short for Forsberg. He left the turn on the bottom, Tiner was halfway up the track, and the race to the line was a very close Tiner win.
Twenty-four hours later and almost the same number miles away from Hanford the Tulare Thunderbowl came to life for the first time since Memorial Day weekend. On hand were 28 King of the West winged 410s, a couple 360s included, and 21 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s for another nice field of open wheel cars.
As qualifying drew to a close, the winds seemed to increase in strength and shifted direction to fill the 3/8 oval with dust. During the time between time trials and heat one, the dust worsened such that seeing the winged sprints race that heat was a challenge. I could barely make out a car in turns 2 and 4 of the nonstop heat, then with a power outage stalling activities, the winds lessened and maybe shifted again and no dust issues followed. At Placerville the following Wednesday Tim Kaeding told me he could not see much at all in that first heat for KWS. Following his brother Bud during the heat was the only way he made it around the track.
Peter Murphy was on hand at Tulare and looked to be well on the road to recovering from his July 20th very serious accident at Antioch Speedway. He was presented a check for $18,000 to help with expenses, made possible by an effort led by Brent Kaeding and supported by many others. In the days that followed the accident, Brent left his motorhome at the hospital so Peter’s family members could stay overnight in it. This was a prime example of racers helping a fellow racer.
Jason Meyers started outside front row of the KWS main and led 23 laps before a tire issue ended his winning plans. Bud Kaeding, starting 6th on the adjusted initial lineup, became the leader with Meyers misfortune and collected the win over his brother, Tim, and Kyle Hirst. The race was messy to put it mildly with 3 multi-car tangles in the same spot between turns 1 and 2 involving 18 cars total, some multi-time losers in those deals. Those three reds plus another as well and four yellows threatened to turn a main into a marathon. Some very good racing took place, highlighted by Tim Kaeding’s run from deep in the pack to 2nd.
The plan was to run the USAC main last, figuring track conditions at the end of the night would be better suited for nonwing racing. It seemed to work as the KWS main ran on a racy surface and 30 laps of pounding on the Thunderbowl clay still allowed the USAC field to have a competitive track.
Richard Vander Weerd led 11 laps before 4th starting Bud Kaeding took over, raising the potential of a sweep. That likelihood increased as laps wound down and taking the white flag still ahead it became an almost certainty. Unfortunately for fans hoping for the sweep, contact with a lapped car on the backstretch of what should have been the final lap left Kaeding’s car sitting sideways and a very unhappy driver.
Running an extra lap as a result, Vander Weerd collected the win over Danny Faria Jr. and 8th starting Austin Liggett, a Tracy teenager having a strong late season series of races. This combination of KWS and USAC will move back the short distance to Kings Speedway on October 12th for the Cotton Classic, another must see event in the San Joaquin Valley.
While Tulare got by with just some short term wind, rain did a number on Northern California racing, including the Civil War finale at Placerville Speedway. Not wanting to end the point season for the series that way and being willing to risk a Wednesday night race on short notice, Placerville ran the makeup race on the following midweek date.
With 28 winged 360s and a dozen BCRA midget lites supporting, a cool evening led to a fast track and, while passing was not easy, the fast paced racing was still entertaining as position battles filled the evening. A cool day turned into a chilly evening and the track just did not dry out as usual, making the signature two groove racing harder to create.
An eight inversion put Tim Kaeding on the pole, a move that immediately created a likely to win choice. He did win, but not without plenty of resistance from Justyn Cox, the early leader from outside front row. Kaeding seemed to practice using the upper groove exiting turn 4 until a lap 8 effort allowed him to just edge Cox at the line.
From there on, Kaeding led with a lap 23 yellow coming at a time when he was in very heavy traffic. Cox finished 2nd and Kyle Hirst was 3rd in the quickly run program. Dakota Albright won the midget lite main, led initially by Scott Kinney before he had a mechanical issue turn a lead into a DNF.
It was a risk to run a Wednesday night on 3 days notice, something I am not sure any other track in Northern California would have been willing to try. Finishing at 9:20 was the result of keeping things moving, a wise choice considering the midweek situation. Sean Becker is the Civil War champion and there is no asterisk attached since Placerville was willing to run the final event in the series.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Petaluma Speedway drew 33 winged 360 sprints last Saturday on a typical summer evening, starting out mild and turning chilly once the sun called it a day. The track seemed to change with the weather, finishing the night as a very quick 3/8 mile of clay. Another well run show ended just past 9:30, hopefully keeping the neighbors and city happy with the early conclusion.
Mason Moore was quickest in qualifying, a 13.094 effort, leading to the usual four heats with six inverted and the top four moving directly to the A main. Half of the fastest 8 qualifiers did not make the transfer from the heats while racing for the final transfer spot was certainly intense.
Moore, the only one of the top four qualifiers to make a transfer, watched an 8 pill being drawn for the main inversion. High school junior and varsity football player, Nathan Washam, was on the pole and had an excellent run despite a tire issue developing mid-race. Eleventh in points at Ocean Speedway, Washam was surrounded by much more experienced drivers and showed he has the skills to run with them.
Washam led initially with Sean Becker in pursuit and David Lindt Jr. a spot further back. Moving up from nonwing spec sprint racing in 2012, Washam led through lap 7 before Becker, a series title challenger, got under Washam on the bottom of turn 4. Becker went on to lead the last 23 laps for the win, turning laps late in the main that were seven tenths of a second quicker than fast time.
Moore took 2nd from Washam on lap 11 and the tire issue on Washam’s ride was not helping his cause. Alyssa Geving drove under Washam going into turn 1 on lap 20 to take 3rd and the podium was set with that move. Becker, Moore, and Geving took the top 3 spots with Bradley Terrell and Washam completing the top 5.
Andy Forsberg’s recent Gold Cup finishes of a 2nd and a 3rd along with an apparent major error by the sanctioning group sets up an interesting situation. Following the Friday race at Chico a press release stated a $5000 bonus would be paid to the driver with the best combined finishes for the two mains. That was clearly Forsberg after his two podium visits.
When the group stated the press release was in error but after the Gold Cup was finished, it created a problem suitable for one of the many TV judge shows. Based on what I was told last Saturday, the group has no intention of paying the bonus. I wonder if that would be the answer if one of the full time series travelers was the driver owed the bonus.
An event that will have absolutely no issues with paying what is promised is the 20th Annual Trophy Cup. Now just a month away, the three day combined purse is in the $161,000 range with $32,305 going to the nonwing Cup Thursday purse and $117,940 guaranteed to the winged shows on the following two nights. The winged Cup champion will receive $25,000 after bonus money is added to the earnings from the posted purse. That amount of bonus money will not be determined until the final checkers fall on October 19.
A change in points for qualifying could create closer point standings in the quest for high point driver. Instead of a one point drop per qualifying spot, it will be a half point for both nonwing and winged nights. Looking at last year’s results shows that this change can work in both directions.
Ryan Bernal was the nonwing Cup champion last year even with Bud Kaeding winning both Thursday night main events. Bernal was fast time, Kaeding was 14th quick, so Bernal had a 13 point lead after qualifying. This year the same scenario would mean a 6.5 point lead.
Although Kaeding won both mains, Bernal finished 2nd both times to lessen the point impact of the two wins. The final margin was 9 points whereas this year identical results would mean a 2.5 point margin on victory. Looking at the top 5 in overall points, Kaeding’s margin over 3rd place Kyle Hirst would be greater this year, 13.5 compared to 8 last year. The top five would still be in the same order.
On the winged side, Jason Meyers won by 14 points last year over Shane Stewart. Because Meyers qualified 6th and Stewart 2nd, this year’s scoring would increase the margin to 16 points over Stewart, but now it would be only 15.5 over Hirst. So there is a change that would result from 0.5 scoring in qualifying, Hirst would have been 2nd in points and Stewart 3rd.
Rico Abreu would have really gained points due to being 24th quick, enough to tie Stewart for 3rd, a spot that would have gone to Stewart as he qualified faster. Roger Crockett would still be 5th.
Last year the change to 0.5 point differential would have only switched two positions in the top five, but that is due to the point gaps being larger than usual between the positions. Three of the top five in winged racing final points last year qualified higher than 18th in the order, so it is possible to recover from a lackluster time and finish towards the top of the point standings.
With 128 cars entered as this moment and 12 openings remaining, all in the nonwing group, the 20th Annual Trophy Cup will not only be the highest paying ever, it will also set a record for car count. Taking into account the field of drivers that have committed to being in Tulare in a month, it will also be the strongest field ever.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Half of the four Gold Cup events have been concluded at Silver Dollar Speedway, and excellent nights of racing opened the 2013 event. Winged and nonwinged 360s have been accompanied by midgets and carbureted sprints to provide a buffet of open wheel entertainment. The first two nights of weather have been great with warmer days ahead for the next pair of evenings.
Wednesday’s opening night drew 38 winged 360 sprints and 23 nonwing carbureted spec sprints, perfect numbers for a midweek event. Track conditions started a bit too fast but when main event time arrived the quarter mile high-banked clay surface was in excellent shape. Thursday started much the same with a fast and on the narrow side track but was again just right for main event action.
Tracy CA high school senior, Austin Liggett, started the evening with quick time for spec sprints at 13.918 before a trio of invert six, take four heats moved six drivers into the redraw to set the first three rows of their 25 lap Hunt Series event.
Drawing the pole, Geoff Ensign made the most of the opportunity and led all the way to collect the win for car owner, Dave Brown. Terry Schank Jr. provided pressure for 15 laps before Scott Hall and Tony Richards both drove past Schank on the bottom of turn 2 at the 16 lap mark. Ensign drew away to grab the win over Hall and Richards with the last 19 laps going nonstop.
Winged qualifying put Willie Croft at the top of the list after his 12.442 time. A very competitive field had five cars in the 12.5 bracket and another seven landed in the 12.7 group. Four heats inverted six and moved the top four to the A main with four of the fastest 10 not making the top four. Six more from the B main created a 22 car field for a 30 lap main.
After Dominic Scelzi drew the 10 pill to put himself on the pole, the first of six yellows flew before a lap was scored. Half the flags slowed the action in the first six laps, but it took the remaining 24 laps to see the other trio of yellows. Scelzi led with Matt Peterson and Justin Sanders following until Sanders used a turn 2 slider to take the lead on lap 6 while Justyn Cox moved to 3rd at the same time.
Sanders started inside row 2 and had Kyle Hirst behind him by lap 8, Hirst starting 8th. Scelzi came out on the short end of contact and went off the back stretch and wound up 8th. Andy Gregg used the top of turn 4 to take 3rd from Cox but the ASCS driver regained the spot five laps later with a low side pass in turn 2.
During a yellow after 17 laps, a right rear on Sanders’ ride was obviously low and it figured to be a matter of time for the Prunedale based driver. Sanders would easily win the tough luck award for the year and another chapter in that story was set to unfold. Lap 22 was tough luck for Cox when he dropped out with engine issues and Gregg was 3rd again.
With the Sanders tire approaching flat, Hirst used the low groove out of turn 4 to take the lead on lap 26 and the Sanders right rear finished its race one lap later. That put Gregg in 2nd and Mason Moore in 3rd for the last 3 laps and podium positions were set. Tough luck for Sanders and Cox, but it was a very good main despite a few too many yellows.
Thursday figured to be special, and it was when USAC 360 or restricted 410 sprints were joined by USAC/BCRA midgets for a nonwing night. With 25 sprints and 20 midgets, the numbers were just right with a few vintage and about a dozen hardtops added. What was not needed was another class, and the 22 dwarf cars put too many cars in the pit area and nearly led to a curfew shortened race.
Fastest of the sprint was Geoff Ensign 14.354 while the co-sanctioned midget field had Ronnie Gardner post the quickest time, a 14.511 lap. Passing filled preliminaries certainly lived up to expectations of a very good night of racing, and main event action was even better.
Midgets inverted six and Sean Becker, making his 5th career start in the class, was joined by teammate Jonathan Henry on the front row. Becker led at some point in each of the first four times in a midget, winning once, but that streak ended this night.
Henry led from the green, Becker 2nd for 2 laps, before Jake Swanson and 6th starting Gardner passed Becker, the track winged 410 champion this season. Gardner got past Swanson on the back stretch on lap 6 and used the same stretch of clay to take the lead from Henry on lap 9.
A four car pack was racing for the lead when misfortune and a lapped car struck Shane Golobic, sending him into an altitude impressive flip to end the Fremont based driver’s race and put Gardner’s drive on hold. When the race resumed, Gardner was untouchable while action behind him was intense.
Swanson used the bottom of turn 2 to take 2nd on lap 11 and Matt Streeter took 3rd a lap later, driving under Henry on the bottom of turn 4. Streeter and Scott Pierovich put on a show racing for the final podium spot, one which Pierovich took with a lap 24 pass on the low side in turn 2.
The Gardner, Swanson, and Pierovich podium came after just one slowdown on the Silver Dollar surface, one that was in perfect condition for the midget run. Seeing this one makes me dream of more midget racing on the high-banks in Chico.
Next up was the 20 car USAC main, set for 30 laps and inverting six. Jimmy Trulli was making one of a very few career starts in a nonwing sprint and was on the pole alongside former Hanford resident, Chad Boespflug, back in California from the Midwest for a few days. Row two was filled by Andy Forsberg and Austin Liggett with Forsberg making a rare nonwing start also.
Trulli led with Forsberg and Boespflug chasing for two laps before Liggett used the top of turn 2 to take 3rd. Goeff Ensign moved from 6th starting to 3rd on lap 7, a spot he held until lap 16 when Liggett made a turn 2 low side pass for the position.
Trulli continued to lead, establishing a large lead until the last 10 laps unwound and traffic slowed him, allowing Forsberg to close. Things were really heating up when a lap 24 tangle in turn 4 by back of pack cars proved bad luck for Forsberg. He was unable to avoid the spun cars and suffered front end damage just as he was challenging for the lead.
Trulli now had Liggett to deal with Kyle Hirst in 3rd after driving past Ensign and soon to be series champion, Ryan Bernal. A lap later Bernal regained 3rd and Trulli continued his smooth drive to claim the win over Liggett and Bernal. While Trulli led all 30 laps, the race had excellent position racing behind the winning driver. Trulli won his first nonwing sprint car race and did it during Gold Cup week.
As the midgets showed, Silver Dollar and nonwing racing go together very well. With excellent support from drivers who rarely race nonwing, the size of the field was just right and half the top ten were from the winged fraternity. Two nights of right sized car counts and excellent racing on very good track conditions was certainly the way to start the 2013 Gold Cup week.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway concluded their point season with two Friday nights of good racing due to excellent track conditions. The current plan of running five or so divisions creates a decent total car count although some of the fendered classes are one heat and a main groups.
What I have noticed of late is how much the crowd seems to enjoy the support classes almost as much as the sprint car action. I am guessing the crowd has become more of a race fan group rather than just being focused on the sprint cars. I can tell that I have adjusted to the new way at Chico since the old days of 40+ sprint cars in two divisions are gone.
Sean Becker was one of six drivers to make all 12 point races and won the title over Andy Forsberg and Michael Tarter. Forsberg had one forgettable night when he took an ambulance ride after a heat race flip and that proved costly to his point total. Becker and Forsberg each won twice as did Andy Gregg while Roger Crockett and Willie Croft had single wins in far fewer appearances. Jonathan Allard had, by far, the best “batting average” going 4 for 7 in the win department, still finishing 7th in points despite missing almost half the races.
The nonwing spec sprint point races were mostly a single digit field, yet some of the races were just as good as if there had been 20 of them, and maybe better. Fewer yellows is usually a benefit of smaller fields and the group of drivers that appeared regularly were a talented bunch. Out of 18 drivers that appeared, only 3 made all 8 point races and Rowdy McClenon won half of those mains to take the title over Ron Laplant.
The economy sprints, basically a winged spec sprint, showed signs of becoming something with a car count once reaching an impressive 13. Last year was more like 5 cars at best so the percentage increase is very good. Becoming a track regular in the division seems to be an issue since only two cars made all 8 point races. One of the pair was Kyle Standley who is the track champion for 2013.
Andy Gregg won the next to last point race with Andy Forsberg putting on an impressive run from the 3rd row to finish 2nd. Then the last point race, a tribute to Tyler Wolf, was a Forsberg win ahead of Rico Abreu and Becker. Tyler Wolf was the youngest Silver Dollar sprint car champion ever at age 19. Forsberg became the first custodian of the very impressive Tyler Wolf Memorial trophy, as he will have possession of the huge award until next year’s event.
The very good racing conditions of the last two shows will hopefully be a sign of things to come next week when the four day Gold Cup series starts. Wednesday will be a winged 360 show with nonwing spec sprints, the Thursday calendar features no wings for the USAC sprints and midgets, then the next two nights are outlaw races. A huge amount of planning and work have created numerous accompanying activities to make the week very special.
Chico has four days of top notch racing with most every open wheel division getting track time. Car count should be excellent and the way tickets have been selling, a large crowd is expect for each event. The track conditions of late have me thinking this will be something exceptionally good this year.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Petaluma Speedway offered another dose of their brand of dirt track racing on the 10th with a fast, smooth, and dust free surface accompanied by cool weather, a feature normally enjoyed at the 3/8 mile oval. An appearance by the Hunt Spec Sprint nonwing series along with BCRA midgets and midget lites made for a trio of reasons to make the trip west.
Three consecutive weeks of racing for the BCRA divisions took a bit of a toll on car count. Having no home track means every race is on the road, but the 16 car field of midgets was still four times the USAC midget field at the paved Madera Speedway. Just 4 cars showed in Madera, apparently the result of conflicting events for some pavement racers as well as BCRA being in Petaluma on dirt. The July race in Madera drew 18 midgets when it was co-sanctioned.
The midget lite field was also slim with 9 cars, half what competed at Antioch two weeks prior. An every other week schedule or at least not more than two consecutive weeks might fit these divisions’ plans better. Dakota Albright won the lite main with relative ease.
Shannon McQueen set quick time, recording a new track record in the process at 14.203 before a pair of heats awarded wins to McQueen and Greg Bragg. McQueen started 10th and Bragg 5th in the 30 lap main, but it was Trey Marcham in a McQueen team car that became the center of attention.
The Newcastle, OK traveler is just 21 years old and a mechanical engineering student at University of Oklahoma. A busy travel schedule has seen multiple appearances in California this year in the McQueen midget. Marcham started 6th in the finale, but was not in that spot for long.
Gary Conterno led early with Marcham in 3rd after a lap, 2nd a lap later, and completed the charge to the lead with a high side pass in turn 2 on the 3rd lap. Once in front, Marcham was in charge to collect his first midget win. Some pressure was developing with 7 laps left, but Marcham added enough to his lead to erase that threat.
Bragg used the bottom of turn 4 to move into 2nd on lap 5 while McQueen took 3rd on the 13th circuit with a low side pass in turn 2. That set the podium for the quickly run main with McQueen racing cars flanking Bragg’s ride after 30 quick laps.
A 20 car field of nonwing spec sprints group qualified and used heats to select the redraw drivers. That activity put Colton Slack on the pole with Tommy Laliberte alongside. A 25 lap chase had just two flags slowing Slack’s run to the win. Weaving through traffic, Slack won over Laliberte and Shawn Jones from 10th starting. The next Hunt Series race in on opening night of the four day Gold Cup series at Chico on the 4th of September.
One of the best and most highly regarded later season events in the Western US, in fact the entire country, is the Trophy Cup. This always dramatic event was created by Dave Pusateri, a sprint car fan who wanted to see racing where the fastest cars had to start in the back. Born in 1994 at San Jose Speedway, the Cup was first a 410 event but was switched to 360 engines after three years.
Car count concerns over the dwindling number of 410 teams prompted the switch, and it has proven to absolutely to be the right move. The entry list has grown to the point that a limit is now placed on the number of teams that can race the event. California’s strict 11 pm curfew at fairgrounds tracks led to the maximum entry level and this year’s 90-car list was filled months ago.
The Trophy Cup was held at San Jose Speedway through 1999 before the track was closed to build a concert venue that was never constructed. The track’s final race was the Trophy Cup main, won by Terry McCarl, while Brent Kaeding won the overall title.
The event spent the next year at Watsonville before becoming a San Joaquin Valley transplant, racing the next 4 years at Kings Speedway in Hanford. In 2005 Kings closed during the season and nearby Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway stepped up to host the race, a location that is still the home for the spectacular event.
The plan since 2011 was to have this year’s Cup event, the 20th in the series, to be the final one. Dave Pusateri was ready to end the rewarding, superbly supported, but time consuming work necessary to do all that his group of volunteers does each year. Then family members intervened, deciding to take over the bulk of the work, while Dave gets to take a huge step back and serve in a more advisory-like role. The Cup will continue, much to the delight of race teams and fans.
The result is the prior planning done towards the 2013 Trophy Cup being the last will bring the payoff and event overall to new heights. Drivers that raced last year had priority entry for this year’s race and nearly 100% are back for the 20th version. They will be chasing the largest payout for the Cup ever.
The initial plan when this year was to be the last was a $50,000 prize for the overall point champion. After the change in leadership following the 2013 version will lead to continuing the Cup, the total purse was not changed but the champion will receive $25,000 for the two days of winged racing. The payout was increased for other positions to spread the additional $25,000 among the field. This year’s total payout is a record $130,940 for the two days of winged 360 racing.
Last year a 3rd day was added for nonwing 360s and Ryan Bernal was the 1st ever Cup nonwing champion, accumulating the most points after a full night of racing that included two mains. Bud Kaeding won both mains but was 9 points behind Bernal after qualifying and heat racing points were included. Last year’s $21,000 purse is much larger this year, set at $32,305. That makes the three day total $163,245, a phenomenal amount for 360 sprints.
As well as race teams, another financial winner is the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Each year of this event every dollar of entry fees has been donated to the Foundation along with a large amount of money raised via various efforts proceeding and during the event. Those efforts have meant over $800,000 has been given to Make-A-Wish since the Trophy Cup started. Make-A-Wish, race teams, and fans all win by continuing to have this remarkable event.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Silver Dollar Speedway scheduled several winged 360 races on Friday point show nights, giving the 410 division a night off. The first night for this change was canceled, the 2nd time drew 19 winged 360s, and the 3rd and final effort last Friday drew 22 entries. Given the most recent two winged 410 point shows drew 15 and 13 cars, the thought of weekly 360 racing at Chico might be something to consider.
The track conditions were among the best all season and all divisions took advantage of that to put on some entertaining racing. Even though there were only 5 nonwing spec sprints, their main was probably the best of the season in Chico when the quintet of cars raced together the entire 20 laps.
While Don Emery did lead all the way, that does not reveal the level of competition that developed. Emery was pressured by one and sometimes two competitors before he claimed the win over Rowdy McClenon. Two grooves and dust free conditions made the evening all the better.
An eight inversion put the track’s two time 2013 winner, Sean Becker, outside row 4, creating what figured to be an interesting charge towards the front in the Dan Menne owned ride. That charge became a bit easier when three tries to start the race and a similar number of yellows put some to the back and Becker was now starting 5th.
Brad Bumgarner led off of the pole, chased by Kevin Sharrah until Becker used lap 3 to take the runner up spot with a topside drive out of turn 4. Eight laps later Becker took the lead, diving past Bumgarner when he slipped up the track coming out of turn 4. Becker’s 3rd Chico win came after leading Bumgarner and 12th starting Andy Forsberg to the line. Forsberg’s charge offered further interest as the laps counted down as his top of the track effort justified his Mr. Excitement nickname.
The next night was a return to Antioch Speedway after an absence of at least 3 years. The occasion was not only to see the place again, but the draw of having BCRA midgets, a division I have never seen at Antioch as best as I can recall. It turned into a very entertaining evening of racing and one of the best midget mains I have ever seen, making it both a lucky and rewarding choice for Saturday evening.
When Antioch was made a little larger and wider the track received positive reviews on the changes. What I saw were excellent track conditions except for a bit of a rut in turn 4 and exciting racing despite some classes having few cars. The open wheel portion of the six division show was all BCRA, midgets and midget lites.
No qualifying was another nice touch but hot laps for all the classes put the start time about 20 minutes late. Officials do a good job of keeping things moving along and will cut laps if a race is taking too much time. The midget lite field was at 18, assisted by 5 cars from southern California. With 16 midgets on hand, I was certainly satisfied with the open wheel car count. Support classes were less, but some of the single digit divisions still had competitive mains.
Midget lite pole car driven by Marcus Smith led 18 of the 20 laps but, coming upon a lapped car in turn 4, chose the bottom while Scott Kinney was ready to used the top. Kinney drove around the leader and lapper to lead just the last two laps for the win. Smith was 2nd and Brad Dillard took 3rd in the dramatic finish.
The midgets put on a very thrilling main, one that got better as the 30 laps reached a conclusion. Gregg Bragg led a lap before 6th starting Scott Pierovich blasted into the lead running the high side around the fast quarter. Using the top of turn 4 to take the lead, Pierovich was pursued by Bragg until he hit the turn 4 rut, allowing Pete Davis to drive by for the 2nd spot.
Sean Dodenhoff used the bottom of turn 4 to move into 3rd on the 9th circuit and moved one spot higher a lap later with a low groove pass in turn 2. Bragg took 3rd back following a low groove drive in turns 1 and 2. Pierovich set a blistering pace while racing the topside of the track with Dodenhoff and again Davis took 3rd after Bragg went a bit high in turn 2 on lap 16. That would turn out to be the winning pass, although it was for 3rd at the time.
With ten laps remaining and the pace growing even more frantic, Dodenhoff closed on Pierovich before assuming the lead along the back stretch on the 22nd lap. Dodenhoff created a bit of a lead but Pierovich closed on him with 5 to go and the pair entered turn 4 glued together as the white flag was to appear. They bumped each other and the wall at the top of turn 4 leading to a slow roll for Dodenhoff and a red.
A somewhat distant 3rd at the time was Pete Davis and he inherited the lead on the restart, leading the last 2 laps for the win. Between dramatic duels and the lead pack furiously turning laps on Antioch’s quarter, it all added up to one of the best mains I have seen this year. If only they could all be like this one.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…An Oregon weekend turned into a perfect three day outing, despite willingly skipping a night at one of my favorite tracks in the country. It was a difficult decision, but one that in retrospect brings no regrets. Until I figure out how to be in two places at the same time, choices must be made.
The draw to make the 444 mile trip north was the two day ASCS National event at Cottage Grove Speedway. An added bonus to finally visit Crater Lake National Park on the way home Sunday plus cooler weather than home made it easy to fill the tank and head north.
Cottage Grove’s track is not only one of my favorites but also drivers make the same claim. A wide and very racy quarter mile is bordered by trees in its home adjacent to the very small fairgrounds. Parking can be an issue as they have the smallest parking lot of any track I have visited.
A fairgrounds person told me that both the facility and the relationship with the city have improved with new ownership. The track has had more than its share of issues with political people over the years, facing closure at times, but luckily for all of us remains open.
A 29 car field of ASCS National and Northwest sanctioned winged 360s plus just 9 nonwing sprints provided the evening’s action. Those wonderful draw heats for ASCS provide real racing as passing and finishing points determine 12 of the 16 cars that go directly to the A main. From that group of 16, it is even more vital to be among the top 8 and participate in the redraw to set the first four rows.
Roger Crockett and Trey Starks tied for top in points, winning their heat from outside starting front row. The four heat winners plus the next 12 in points go to the A main. Heat results allowed 5 transfers from the first heat, only 3 transfers from heat 3, and four from the other two heats.
Cottage Grove qualifies as Crockett’s home track, making it almost expected that he would draw the front row, on the pole to be exact. Johnny Herrera was outside row 1 while Starks started 3rd. That turned out to be the finishing order after 25 high speed laps as Herrera pressured Crockett but could not make a pass. Crockett’s win was his 13th this season and became one more the next night when he swept the weekend from his 4th starting spot. Kyle Miller won the nonwing main to add yet another trophy to his collection.
This coming weekend the ASCS National/Northwest teams have another two day show at Willamette Speedway just outside Lebanon, OR. That event will compete for cars as the Summer Nationals at Skagit Speedway in Washington. Skagit’s 2nd day main pays $12,000 to win and $1,000 to start. Some drivers that were at Cottage Grove have stated they are going to Skagit. Unfortunate that the two events are on the same weekend, despite the 326 miles between the two tracks.
Andy Alberding drives this beauty and lives in nearby Winston, OR
Saturday was decision day as, since we were staying in Roseburg, I was one mile from Douglas County Speedway. Never having seen a race at the Roseburg paved four-tenths but driving past it many times, the opportunity to finally visit the fairgrounds oval plus the presence of winged sprint cars made it my choice for Saturday. It was difficult to skip Cottage Grove, but there will be more visits to that track.
Roseburg’s track drew 16 sprints from the Northwest Sprint Car Racing Association running the 2nd of a two night show from their Western Winged Sprint Cars series. Racing on 9 weekends with three of those being two day shows creates a 12 race schedule, spread over 8 tracks in 4 states and Canada. Obviously travel is a big part of each team’s budget, but Northwest tracks tend to be further apart than other areas.
Matt Hein was fast time at 12.487, before a pair of dashes and two heats formed the NSRA preliminary events. These shorter races were good, making the prospect of the 50 lap main being really good a possibility. Unfortunately, the zero pill was drawn, leading to a less than thrilling main to end the evening.
Hein shared the front row with almost neighbor, Andy Alberding, who lives 9 miles from Roseburg in Winston. The two local drivers ran in the top two spots all the way as did Scott Aumen in the 3rd place spot. Those three were obviously among the few fast cars from the 16 car field and one can only imagine how much better the main would have been with, for example, a six car inversion.
Team cars for Robbie Haslam and Michael Sullivan Jr.
It was interesting to watch Hein storm around the track and weave his way through lapped traffic, allowing Alberding to at least get close a time or two along the way. The large crowd may have enjoyed it, but my feeling was what could have been much better was not due to pill draw options. Johnny Giesler won the Friday main, a 40 lapper, and Hein was 2nd.
NSRA pays $1250 to win, $800 for 2nd, and $725 for 3rd as well as $250 to start. Helping with the travel necessary to follow the series, up to $300 is paid in tow money, depending on the distance. That would make Aumen’s 3rd place finish pay better for the Duncan, British Columbia, Canada driver than Alberding’s 9 mile tow to run 2nd.
A large grandstand on well maintained grounds, decent lighting and a good PA system along with a racy .4 track make Douglas County Speedway a good facility. It took skipping a race night at a great dirt track 50 miles north, but adding Roseburg’s paved oval to my meager list of tracks visited was a bonus.
Leaving Roseburg Sunday morning, we first drove up to and along Crater Lake. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and the Tetons are superbly scenic places to visit, but Crater Lake with the view from the top of Watchman’s Point rates number one in my book.
Lincoln, CA…The 4th was the hottest weather I have “enjoyed” with Chico posting a high of 111 for the day. Being the special fireworks races that night, it was difficult to postpone for the heat, but the track did consider the fans with special accommodations. Free water, a building set up as a cooling center, and golf carts giving rides from the parking lot to the stands all helped the crowd deal with the heat.
Although it was a non-point race for winged 410s that lowered the car count, the 13 on hand ran an appreciated quick show for their part of the evening. Unfortunately the zero pill was drawn, putting the zero car on the pole. Having Jonathan Allard on the pole for this one made the race for 2nd the spot to watch. Allard led all 25 laps, stretching his lead soon after the initial green and with just two yellows, he did not even have much restart pressure.
Racing for 2nd was good with Brad Bumgarner getting pressure from Michael Tarter initially. Bobby McMahan took 3rd along the lower area of the back stretch on lap 5 and pressured Bumgarner before getting past him on the 17th lap, diving low into turn 3 for the pass. That set the final order with Allard’s 48th Silver Dollar win leading McMahan and Bumgarner across the line.
The 16-car field of nonwing spec sprints raced a Hunt Sprint Series event, using a 6-car dash to set the first three rows. The fastest six qualifiers that made a top four in heat action redrew for the dash and Colton Slack earned the pole with his dash win. Terry Schank Jr. was 2nd to share the front row for their 25 lap finale.
Slack led a lap before 4th starting Geoff Ensign powered the Dave Johnson entry into the lead with an upper groove drive off of turn 2. Slack chased Ensign for a while and bravely tried the track’s topside in turns 3 and 4. Slack held his own but eventually Schank got past him with his low line in the same turns.
Lap 17 saw Ensign go a bit too high in turn 2, allowing Schank space to drive under him to take the lead. A lap later Slack’s entertaining high side effort gave Scott Hall the chance to take 3rd on the bottom of turn 4. Slack got that spot back before the checkers to create a Schank, Ensign, and Slack podium. Twenty support division cars equally split between two classes did their part in entertaining the large crowd.
Friday’s anticipated trip to Fernley NV for the King of the West race was a surprising no go when that morning the word of the cancellation appeared. I had not heard about the big afternoon storm that hit the day before, shutting down I-80 due to flooding for a while, and flooding both homes and businesses in Fernley. The track and parking lot had standing water, leading to the two-day show being cut in half.
Saturday was already committed to Petaluma’s special for winged 360s so it will be next month before I see a King of the West race in Nevada. By race’s end, the Petaluma temperature was 52 degrees lower than Chico’s high two days earlier. The winged 360 special was very tedious to get to, travel time from Lincoln was 55 minutes more than normal. The traffic nightmare was worth it as it turned out after the vintage Petaluma surface led to a high-speed main event.
I missed much of qualifying thanks to the bumper to bumper trip, but did arrive in time to see young Jake Haulot set fast time at 12.529. Jake is the son of Danny, a San Jose Speedway competitor some years back. Heats were talent filled and racing for the needed top four was frantic and entertaining. With six from the B tacked on and a six inversion, Alyssa Geving and Jeremy Burt brought the field to green for 30 laps.
Geving jumped into the lead, pursued by Shane Golobic and Burt until a lap 3 sideways slip in turn 4 elevated Andy Forsberg to 3rd. Plenty of yellows, 9 at the final count, kept the scored laps to a slow pace, but the track when green was very quick.
Golobic put intense pressure on Geving lap after lap while Forsberg did the same to Golobic. Lap 22 was a tough one for Forsberg when he got the left front up onto the turn 2 berm and spun, moving Colby Weisz to 3rd. This adjusted trio at the front continued the frantic pace with Golobic and Weisz looking for a chance to move up.
It happened as lap 27 was ending when a turn four slight slip by Geving gave Golobic space to speed past her on the track’s bottom to lead the last 3 laps for the win. Geving was 2nd over Weisz when the high speed chase was complete.
Petaluma was a literal breath of fresh air, particularly after the sun set and the temperature drop brought out the sweatshirts, etc. After a 7 day stretch when Sacramento had 105 degrees or higher each day, the evening in Petaluma was both refreshing and entertaining.
Lincoln, CA…The heat wave currently covering the western US arrived just in time to make Chico’s last June race a very warm evening. June 28th brought a 104 high temp to Silver Dollar Speedway and this Thursday’s race is forecast 2 degrees more than that. Despite the heat, the track was in very good shape, particularly for those who don’t mind a little rut or two to add to the mystique of dirt track action
A trio of elevens and a nine for support classes assisted the 17 winged sprints. Andy Gregg set quick time, a 12.479, before a pair of heats set up the 25 lap main field. Willie Croft and Brad Bumgarner won heats before the 8 inversion wound up putting the heat winners on the front row. Gregg and Jonathan Allard were in row 4, but Gregg moved up one row after a red flew following Croft’s fence banging flip before a lap was scored.
Five yellows and another red made for a bit of a messy main, but racing between the stops was excellent. Bumgarner led over Michael Tarter and Sean Becker for a lap until Becker took 2nd with a low side pass out of turn 4 on the 2nd lap.
Allard moved into 3rd, using the bottom of turn 2 on the 4th lap before Becker took the lead, leaving turn 4 on the bottom to complete lap 7. Allard used the lower groove in turn 2 a lap later to take 2nd as the top 3 raced together the first half of the race. Three laps later Becker went a bit high into turn 3 and Allard drove under him to take over, leading the last 15 laps for his 47th Silver Dollar win.
A lap after Allard’s race winning pass, Tarter took 2nd from Bumgarner, driving on the high line out of turn 4. The Allard, Tarter, and Bumgarner trio set the podium after the last 14 laps ran nonstop. Becker still has a 36 point lead over Croft with Bumgarner in 3rd with five point races to go. Becker’s margin is greater than what is commonly seen in the point standings at Chico at this time of the season.
The next night Petaluma had likely the warmest evening I have ever experienced at the 3/8 fairgrounds facility. So unusually warm was it that it took until the last two mains of the evening to see any sweatshirts in use. Petaluma is noted for cooling dramatically once the sun disappears but the last Saturday in June ignored that trend.
Arriving at Petaluma Speedway, a big surprise was in store with the shopping center across the street mostly complete. My last visit in 2012 was with a vacant lot in that spot, although most of the pre-construction preparation was done. A couple stores are open with more later this month, and this is no little effort with five anchor-type stores plus many smaller stores built.
It presents an unusual view from the pit stands as facing away from the track one sees the pit area, then this shopping center literally next door to the pits. A two lane street is all that is separating the edge of the pits from the center parking lot entrances. Hopefully things will all work out and shoppers will become race fans.
The track, of course, has been in place and racing for many years, but in California particularly, that does not always count for much. Even in Lincoln, homeowners that purchased homes next to the railroad tracks within the last few years are still complaining about train noise, despite knowingly buying property next to long existing and operating tracks. That is about as dumb as it gets. Will shopping center tenants play the same game?
Foolishly, I told my wife about the upcoming store openings, some of her favorites, too. Now she wants to come with me to Petaluma races, a potentially expensive option.
Despite the high 90’s day, the track was in racy condition all night. Five divisions brought 73 cars with sufficient numbers of each to create mains. Winged 360s had 17 and nonwing spec sprints drew 14 with good mains in both classes. The well orchestrated evening was helped by smoothly run heats before intermission honored the super stock driver, Shawn McCoy. He was competing in his 750th consecutive super stock race, an amazing statistic indeed.
Sparky Howard led all 25 laps of the spec sprint main, but that does not tell the story of how competitive it was. Zack Lynskey ran 2nd until the Dave Johnson entry of Geoff Ensign drove past him for 2nd place on the back stretch on lap 19. Lynskey came back a lap later on the bottom of turn 4 but last lap, last turn contact between the pair allowed Bob Newberry to grab 2nd over Ensign.
Melissa Geving led the winged main with Ensign and Chase Johnson applying the pressure. After a couple of reds and yellows, the last 13 laps ran nonstop, allowing traffic to come into play. As the 21st lap was ending, Ensign raced around the outside of Geving leaving turn 4 and led the last 5 laps for his 4th Petaluma win this year, two in each sprint class. Geving held onto 2nd and Johnson made a successful return to racing by claiming 3rd.
Support division racing was good, also, and as the sun dropped the temperature became very comfortable. Petaluma has an interesting July schedule with the Civil War featured on the 6th. The following Saturdays will see feature divisions of wing and spec sprints on the 13th, wing sprints and late models a week later, and conclude the month with spec sprints and the first year Nor-Cal Challenge for IMCA modifeds series.
Lincoln, CA…Our recently completed Midwest trip had both the best and worst weather of any such outing. Losing 3 races was an all time high, but the overall weather was still the best ever. No more than 2 or 3 days out of 17 saw the thermometer reach the 80s, and even it was barely into that range. One example is particularly vivid on June 8 when Lincoln reached 108 I was in Brainerd MN where the high temperature was 40 degrees less. Had to take the good with the bad this year as to weather.
For years I have wanted to come home via South Dakota and visit Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City and then Gillette Thunder Speedway in Wyoming. Each time it was too hot in Rapid City to consider that option, but this year’s forecast of 70s made it work out great. Rapid City’s track is owned by Ed Kirchoff and he promotes the Gillette track, owned by Cam-Plex, a huge multi-event facility a couple miles from the track.
Gillette ran sprints their one time of the season the week prior, but Black Hills runs the class each week. In fact, both wing and nonwing 360s are on their schedule, but the nonwing group barely exists. Just 4 cars were on hand the night I was there, 3 of which ran. The winged group had 12, but I knew these numbers before heading there and was OK with that. Other divisions had larger fields and there is something special about being at a track for the first time no matter what the car count.
Black Hills is a large half-mile with excellent stands that allow full view of the oval despite infield pitting. Seat backs and lots of legroom made it very comfortable for the large crowd, one of the largest in years according to the announcer. He also called it the nicest race night weather in a long time.
Heat races were nothing special, but the mains made up
for that with several very good events. The winged sprint car main was
the last of the night and turned into one of the best. Ryan Parks led a
pair of laps from his Newcastle WY home before Clint Anderson used a
turn 2 slider to take over. The all green main allowed traffic to come
into play, despite only a dozen cars on a full half.
With a couple laps left Anderson had traffic to deal with as well as a charging Randy Miller. That all led to an evening ending last lap, last turn pass by Miller to take the win, leading only from turn 4 to the line. The following night some of the best racing of the trip took place despite some divisions having single digit car count. Gillette Thunder was a very racy place on our visit, even heat races were good. Sometimes more is less when it comes to entertaining racing.
Back home the first weekend to arrive offered the chance to visit Stockton’s new dirt track for the first time. With winged and nonwinged 360s on hand, I figured there should be enough to justify the choice. Not only were there enough, but also some of the best racing I have seen this year in California took place.
Getting it out of the way, there were two major problems
with the 3/8 mile show at the fairgrounds. The organization was poor as
was the announcing. Normally these two issues would severely crimp my
evening, but the racing was so good that I will gladly put up with those
two weaknesses for another show like this one. This being only the 3rd
race at the track, I expect some issues and hopefully things were
learned from this show.
While only their 3rd race, it is half their schedule for the year already complete. This is a facility that needs to be used more next year, although a weekly venture would not seem a good idea. Northern California finally has a “big” dirt track, comparable to Hanford’s Kings Speedway. Willie Croft told me they ran their Hanford gear, and since he won, it must be a good choice.
The grandstands are very large and equally comfortable. Plenty of legroom is a luxury and the rows are steep enough to provide excellent sight lines. The 3/8 is inside the long existing mile track and, combined with lot of space between the stands and catch fence, puts the spectator well back from the track.
Some have complained about the space, but I found it to my liking as seeing most of the larger track is easier by being further away. Lighting is good as is the PA system, so all the ingredients are there for a quality program. The fairgrounds charges a very steep $10 parking fee, but there seemed to be plenty of free parking just a minute or so further walk away from the big stands.
While several paragraphs could be written as to how things should have been done, I would rather focus on the very entertaining racing that occurred. With 27 nonsanctioned wings and 24 USAC Classic nonwings on hand, the car count surpassed my expectations. For some reason, wings got one lap for qualifying and nonwings got two. Jason Statler was fastest in wings at 14.767 before Richard Vander Weerd went 16.745 in nonwings. Both, of course, track records for the initial appearance of these divisions.
Four winged heats inverted 4 and took the winner plus the fastest finisher from the top 4 to a dash, setting the first 4 rows. All that activity put Steven Kent on the pole with Statler alongside while Croft and Jimmy Trulli filled row two. Dominic Scelzi, destined to play a dramatic role in this one, started 10th.
Kent was very quick, just as he was in winning the dash, and Croft took 2nd from Statler on the outside as they raced into turn 1 on lap 8. Just one lap later Croft took the lead, racing low into turn 3 and emerging from turn 4 with the lead. Croft slid up the track in turn 4, forcing Kent to do the same, and led the last 22 laps for the win He put a considerable distance between himself and Kent as the race unwound.
While first place was settled as it turned out, 2nd became the hot spot over much of the race. Scelzi ran 3rd until a turn 3 and 4 slider from Garrett Netto saw Netto take the position. Lap after lap turn 4 sliders were thrown among 2nd to 4th until a Scelzi slider on lap 26 bumped Kent out of the way to make the pass.
When the checkers appeared Croft had the win but had missed seeing all the action behind him while Scelzi, Kent, Netto, and Cory Eliason made the four spots behind the winner all cars from the south. This one had all the action of, oh, say a Trophy Cup main event, and left me wanting more of these shows at the Stockton Dirt Track. All 27 cars on hand started the main and drew two reds and four yellows.
USAC was next up, despite already being past the state mandated fairgrounds curfew. Their 30 lap race had just 4 yellows, one of which was for the eventual winner. Matt Streeter led 17 laps, chased at first by Ryan Bernal, then R. Vander Weerd took up the pursuit after passing Bernal on the bottom of turn 4.
A lap later Streeter went high in turn 4 and R. Vander Weerd had the lead and his twin brother, Jace, was 3rd after Bernal slowed with smoke coming from his ride. Jace took 2nd on the bottom of turn 4 a lap later and another six laps passed before Geoff Ensign used the lower areas of turn 2 to move into 3rd.
Ensign’s top 3 appearance was noteworthy since he drew a yellow after two laps for sliding off the top of turn 3, receiving a trip to the back on the restart. Since a big tangle before a lap was scored had jumbled the lineup, I am not sure Ensign’s lap 3 restart spot, but he was certainly deeper than 12th, making his run to the front all the more impressive.
Ensign used a turn 3 slider to take 2nd on lap 26 and drove past R. Vander Weerd on the back side two laps later to take the lead and eventual win. Streeter made last lap moves to finish 2nd and R. Vander Weerd was 3rd in a second excellent main event of the night.
The track was quite slick by main event time but obviously very racy, making it all a very successful evening despite the post-midnight finish. As someone pointed out, even although I will put up with the issues that blemished the night for racing that good, many fans won’t. When the things that need to be addressed are handled, the Stockton 99 Dirt Track has the potential to really become something. We so much need a track this size up north and I sure wish another wing/nonwinged 360 show was on their schedule.
The next night was a return to racing roots, Placerville, where another large crowd saw the only appearance of the Hunt Series spec sprints plus a point race for winged 360s. The nonwing spec sprints drew 19 cars and Geoff Ensign drew the pole and led all 20 laps in Dave Brown’s entry. Dave was sitting next to me in the turn 4 pit stands, marking the first time I had a winning car owner alongside. Colton Slack, Scott Hall, and Matt Streeter diced for the next 3 spots and finished in that order.
The wing main was led by Jimmy Trulli for 14 laps before 8th starting Andy Forsberg made a winning move on the lower part of turn 4. Mike Benson took 2nd a pair of laps later before 14th starting Sean Becker moved into 3rd on the 21st circuit. That set the podium with another in the long list of Forsberg wins at Placerville followed by Benson and Becker after 25 laps.
On consecutive nights I saw very good racing at what is
now Northern California’s largest active track (Calistoga has not raced
this year) followed by what is perhaps NorCal’s smallest track
(Marysville may have that honor). Both had strong fields of wing and
nonwing 360s, the weather was good, so there is not much else to ask for
than what I already had.
Mason City, IA…Consecutive Saturdays were spent at tracks offering some open wheel entertainment along with support divisions. The 1st of June was a 2nd ever visit to I-76 Speedway near Fort Morgan, Colorado, and the next Saturday a first time stop at North Central Speedway just south of Brainerd, Minnesota. Both visits offered fewer open wheel cars than hoped for, but those on hand put on a good show.
Fort Morgan’s track lies next to the interstate with the same name and is a high-banked quarter. Some years back I was on hand when the wind blew into the stands and that night was pit only viewing. Strong morning winds luckily lessened by race time and the turn 4 towards turn 2 direction made grandstand accommodations more acceptable this time around.
The drawing card was the first race of the season at I-76 for the Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association (RMMRA) accompanied by the lightning sprint arm of the same group. The RMMLS teams mostly used a full sized midget chassis with a 1000cc engine. Only eleven midgets were on hand which was less than hoped for, but their main was good while the 17 lightning sprints were more than expected.
Formed in 1940, the RMMRA rivals the northern California BCRA group for longevity. Tony Rossi and Russ Harper won heats before their 17-lap main was contested. The unusual lap count was due to the teams wanting something between 15 and 20, so I guess 17 met that criteria.
Using some format that remained a mystery since so many announcers fail to inform, the main had Jay Sant and Bob Harr on the front row. Inside row 2 starter, Keith Rousche, used the back stretch bottom to hurry into the lead on the first lap. That move was all he needed and 17 laps later he won over Rossi and Harr. Four tries to start the race saw an equal number of yellows, then all 17 laps ran nonstop.
The lightning sprints were led most of the way by Paul Babich before his spin handed the lead and win to Jeff Geig. Troy Ullery and Troy Simpson filled the podium for their division. The look and speed of the lightning sprints was impressive and 28 total cars for the organization is acceptable. I-76 is cooperating with the Holyoke, CO track this year as both run Saturday and do not race on the same date.
On the 8th an initial visit to North Central Speedway produced an unimpressive car count but a very good main for the UMSS nonwing sprints. Part of the Upper Midwest trio of open wheel groups, the nonwing group are in their 3rd year. One driver who races with them is former Chico area racer, Jack Clark. The group is based at a Wisconsin track and having raced there the night before plus the tow distance to Brainerd MN kept the car count light.
I walked up to a driver of a UMSS sprint to ask about the organization. I thought he was kidding at first when he said his name was Johnny Parsons. It was no joke, Johnny Parsons III is racing a nonwing sprint with UMSS, having collected a win earlier this year. His father raced the Indy 500 many times and his grandfather, Johnnie being his choice of spelling, won the 500 in 1950.
Parsons III moved from Speedway IN to Owatonna MN and drives a 2007 Triple X chassis in the nonwing shows. The first year the group had just six cars but the average is now more in the 16 range. While home track pay is less, the out of area shows pay $500 to win for a relatively economically powered sprint.
When creating the division, Parsons III said the engine rules were made identical to the Midwest modified rules with the exception of converting to methanol. A 360 cu. In. max is fed by a 2-barrel carburetor and with stock GM parts elsewhere required. A top shelf engine is $8000 while a build your own version can be assembled for $2000.
The group ran a pair of heats, inverting the starting order for the second round, before their 15-lap main was set. Parsons III had the pole with Mike Mueller alongside. Mueller got the jump and led a lap before 3rd starting, Katrina Sautbine, used the lower area of the backstretch to move from 3rd to 1st.
Attempting a low turn 2 pass on lap 6, Parsons III flipped off of an infield tire to leave Meuller to pursue Sautbine. Many near passes made the race entertaining and I was wishing for more laps when Sautbine took the checkers. Her 2nd win this year came with Mueller in 2nd and Lucas Milz in 3rd.
One of the UMSS drivers is Jimmy Kouba who has family connections to RMMRA that go back years. A restored midget from that organization is in the hands of the family, creating a connection between two diverse location racing Saturdays.
If things go as planned, the next sprint car action for me will be next weekend at Rapid City, South Dakota and Gillette, Wyoming when another two first time visits to tracks will provide the entertainment.
Lincoln, CA…With Memorial Day weekend offering a pair of Civil War races for winged 360s, two of the more unusual nights in the long running series bring back memories from the days of San Jose Speedway. Both events were held in the month of June during consecutive years and occurrences that night have never been matched.
In 1996 the series had perhaps the most unusual ending ever for a main event. It was June 15 when a too full plate and the 11 pm curfew combined to set the scene. San Jose was one track that ignoring the curfew was very risky as the place was constantly under attack from neighbors and politicians. It finally closed after the 1999 Trophy Cup, part of the reason was to build a concert venue, which never happened.
Seventeen micro midget and 21 dwarf cars added to the 54 car field of Civil War sprints, just too much to get done by curfew unless everything went smoothly. Ray Cilloni led all 15 laps of the micro midget main and Rick Rogers led all but the 1st lap of the dwarf car finale. The sprint car main only raced 26 of their scheduled 30 laps, even then running past curfew.
John Golobic set quick time, a 14.650 on the third mile, a track well known for being pill draw intensive. San Jose had a surface that seemed to be good for a dozen or so qualifiers much of the time so drawing a pill that put a driver in that area of the order was important. Golobic was the 38th car to time in and Glen Boune’s 2nd quick came in the 32nd spot. Jim Richardson was 3rd quick and was out 50th followed by Mike Wasina Jr. in the 39th position. The track must have been wet early.
The invert 4 main had Duane Bonini and Jeff Young on row one with Boune and Golobic in row two. Young led 22 laps before Golobic got past and was leading when Boune bounced off of his right rear after 26 laps. Boune flew through the turn 4 sound wall, a wooden structure that was for noise control and broke away fairly easily.
The race was never finished due to time issues and Golobic won over Jamie Cobby, Bonini, Richardson, and Dave Schlenz. While I have the numbers in my notebook, not all the names were written and checking with people at the Marysville race last weekend filled in the gaps.
The following year, 1997, San Jose drew the all time record car count for a Civil War race. June 14th of that year saw 72 cars on hand plus another 16 support division racers. Ronnie Day was quickest at 14.734, then Craig Smith, Rob Johnson, and David Robinson, Jr. The odd thing is that 3 of the top 4 qualifiers were in the first 12 to come out, while Johnson managed his 3rd fastest effort as the 68th car out. That sort of thing was unheard of at San Jose Speedway,
Running the only E main in series history, the night must have gone smoothly compared to the prior year as all 30 laps were scored. For the record, I believe it was track regular Richard Zimmerman who won Civil War’s one time ever E. Ronnie Day used a turn 2 slider to take the lead and hold it for the last 25 laps. Craig Smith was 2nd, Ray Rust 3rd, then Glen Boune followed by John Golobic. Boune, using his trademark open trailer, was the series champion both of those years.
Almost sixteen years later the series was at the quarter mile in Marysville. The evening was labeled the Mel Hall Memorial, paying tribute to the former track promoter. A dry surface greeted the 38 cars on hand on a superb evening of weather. Starting dry and getting more so quickly, the characteristic ultra fast Marysville surface was not in attendance, but I found the show to be entertaining anyway. Perhaps more than if the more typical blazing quick laps had been possible.
Delicate touch with the throttle was needed. Every heat race had good battles for the needed top 4 finish. Andy Gregg was fast time, fast being relative to the other entrants, and started 6th in the 30 lap main after the pill was chosen. Shane Golobic, fresh off of two wins the weekend before, was on the pole, with Justyn Cox alongside. Joey Magaruh and Colby Weisz shared row 2, while Herman Klein was next to Gregg in the next row.
Cox timed his start very well to jump into the lead even though he had the lesser preferred outside row position. After having a yellow before a lap was scored, the drivers did an excellent job of negotiating the slippery oval and only 3 more yellows were needed. Over half the race was scored before the field was slowed and traffic made it very interesting among the lead group.
By lap 2 Gregg was battling Golobic for 2nd, a spot he took on the bottom of turn 3 after a third of the race. Golobic got 2nd back after a few laps, using the lower turn 4 spot for the move, and Mason Moore moved into 3rd a lap later when Gregg had a left front flat slow his pace and lead to a DNF. Cox, Golobic, and Moore were the podium drivers and formed two-thirds of the next night’s group.
While I expect there will be plenty of grumbling about the dry track, I wonder if we saw more passing in heats and better position battles during the main than if it had been a tacky surface. While I would not want that dry of a track all the time, it made for a different type of racing and I enjoyed the evening.
The next night was Silver Dollar Speedway’s turn and the large fair crowd enjoyed 49 winged 360s run the complete show by 9:30. The track was also dry, not as much as in Marysville, but again the drier surface may have led to better racing. Very good heats led into a pair of preliminary mains before the 22-car field, inverted by 6, was set for 30 laps. Andy Gregg and Mason Moore shared row 1 and Gregg took the lead, pursued by Moore and 6th starting Herman Klein after his excellent start.
Gregg led until lap 16 when he ventured up the track just enough for Moore to drive under him in turn 2. Leading the last half of the race, Moore claimed the win over Gregg and Shane Golobic. Plenty of excellent position battling going on, particularly between Gregg and Golobic, made this one thrilling to the checkers. Golobic’s weekend of a 2nd and a 3rd meant four podium visits over the last two weekends.
Strong fields, excellent competition, and outstanding weather made the two race Civil War weekend a success. Next Saturday the series is back in action at Placerville Speedway and fans can expect another entertaining show.
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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