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From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…It has been a week since we lost Bryan Clauson. In that time the scope of what Bryan meant to so many people has become clear. The times I spoke with him he was always a true gentleman. For years every time I go to a “fendered” race night I think of the late Gary Jacob, the most dedicated racing journalist I have ever known. Now every time it is an open wheel night, Bryan will be on my mind. Both of those men will never be forgotten.
The recently completed Knoxville 360 Nationals had 93 cars on hand, racing for a purse of $101,340 for the three days combined. The upcoming Trophy Cup, also for winged 360s, has a three-day total purse of $162,095. It will be 3 or 4 thousand more when all is paid since the Cup champion is guaranteed $20,000. This means if the champion does not earn the 20 from the purse, additional money is paid to reach the 20 mark.
The Saturday main event at the Trophy Cup this year will pay $101,200. That includes the point fund because to earn part of the point fund a driver must make the Saturday A main. That is one 50-lap race paying just $140 less than the entire 360 Nationals. Drivers do race all 3 nights of the Cup while the 360 Nationals they just race two nights. But the extra $60,000 plus paid does help with the additional night drivers race.
So why does the 360 Nationals draw nearly 50% more cars based on current entry level for this year’s Cup? Geography may play a big part since Knoxville may have far more 360 sprints within a given radius than does Tulare. But that was not a hindrance in the past when 80+ cars showed up in Tulare for the event.
One factor that has an increasing effect is the loss of drivers to events east of California. The list of names who will not be at this year’s Trophy Cup due to commitments at other races are all A main drivers, and also very popular with the crowd. California is losing drivers at an increased pace to race elsewhere in the open wheel world, and now I see it trickling down to modifieds also. It seemed strange to see an IMCA modified main event at Algona, Iowa last month and the top 2 finishing cars were from California.
But even the loss of talent to other series and locales does not fully explain the shrinking entry level for the Trophy Cup. Other drivers take their place as first time entrants to some degree. Based on what drivers are saying who have not entered this year yet ran the event for years, the reason for the entry level being where it is can be placed on the track design.
There is no question, Tulare is the toughest track to race in the state. Fully walled, the 3/8 oval has become the most unforgiving oval drivers see all year in the Golden State. That fact results from one characteristic of the oval, the fastest line around Tulare Thunderbowl, sooner or later every night, is up against the wall. That leaves zero room for driver error and the tiniest of mistakes means flipping off of the wall. Former Trophy Cup entrants who are not as of yet in the 2016 field say the same thing, the track has become too expensive to run.
One trait of the Trophy Cup over the years is always looking for ways to make the event better. This has been shown by format changes to improve the show and, with the addition of a 3rd day, gives drivers a better chance of making the Saturday A main. After the two preliminary nights, drivers use their better of the two point totals for Saturday.
If it changed back to two nights, then a flat at the wrong time can mean a driver has just lost their chance at making the A main Saturday. Paying a minimum of $2050 for last place in the final night A main, that figure equals or exceeds the first place pay for many 360 mains.
Plus, drivers are not saying it is the expense of a three-day event that is the issue, it is the track. Now the good news, the Tulare Thunderbowl will be significantly different when the 23rd annual Trophy Cup takes place this October. The berms at each end of the track will be moved in 15 feet, changing the track width from 60 to 75 feet.
What this is expected to do is dramatically decrease the “parts consumption” by moving the top line well away from the wall while creating an all new lower line opportunity. I recently spoke with the 2014 Cup champion, Willie Croft, as to how to improve the Trophy Cup. His answer, echoed by others, was to move in the berm. He would have been happy with a car width, but he is getting a lot more than he hoped for.
If the expectations are met with this year’s event, that is better racing and less accidents with the much wider track, then maybe some of the teams that don’t want to run the wall in Tulare will find out it is no longer the best way around the Thunderbowl. Putting the event back on their schedule may follow.
Last Friday was my 3rd visit to Ocean Speedway in 9 years. I have a good excuse, Silver Dollar Speedway also races on Friday and it is 256 miles less driving round trip. With Silver Dollar idle and Ocean running USAC West Coast 360 sprints, it was an excellent time for the long drive.
Later this month the tracks biggest winged 360 race will be held with the Johnny Key Classic on the 20th. In 2011 it was the Key race at Ocean where Bryan Clauson made his winged sprint debut. My last time at Ocean was August 2014 also for the USAC West Coast races and two years later the organization put on an excellent show.
Ocean Speedway has withstood noise complaints from not that nearby houses and has become the quietest dirt track in the state. A very strict muffler rule along with an equally strict 10pm curfew matches what All American Speedway in Roseville has for procedures. The difference is, AAS is in a housing area while Ocean is out in the country.
Four support divisions did their thing with efficiency and some good racing included. Track tune-ups occurred every opportunity so when the just past 9 pm green waved for the 16-car USAC field I had hope for an early finish before my long drive home.
A fast, smooth track led to some hectic racing among the field with Ryan Timmons leading 8 laps before contact with a challenging Geoff Ensign put Timmons into the back stretch fence. This was the only flag needed before the white and checkers.
Ensign led on the restart and established a substantial lead at times, but the nonstop nature of the last 25 laps meant traffic and Jace Vander Weerd caught up with the Sebastopol driver. On lap 29 Ensign proved again how being 2nd is sometimes the better option. He was blocked just for an instant when lapping a car and Vander Weerd sped past on the outside coming out of turn 2. Jace led the last five laps for the win over Ensign and Steve Sussex.
Ocean Speedway hosts the bigger engines of the USAC/CRA teams on September 9. That one just might require another 256 additional miles to watch the USAC/CRA teams on their version of Speedweek. Ocean Speedway is located on what I feel is the best maintained fairgrounds in the state.
Since returning from the Midwest trip, four Saturdays have been spent at Placerville Speedway. Each night the track has been excellent with racing to match. First year promoter Scott Russell has learned the tricky techniques of track prep at the foothill quarter mile, and good shows are the result.
Placerville was the early race track home for Bryan Clauson. When just a young lad he would frequent the facility as his father, Tim, was a regular competitor in the sprint division. Living in San Jose during that time my Saturdays were spent at San Jose Speedway and Placerville was a place I may have seen twice until 2002.
Last Saturday was the annual bike night with many young fans getting a chance to ride all or part of the oval. No 4th division was on the menu to allow the extra time needed at the break for the bike deal. The pure stock and limited late model part of the evening was better than usual and yellows were much less than usual. The sprints went last as always and put an exclamation mark on the evening.
A 17 car field included plenty of strong entries, one of which is Mason Moore. He won the July 23rd main when he raced from 4th to the lead in 4 laps. This time he led 8 laps before Andy Forsberg used the top of the back stretch plus some of the adjacent hill to take the lead from 6th starting.
A trio of yellows made for the always interesting double file restarts but Forsberg held off Moore and later Sean Becker for the win. The last restart with 5 to go saw some of Forsberg’s creative driving. Choosing the outside line, he drove up to the cushion approaching turn 4 then blasted off of the cushion to establish a decent lead which worked for his win over Becker and Moore.
Placerville races the next two Saturdays, then only once in September before the two-day finale in October.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…A recent Midwest trip resulted in success every race night with 18 races in 20 days, lacking any reasonably reachable event on two Mondays. Rain caused two change of venues, but at least there was somewhere to go close enough to make the change of plans.
Modified racing is so good in our visited states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Nebraska and offer events relatively close together. That makes the division the focus of the trip with some sprint car action included when convenient. Two nights featuring sprint cars were part of the experience, and both were special in their own way.
In 2014 I was at the then labeled Jackson Speedway
twice, once for the rescheduled Folkens Brothers Trucking special and
again for a regular show. It was certainly a decent facility and raced
Saturdays with sprints and IMCA divisions.
I knew the Minnesota track had undergone some remodeling, but it was a shock, in a good way, to see the now labeled Jackson Motorplex. Only the concession stand remains from the original track, and I was told that will be replaced after this season.
Everything else is new as huge grandstands with backrest allow a great view of the half-mile, despite the pits being in the infield. That location is to change eventually to outside turn 1. A wall now encloses the backstretch with a several thousand pound, or so I was told, gate that serves as the infield entrance.
I knew the Friday night sprint shows car count was not large, but the 11 nonwing sprints, the same number of 305s, and 16 of the headline 360s was less than hoped for. This is a big track, maybe too big which I have heard may be adjusted after this season. Racing was not particularly good this particular night, but I did not care as it was special just to attend a race at what is now a showplace.
of excellent seating options at Jackson
Heading west the next day, the choice was another track that runs sprints, this time 305s at Eagle Raceway, just east of Eagle NE. This was my 4th or 5th time at Eagle and every visit has been very good racing except this time. This time the show did not get a rating of very good because it was outstanding! Simply put, it was one of, if not the best weekly show I have ever seen.
Eagle does everything right, including the best flagging I have ever seen. The yellow is thrown only if absolutely necessary as opposed to some tracks that seem to go yellow every chance they get. Car count is excellent with the 139 total for five divisions ranging from 24 to 33.
That called for 17 heats, 5 B mains, and 5 A mains in a show that was so well run that even with a 15-minute intermission, it took just 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. They started 4 minutes early at 6:26 and were done at 9:41 after 27 races.
At the driver meeting it was mentioned that if any A main goes nonstop, “everyone gets in free” from that race. I assume that means the following week, and it was also mentioned that it had happened about 12 times this season. That score went up to 15 the night I was there.
Five divisions running full field mains and five yellows total! The sport compacts would have made it 4 of 5 with an all green race except a car that pulled off of the track did not get far enough into the infield. And it was not just such super efficient mains, it was also great racing.
Every main had a flock of drivers racing for the lead for the first bunch of laps before the contending group slimmed to 2 or 3. Even the IMCA modifieds were throwing sliders on the very racy high-banked third mile.
Ending the night with a non-stop main, the 305s put on a very good show. Joey Danley used a perfect slider to take the lead in turn 4 of the 10th lap, but Stu Snyder had an answer for that with a late race low turn 4 pass to win. Having seen Eagle’s weekly show when they ran 360s and now the 305 show twice, the IMCA sprints can put on just as good a show.
Eagle had a huge crowd as it was $5 admission night and, with the busy concession business, they may have done as well as a full-price night. With satellite concession areas they handled the throng’s food needs in a timely fashion.
If I decide to do this many mile travel thing next year, at least one visit to Eagle is certain to be part of the itinerary.
Back in the Golden State a return to Placerville Speedway for the first time in July came at a good time as BCRA midgets were part of the menu. Their 18 car field offered a trio of heats and decent main although Alex Shutte was dominant once he took over on lap 8, coming from 7th starting.
The sprints drew 18 cars and had one of the best Placerville mains in a very long time. The track was excellent, contributing to the multi-line racing. Greg DeCaires started 3rd but was the first to use the bottom of turn two launching pad to lead six laps before Andy Gregg used the same clay to grab the lead.
Gregg was in control until Mason Moore completed a thrilling run from 5th to the lead in just four laps, using the bottom of turn two successfully before finishing the drive with a low turn 4 pass for the lead.
Moore led the last 6 laps for the win over Sean Becker and Gregg with position battles among the top 4 drivers very intense.
This weekend with our heat wave continuing (108 today),
my first race at Chico since June will precede another night at
Placerville, this time a King of the West race.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Just four months from now the 23rd version of the Trophy Cup will take place at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Again some adjustments have been made as the format of the event is something that evolves as changes become necessary.
All procedures remain the same as last year except for the ones detailed here. The first two nights will offer 8 heat races instead of the prior 10, a change necessary to have full fields for heats. A main direct transfers will still be the heat winners plus the highest point car from each heat.
Heats will provide 16 main event cars with an additional 8 coming from a pair of B mains. The top 40 point cars not earning a main event spot after heats will be assigned to an invert six B main with the point car in position 1, 3, 5, etc. going to B main one and the evens to the other. Four C mains transfers, two to each B, will create a 22-car field with six inverted by points.
Four B main transfers from each, 8 total, earn no B main points but get their point total from heat racing back for the invert 12 by points A main. B main transfers could become part of the top 12 inversion. This format is used both Thursday and Friday before the final night during which the top 48 in points run heats with a series of main events capping the night.
The purse this year, combining racing payout and point fund payout, totals $162,095. As of June 22, the following list has the currently entered drivers.
Bud Kaeding, Dominic Scelzi, Geoff Ensign, Justyn Cox, Ken Fredenberg, Ryan Bernal, Bradley Terrell, Willie Croft, Giovanni Scelzi, Colton Hardy, Jason Statler, Mason Moore, Jeremy Chism
Pat Harvey, Steven Tiner, Craig Stidham, Matthew Moles, Shane Golobic, Justin Sanders, Koen Shaw, Kyler Shaw, Jonathan Allard, Cody Lamar, D. J. Netto, Tommy Laliberte
Brock Lemley, Luca Romanazzi, Cory Eliason, Scott Parker, Luke Didiuk, Devin Madonia, Mike Faria, Danny Faria Jr., Andy Gregg, Matt Peterson, D. J. Freitas, Jace Vander Weerd, Richard Vander Weerd
Landon Hurst, Jake Morgan, Jason Myers, Trent Canales, Blake Robertson plus there are eight additional cars entered without a driver listed
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Springfield, Oregon…Last weekend’s racing at Silver Dollar and Placerville Speedways offered a six-division night in Chico and the next chapter in the Civil War series at Placerville. A 15-car field tested the high-banked quarter in Chico and 32 cars showed for the Civil War show. Both nights had dominating performances by an outside row 1 starting driver.
Chico finally ran the sprint main after five often long mains for support divisions preceded the 25 lap 410 winged finale. Mason Moore led initially before Sean Becker took over with a high line effort earning him a lap 5 pass for the lead and eventual win over Andy Forsberg and Jonathan Allard. Action was good on a racy track to partially justify the long wait for the sprints.
The Civil War series always draws a strong field of winged 360s and with no KWS race, some of their regulars were able to join in the fun. A big crowd is about a certain for a CW race and Placerville continued that trend. The common format of invert 4, take 4 heats with winners and fastest 4 creating the 8 car dash was in play.
Steven Tiner ran 2nd in the dash and used the outside front row starting spot to lead all 30 laps. By the time ten laps were scored, it was obvious only misfortune was going to keep Tiner from the podium top spot as he was dominant while circling the foothill quarter mile.
Very good action behind him continued all race long as Andy Forsberg, Greg DeCaires, Mason Moore, and Colby Copeland battled for podium finishes. A lap 27 pass by Moore for 3rd settled the matter and it was Tiner, DeCaires, and Moore on the podium at night’s end.
Last weekend stretched my level of patience when Chico ran six divisions with the sprints the final main to run. Now I fully understand and support the need for multiple divisions to help pay the bills. What I do not understand is making the crowd wait until the last race to see the marquee division race their main.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind than the sprints are what draw the fans in Chico. When the track has more than 4 divisions, which is most of the time, the sprints should race no later than 4th in the main even order. Last Friday as well as the prior week when there were 5 divisions I see people leave before the final main.
It is the end of a work week, people get tired, and I find it impossible to believe that those leaving early did not care to see the sprint main. I do believe they got tired of waiting through all the fender class mains. Will they not return for another race, thinking the top division will require sitting through too many preliminary mains? It was around 2 hours last Friday from the time the first main came on the track until the sprints had their turn.
That leads to complain number 2. Support division mains should have a time limit that is enforced. A 30+ minute support division main ruins the flow of the evening. My first visit to Luxemburg, WI I saw the neatest idea in place. In the mains, after the 3rd yellow, any further yellow saw 2 laps subtracted from the main event. That creates peer pressure to keep going and not create time consuming yellows as well as causing lost laps from the main even total.
My last time at Eagle Raceway the final evening’s main was for 305 sprints. They had some yellows and were checkered with around 7 laps left, just when it was getting really good. Their time limit was reached and, even although it was not yet 10:30 pm, that was it. At first it was frustrating, but when I realized the track’s policy also avoids some seemingly never ending support division main, than it was all good.
Eagle Raceway realizes it is an entertainment business. They also realize there is nothing entertaining about a drawn out support division main.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Northern California racing on Memorial Day weekend is centered on a pair of Civil War events for winged 360s. For several years, the holiday weekend’s Saturday is a CW race at Marysville while the next night is less than an hour north in Chico.
This year the CW duo was presented on two distinctly different race surfaces, and except for a flat right rear in Marysville, would potentially had the distinctly same winner each night. Cory Eliason led 2/3 of Marysville before a valve stem failure ended that bid for a nice check, and the next night in Chico there was no flat and no disappointment as he collected the win.
Marysville had a 39-car field and large crowd for their first of two CW nights the year. The format is four heats, moving the top 4 to the A main with the heat winners and fastest four others making up the dash field. Eliason drew the dash pole and blasted to that win, again getting the pole for the main. Eliason was so fast in the dash that labeling him the main event best bet took little calculation.
Kingsburg, CA driver Eliason led with Bradley Terrell in pursuit until Andy Forsberg used a low line to take over 2nd. Eliason was electric as he sped around and between lapped cars only to suffer the tire failure when victory seemed assured even with ten laps remaining.
Forsberg has lost his share of wins due to various misfortunes, but Saturday it was his turn to win one after the Eliason bad break. Forsberg led the final ten with Shane Golobic closing until a near tip in turn 2 on the next to last lap. Recovering from that saved a 2nd for Golobic but erased the potential of a down to the wire battle. Jonathan Allard ran 3rd the last 10 laps to complete the podium.
Sunday at Chico is not only the traditional CW race but also the county fair shares the fairgrounds. Fans get into the fair for $10 and the race is free, guaranteeing a big crowd, many of who are not usually at a dirt track. Announcer Troy Hennig does an excellent job of informing the novice fans as to the finer points of sprint car racing, and the officiating crew did a top-notch job, leading to a 9:40 finish.
A 51 car field made for the first ever CW two group qualifying plan, something I did not even know was in the rules. Officials wisely ran a pair of C mains instead on one large one with just the winner tagging the B. The heats were either excellent or lousy, depending upon whose opinion you accepted. I say excellent.
The track for heat racing was dry, slick and a bit dusty and made for the best Chico heats in a very long time. The invert four take four scenario often sees little passing on a fast track with the attention centered on who wins and gets a dash invite. The Chico heats saw six drivers behind the inversion making a top 4 with passing galore dominating the ten lap heats. Yes, too many yellows and reds from the slicker track, but worth the downtime to see all that passing and great battles for top 4 spots.
The unfortunate likelihood of having this racy heat track is that a rubbered quarter mile is almost certain to show during main event time. It was around the halfway mark when the track changed to more of a one groove thing, but it was still very good while it lasted. Hoping for a dry, slick passing frenzy in heats and main is just unrealistic.
Eliason again drew the dash pole from the 8 car field, a good omen for the Harly Van Dyke 5H car, and he had no problems on the way to the dash win. Forsberg redrew 6th starting but was 2nd after one lap until Allard drove by on the front stretch on lap 4. After 12 laps Allard slid off of turn 2 following slight contact while lapping a car and Forsberg had 2nd again.
Forsberg was closing after 18 laps to pressure Eliason, but following a yellow a lap later, Eliason drew away from his Auburn based competition to win over Forsberg and Mason Moore, having another fine run in the X1.
In less than a month, Eliason will depart for an extended racing venture in the Midwest, driving the 5H Van Dyke entry in both 360 and 410 events.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…When the yearly release of track schedules occurs, certain races are labeled as must do, and May 14 was one of those nights. Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare had a very full menu with King of the West winged 410s, USAC West Coast 360s, winged 305s, and the first event in the All Star Modified tour since the first ones were rained out.
I figured this one would go well past curfew, but it was a mere five minutes of overtime, brought about by three factors. The officiating crew did a top notch job, starting early and having all preliminary races done by 8:30. Race teams were very reliable at being ready on time, and the prelims went very smoothly with no reds or significant yellows.
Main events were not as smooth and the 305s were the worst, getting in only 12 laps before consuming their allotted time. Those dozen times around the racy 3/8 mile were still entertaining, the modifieds had a last lap, last turn pass for the win, USAC ran some multi-car leader battles, and Rico Abreu made certain the KWS main left nobody disappointed.
The pits looked like it was Trophy Cup time with haulers everywhere. The 87 total entrants included 23 KWS, 17 USAC, a new record 20 of 305 sprints, and a very strong 27 car field of IMCA modifieds. Those numbers were a good thing as only the mods needed a B main, a time saving convenience.
Austin Liggett, a 2nd year student at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock, led all 30 laps from his outside front row start, but Trey Marcham and Brody Roa pressured him plenty to keep the tension level high. Those three filled the podium, a spot where Liggett accepted the huge trophy and other accolades.
My notes show only one yellow, another break towards avoiding a late night. Liggett is a nonwing spec sprint graduate and has a few wing 360 nights in his diary. With both he and his father being very busy this year, putting together a winged car for 2016 may be long delayed.
The IMCA modified main was next and five yellows drew things out a bit, but the last gasp pass by Troy Foulger for the win was a reward for not getting cut short on time. Bobby Hogge IV looked as if he had it won when his huge smoke display with 11 laps left altered those plans. It was an outstanding opener for the new tour, one that will be very difficult to match.
The 305 sprints have gone from ten or so to double that number in a year but their main ran out of time after several found out how treacherous the Thunderbowl walls are when one runs the fast groove. Sooner or later, the fast way around the place becomes next to the wall where little or no margin for error exists.
The 305 class is a mixture of veterans and newer to the sport types. If 20 cars becomes the norm, I could see the need for some sort of skill levels, maybe 6 or so run a 15 lap main from the lesser skilled group, and the rest run together in their main. Having a significant difference is speed among the group as it is now is neither safe nor fun to watch.
Reds on the first start, after one lap and again as lap 13 was trying to end spelled the end at a dozen laps scored and another win for Blake Robertson. Unlike the times I have seen him win in the past, he had to work hard for this one, taking over on lap 9 with an outside pass in turn 4.
This was, by far, the best 305 race I have seen in California, making me recall the ones I have seen in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. The front part of the pack put on a good show and raced with the experienced Robertson. Matt DeMartini and Albert Pombo joined Robertson on the podium.
The finale was a 30 lap KWS race with two yellows and a like number of reds leading to a fuel stop with nine left. The final red was a particularly disappointing one, it was a Rico Abreu flip off of the turn 4 wall after a huge slider went bad. It was not a real hard wall bang, but enough to bounce off and flip. We will never know it his slider would have gotten him the lead, or if the nearly race long leader, Willie Croft, would have successfully driven under the coast to coast racer to continue leading. Abreu was an unexpected entrant after racing in Delaware Friday.
The final 9 post-Abreu departure laps were less thrilling and Croft continued his strong season with the win over Colby Copeland and Shane Golobic. Croft, Abreu, and Copeland put on a show with some great laps before the lap 21 mishap. Abreu had the crowd excited with his wall running and slider efforts, making it all the harder to accept not having him in the Trophy Cup field this year.
Not counting Trophy Cup shows, which are in a class all their own, this may well have been the best night of racing I have ever enjoyed at Tulare Thunderbowl. It sure made the effort of traveling 500 miles to see a race worthwhile. Officials were certainly on their game and, for the most part, racers were also.
Thunderbowl’s next event is not until July 22/23 when the Peter Murphy Classic will become a two-day show. Talking with Peter on Saturday about the changes in format revealed some interesting things in the works, but nothing is set as of now.
From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…A recent conversation with Rico Abreu showed how confused the situation is regarding Winter Heat at Cocopah Speedway in Yuma, AZ. Rico had called the hotel across the street from the track to make reservations for Winter Heat and was told the event will not be happening. That is not necessarily correct.
The track, casino, hotel, entertainment center (Cocopah Wild), and convenience store are all owned and therefore controlled by the Cocopah Indian Tribe. Decisions are made by a Tribal Council and there has been no decision yet as to the future of Winter Heat.
Earlier this year when track manager Greg Burgess left for an opportunity to serve in the same capacity at the half-mile in Longdale, OK, the future of Winter Heat became unknown. The 2016/17 dates had already been released, but things changed when the track lost Burgess.
Under the leadership of Washington state transplant Burgess, the track had been upgraded with a menu of significant improvements that made it one of the top facilities in the western United States. It was also Burgess whose leadership led to the creation of Winter Heat.
While it was the foresight and effort of Burgess that saw Cocopah’s growth, it was only possible because the Cocopah Indian Tribe was willing to sign the checks. It appears as the loss of the valuable Burgess has led to Winter Heat having its current uncertain status.
But one thing is clear, there has been no decision yet if a year three of Winter Heat will happen or not. The hotel person telling Rico wrong information shows the communication problems between the different entities. The track states when a permanent track manager is hired, the new manager and Tribal Council will make a decision as to if and when.
While it is great that California’s series of drought years ended with the 2015-16 winter, it is time for summer which means the end of rain. It seems as if every other weekend is rainy and the first weekend of May followed that trend. Cancellations saw all three Friday options in the state again not race, and a bunch of Saturday tracks followed.
Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico has lost four out of ten race nights, a very poor batting average for a California track. Placerville Speedway has only lost one race and that is unexpected due to its foothill location which breeds rainstorms. The Thursday/Friday rain schedule has helped Placerville get its Saturday shows in.
May 7 was an example of the new promotion team of Scott Russell and Kami Arnold refusing to let rain spoil another party at the foothill quarter mile. A very wet track took a while to widen, but it turned out to be an excellent night of racing. Footing in the pit area was sloppy at best in many areas, but the commitment of Scott and Kami to run this race should be appreciated by racers and fans.
The 23 car field of winged 360s was bolstered by the King of the West cancellation at Petaluma Speedway, and drivers who would not have been in Placerville if Petaluma raced eventually dominated the podium.
Andy Forsberg drew the pole, had Sean Becker alongside, and the 25 lap main was fast and messy. With eleven laps scored, the lap count was at 89 so a fuel stop was looming. When the final 14 luckily went nonstop, the time out was not needed and Forsberg had the $2000 win over Becker and Dominic Scelzi.
Forsberg was on his way to Petaluma, although only a few miles from the Lincoln home of his 7C ride, when the cancellation news arrived. It was back to Lincoln for an engine change and a return to the track at which he has been so successful.
Next weekend the weather forecast is dry and warmer, so all tracks in the Golden State can be in action. With the wet winter and spring, it is really the Green State.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Rico Abreu will not race in California again until September. This may qualify as good news for all of the other Northern California sprint car teams after his sweep last weekend.
Friday at Chico in a 410 and Saturday in Placerville with a 360 in charge, Abreu led all 25 laps each night after defying some odds and redrawing the front row twice. It is a one of out of sixteen probability to draw the front two times when an eight-car redraw is done. Of course, he might have won no matter which row he started, but it would have certainly been more difficult.
Chico drew 21 sprints plus another 41 cars is a quartet of support divisions. Drawing the pole, Abreu had Sean Becker alongside on the initial start. From my vantage point, Abreu got away with a jump. Also from my vantage point, I see no official near the chalk line to enforce the start rule.
Becker and Jonathan Allard pursued the leading Abreu and by lap 10 Becker was applying some pressure. Five laps later Allard got past Becker low in turn 1, but another five later Becker regained 2nd to finalize the podium. Abreu bounced the right rear off of a lapper late in the race without damage. There were some moments of intense pressure of Abreu.
Wyatt Brown won the economy sprint main over a six-car field. Economy sprints are essentially a nonwing spec sprint without the “non” part. The class was showing signs of growth last year so this first night for them turnout may not yet reverse the pattern.
Placerville got a 40-minute late start Saturday but won the curfew battle by five minutes. Their four-division show had a very strong 24-car field of 360s but the rotating 4th division (dwarf cars) had 28 show up to make a large 62-car turnout for the three support divisions.
Drawing the pole again, Abreu lost the lead to Jonathan Allard after 11 laps, a low turn 3 effort, but a red appeared and the pass disappeared. A lap 13 restart saw Mason Moore get past Allard for 2nd and it was Moore who chased Abreu to the checkers with Allard 3rd for the second consecutive night.
All four mains were completed in 78 minutes, 15 of which were consumed by the sprints. Only the dwarf car main lost laps, five of which went away in the interest of time. The track was excellent so the extra water was not a bad thing other than the longer packing session. Keep the water and pack earlier would seem to work.
Comparing the two nights, Placerville keeps an eye on the chalk line plus the double file restarts make things more interesting. Sometimes a driver comes out ahead with double file, sometimes not. Moore’s pass for 2nd came from the bottom line out of turn 4 on a restart, but he may be on the other end of the restart result in the future.
Co-sanctioned races aside, to me the King of the West season really starts this Saturday at Placerville. The track has had two good-sized crowds for two point shows, but this Saturday will likely jam the place.
Friday rain is forecast which does Chico no favor, but does not seem to be heavy enough to ruin Placerville’s dance a day later. The state had an unusual weekend April 8/9 when every race in the state was canceled except for Yreka, which is nearly to Oregon.
Normally our rain moves in from the north, erasing plans for tracks on a north to south pattern, but this one came up from the south. Areas south of Sacramento had far more rain while north of the capital city got enough to cancel but not nearly as much.
While it was an all-Abreu weekend, both main events were very good as the pressure was there from talented drivers trying to find a way around the Rutherford based star. Now for over four months, there will be one less obstacle in their way in search of a win.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Andy Forsberg is off to an excellent start to his busy 2016 season, leaving his footprints on podiums all over Northern California. Starting with 3 consecutive wins, he has followed that string with 3 consecutive thirds, including one that paid more than most wins.
Last week had visits to the three most commonly attended tracks for me, starting with the very successful Wednesday show at Placerville. Promoted by Brad Sweet, early week rain again threatened the foothill quarter just like last year. Again it was his father, Don, and a helpful crew of volunteers that covered the track in plastic on Saturday prior, adding some pit area coverage this year.
With the help of equipment not available last year as well as more people, Don noted it was a tenth of the effort this year compared to the 2015 fantastic plastic chore. A few hours of work had the $1000 worth of plastic rolls spread and held in place with weight.
This all worked to the benefit of Forsberg who used a great move out of turn 4 to take the initial lead, using that popular upper limit groove and challenging the wall in the process. Leading 14 laps, the top of turn 2 on lap 15 was where Jason Johnson drove past Forsberg for the eventual win. Forsberg was happy with a 3rd, assisted by a Kyle Hirst destroyed right rear and Brad Sweet sliding off of the tricky turn 2.
This year USAC Western Midgets provided more action and their 22 car field was the perfect number for a midweek adventure. Shane Golobic led for a while before Ronnie Gardner ran the top of turn 4 for a winning pass. Gardner’s ride seemed faster than anyone else and he drove away from the field to win with relative ease.
The Placerville crowd seemed even larger than last year, something I thought not possible, with people occupying every useful square inch of the pit area. The show did seem to move along somewhat slowly and just finished as the magic 11 pm hour arrived, the state mandated curfew for fairgrounds tracks.
Two days later Silver Dollar Speedway opened their season after losing both days of the Silver Cup earlier in March. Starting their season with a Civil War race seemed strange, and the 43 car field put on a great night of racing.
Tony Gualda made his first Chico appearance very successful when he won the C main, earned a 4th in the B, which qualified him for the A main where he finished 12th. Gualda followed a path of outlaw karts, to micro sprints, then nonwing spec sprints, and now winged sprints. The Hollister based driver accomplished his feat at Chico with a very stacked winged 360 field on hand.
The 16 car field of spec sprints provided support with very little delay resulting and it was another win for Terry Schank, Jr. When he started the 20 lap main on the front row the likely outcome was set before the initial green. Schank is just too good to be anywhere in the front half of the field when the lineup is posted.
The Chico Civil War main was excellent, turning into a great Kyle Hirst and Willie Croft battle. Four lead changes over the last six laps on a track that had its challenging spots kept the crowd entertained with Croft prevailing over Hirst and Forsberg with another podium finish in 3rd. The following night Forsberg took another 3rd at Petaluma while Croft won over Rico Abreu.
On Saturday maybe I should have gone to Petaluma instead of Marysville, despite being an hour and a half longer drive home I would have been home sooner from Petaluma. Marysville had 86 cars and an overly long session of heat races. What happened to the concept of yellow/checker heat finishes when an 8 lap race was taking too long?
Sprint cars qualified shortly after six and started their main event at 11 pm. By that time, the stands had lost many fans as the drawn out show was too much. At least the sprint main was the 3rd of 5 main events, something Chico should also do on their point nights. With the sprint main ending at 11:42, there were still two stock car mains to run to create a six hour show.
None of the time issues bothered Cody Lamar and he led all the way for his 2nd career win, both at Marysville. A very strong 29 car field of sprints included several drivers that will not be track regulars but were taking advantage of the chance to race. With special events at Chico the next two Saturdays, Marysville is idle until April 16 when they get a chance to redeem the efficiency score.
At Placerville a chance to ask Shane Golobic about his first ever USAC National Midget win offered some insight as to how he took the checkers at the Du Quoin indoor race. Teammates with Chase Johnson and running Matt Wood Racing cars, Golobic noted the assistance of Tim Clauson as a factor in his winning.
A good pill draw for heat racing started his night and he won his heat. Using a passing/finishing point system, Shane was 4th in points heading to the qualifier where a 3rd row start and 4th place finish earned more points to become 5th overall.
The 50 lap main, on a track Golobic described as between Tulsa and Indianapolis in size, had changing track conditions. Following Shane Cottle for 20 laps, Golobic was signaled to try the top of turns 3 and 4. He used a run out of turn 2 to try the top and a couple laps later used that part of the track and took the lead for the eventual win. Winning any USAC National midget race is difficult and doing so indoors even more.
As of now, Golobic has around 20 races planned in the Wood Racing midget between USAC and POWRi sanctioning. He will not chase Watsonville points, missing five or six races this year, but will be kept busy racing sprints in California when not on the USAC/POWRi trail.
From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Scott Russell will complete the trifecta of the sprint car world this year. He has been a driver, car owner, and will now be a promoter. Along with Kami Arnold, the duo will be in charge of Placerville Speedway, the very popular foothill quarter mile east of Sacramento.
Russell first raced in 1995 with a five year stint in outlaw karts and was competitive at Red Buff, Cycleland, and predominately Prairie City, a now closed track. After a year off, he purchased the Hooker Hood operation out of Tennessee and made his debut on July 4th in 2000 at Placerville.
Understandably nervous, Russell credits fellow driver Jimmy Trulli with support both in the technical and nerve settling departments. To add to the stress, Russell had the pole for a heat race after never even having fired off a sprint car before the July 4th show.
Leading the heat until Vern Morrison passed him on the final lap, the heat race gave him the confidence that he really could drive a sprint car. Russell raced just a few times in 2000 in order to be eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2001. He was successful the following year and was named RoY for both Placerville and the Civil War series.
Scott’s last year of driving was 2013 after being 2nd in points at Placerville on three occasions and 3rd in points another two years, having won two mains. Part of Russell’s retirement as a driver was work connected. Being gone every week for work led to Andy Gregg becoming his driver in 2014.
A couple years back Russell joked with then promoter Allan Handy about taking over the track. Handy, a long time fixture at the track, wanted to stay on through the 2015 season as it was the track’s 50th year. Part way through last season the talks turned serious and now it will be the Russell/Arnold team in charge.
Handy will still be on hand in an advisory role to continue an over 30 years involvement with Placerville. Last year Russell shadowed Handy to learn about what the job is all about. Scott will focus on the track and grounds while Kami’s attention will be on the concession areas.
Russell was able to take a leave of absence from his job so his full time work site this year is the track. He has a one year deal to start after which an agreement up to 11 years total is available. With help from some volunteers and the support of the fair board, numerous improvements have already taken place.
The list includes:
1) improving access at the pit gate by widening a narrow
Teams can expect more tech for both safety items and rulebook enforcement. Additional personnel have been hired to work in that area. And finally, Placerville will have an end of season special event when a two day winged 360 sprint race in mid-October will end what should be the first of many successful seasons under the leadership of Scott Russell and Kami Arnold.
From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Greg Burgess surprised me in November on 2011 when I saw him at Cocopah Speedway where he had moved to become the track manager. Relocating from Shelton, Washington meant he moved from a wet and occasionally sunny climate to the sunniest city in the country.
I had met Greg in the Northwest when he was a race director and have talked with him much over the last five years. That 2011 surprise turned into 2016 shock when I was told of his relocating to Oklahoma.
Starting in a few days, Burgess will assume the role of general manager/promoter of Longdale Speedway, just south of Longdale Oklahoma. With a grand opening in March of 2014, the track will be in just its third season when Greg takes over the half-mile within walking distance of his new home in Longdale.
Longdale Speedway is owned by Jessie Hoskins, also owner of the Muskogee OK track as well as several businesses under the Hoskins umbrella including trucking, gypsum mining, and construction.
When he began looking for a track manager, Hoskins called IMCA and asked for a list of their top promoters. Greg’s name was at the top of the list and several phone calls later and a visit to Oklahoma sealed the deal.
Burgess had expected to retire in Yuma, but a new opportunity along with a new set of challenges provided a chance to grow as a track manager. Working with a new owner and experiencing a new way of doing things gives Burgess an opportunity to grow and further his skills.
He is leaving Yuma on the best of terms with the Cocopah Indian Tribe, the track owner, as well as his staff and friends with whom he has built relationships that he values. Greg follows the theory of work hard and treat people as you want to be treated and there will be a job somewhere. His new job in Longdale will benefit from these standards.
As to what will happen to Cocopah Speedway, there are already applicants for the now vacant position and many more are expected. When the new track manager is chosen, they will meet with the Tribal committee and make decisions on Cocopah Speedway, including whether or not to have a 3rd Winter Heat series. If there is a series, it will occur on the already released dates.
Greg Burgess states moving to Yuma was one of the best things he ever did. Now he will see if moving to Longdale can match or exceed that experience,
For the 2nd year Marysville Raceway successfully raced the last Saturday in February, offering the Sherm and Loree Toller Memorial race. This year weather was very good and the right number of cars allowed a timely paced race to end before 10 pm.
A 22 car field of winged 360s were joined by 10 nonwing spec sprints and 17 IMCA sport mods before a large crowd to open the 2nd season for promoter Dennis Gage at the sister track to Chico, also under Gage leadership. Narrow early, the track changed over the prelims to a very race surface, one to the liking of Andy Forsberg.
Redrawing 4th starting, Forsberg, took just 3 laps to take the lead, using the top line to drive past Mike Monahan out of turn 4. Leading the last 23 laps. Forsberg started his season with a win over Justin Sanders and Billy Wallace. Sanders became the show as the race went on as he moved forward steadily from 16th starting.
Sanders was closing on Forsberg when the laps ran out for the defending track champion following a dominating 2015 season in Marysville. Terry Schank Jr. also started 4th in the nonwing spec sprint main 20 lapper, took the lead from Peter Paulson on lap 7, and added another win to his long list of successes.
This weekend is to be the huge Silver Cup two-day event at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico with winged 360s, spec sprints, and modifieds but the forecast is poor for Friday and even worse for Saturday. After a mostly dry and well above normal temperatures streak during February, the El Nino thing seems to have returned.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…They have much in common. They are young, well spoken, talented, and will soon start a new phase of their racing career on the same team. Both come from a California racing background and emphasize a trend among the open wheel scene in the Golden State, namely to further a racing career, moving east is necessary.
While the duo were crossing Oklahoma today driving to Columbus, IN to start their new adventure, a phone interview with Carson Macedo and Ryan Robinson provided details on both their career and how joining the Keith Kunz USAC midget team came about.
Of the two young men, Macedo faces the biggest change. Both of the drivers will follow the USAC National Midget series, adding POWRi events along the way. While Robinson had 20 starts is a midget last year, Macedo has never raced a midget, just practiced. Just 14 years old in 2015, Robinson collected one podium finish along the way as well as a ton of experience.
2015 was a very good year for Macedo, winning the King of the West championship in winged 410 sprints. Adjusting to a midget won’t take long for the Central Valley driver. At 19 years of age, Macedo shows maturity far beyond his age with a goal of being his best and getting better every race night.
Ryan is the son of a successful sprint car racer, David Robinson, Jr., known as “Powerfeed” during his career. Long ago I asked him the story behind the nickname and it had to do with an equipment mishap at work. One of dad’s late career wins at Placerville still brings back memories to Ryan. When Ryan became more involved as a driver, David stopped racing to support his son.
Ryan’s career started the same way many Northern California drivers did, outlaw karts. First racing box stock at age 5, his debut at Lakeport started an eight year career, winning 22 times in his last year alone. In 2014 at age 13, Ryan practiced in a sprint and made his midget debut at Jacksonville, IL.
Racing an Abreu kart, Robinson had support from the Napa Valley based family, leading to some micro sprint rides and eventually the lone 2014 race in a midget. Joining the Kunz team was also due to Abreu support. Besides the 20 Midwest starts last year, Robinson ran a sprint at home, hitting California tracks at Hanford, Watsonville, Placerville, Petaluma, Tulare and Yreka plus Coos Bay and Medford in Oregon.
Running 23 sprint races last year, Robinson noted he still was making little mistakes that kept him off of the podium. He ran an Abreu sprint with Rod Tiner as his crew chief. That combination will continue this year when Robinson drives Tiner’s car in ten or so events, starting this coming Saturday at Marysville.
Ryan continues his high school education through an online program. He has his sights set on Rookie of the Year in USAC as well as earning some wins. There is no question Ryan will develop into a top notch USAC/POWRi driver; it is unfortunate for California fans it will happen many miles away.
Carson Macedo credits the Tarlton racing family for helping him to build a career. Along with Jason Meyers, the two supporting racers paved the way for the Kunz ride. It was also the Tarltons who stepped up early in Carson’s career when he was at a crossroads.
While Northern California has outlaw karts to serve as a training ground, Central California has micro sprints at Visalia and Lemoore. At just 4 years of age, Carson started racing in a junior sprint, winning 2 titles and collecting over 50 wins.
Moving to the restricted class at age 10, another ten or so wins came his way before it became apparent the financing to move up the next step to opens was not in place. Up stepped the Tarlton family, not to put Macedo in an open class micro sprint, but into a winged 360 sprint car.
Starting his career at Kings Speedway in Hanford, Carson now has 8 wins including prestigious victories at the Forni Classic in Placerville and a Gold Cup win in Chico. Mix in the KWS title last year and Macedo has accomplished quite a bit in a short time.
Running the entire USAC National Midget schedule with some POWRI included, Macedo will see little racing in California in a sprint car. He will be in Tulare for the two day show the 2nd weekend on March, but may miss two events at the same track that he would like to race, the Peter Murphy Classic and the Trophy Cup. Carson hopes to put a winged 410 team together and race around Ohio to keep himself even busier.
California grows over 200 different crops for the country. It also grows accomplished open wheel drivers.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Phoenix, AZ…Spending 5 so far weeks in Arizona has provided much better weather than Northern California and a good supply of race nights also. Following the Yuma sprint car series, an excellent late model/modified Wild West Shootout series took place in Tucson. That particular series will move next January to Arizona Speedway, joining the November Western Worlds as events making that move.
The last two weekends of January meant it was Canyon’s turn with our accompanying relocation to Peoria, northwest of Phoenix. The Winter Challenge featured nonwing 360 sprints, IMCA modifieds, and a trio of support divisions each show. Five races and five very good or even better sprint car mains made the series a winner.
A substantial increase in car count for sprints over last year averaged a fraction under 20 cars, which proved to be enough given the overall car count. Bryan Clauson won 3 of the 5 mains with Josh Hodges collecting the other two. Saving the best for last, Hodges and Clauson put on a spectacular race over the 30 lap distance on the fifth night.
By the 3rd lap, Hodges led Clauson and the following 27 laps of the one yellow main featured a classic duel between the pair. Clauson tried every move and slider possible but just did not have a piece of track useful enough to make a pass. Hodges won the final race of each weekend while Clauson took the others.
IMCA modified racing was also excellent and it was a Ricky Thornton Jr. and Hunter Marriott show as one was winning while the other was putting on the pressure. Modifieds drew a 35 car average and will look towards Yuma this weekend for another five race series.
Lacking electricity and running water, Canyon has survived many years despite the relative shortage of creature comforts, once even being the site of nationally live televised sprint car racing on Sunday afternoons. But rather than power lines and plumbing, I much more appreciate the new road into the facility than opened last spring.
My vote for worst road imaginable for getting to a race track was the Achilles heel for Canyon for many years, getting worse each year with the growing holes. Last spring a shorter and now paved entry road has made the drive enjoyable compared to the prior adventure.
It took my some years to appreciate Canyon to its fullest and hopefully this month’s visit will not be my last. The race director is absolutely on top of things and the show’s efficiency is 2nd to none.
A chance to chat with Lauren Stewart, Clauson’s significant other, offered a chance to gather some information about the amazing 200 race goal for the Indiana couple. She stated the idea came up a couple of years ago and is only possible through sponsorship and supportive car owners. All races must be open wheel to count, so my idea of finding a street stock ride upon occasion was no help.
Six months back they took the schedules and created a spread sheet that has 197 races listed. This is leaving December blank as another dozen opportunities will be waiting in New Zealand. Owner help is critical, allowing a switch of car type if weather gets in the way, a nearly last minute option in some cases.
I do not think I could handle watching 200 races in a year, so the effort required to race 200 times and all over the place is huge. While sponsorship and car owner help is critical for any racing, this goal of the Clauson camp takes that to a new level.
By the time we finally return to Northern California the local season will be on the edge of starting. Things mostly remained similar to last year with the exception of Placerville Speedway. Now promoted by Scott Russell and Kami Arnold, the foothill based quarter mile has a full schedule and something that has been missing for a long time.
An end of year special has not been part of the Placerville season for as long as I can recall, but a two day mid October event is on the calendar this year. For winged 360 sprints, the Nor-Cal Posse Shootout will close the first season for the new promotional team and it is great to see a season ending special on the list.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Somerton, AZ…At this point, 4 of 5 events have been held in the 2016 Winter Heat Shootout at Cocopah Speedway. This first stop in our month plus trip to Cocopah twice, USA Raceway in Tucson, and Canyon Raceway in Peoria has felt the effects of El Nino, more in the Phoenix area than Yuma.
This season is predicted to be a particularly strong El Nino year, which is when the ocean currents and winds are such than a series of strong storms come from the Pacific to finally bring a wet season to California. Northern California has a less than normal rainfall in about a third of the El Nino years while the southern part of the state gets lots of rain every time.
Next in line after heading through California is Arizona and the January through March prediction is for well above normal rain, particularly for the southern third of Arizona. Cocopah wisely postponed Wednesday’s show to Thursday, then dodged two short rain showers and finished just as a third helping of sprinkles appeared. The rest of the series should have no issues and the 10 day forecast for Tucson is nothing but sun, so drier days are ahead.
Every time I get to Cocopah it seems as if some additional improvement has taken place. Track manager Greg Burgess continues to make the facility into one of the best in the west with two significant changes since last January. A large men’s restroom was built and the space between concession stand and front gate is now all concrete.
The Cocopah Indian Tribe, owners of the facility since 2005, reopened the place in 2010 and have put in the neighborhood of a million dollars into improvements. This turns a track that was closed for ten years into an excellent facility that figures to get even better over time. It is rare that a 10 year closed track reopens, and very rare to see the quantity of improvements at the speedway that have occurred here.
The car count is up substantially over the initial year with 33 teams on hand in 2015 and a tiny bit under 45 being the average over the first four nights this year. Quality and quantity both showed significant increases and four of five nights pay $12000 to win and $1000 to start. Further money was added this year with a point fund paying the top 5 and additional bonuses and incentives added.
The wonderful format deletes the tedious qualifying but instead requires drivers to pass someone to earn the needed points. Draw heats with passing/finishing points are followed by qualifiers, inverting six by points from the heats and using the same point chart again.
Heat race draws are critical, but so is moving forward in the qualifiers. I would like to see the main event have a redraw for the top 6 or so in points rather than the straight up by points grid. I recognize the top point driver earned those points, but some luck of the draw was also part of that success.
No matter how many cars or how good the show, there is certainly something special about watching sprint cars race on New Years Day. The opening show on that date was Dale Blaney’s night , finishing 2nd in both heat from 3rd and qualifier from 5th starting. That amassed enough points to start on the pole and he dominated the race on a one groove track.
Saturday the car count matched Friday at 46 and Kyle Larson won from outside front row being the 2nd car in points. Larson drew the pole and won his heat and went from 5th to 2nd in his qualifier for his total. Greg Hodnett led 7 before spinning by himself in turn 2 on lap 8. He kept going but an unnecessary yellow was thrown.
Race director, Tommie Estes Jr., made the right call by placing Hodnett in the restart lineup in a spot that was consistent with where he would have been had not the yellow been showed. Larson inherited the lead and won with some very good position racing behind him.
Postponing Tuesday’s race at the 1pm press conference was the right call when steady rain fell that evening. Drivers Wayne Johnson, Danny Lasoski, Christopher Bell, Greg Hodnett, and Dale Blaney were joined by Estes and track manager Greg Burgess in an entertaining and informative discussion, which included the likely dates for the return of the series.
With January 2017 having four weekends, the Yuma racing figures to start of December 30 and 31, then January 3, 6, and 7. A few years back the end of the year weekend raced the nonwing 360 Roger McCluskey Classic at Tucson, but that event is no more.
Wednesday brought a forecast of occasional evening rain which indeed did fall, but oddly enough, at the right times. The break following the heats, needed to do qualifier lineups, saw a little rain, then the 2nd planned break between qualifiers and a pair of B mains had a little more moisture. The third rain came during victory lane interviews so only a bit of delay was caused by the light rain.
Larson drew well again and his outside front row heat win preceded a 6th to 3rd qualifier to become high point, joined by his own team’s driver, Shane Stewart on the front row. A few hotly contested laps between the pair occurred before Larson established a lead, one he held for 24 laps.
Larson got into some traffic, Stewart closed, and drove around his car owner on the outside in turn 1 on lap 25 for the win. On this particular night, Larson and Stewart seemed to be the class of the field, but Larson is now gone to run another event.
Friday the 8th saw the return of the sun and 44 teams for another round of Cocopah speed. What turned into the best night of the first four started with Danny Lasoski earning the pole via his high point total. He won his heat from 3rd and finished 3rd in a qualifier from 6th starting.
Sharing the front row with his nephew, Brian Brown, Lasoski led a dozen laps before 7th starting Shane Stewart moved to 2nd, still a ways behind the leader. Hitting traffic, Lasoski had Stewart right behind him six laps later and the real race was on.
Stewart started driving deeply into turn 3, a spot he closed on Lasoski, while turn 2 was more beneficial to the leader. It seemed as if one of these laps Stewart was going to make the high side run stick, and lap 26 was when he did, taking one from Lasoski just as Lasoski had done the same thing last year even later in the race. Even with a yellow with three left, Stewart was in control to win a second race in the same year, the first accomplish that.
Every visit to Cocopah Speedway, it is clear how much effort track manager Greg Burgess puts into this place. Surrounded by helpful staff, one in particular stands out. Fellow Washington state transfer, Paul Finn, was again on hand to help any way he can. To top it off, Finn refuses to take any pay for his many hours of work, and Finn was also instrumental in getting Burgess on board to take over the track after its first season following reopening.
For us, tradition means relocating to Tucson, trading the Winter Heat Showdown for the Wild West Shootout. A return to Cocopah early next month is in the plans.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…A season that started early January at Yuma for Winter Heat has concluded with the two day Thanksgiving Thunder show at Bakersfield Speedway. Yuma had very good racing and, with Fred Rannard Jr. and Ben Deatherage on hand, displayed excellent announcing.
Bakersfield Speedway also had very good racing with an excellent car count, but suffered with the worst announcing I endured all year. The Bakersfield announcers need to go to Cocopah Speedway in January and get a lesson on how to be an announcer. Bakersfield is a well-run venue, has excellent racing every time I am there, and deserve much better announcing.
Next year will start at the same venue when the Winter Heat Showdown takes place at Cocopah to start our extended Arizona plans. The Wild West Shootout at USA Raceway in Tucson follows, then off to Canyon Speedway Park for two weekend of Winter Challenge racing. The trip concludes with a return to Cocopah Speedway in February, our first time to take in the five race Winter Nationals series.
I estimate I have been to 19 Turkey Nights. While some of the years were good, the most recent version of the event at Perris Auto Speedway was probably the best racing of all my years of Turkey Night viewing. The downside….only 22 cars on hand.
It had been just over a month since a national USAC midget race, and that one was in Illinois. Asking Midwest teams to tow to Southern California for a one night of racing plan seems to no longer work. Adding support divisions to put more cars in the pits does not seem to be an answer, this is a midget race and needs to remain so.
Perhaps if national USAC midget races were scheduled in the Southwest the weekend before Turkey Night it would turn things around, but that is easy to suggest, far from easy to make happen. Tracks already have November events in place, traditional races for the venues, and only a small collection of tracks is possible for November racing.
Last year Turkey Night had something around 35, a small turnout at that number, and a drop to low 20’s this year changes the reaction from surprise to shock. But wait….if there had been twice as many would the racing have been any better? I think the answer to that is “no”.
Following qualifying, a trio of heats moved the top 5 from each into the inversion and each of those were well raced with a battle for positions all race long. Then following a too long break, the 98 lap main event was probably the best I have seen over my Turkey Night career.
Tanner Thorson’s win followed 80 quality laps of racing (minus the 18 laps consumed by yellows), superb battles among the podium seeking drivers, drama filled by tire issues etc, and topped off by some great sliders on a surface that was perfect for the main event.
I used to factor the car count into the equation when assessing an event, and I was as shocked as anyone about only 22 cars. However, in retrospect, I was completely happy with the evening because the racing was so good.
The starting field was 10 or so cars less than the format allowed, but that did not lessen the racing but very likely made it better. Fewer cars, fewer yellows, and the names fans want too most see race a midget were there. It was a good night of racing, and the opportunity to hear the top quality announcing of Scott Daloisio was a bonus.
Maybe the solution is so simple as making Turkey Night into a POWRi sanctioned event.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Casa Grande, AZ…The Western Worlds in Tucson, a joint effort by Kevin Montgomery and Chris Kearns, have had two excellent nights of racing for the event formerly at Canyon Speedway Park in Peoria. Along with the site change, this year is a sprint car only show with National 410s and Southwest/West Coast 360s providing support.
Friday was probably an even better night than the opener, finishing a little earlier, and drawing just one car less per division. The same format on a track that was more racy earlier again ran 8 heats, three B mains, and two mains for the 67 cars on hand. Gaps between races were lesser than Thursday but a couple of time consuming cleanups kept the finishing time later than expected.
Friday’s Southwest/West Coast main, set for 30 laps, was a Josh Hodges, Brody Roa, and Steve Sussex parade for much of the race, and then things went south. Sixth starting Justin Grant has just used the bottom of turn 1 to take 3rd when apparent contact put him sideways on the front stretch, just before the flag stand.
In an instant, Grant was sideways and recovered to continue, but after he was straightened and going a completely unnecessary yellow was thrown. Not a word ensued over the radio, but Grant getting his spot back certainly makes it clear it was a mistake, one that proved costly.
On the restart, it appeared one car was slow to go and a huge pileup followed just past the finish line involving the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th running cars. The thing is, if the incorrectly thrown yellow had not happened, neither would have the restart melee that damaged much equipment.
After cleanup time was done, Hodges led the last 6 remaining laps with Andy Reinbold in 2nd and R. J. Johnson in 3rd. Johnson made a low turn 2 move on lap 27 to take 2nd, moved Reinbold to 3rd, and that was the podium. Hodges’ win followed missing the main on Thursday by one spot in a B main. What a difference 24 hours made.
The 410 main was much smoother and had some excellent racing among four drivers over the 30 laps. Matt Rossi used the pole to lead 9 laps before Tracy Hines used a low line to lead just a single lap before Rossi used an outside pass in turn 2 to regain the top spot.
Brady Bacon was 3rd through all this until moving a spot forward on lap 13. Using the low line leaving turn 4 on lap 17, Bacon took over and led the remaining laps. Hines took 2nd as Bacon became the leader and Bryan Clauson moved to 3rd a lap later.
Clauson advanced to 2nd on lap 19, a low turn 4 pass, and the final 11 laps maintained the Bacon, Clauson, and Hines order. An entertaining final 11 laps produced no lead changes but plenty of good racing as three of the best battled for the $5000 win.
Saturday night will use accumulated points from the two preliminary evenings to set lineups with a $7500 payday waiting the 410 Western Worlds champion and $3000 awarded to the Southwest/West Coast Saturday winner
Ballou Wins Another
by Ron Rodda
Tucson, AZ…Robert Ballou is having an incredible year, and Thursday night at USA Raceway in Tucson another chapter in his book of success was written. Winning the opening night of the Western Worlds at the 3/8 track, Ballou collected his 13th USAC National win to continue his march to the season title. USAC Southwest/West Coast sprints provided further action and Justin Grant won their main on the chilly evening.
A 34-car field of USAC National entries was led in time trials by Brady Bacon with a new track record at 15.275, followed by four invert 6, take 4 heats. With B main transfers and provisionals added, a 24-car field took the green for 30 laps on USA’s clay.
Damion Gardner led a couple laps from the pole before 3rd starting Jerry Coons Jr. moved to the lead with Bryan Clauson following him into 2nd, shuffling Gardner to 3rd. Despite starting 14th, Ballou was 4th by lap 4’s conclusion, and used a topside drive through turns 1 and 2 on the next lap to move to 2nd, Coons still leading and Clauson now 3rd.
Ballou quickly cut into Coons’ large lead and survived a lap 14 cushion jump in turn 1, losing ground in the process. Traffic came into play just past the halfway point to allow the top 3 to battle each other, and that same traffic played a huge part in deciding the race.
As Coons came out of turn 2 on lap 25, he came upon a lapped car, contact ensued, and Coons bumped the wall and flipped to end his excellent run. Ballou was rewarded for his 14th to 2nd drive with the lead following the restart and went on to collect the $5000 winner’s pay. Bacon got past Clauson on lap 25 to finish the podium battles, Bacon earning $2500 and Clauson $1250 for the finish.
The combined Southwest/West Coast USAC 360s had 13 drivers from the National ranks joining them to create a 35-car field. They used a draw heat format with passing/finishing points moving the top 16 to the A main. A pair of B mains added the top 3 from each to create the 22-car field.
The field inverted six by points, assigning Gary Taylor and Steve Sussex to the front row. Sussex led from the green, establishing a huge lead early in the 30 lap event. Taylor and Justin Grant followed Sussex until contact with the turn 2 wall led to Sussex stopping in turn 3, handing the lead to Taylor.
Nick Aiuto, an 11th place starter, ran the topside successfully, mixing in some low groove moves, and took 3rd on lap 14, driving under Charles Davis, Jr. into turn 3. Three laps later a high side pass out of turn 2 had him in 2nd, and a top side drive out of turn 4 on lap 18 led to Aiuto leading.
That lasted just a lap when a cushion jump in turn 4 got Aiuto sideways, but he collected it and continued with Taylor back in the lead. Two laps later, Grant threw a slider on Taylor in turn 1 to become the final leader. Grant led the last 9 laps to win the $1500 check for his efforts.
Brady Bacon made progress over the last few laps and took an $800 2nd while Taylor was a $600 third. Friday night the program repeats with all cars competing, earning points for both nights to set Saturday lineups.
USAC National main: 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Bryan Clauson, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Damion Gardner, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Kevin Thomas Jr., 8. Ryan Bernal, 9. Richard Vander Weerd, 10. Tracy Hines, 11. C.J. Leary, 12. Josh Hodges, 13. Danny Faria Jr., 14. Brody Roa, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Matt Rossi, 17. Aaron Farney, 18. Jon Stanbrough, 19. Jake Swanson, 20. Cody Williams, 21. Mike Spencer, 22. Jerry Coons Jr., 23. Chase Stockon, 24. Chris Windom
USAC Southwest/West Coast main: 1. Justin Grant, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Gary Taylor, 4. Bryan Clauson, 5. Brody Roa, 6. Nick Aiuto, 7. Charles Davis Jr., 8. C.J. Leary, 9. D.J. Johnson, 10. Chris Windon, 11. R.J. Johnson, 12. Danny Faria Jr., 13. Rick Ziehl, 14. Matt Rossi, 15. Trey Marcham, 16. Chad Boespflug, 17. Mike Martin, 18. Terry Schank Jr., 19. Stevie Sussex, 20. Brian Hosford, 21. Andy Reinbold, 22. Josh Shipley
Finishes courtesy of Lance Jennings
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…After some feedback from people, the 2016 Trophy Cup dates have been changed to match the traditional 3rd weekend in October. Now the event will be held October 20-22 at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway, and a few format changes have been finalized for the 23rd annual version of the event.
Following the A and B group qualifying, Thursday and Friday will have 8 heats, eight cars each, and they will be invert 6 heats. As this year, the winner and high point car from each heat will go directly to the A main.
The remainder of the cars, less the 16 cars already in the A main, will be put in one list by points, and the top 40 from that listing will race one of the two B mains. The first B main will be the odd position cars in the point list, the 2nd B main the even position cars, and B mains are invert 6 with the top 4 from each moving on to the A main, retaining their point total for the lineup.
Additional cars will have run a C main and the top 4 will join the B mains, two to each. Friday and Saturday A mains will continue to invert 12 by points and B main transfers will, as usual, get their point total back for the inversion. Drivers will use their better point total from the two preliminary nights for Saturday racing.
On Saturday the top 48 in points will race in six heats, inverting 8 by points, and the top 20 in overall points will earn spots in the A main after the heats. B main racing will be the next 20 in points plus the top 4 from C main action. The B main will be straight up by points and the top 4 will start the A main in rows 11 and 12. That leads to a significant change for the Saturday A main as next year the top point car will start 20th.
One thing that will not change is the Trophy Cup support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year an event record $150,000 was presented to the Central Valley chapter, making the Trophy Cup their biggest supporter. With help from the Cup, the Central Valley chapter of Make-A-Wish was able to fulfill a record number of wishes. The Trophy Cup has now presented $1,270,000 to Make-A-Wish since starting the donations.
Last weekend all three of Northern California’s sprint car traveling series held their final race and honored champions at Stockton Dirt Track. Friday a strong 26 car field of nonwing spec sprints were part of a three division night and Austin Liggett was one who survived the turn 1 and 2 preliminary racing carnage to win the main event. San Jose driver, Gary Nelson, Jr. was the series champion.
The 2nd night at Stockton settled two championship battles and Andy Forsberg took honors back to his Auburn base, winning the main event and in the process taking yet another Civil War title for the veteran. The winged 360 series drew 41 cars to Stockton despite being such a late season event.
The winged 410 King of the West series crowned Carson Macedo champion after Jonathan Allard won the main. Macedo showed why naming him one of the best young talents in the state is an accurate statement. A twenty-car field was on hand for the all wing night.
Stockton was the final sprint car racing in Northern California for the year. Madera Speedway has a winged sprint race coming up on the third mile paved oval, but Madera is south of the tree that marks the line between Northern and Southern California. Madera is offering the King of the Wing Sprint Car series on November 20, something that would be fun to see, except Arizona is the plan for me by mid-month.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Having seen every lap of all 22 years of Trophy Cup racing, there are some years that have faded into a distant memory at best. Other years, such as the year Tim Kaeding became the first driver to win the final night A main from 24th starting, are still fresh in my mind.
The Cup benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation and this year’s check presentation was a new record, $125,000 for an amazing donation. The total is now over 1.125 million!!
The just completed 22nd version of this amazing series was, in my opinion, one of the best, certainly among the top 3. One factor that will always be remembered is the Thursday night rain, the first time even one drop has fallen at a Cup race. Just under half of group B was left to time trial when the track got too wet, and it only got wetter after a short attempt to use trucks to save the oval.
Track promoter, Steve Faria, was quoted as saying if he could get on the track by 1 am it would be ready for noon racing Friday. He did, and it was, although it was past 1 pm on Friday before things got started. B group had to qualify from the top and, while I did not notice the time, it seemed around 5:30 when the afternoon show was complete.
I fully expected a less than exciting afternoon race since we all know how well daytime dirt racing does. I figured tons of dust followed by a rubber-dominated track and single file racing ending the first ever day Cup race. Luckily and surprisingly, it was an excellent show with some of the most dynamic heat races in Cup history.
The format this year used the same plan on heat transfers both preliminary shows, that being the winner and high point car both went directly to the A main. Last year that idea was used one show and the 2nd preliminary night just moved the top 2 from the heat to the A main. The top 2 idea resulted in too many front row cars in the invert 6 heat making the A, and too few of the row 3 cars. The winner plus high point idea spread the transfers more fairly over the 3 rows.
The daytime show as well as the 2nd show on Friday both
followed a similar scheme. The race for the heat win was mostly mundane
as a large lead for a driver was common. Fans who focused solely on the
leader missed some of the most dramatic racing in 22 years of Cup
With the point structure in place, the 2nd fastest car in a given heat had to finish 2 places ahead of the fastest car to be top point and a main event transfer. Watching those battles over the 20 heats, 10 each show, produced some great moves, some not so great, but drama almost every heat.
It seemed to me that drivers were attempting moves that
would only be tried at a Trophy Cup heat because it was necessary to
pass cars to transfer.
Rico Abreu ran away with the “Thursday” main after using a big slider to take the lead from Dusty Zomer. In his first Cup appearance, Zomer was on the pole of both preliminary mains, the beneficiary of the invert 12 by points grid. By lap 15 of the 30 lapper Bud Kaeding was 2nd but did not seriously challenge for the lead and the top two finished in the same order with Tim Kaeding third.
Now we know that Bud Kaeding came so close to sweeping the preliminary mains while becoming the champion. The real Friday show, one that ended just past 12:30 am Saturday, was a Bud Kaeding win assisted by Sheldon Haudenschild getting collected while leading. Bud won relatively easily over Jason Meyers and Shane Golobic and the long day/night doubleheader was complete.
This was an endurance test for all, officials, crew, drivers, and fans with the latter having the obviously easiest task. My 14 hours and 20 minutes at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway was a piece of cake compared to what the others endured. Jac Haudenschild was worn out after the warm and humid afternoon show and sat out the 2nd one.
Support for the Trophy Cup has been excellent since it moved to the 3/8 track but this year was at an even higher level. Promoter Steve Faria stated he would add the Thursday purse to Friday’s if it became a two-day show. Luckily, the gamble was taken on trying two shows in one day and it worked, other than the late finish.
Last year’s Saturday track for the 50 lap main event was not very racy, no doubt making a difference on the final result. This year it was excellent and the final race of the event lived up to expectations. Of the 22 years, the Saturday main event was easily top 5 on its own, and the preliminary shows were among the best ever.
While winning the 50 lapper matters to the first across the line, the true focus is on the back of the pack and who can move forward, gathering more points and winning the title. This year a slight change left the win at 150 points but change the drop to 3 rather than 5. With drivers taking the better of their two preliminary nights to Saturday, the point totals of the front 2/3 of the field are higher than when a two day race. The 3-point drop assists the back of the pack group that does not have the chance to improve their total as much.
Abreu’s best preliminary night was 277 which is only 9 points off the maximum, so there is not much to gain on a 2nd prelim night. Adding his Saturday heat points in, he was at 310 entering the final main and the high point driver, getting the 24th starting spot. Bud Kaeding started 20th, 8 points behind Abreu. That meant finishing 3 positions ahead of Abreu was necessary as well as not letting Tim Kaeding, Jason Meyers, and Carson Macedo get ahead of him.
The first half of the 50 laps had Bud Kaeding more than 3 spots ahead of Abreu, especially after Abreu’s nose wing was knocked askew. Bud was the point leader for much of the 50 laps but Abreu was always within distance of changing that. With about a dozen laps remaining, Abreu was in position to make a couple passes and take the point lead, seeming to be running well, when a shot to the tail tank quickly became a DNF.
When the misfortune hit the talented driver, Abreu looked to be ready to turn the last dozen laps into a remarkable duel with Kaeding, but now it was up to Carson Macedo to take over. That he did, creating a some of the most exciting laps in Cup history as he challenge Kaeding.
One late lap was a near dead heat and Macedo nearly drove around Kaeding on the outside in turn 3 a lap later. Macedo slipped up the track in turn one on lap 49, Willie Croft got past, and the threat to Kaeding’s title was over. Bud’s Cup championship makes 8 for the family when added to Brent’s four and Tim’s trio of titles.
The race for the win was also good with turns taken in the lead by D.J. Netto, Travis Rilat, Dusty Zomer, Sheldon Haudenschild, and finally the leader over the last 10 laps, Terry McCarl. It is difficult to watch it all when two race long battles are taking place throughout the pack.
Two of the many memorable things about this year start with D. J. Netto on Saturday, finishing 2nd in the B main from 17th starting in a thrilling drive, then leading the first 8 laps in a continuing ride the wall effort before misfortune ended his run. Also Mitchell Faccinto riding the top of the turn 4 wall before steering it down the wall and back on the track to continue was like a thrill show maneuver.
While the car count at 67 meant over 20 teams did not
show up, the performances put on by those who were in the pit area way
more than made up for the missing. Tulare Thunderbowl continues to be
the toughest track in California to run. The fast way is always up to
the wall before the show is over, and so little margin of error exists.
The home of the Trophy Cup is like the format itself; it is not easy and that is the way it is supposed to be.
From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Tulare raced last Saturday, sort of a tune up for the Trophy Cup starting in two days, and it would have truly been a tune up if winged 360s were on board. Instead it was winged 410s under the KWS banner and their 29 car field was assisted by 17 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s.
An obvious change to the 3/8 mile track is a new backstretch wall, moved out reportedly 12 feet. The result, besides an obviously wider backstretch, is now a car running the top coming out of turn 2 will not be pinched by a wall such as before. Some cosmetic adjustments to the facility have it ready for the 22nd annual Trophy Cup with its $160,000 purse and a few more than 90 entrants.
The format is the same as last year with two adjustments. Both nights the heat winner and highest point car will go directly to the A main, something done only one night last year. A change to the Saturday A main points now has a 3 point drop per position, down from 5 last year.
The heats will be the most interesting sprint car heats I have seen all year with the top 6 qualifiers in each of the ten heats inverted. Some basic analysis leads to the assumption that the front row and inside row 2 are racing for the win and their chance to go directly to the A main.
Outside row 2 and the row 3 starters figure to be competing for the high point car transfer spot. Since the heats come in two sets of five for qualifying groups A and B, a five point difference between each heat starting position will be involved. Since heats offer 36 points to win with a 3 point drop per finishing position, the outside row two starter needs to finish 4 places ahead of the outside row 3 driver to better the point total.
Taking a win from 4th starting is another option to transfer so to me the outside row two spot is sort of a wild card starter….could win or finish with more points than the row 3 cars. If the high point car is also the heat winner, then the 2nd highest in points gets the other transfer.
Weather is forecast to be upper 80s so having A and B groups will be a welcome part of the format. In 2013 when there were not two groups, once the qualifying order hit the halfway point, drivers were out of luck as to generating a good qualifying time.
Each qualifying group has its own fast qualifier, so that means there will be two cars with 150 points, two with 149, etc. Friday mirrors opening night format except no pill draw and Thursday’s B group qualifies first with the order of the group reversed. Whoever qualifies last on Thursday overall will be first out on Friday.
The 4th row of a heat will have to be in a win or else mode in the ten heats as coming out high point car in very unlikley. If a top team finds themselves in that spot following qualifying woes, it will be very interesting. Each heat is practically a little main event on its own.
The USAC main last Saturday was good with position battles dominating the action over the 30 lap pace. Jace Vander Weerd was cruising with the lead, a spot he held after Kyle Smith led lap one but lost it to Vander Weerd’s low turn 4 drive.
D. J. Johnson and Bud Kaeding along with Smith put on some entertaining laps dueling for positions behind the leader. As the 30th lap and 120th corner appeared, Johnson challenged Vander Weerd to a drag race to the line for the win. The near photo finish went to Vander Weerd over Johnson and Kaeding.
Bud Kaeding led the KWS race for 4 laps before Tyler Walker blasted out of turn 2 to take the lead for the remaining laps. Kaeding ran top 3 until getting collected with 3 to go. Carson Macedo and Jac Haudenschild followed Walker across the finish line after some very entertaining laps with Shane Golobic and Dominic Scelzi contributing to the battles. Walker’s win will make him someone to watch carefully in the Trophy Cup.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway closed their season with two nights of racing, and they were among the best I have ever seen at the Chico quarter mile. Friday’s main had fantastic laps over the last part of the race and Saturday’s main was equally thrilling, but this time it was for all 40 laps. Both nights left the feeling of not wanting either race to end, it was that good.
The occasion was the Fall Nationals for winged 360 sprints and car count was excellent with 54 on Friday and two additional teams on Saturday. Support came from 8 economy sprints on night one and 14 nonwing spec sprints the 2nd night. Weather was great on Friday and Saturday had the strongest wind I have ever seen in Chico with gusts to 40.
That wind was from the north, meaning directly towards the main grandstands so my pit location kept it to my back, once nearly pushing me off of the seat. Perhaps a sign of thing to come, when the A main came on the track the wind suddenly lessened to a more reasonable breeze.
Opening night had some of the better heat racing of the year as drivers raced either for the win and dash spot or for fifth place, the final transfer spot. The top 48 qualifiers ran a quartet of invert 4 heats with the usual winner plus next 4 fastest to transfer forming the dash field. Chico also used the A and B qualifying groups plan, something done for the first time anywhere at last year’s Trophy Cup. Nice to see copying of the Trophy Cup ideas, even nicer if the larger inversions would also be equally considered.
Sean Becker and Willie Croft shared the front row Friday with Carson Macedo in row 2 alongside Tyler Walker. Picking one of those four to win would be a good bet, except it wasn’t. It took patience and some stick to it mentality, but 9th starting Kyle Hirst had other ideas, ones that took hold over the last 6 laps.
For 23 laps Becker led Macedo in a race that mostly lacked excitement. Only Hirst’s commitment to the topside provided some interest, he took 3rd at the halfway point, but was back in 5th three laps later. Not giving up on the top groove, Hirst picked up 2 spots on lap 24, using the top line out of turn 4 with success.
Duplicating the move a lap later, HIrst was now 2nd when lap 25 ended and two turns later he had the lead, using the top edge of turn 2. Macedo took 2nd on the same lap and passed Hirst for the lead with two left, but Hirst came right back to lead the final pair.
Hirst won over Macedo and Becker after six exciting laps, in sharp contrast to the first 24 times around the high-banked quarter. Some great action during the last 20% of the main turned it into a very good race. Wyatt Brown won the economy sprint main and a good night of Fall National racing was complete.
Saturday’s wind forecast direction was accurate except the strength was greater than called for. After the winner was DQ’d for weight, John Clark won the spec sprint main to clear the way for 24 drivers to challenge the junky looking track for 40 laps and the Fall Nationals title, a tribute race to honor the memory of Stephen Allard.
Between the laps turned on Chico clay in two days and the brutal wind on Saturday, the track looked like anything but one that would provide one of the best mains I have seen at Chico, or anywhere else for that matter. A driver told me the wind pushed his car severely on the backstretch and in turn 4 so strong was the wind earlier. Maybe it’s sudden lessening for the A main was an omen.
One way to judge a main event for racing action is to consider the number of laps that had a change in the top 3. Saturday’s main had 15 laps with a podium hopeful change, and the other 25 laps had furious racing for those spots. Multiple lead changes and a down to the wire finish completed the qualifications to make this one special.
Kyle Hirst used his outside front row start to lead 7 laps until exiting with mechanical issues, giving the lead to Willie Croft. That lasted 5 laps before Justin Sanders raced into the lead down the backstretch. Fifteen laps later, Andy Forsberg filled a gap between Sanders and the bottom of turn 3 to take the lead with a dozen laps left. The space was just inches wider than Forsberg’s car, but he cleanly made the pass.
Shane Golobic pursued Forsberg over the last 11 laps until Sean Becker, another driver having a remarkable race, used the top of turn 4 on the last lap to take 2nd, coming very close to Forsberg at the line. Golobic finished 3rd to end a remarkable 40 laps on Chico clay.
Forsberg’s dynamic win came after starting 10th and
Becker’s superb drive came after his 18th place start. It was a tough
evening for grandstand dwellers with the wind in their faces all night,
but the reward was a remarkable main event, making it all worthwhile.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…In just two weeks the huge Trophy Cup event will again enjoy the hospitality of Tulare Thunderbowl Speedway, writing another chapter in its long history. Changes have occurred over the years in venue, format, number of days, etc. but one thing that has never changed is the level of excitement generated by the event.
This year’s three day total racing purse is approximately $160,000, made possible by the amazing level of support within the racing community. The Cup champion is guaranteed $20,000 total payout while the Saturday A main pays $2050 to start (purse plus point fund).
In 1994 Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San Jose CA, came up with the idea of an event that featured a main event that was fully inverted, putting the fastest cars at the rear for a passing filled race. The event was called the Trophy Cup and its remarkable history continues this year with the 22nd annual event.
It is a winged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country. The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion due to the final night main that puts the highest point cars at the rear of the 24 car field. From qualifying on the first two nights to heat races and mains, drivers earn points and the highest total after the racing ends wins the Trophy Cup. There are two parts to the purse money, some is paid to drivers based on race finishes and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.
Last year a new and improved format had full shows on Thursday and Friday with several changes. To make qualifying more consistently fair, the drivers are split into groups A and B. Each group has its own fastest qualifier so two drivers will earn 150 points for fast time. Heat races are within each group, i.e., the A group has their own five heats and likewise with B group. Once main events start, the groups are now one for determining lineups, based on results from the 10 heat races.
On Friday B group will qualify first and the order of cars within each group will be reversed. The format mirrors Thursday action and, once completed, drivers will use their higher point total from the first two nights to carry into Saturday. With these changes, a driver may have a tough night on Thursday but gets another chance the next night. Saturday will not have qualifying but heats and mains, culminating with the 50 lap, fully inverted race.
A minor change from last year will have both nights using the same procedure to determine the A main transfers from each heat. Both nights it will be the heat winner plus the highest point car from each 10 lap race that will move directly to the night’s A main event.
The Trophy Cup has always been a cooperative effort among businesses, the host track, fans, and all the volunteers that shape the Trophy Cup organization. The event has earned the Short Track Race of the Year from National Speed Sport News, an award befitting the level of competition that fans have enjoyed each year.
San Jose Speedway was the host track until closing in 1999 and the inaugural victory went to Ronnie Day. A one day format in its early years, two mains were raced and Day won the first one and started next to last as a result of his point total in the finale. His 7th place finish in the 2nd main was enough to garner the top point total for the night and the championship. The first 3 years the show featured winged 410 sprints.
Kevin Pylant won in 1995 after running 4th in each main while the following year Brent Kaeding won his first of 4 titles in what was the last year as a 410 event and also the last year as a one day Cup. Concerns over car count prompted the change to the 360 engine and the move to a two day format allowed teams to not have to race two mains in one night.
In 1997, drivers were in the pit area from 9 states and Mark Kinser took the treasure back to Oolitic, IN. Kinser, making his only appearance in the event, was 6th quick and won his heat and the opening night main. He backed up that performance with a 2nd in the second night’s heat and finished 2nd in the main, coming from 24th.
Brent Kaeding won his 2nd title in 1998 despite being only 11th in points after the first night. His 2nd place finish in the final night’s main continued a trend of the champion finishing runner-up. The following year was the last for San Jose Speedway as the track closed and an era in racing concluded. Brent Kaeding was champion again, finishing the popular 2nd in the final fully inverted main after starting 18th. Terry McCarl won the Saturday main, the last race ever on San Jose’s third mile clay.
Watsonville Speedway hosted the Cup in 2000 and Tommy Tarlton was the champion, again seeing a Cup title going to the 2nd place finisher in the final main. Tarlton started 16th as he was only 9th in points as the final 30 laps unfolded. The following year the Cup was held at Kings Speedway in Hanford and Craig Stidham won the championship, coming from 21st to 2nd in the final main. In 2002 it was Tim Kaeding winning his first Cup title, collecting the Friday main and finishing 2nd in the Saturday main, coming from 23rd. It was the 6th consecutive year that the champion finished 2nd in the final main, having to come from the back rows each year to claim the title.
The 2003 version was the closest in Cup history and it was a last lap, last turn pass that made Steve Kent the champion by the slimmest of margins. Ricci Faria passed Tim Kaeding in the last turn, lessening Kaeding’s point total by five and allowing Kent to win the point battle by 2 points. Ronnie Day also came so close to winning, needing to pass only one more car for the title.
The 2004 Cup was the last at Kings as the track closed in August the following year, at least temporarily. Ronnie Day was again so close to a title, winning the Saturday main from 18th, but coming up 5 points short of Jac Haudenschild’s total. The Ohio driver known as the Wild Child passed 34 cars over the two day span to earn the honor.
Tulare Thunderbowl, about a 30 minute drive from Kings Speedway, took over the 2005 version on short notice after Kings shut their doors. An unusual Saturday main developed when Brent Kaeding and Mike Faria were ahead enough in points before the 40 laps started that whoever finished in front of the other would win the title. BK went from 24th to 4th, passing 5 drivers in one six lap stretch to edge Faria for his 4th title. His son, Tim, won the main on Saturday.
The 2006 show saw Tim Kaeding win his 2nd title to total six Cup wins for the well-known racing family. TK started 19th and finished the seemingly magical 2nd in the Saturday main to capture the Cup. Then in 2007 it was Jason Meyers from nearby Clovis who won the title, finishing 3rd from 20th on Saturday to establish the 2nd largest margin of victory in the 14 years.
In 2008 the first ever three day event drew 59 teams to Tulare and most who have seen every Cup version agree it was one of the most exciting years. Superb track conditions led to equally fantastic racing, especially for Brad Sweet. Finishing 3rd in the final night’s main event after starting 24th, Sweet collected $11,000 after edging Sammy Swindell by six points.
In 2009 the idea of a three day winged show was dropped to help lessen expenses for teams. To control the car count, only 65 cars were allowed to enter and a flurry of entrants on the last postmark date allowed, built the field to 72. Keeping the car count to a manageable level was necessary as the fairgrounds has a state imposed curfew.
History was made in that year when Tim Kaeding won his 3rd title and 7th for the famous racing family. The Saturday night main event winner had never come from last starting (24th). TK accomplished that feat in 2009 when he used every inch of the Thunderbowl clay to collect a thrilling main event win on the 2nd night and capture the Cup.
In 2010 it was finally time for Jonathan Allard to enjoy victory at the Trophy Cup. Often in position to claim the title as Saturday’s main went green, problems seemed to follow Allard to deny a Cup crown. That changed in 2010 when Allard raced from 24th starting to 4th on Saturday to become the champion by a larger than usual 14 point margin.
In 2011 Stevie Smith won the Friday main event over a 70 car field despite never racing on the Tulare Thunderbowl clay before. The second night produced a dominating main event win for Kyle Larson while the race for Cup champion reached new heights.
A lap 48 yellow set up one of the most dramatic finishes in Cup history. Jonathan Allard was 3rd, Jac Haudenschild was 4th, and they were nose to tail on the restart as they raced each other for the title. Haudenschild passed Allard on the bottom in turn 1 of the 49th lap, Allard came back in turn 2 and they crossed the line to end lap 49 in a near tie. Had their not been one more lap, a photo finish would have settled the Cup.
The duo entered turn 2 on the final lap side by side, Haudenschild on the top, and he used that ground to get a good push off of the turn to lead Allard down the backstretch, adding a pass on Roger Crockett to finish his final lap. Allard dropped to 4th at the line and Haudenschild had won the Cup title over Allard and Brad Sweet.
In 2012 an 85 car field of winged sprints tested the Thunderbowl clay, and unfortunately, all too often the Thunderbowl wall. Rico Abreu won the Friday main after Roger Crockett’s lead was erased by a car flipping off the wall in front of Crockett. Jason Meyers won his 2nd Cup title on Saturday by finishing in the popular 2nd place spot, coming from 23rd to establish a larger than usual point gap after the 50 laps were scored.
Just when Cup fans thought they had seen it all, 2013 reached new heights for drama and excitement. A 74 car field created a pair of amazing finishes in A main racing. Friday night a photo finish between Tim Kaeding and David Gravel saw Kaeding get the win despite being 6 car lengths behind Gravel as they raced into turn 3 for the final time. TK started 10th in the 30 lap main.
As if that was not enough drama, Saturday’s main event finish was the wildest in the 20 years of Cup action. Last lap drama exceeded any prior script when Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet raced for the win with last turn contact between the pair leading to Sweet flipping and Larson slamming the turn 4 wall. Larson limped to the line in his battered ride, shedding parts along the way, as the race was allowed to finish. Larson, 23rd starting, won the main and Cup title to cap a memorable night.
Last year was the first for the new three day format and 84 teams jammed the Thunderbowl pit area. Kyle Hirst and David Gravel were fastest Thursday qualifiers and Hirst won the C, B, and A mains on opening night. The second night saw Gravel again set a fast time and Justyn Cox was fastest in the other group. A close finish in the A main showed Colby Copeland winning by a couple feet over Roger Crockett.
Saturday preliminary events determined the top 24 point cars for the 50 lap finale and it was a record setting race. Willie Croft became the closest to the front champion in Cup history when the 6th starting veteran won the main and title. Mason Moore and Crockett trailed Croft in the final point list.
The new three day Cup menu for winged 360 sprints came about after two years of using Thursday for nonwing 360 action did not meet expectations for support. Despite having a much larger than usual purse, nonwing car count was unimpressive. Not wanting to revert to a two day event, the new winged format covering a trio of days was the answer.
The Trophy Cup organization has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation each year and every penny of entry fees is given to the cause. Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction, and other activities add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very worthy cause. The Trophy Cup has raised over $1,135,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The entire event is possible only through many volunteers supporting the Cup as well as the outstanding support from the host track, Tulare Thunderbowl.
From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Following the USAC night at Chico, I followed the series to Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds, or the more commonly used way to refer to the track, Hanford. Under the leadership of Ron and Rose Vander Weerd, the 3/8 oval has a sprint car dominated schedule with 17 of 19 nights featuring some flavor of sprint cars.
The track’s bread and butter are the King of Kings winged 360s with several USAC West Coast nonwing sprint nights also. An unusual doubleheader this coming weekend has King of Kings on Friday and the resumption of the King of the West winged 410 series on Saturday. The six visits I have on my schedule will be the most in 15 years, despite living further from Hanford than ever.
Between Chico having some once a year nonwing racers and other teams using up equipment in the series, it figured the 31 car Chico turnout in USAC/CRA sprints would drop in Hanford. Drawing 19 meant a few less than I expected, but the top teams were there.
Support divisions were normally IMCA sanctioned, but their Nationals in Boone, IA last week meant no points allowed and the Hanford field shrunk considerably as a result. The track was the best I have seen in my 3 visits this year as the learning process seems to have been successful.
Damion Gardner was only 8th fastest in the 19 car list and just 4th in his heat, but was on the pole for a 30 lap main. Gardner jumped into the lead with Richard Vander Weerd and Ryan Bernal chasing. R. Vander Weerd closed on Gardner and use a lap 4 top side drive off of turn 4 to take the lead.
R. Vander Weerd was flying around the 3/8, opening a good lead in just 3 laps, but on the 7th trip around spun off of the top of turn 3 following a cushion jump, putting Gardner back in front.
Again 2nd, Bernal was now pursued by Mike Spencer and the pair closed on Gardner, especially over the last few laps, but Gardner successfully withstood all challenges and collected the win. Spencer passed Bernal high out of turn 4 on lap 21 but lost the spot back to the Hollister driver a half lap later low in turn 2. Bernal made it close, but settled for 2nd to continue his excellent string of finishes while Spencer was 3rd.
The fact that Hanford is racing at all may be due to a nearby track, Plaza Park Raceway in Visalia. The Friday night micro sprint track made enough noise several years ago to prod a nearby home owner, namely Ron Vander Weerd, to check the place out.
The direct result of that visit was his twin sons, Richard and Jace, along with his daughter, Jenna, soon were racing micro sprints at Plaza Park. One year the podium at the track’s Outlaw Nationals were all Vander Weerd drivers, but Jenna soon ended her racing career while the boys moved into sprint cars.
Following the sequence from junior sprints to micro sprints to sprint cars is fairly commonly done in the area as both Plaza Park and Lemoore Raceway have busy micro sprint programs. The Vander Weerd twins became nonwing sprint racers and eventually added wing racing to their resume.
Hanford’s track went through a series of promoters since a mid-season sudden closure in 2005, challenging Chowchilla Speedway for the record of most opening and closing cycles in the state. When the trend repeated during the 2014 season, the Vander Weerd parents stepped up and saved the track from a potential long term closure.
Ron Vander Weerd said he wanted some place close by for his sons to race and that played a part in his decision to promote the track. With a three year lease and important support from area businesses, Hanford’s track was back with solid leadership and an attractive schedule of events.
The Vander Weerd family has a strong background in business with dairy and home construction keeping them busy while Jenna runs a battery distribution business. While the plan is for the track to be financially successful, there was also a level of altruism involved by not letting the track sit idle.
My 4th visit this season this coming Friday should have a strong winged 360 field and, with the Nationals in Boone complete, the support classes will draw much better now that points are involved. A long drive, but worth it.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Tuesday’s Outlaw Kart Showcase, held at Cycleland Speedway just over 12 miles south of Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, was a huge event with over 220 outlaw karts in action. The large payout and everything associated with the event was made possible by many people within the industry providing support.
As with any event, someone must take responsibility of making it happen and Mike and Janet Larson put countless hours of time and tons of energy into making it happen. Their efforts were rewarded with a large crowd and jammed pit area on the Tuesday before Gold Cup.
Despite all the “celebrity”, accomplished sprint car, and long tow racers it came down to locals who claimed the big money and fame. Daniel Becker won the A main, accomplishing a feat that escaped him during the regular season when he competed against less than a third of the number of karts on hand Tuesday.
Colby Copeland took the overall championship for most points along with the $5000 prize for his evening. Following him in points were Becker and Tyler Seavey, all track regulars to some degree as Copeland is often away driving a sprint car.
The event marked the beginning of Gold Cup week at Silver Dollar Speedway and two nights are complete of the four total. Opening night brought 50 winged 360s and 24 Hunt Magneto nonwing spec sprints to fill the pit area. The winged sprints ran a Civil War point show and spec sprints a Hunt series event.
Andy Gregg was fastest at 11.930 for the CW group and a quartet of 12 car invert 4, take 4 heats moved the winners plus the next fastest 4 into a six lap dash. Sometimes a piece of luck is needed and finishing 3rd in his heat did not put Sean Becker into the dash as he was 2nd fastest in his heat. That changed when the fastest qualifier in heat 4 missed the transfer, slowed by some contact, and Becker was next in line for the dash assignment.
Becker’s luck continued when he drew the pole spot for the dash, run on a dry, slick track which worked to his benefit, winning the dash for the 30 lap main event pole. What transpired in the main for Becker was not due to luck, but careful management of tire wear and patiently waiting for a chance to make his move.
Before the winged sprint B main and the pair of A mains, a lengthy track maintenance session seemed to have little effect. By the end of the B main, rubber began to appear and the spec sprint main increased that factor. That led to a relatively bland winged main except for the question of tire wear. Justin Sanders took the lead on the start from the outside front row with Becker and Kyle Hirst in pursuit. Due to the one lane track, single file restarts were mandated and the top 3 ran unchanged for 28 laps.
On lap 29, Becker, who started closing on Sanders 6 laps earlier, took a look outside of Sanders in turn 2, then dropped to the bottom and swept pass the driver with the 2nd most wins in the country to win by leading the last two laps. The final corner saw Hirst drive around Sanders for 2nd to set the podium. That made back to back wins for the Becker brothers between Cycleland and Chico.
The spec sprints lineup had Austin Liggett starting 4th following their dash for a 25 lap main. Liggett drove the top of turns 1 and 2 and had the lead on the backstretch during lap one and went on to dominate the race for the win.
Liggett, a California State University Stanislaus student, has raced numerous times with the USAC West Coast group as well as some winged racing. He used his quick car and experience to run away with the main. Shawn Jones was 2nd and Shane Myhre was 3rd by a couple feet.
Thursday is one of my favorite with the USAC/CRA nonwing 410s joined by the USAC West Coast midgets for two divisions that race once a year at Chico. Midgets did race in August, but that was a BCRA sanctioned event. If I had to pick only one Chico race to attend a year, this would be the one. The 2nd night of Gold Cup racing lived up to my hopes despite a Ryan Bernal domination, winning both mains.
It took some time for Bernal to take the lead in the midget main but he led all 30 laps of the sprint finale. While the Hollister based versatile driver cruised, relatively so at least, in the sprint main, the racing behind him was very intense and equally entertaining.
Drawing 31 sprints and 28 midgets, the car count met expectations and then some, bolstered by several sprint drivers shedding the wing for a once a year foray into a different genre. Heats in both classes were four in number and had plenty of good racing in search of a top four finish. B mains filled the field, each leading to a 30 lap main and no unnecessary track prep session delayed the evening.
On a fast but multi-groove track, the midgets put on one of the better mains I have seen, bringing back memories of the wonderful two day Cornhusker Classic shows at McCool Junction, NE. Michael Faccinto led from the pole with Chase Stockton and Trey Marcham in pursuit. Starting 6th, Bernal moved into 3rd on lap 7 with a topside drive out of turn 4.
Lap 12 saw Faccinto drop to 4th, Stockton take the lead, and Bernal moved to 2nd just ahead of Shane Golobic. Two laps later, Bernal again used the top side of turn 4 to take the lead, a location he enjoyed the last 12 laps to record a win.
With a dozen laps left, Golobic moved to 2nd and slowly closed on Bernal, eliminating the gap with about 8 laps left. Smoke pouring from Golobic’s ride added to the drama as he closed on Bernal, but no late race pass was going to happen and Bernal won over Golobic and Stockton. A smoothly run, very competitive race seemed over too soon.
While the sprint car main lacked a battle for the lead, the other podium spots were contested over the entire 30 laps. Bernal had the pole and used that plus a fast ride to lead all the way for a sweep on the night. Winning by a quarter lap, Bernal’s dominance made it easier to focus on the very competitive racing for the other two podium locations.
Cody Williams was 2nd and Austin Liggett, steering a 360 powered ride, had 3rd until a lap 4 Jake Swanson pass in turn 4. A lap later Andy Forsberg used the bottom of turn 4 to take 3rd until Keith Bloom rode the cushion out of turn 4 to move Forsberg back a spot.
Forsberg came back following a restart and picked up two spots quickly to again sit in 2nd with Williams 3rd as the lap count passed the half way point. Mike Spencer used the popular top side of turn 4 to move to 3rd on lap 17 and took 2nd a lap later, using the same Silver Dollar clay.
Lap 24 was not kind to Spencer, sliding up the track in turns 1 and 2, dropping to 7th with Forsberg and Kevin Thomas Jr. now behind, but not close to Bernal. That was the final order with Liggett coming back from 9th on lap 23 to finish 4th, just ahead of Swanson. Forsberg’s 2nd matched his Petaluma finish and earlier he had set quick time in a what is a rare nonwing appearance for the Auburn veteran.
While a battle for the lead is always nice, this one had such excellent action behind Bernal that it matched the midget main for entertainment value.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…It had been 2 years since visiting Petaluma Speedway, more due to traffic than anything else. Last season several times a visit to the 3/8 clay track was planned, then Saturday afternoon traffic over the 105 mile trip showed more red than green. With options much closer and easier to get to, Petaluma was replaced by an easier drive.
Labor Day this year featured the USAC/CRA teams in Petaluma and, traffic bad or not, that was one not to miss. Using alternate routes because the usual bad traffic spots were as awful as ever, the drive there was about 45 minutes longer than the drive home over a more direct plan. Most important of all, it was worth the effort.
A 26-car field of nonwing mostly 410s was assisted by 22 micro sprints and 20 super stocks, just right for a timely Monday night show. The micros are mostly Delta and Dixon regulars and their support of Petaluma this year has been good. The super stocks are a track group whose main was a test of endurance for both fans and sprint cars drivers sitting in staging. Micros did their thing promptly.
One time ever have I stayed comfortable in shorts and t-shirt at Petaluma and that was Monday. The beginning of an intense heat wave, peaking this Friday during the Gold Cup, brought very unusual 90+ degree temps to Petaluma, leading to a comfortable evening at the fairgrounds oval.
Qualifying was a series of new track records, starting with a Cory Kruseman’s 13.681 effort breaking the old record, but that turned out only fast enough for a 10th quick evening. Showing the track stayed fair, Kruseman was first out and eventual fast time Jake Swanson came out 24th, turning a 13.457 to be the one to wind up with the track record after an entertaining qualifying session.
Noteworthy was Geoff Ensign’s 4th fast effort in a 360 powered entry. Throw in a heat one win for Ensign and I had to confirm the announcer was correct, and Ensign did say it was a 360 bolted in the 24B car. Ensign also led a dozen laps of the entertaining, competitive and flawed main event before contact led to an infield spin.
A trio of passing filled heats were among the best I have seen all year as only the top 4 of the invert six heats went directly to the A main. Fourteen starters in the B main elevated the top 10 onto the A main to fill the field. The micro sprint main was a Steven Garris win, leading the last 16 after passing David Prickett low in turn 4 on lap 5.
Cody Williams led a lap before Ensign used the bottom of turn 4 to move C. Williams back a spot while Austin Williams was 3rd. Ensign enjoyed the lead while the Williams brothers dueled for 2nd. A. Williams was 2nd when front stretch contact with Ensign put the leader into a spin, moving A. Williams to the lead, C. Williams 2nd, and fast timer Jake Swanson now 3rd.
Drivers had discovered the benefit of racing in the infield, at least 15 feet into the forbidden space in turn 3. My back stretch view was perfect to gauge the turn 3 action and cars were completely off of the racetrack with a few more feet still to their right before reaching the intended race surface.
All four corners received their share of infield racing but turn 4 was the worst since huge clouds of dust resulted form the unapproved action. Some of the large tractor tires were finally placed on the track with five laps left. There was a unique aspect to the race with the 3/8 oval becoming more like 5/16 with the shortcuts, but dust made the race almost unsafe in turn 4.
Swanson used the bottom of turn 2 plus some infield to take 2nd on lap 20 and more infield racing in turn 4 two laps later had Swanson in the lead and Mike Spencer in 3rd. Spencer wheeled a back up after hot lap oil issues prompted the change.
With the turn 4 infield hosting lead changes, A. Williams led lap 23, Swanson came back on lap 24, and Spencer took over on lap 25. Leading the last five laps, Spencer took the win over an opportunistic Andy Forsberg, 2nd from 10th starting after tangles in front of him and a drive down the front stretch inner edge (or infield?) on a restart garnered him the 2nd spot.
Ryan Bernal moved into 3rd late in the race to finish the dusty podium after 30 laps of passing featuring six lead changes, some unusual racing, but all very entertaining. Once the relatively small berm was worn away, it was open season on corner cutting driving.
Last Saturday Placerville Speedway had a very good winged 360 main, especially for Sean Becker who won from 6th starting. Logan Seavey was 2nd with a very good run after the 26 lap race, one extra time around the foothill quarter after a late call for the white flag. Greg DeCaires was 3rd to practically cement his track title.
With one point race left on the 19th, DeCaires leads Mike Benson by enough points that staying home is about the only way for DeCaires to not win the title. Andy Gregg’s DNS in the main following early evening issues moved the previous 2nd place point car to 3rd. Excellent track conditions hosted the 17 sprints at Placerville for the three division show and Becker used a drive off the top of turn 4 to lead the last 11 laps.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway closed their point season last Friday with a very entertaining night of action. Next week the 4 day Gold Cup happens on the same quarte mile followed by the two day Fall Nationals the first weekend of October. These six nights are the biggest of the season and, if recent track surfaces are an indicator, racing will be excellent.
Last Friday Sean Becker captured his 5th track title at Chico, 91 points ahead of Jonathan Allard. Only Becker, Rowdy McClenon, and Michael Ing ran all 13 point nights and Allard missed a pair. Allard won six times while Becker, Keith Bloom, Carson Macedo, Colby Copeland, Tanner Thorson, Rico Abreu, and Tyler Walker had single wins. Winning six of 11 starts is quite an impressive year at Chico for Allard.
The final point night had a good main, led initially by Kyle Hirst until a lap 14 pass by Allard led to his sixth point win. Using the top line out of turn 4 for his winning pass, Allard led the last 11 for another win, this time over Tyler Walker and Sean Becker. Walker dove low into turn 3 on lap 16 to take 2nd and Becker used the top of turn 2 three laps later for 3rd.
The nonwing spec sprints returned after some time away
and brought 13 entries. Terry Schank Jr. came from 10th to win over Jake
Morgan and Cody
An unusual breeze towards the stands brought some dust into view, but a racy track was an acceptable trade off. The street stocks took advantage of the track and put on their best main ever. A little dusty but racy is better than no dust and too hard to pass.
An eight race in nine days stretch will test my personal endurance with six or seven tracks involved. One of the group of events will be the outlaw kart special at Cycleland Speedway just south of Chico. Over 220 karts are entered in three divisions, all reaching saturation well in advance of the September 8th event. Entries were closed some time ago with over 160 open division karts registered.
Taking an innovative approach for a format, the Trophy Cup served as a basis for deciding how to do things, and passing will be necessary to make the A main. The top 20 point karts out of the 10 heats, inverting 8 from group qualifying, will be decided after 8 laps of very hard racing.
A large group of kart regulars mixed with some seasoned sprint car drivers but first time is a winged outlaw kart will provide a very interesting show. The crown jewel of the evening will be the 50-lap finale, inverting all 24 karts by points. The next time you will see that happen is October 17 at Tulare Thunderbowl, only it will be winged 360 sprints.
The money is huge compared to the usual outlaw kart payout. The top open division main is paying $1000 to win the main with $500 and $250 going to fellow podium finishers. The overall points is a $5000 prize for the top driver and the 24 A main karts get two payouts, one for the race and another from the point fund. The total purse is in excess of $25,000 and many prizes and contingency awards are part of the Showcase.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…It was a history making night last Saturday at Placerville Speedway when they offered the largest payout to win the main event in track history. The $10,000 winner’s check was the most any main event winner had won at Placerville in its 50 years of racing.
Originally a $5000 to win race, further sponsorship elevated the winning share to twice that amount. The occasion was also a point race for the Civil War series, so the 29 winged 360s in attendance was certainly fewer than I expected. Some potential entrants were in Iowa and the majority of the entries were Placerville regulars.
The CW format for a four heat night inverts 4 in heats with the heat winners and next four fastest to transfer running a dash. Cory Eliason and Sean Becker started the dash on the front row and, due to the finish, also started the 30 lap main in the same spots.
Eliason jumped to the lead, Becker in pursuit, and Carson Macedo ran 3rd until a lap 6 low turn 4 drive by Kyle Hirst dropped Macedo to 4th. Seven laps later Macedo was back to 3rd when Hirst got over the turn 4 cushion while Becker pressured Eliason.
Cushion climbing seemed to be the rule of the night and when Eliason went over the turn 4 ledge on lap 15, briefly though it was, Becker was able to close and drive under Eliason out of the turn to take the lead.
Eliason repeated the cushion bumping on lap 19 and Macedo was back to 2nd. Becker led one more lap before sliding up too high in turn 2, reportedly due to a lack of brakes, and Macedo drove under for the lead and eventual win. During the turn 2 lead change, Jonathan Allard passed Eliason for 2nd while Becker slipped to 5th.
A final podium pass on lap 23 saw Hirst back to 3rd while Macedo raced to victory over Allard, putting on a 360 spin show in turn 4 to show his excitement over winning. It was a very dramatic main event, one that was worthy of being labeled the highest paying race in track history.
Support racing came from the BCRA midget lites (mini-sprints) with a fine 24 car field bolstered by 5 Southern California long tows. Their main was good and infrequent competitor Charlie Caraccilo won over Scott Males and R. C. Smith.
A completely packed grandstand plus lots of people in the pit area showed how big this race was to the sprint car community.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…It is a rare occurrence when I watch a driver win his very first career main event. One that is still in my memory is Chris D’Arcy when he won what I would guess was his one career main at Hanford quite a few years back. Using the entire track, including some brushing of the front stretch wall, D’Arcy put on quite a show collecting that win.
Last Friday another of those very infrequent moments occurred when Koen Shaw made a rare visit to Silver Dollar Speedway and came away with his first career sprint car win. Anyone watching the 25 lap main who was not aware of Shaw never having won a main would have thought he had a large collection of main event trophies.
His drive was strong and steady, 100 left turns with no mistakes of any kind and he had to withstand two huge obstacles to get the win. One was the nearly incessant string of restarts, 7 yellows to be exact. Chico does not use double file restarts, but each of the seven erased a Shaw lead of some amount.
As the Fresno based driver came through turn 4 expecting to see the white flag waving, it instead was another yellow and his certain win was again in doubt. A large lead was gone and two laps followed with more challenges to his history making moment, but Shaw was successful at holding all rivals at bay.
The 2nd obstacle was even a larger hurdle to conquer, keeping one of the track’s most successful drivers from taking away the win. Following a low turn 2 pass of Korey Lovell on lap 4, Jonathan Allard was in 2nd for the last 20 times around the Chico clay.
Far more experienced drivers have faced the same challenge that Shaw had, keeping Allard from finding a way around to take the lead. Many times Allard got his nose up to the halfway point on Shaw’s 88K car on the backstretch, but turns 3 and 4 high side line was used by the young driver to keep the lead.
Each yellow added to the drama, although several of them eliminated potential traffic issues for the leader. Shaw drove an excellent race to win over Allard and Sean Becker, and the crowd obviously enjoyed watching the history making race. The infrequent 360 night drew 24 cars, putting on perhaps the best race of the year at Silver Dollar.
Saturday Placerville had winged 360s and BCRA midgets, a very attractive combination, with 21 of each as part of a four divison night. BCRA heats were very good as was the race for 2nd in their 30 lap main after Shane Golobic dominated the last 28 laps.
Golobic ran the topside of turns 3 and 4 on lap 3 to pass Nick Chivello and run away with the main event win. A mid race restart showed 4 cars between Golobic and 2nd place so dominating was his drive. Racing for 2nd was good between Chivello and Frankie Guerrini with Brian Gard also in the mix. Chivello prevailed over Guerrini after 30 times around the racy quarter.
Mike Benson led the 360 main for 8 laps until Sean Becker used the lower line through turns 3 and 4 to take the lead for the last 17 times around. Golobic used the bottom of turn 4 on lap 18 to finish 2nd while Benson won a duel for 3rd with Cory Eliason. A good main, and one that served as an appetizer for this coming Saturday.
August 8th at Placerville Speedway will be the Mark Forni Classic. Originally set for $5000 to win for winged 360 sprints, it will now be one of the highest paying races ever for the division. Saturday’s winner will earn double the initial purse, $10,000 to win, and a large and talented field is a certainty.
The talented Placerville regular group will receive pressure from many teams from around the Northern California area. It is also a Civil War sanctioned race so CW regulars plus some of the King of the West teams will certainly make for a very talented collection of drivers.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Last weekend was an excellent time to travel south with Hanford and Tulare filling Friday and Saturday with races less than 30 minutes apart. Keller Auto Speedway at Kings fairgrounds offered winged 360s, modifieds, and sport mods while Tulare Thunderbowl ran the huge Peter Murphy Classic. Winged 410s, nonwing 360s, and racesaver 305s jammed their pit area for the longest show I have ever seen in Tulare.
Hanford’s Friday night winged 360 series has done well on car count all season and the 27 on hand last Friday continues that trend. Having a 410 race the next night nearby helped bolster the count and support divisions had just enough cars to add to the show without taking too much time.’
Late July weather in the Tulare and Kings county world will either be hot or very hot. A mid-90s weekend was acceptable keeping in mind that it is a dry heat. Both tracks are listed as 3/8, Tulare is higher banked and has much better announcing, and Hanford has a longer history of Central California sprint car action.
Hanford has continued to tweak their sprint car format and have settled on the Civil War series way of doing things. The track seemed dry to start things and several track prep sessions during the evening helped for a short time. Turns 1 and 2 were mostly run the bottom but 3 and 4 provided multi-groove racing and a very good last few laps to the sprint main.
Mitchell Faccinto set quick time at a relatively slow 15.902 before a trio of heats and a dash led to Ryan Robinson and Jason Meyers on the front row. There is a contrast, Meyers being a veteran with numerous accolades and championships, and Robinson, a 14-year-old rookie out of the winged kart ranks.
Young Ryan is the son of a talented former driver, David, and the Foresthill based rookie has impressed me both times I have been to Hanford. Faccinto’s fast time is also an example of a relatively young driver dong well and his father, Monte, was also a successful sprint car driver. Surrounding these two on the A main grid besides Meyers were Jonathan Allard, Kyle Hirst, and more youth, Carson Macedo.
Meyers led over Robinson until Allard took 2nd with a bottom turn 2 pass on lap 6 while Ryan Bernal moved to 3rd. The racy turn 3 and 4 area worked for Allard when he passed Meyers to lead following a high side lap 14 excursion. Things remained unchanged until a bottom turn 1 pass by Bernal for 2nd on the 19th lap, some contact leading to Meyers running over Bernal’s front during a later yellow
Allard continued to prefer the higher groove in turn 4 and Bernal used the bottom to take the lead on lap 25 and held on for the win over Allard and with Hirst finishing 3rd. The last handful of laps was very good as the two groove 2nd set of turns made for exciting action.
Seeing Hanford have success as a Friday track is nice after the years of less than successful race programs. A weekly schedule is not the plan for next year as twice a month or so seems to be working. Promoter Ron Vander Weerd along with a group of sponsorship supporters are saving the track from being idle and doing so with a well thought our approach. Track prep issues can be solved to fix that situation.
The 2nd year of the Peter Murphy Classic at Tulare took several steps forward, particularly in terms of purse. I was told around $30,000 was added to the purse by Murphy and his group of supporters. The King of the West main paid $11,000 to win, $5000 for 2nd, and the usual winner’s pay of $3000 for 3rd. An impressive $1000 to start, double the usual, means over $20,000 added without looking at 4th to 12th increases.
The USAC West Coast field also was racing for a much higher purse, $4000 to win instead of the usual $1500. Again, their entire payout was bolstered by Murphy raised money, creating what I assume to be the highest paying or nearly so West Coast race ever.
A 29 car field of USAC teams along with 36 KWS cars was about 10 more for each class than a regular show might have drawn. USAC did create some lost time due to 8 flips, but cutting their main short when it was such a special purse for the division was very frustrating. Seven laps short of being done, the USAC official called for the checkered flag. Making matters worse, then 9 racesaver sprints came out to run 15 laps for peanuts while the USAC big purse race was not allowed to finish. Fans sitting around me showed their displeasure at that decision.
Bud Kaeding led initially until Matt Mitchell used a big slider in turn 4 to lead lap 3 through 12. On the 13th lap, Mitchell slid up to the turn 4 wall and 12th starting Ryan Bernal had the lead. Quickly stretching the gap, Bernal lost the potential win when he tried to split two cars at the line and the gap shrunk, leading to a ferocious flip by the leader.
Bernal walked away from the battered car, a testament to the strength and safety measures of the ride. Mitchell led on the restart and stayed there until the premature end. Richard Vander Weerd was 2nd and Danny Faria Jr. 3rd after a heat race flip.
The King of the West portion of the evening was very good, less delays and some outstanding main event racing. Carson Macedo led a lap before Jason Meyers assumed the lead while Macedo dropped to 3rd behind Kyle Hirst. Using what would become a key piece of Tulare clay, Hirst took the lead on lap 6 driving off of the top of turn 2. Three laps later Meyers used turn 4’s bottom to lead again for just a lap before Hirst made the same turn 2 move.
One lap short of the 30 lap main’s halfway point, Meyers repeated his turn 4 move and more Hirst pressured followed. On a lap 22 restart, the race changed when Aaron Reutzel slid past Hirst on the bottom out of turn 4 and closed on Meyers.
Perhaps noticing the success Hirst had at the very top of turn 2, Reutzel used the same spot and on lap 27 came off of turn 2 like he had just found another 100 horsepower. That was the winning pass and Reutzel won over Meyers and Hirst following an excellent 30 laps.
With a 12:58 am finish this technically was a two day show, but 2016 it will be a more traditional two day event. It will be interesting to see how much money is paid out next year as this event is growing by the proverbial leaps and bounds. A very popular driver when he raced around the Golden State, Peter Murphy is getting the support needed to keep this a must see event. And speaking of seeing it, one of the largest Tulare crowds I have ever seen added to this year’s race being a classic.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Our Midwest trip went very well, great weather, 18 races in 6 states, and almost every night offered excellent racing with strong car counts. The approximate 5500 mile journey meant a lot of driving hours, but it was certainly rewarded.
While I was gone, the Western Sprint Tour held their speedweek in Oregon and, according to a couple drivers I spoke with, it was well done. The organization of the racing, format, and payoff were well received with the newer version of Willamette Speedway getting very favorable comments.
Returning to the arid Golden State meant trips to Chico and Placerville last weekend. Seeing Sandy Dunlap at the Silver Dollar pit gate and Kristine Shelton in Placerville made it feel as I was really back home. Kristine and her husband, Ted, handle pit gate chores in Placerville, a rare husband and wife combination to fill that capacity.
Chico ran 5 divisions with three of them being sprint cars. Headlining winged 410s had 15, the nonwing spec sprints surprised with 17, and the econo sprints, basically a winged spec, had the largest field I have seen at 12. I have come to appreciate less than 20 car fields as the main event has the potential for fewer yellows, meaning more entertainment.
Second in points, Sean Becker, lost an engine early and Jim Richardson came to his rescue so he could run the main. The usual plan of two heats with the top 4 from each redrawing for the main led to an Andy Forsberg and Rowdy McClenon front row. Chase Majdic, in a 360, moved up to inside row 2 after the Richardson scratch, and Jonathan Allard filled the outside of that row.
Forsberg quickly took control with Majdic in pursuit and Bud Kaeding, using a turn 4 slider, was 3rd after 4 laps. Stretching his lead, Forsberg was in control of the main, at least until a front wheel came off to end a dominating run. Just after the yellow flew, Kaeding, having lost 3rd to Allard on lap 16, tried a turn 4 slider three laps later that left him backed into the wall.
Majdic now led on the restart, Allard in 2nd, and Becker was 3rd with the potential of a 360 winning adding more drama. Majdic did hold the lead until lap 23 when the much more powerful 3C of Allard took the lead to win over Majdic and Becker.
The spec sprint main was good, especially for Terry
Schank, Jr. Using a top side line, Schank drove from 6th starting to the
lead in 8 laps to win over Cody Fendley and Casey McClain. It was nice
to see a good sized spec sprint field on a track that was very good for
main event racing. The econo sprint main was a win for Brandon Powell
off of the pole.
Shane Golobic was 2nd when Hirst slipped up the track in turn 4 as lap 8 was closing and Golobic had the lead. That lasted about ¾ of a lap when contact with an infield tire put Hirst back in front and Andy Forsberg into 2nd.
On the restart, Colby Copeland threw a big turn 3 slider at Forsberg to take the runner-up spot, but just before the halfway mark Copeland dropped to 6th and Andy Gregg was 3rd.
Copeland worked his way forward again and used the top line leaving turn 2 on lap 25 to retake 3rd. Some great racing the last five laps led to Copeland taking 2nd with two laps left and Forsberg held off Dominic Scelzi for 3rd. Despite the dust, it was an excellent main on one of the raciest tracks I have seen in Placerville this year.
This coming weekend in a huge Central Valley pair of races, Friday at Hanford where winged 360s will battle the next chapter in the Milk Can series. Then Saturday the Peter Murphy Classic takes place at Tulare, offering a tremendous purse for the King of the West teams and USAC West Coast nonwing 360s. As an added bonus, the highest finishing Tulare finisher than raced Hanford gets an additional $1000.
The $11,000 to win and $1000 to start KWS evening is the result of the excellent support Peter Murphy receives for this special. Third place pays the usual KWS winner purse and it is a can’t miss weekend in the Central Valley.
Williston, ND…Last weekend featured a return to one of the top rated dirt tracks in the country, and a first time visit to another track, just edging Skagit and Williston Basin Speedway as the furthest north track I have ever seen.
Several years ago I went to a weekly show at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, ND and was thoroughly pleased with the night. It was time for a return to the high-banked quarter to see if that first time was a mirage or the real thing. Answer…River Cities Speedway is certainly the real thing.
Their regular point shows run one of the best list of classes in the country with winged 410s, late models, Midwest modifieds, and streets with full fields of each. Very large stands offer various seating options and plenty of room while the PA system and lights are top notch.
The sprints, and I assume the other three divisions also, completely invert the heats by point average except for any non-point average cars that bring up the rear. Outstanding sprint car heats, among the best I will see all season, moved the top 5 to the A main, inverted by point average with the top car starting 12th.
A 29-car field of sprints was part of a 90 total and heat winners came from 6th, 9th, and 7th. The top 5 totaled 52 cars passed in the three heats. Delays all evening were minimal as everyone has a raceiver so no arm waving to get cars in position was needed.
River Cities Speedway from turn 4 stands
The 25-lap main showed Tanner Wisk and Tom Egeland on the front row, a location Egeland used to lead a lap. Mitch Mack started 6th and roared around the topside to lead from lap 2 until the checkers, at times looking dominant and other times receiving pressure from contenders.
Chris Shirek started 3rd and put the pressure on Mack until getting blasted by Wade Nygaard’s slider gone wrong after 19 laps were complete. The turn 2 mishap had Shirek upside down, well above the turn 2 top rim, and ended his good run. Nygaard was sent to the pits, Shirek was able to walk away, and the NOSA carnage for the night was done.
Austin Pierce, the 10th place starter, inherited 2nd but was unable to get past Mack over the last 3 laps and Mack had his first career NOSA win. Pierce was 2nd over 8th starting Greg Nikitenko. This main, as well as the other divisions, left me wanting more as the white flag seemed to fly too soon. Everything about River Cities is for real and it is one of the best tracks I have visited ever.
The following day was the 90 mile drive north to Greenbush Race Park at the north edge of Greenbush MN. A town of 700+, Greenbush was a pleasant surprise, the track not the town, as being so far away from anything made me wonder what I would see. The 50 mile drive from I-29 to Greenbush had no town over 700 people.
Greeted by promoter Jamie Sovde, we were pleasantly surprised by the facility, not the backwoods place I feared but a nice quarter mile track supported by a decent set of stands. Sovde said the track started as a snowmobile oval and a local business decided to make it an auto racing oval.
A crowded heat goes green at Greenbush
The grandstands were fabricated locally and many volunteers, providing both labor and materials, make the track construction possible. The place does draw cars with 67 on hand this night, down from the 90+ the previous race as some classes were off for the night.
What drew me north was the appearance of NOSA, basically the Grand Forks sprint cars. They brought 22 for a trio of draw heats that moved the top 4 from each to a redraw to set the first six rows. Austin Pierce finished one spot higher than the night before, using the bottom of turn 2 to lead from 3rd after one lap. Obviously the fastest car on the track, Pierce led all the way, setting a blistering pace on the dry, slick surface.
Racing at Greenbush was good but the flagman was too quick with the yellow on multiple occasions. Having a rule that after 3 yellows any further yellow sends the causing car to the pits is good, but not when a driver becomes victim to a unneeded yellow.
Greenbush Race Park exceeded my expectations and the car count was a pleasant surprise for a track so far from population. A storm slid by just to the north, allowing all laps to be run, but an overnight deluge made up for the miss.
Columbus, NE…June 20…A week packed with softball games and trip preparation delayed writing efforts. June’s first Saturday was an enjoyable evening at Madera Speedway for an open wheel extravaganza. Nearly every open wheel division known was on hand, jamming the pits with more cars than I have ever seen at the third mile paved track.
Supposedly modeled after the paved Tully Road track in San Jose, Madera rests on fairgrounds property that defies the trend within the state of deferred maintenance and decaying structures. Several years ago part of the fairgrounds became a shopping site and it seems the track was a beneficiary of the transaction.
The new pit road and accompanying pit gate is far better than the old way and the entire track boasts upgrades as well as continued maintenance of existing structures. A repaved track hosted winged sprints, nonwing sprints, two traveling modified series, midgets, vintage super modifieds and midgets, and a national television production company on a warm, but relatively comfortable evening.
With heat races starting just a bit behind the 4:30 plan due to a track oiling delay, the show moved along well with the first of many mains at 6 pm. The vintage super modifieds brought about 15 cars, a strong field due to nearby Fresno being the base of so many of these former San Jose cars. A dozen vintage midgets were part of the pit traffic jam as well as over 50 modifieds in the two groups.
Under the leadership of former driver, Kenny Shepard, Madera Speedway runs many big shows, this being one of them, and seems to go against the trend of California paved short tracks being on a downhill slide. Madera has very solid sponsorship and the benefit of having national tv races is obvious. It was such an enjoyable evening that a return later this season seems likely.
The last weekend before heading east was a very hot Chico night, 106 or so being the top number, but a racy track nonetheless for the five division show, featuring the winged 410s as usual. A two heats and main format meant the top 4 from the pair of 8 lappers would go to the redraw.
The 25 lap run was another Jonathan Allard win over Andy Forsberg and Justyn Cox. Forsberg had the lead for a while but Allard seemed to have more horses, making it a matter of time before the pass came for the lead. The track held up very well despite the heat. Allard started 6th as a result of the redraw.
Perhaps the closest finish of the season came in the midget lite division, making a very rare appearance in Chico with a 15 car field. Logan Seavey edged Bobby Michnowicz in a finish that may have been decided by transponder placement. Visually, Michnowicz won but the transponder system called Seavey the winner.
Cooling some on Saturday, it was off to Placerville where another very entertaining sprint car main for their 360 class was presented. Andy Gregg drew the pole and led lap after lap with Greg DeCaires in pursuit. By the 8th of 25 laps DeCaires was on Gregg’s tail, but Gregg distanced himself from the pursuer until a slight sip in turn 4 on lap 23 greatly lessened his lead.
An exciting final lap had DeCaires taking the lead in turn 2, Gregg regaining the spot after a low entry into turn 3, and a drag race out of turn 4 to the line. Gregg was top side, DeCaires on the bottom, and it was DeCaires at the line in a very close finish. It was a very good way to close out my California racing for a while.
When planning a trip, it is the beginning and end that get the most attention and the in-between kind of fills along the way. This year’s beginning was centered on a return to Butler County Speedway near Rising City, Nebraska, followed by a visit to the first year facility just outside Norfolk, NE. Prior visits to Rising City were for midget races back when the eastern Nebraska series took place, always ending at one of my favorites, Junction Motor Speedway.
This time it was sprint cars that had the stage at the country location of BCS. The Nebraska 360 organization brought 15 cars while the 305 series drew 24. Two support classes had 3 and 7, which was fine with me, as was the sprint format.
It was very nice to see meaningful heats for a change as the 360s ran draw heats with passing points determining the top 8 for the redraw. Jack Dover was high point after winning from 4th in his heat and redrew 4th in the 25 lap A main. Front row starters, Joey Danley and Cody Ledger finished lap 1 in a dead heat at the line, and ran side by side through turn 2 on the next lap.
With sufficient space between the top 2, 5th starter Billy Alley drove between them to lead while Dover ran outside the top 3. That changed on lap 12 when Dover used the bottom out of turn 2 to move to 3rd and made it to 2nd two laps later with a top side drive out of turn 4.
Closing on Alley, Dover made the winning pass as the 24th lap concluded with a crossover move in turn 4 while Alley finished 2nd. It was an example of not needing 30+ cars to put on an entertaining main event. Butler County Speedway will run the Nebraska 360s a 2nd night, but for me it was time to visit the new track in Norfolk.
The 305 group ran three draw heats with the top 3 going to a redraw. Former Liberal Kansas driver and now living in Lincoln NE, Jason Martin chased Trevor Grossenbacher for 5 laps before using a turn 4 slider to lead the last 15 laps for the win. Shayle Bade came from 13th to capture the final podium spot in an action packed finale while Grossenbacker was in the middle of the three.
Chase Weiler is an example of how the 305 series benefits the low budget racer. Never have raced anything but having crew experience on a sprint car, zero jumped into racing in a 305 and is now in his 3rd year with the division. With less than $5000 in his engine, the rules package makes it possible for him to run the class.
Both divisions have very logical purses. The 305 group runs for $700 to win and $250 to start while the Nebraska 360 series pays $1000 to win plus a $200 Speedway Motors gift certificate and $350 to start. Both purses provide for the entire field, not just a top heavy payout.
Butler County Speedway is located near the intersection of two gravel roads, very much out in the country. Racing only 9 nights this year, it appears to be much like Eagle in shape and size. The crowded eastern Nebraska scene plus previous attempts at racing more nights at Butler with less than success makes its current position in the area racing scene logical.
Lincoln, CA…With Chico idle the last Friday of May, an opportunity for a one day trip south to visit the former Kings Speedway in Hanford put us on the road. Now officially labeled Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds, the 3/8-mile dirt oval has a new promoter and a new game plan.
Ron Vander Weerd, father of twin sons Richard and Jace, is now promoter of Hanford’s track. His sons have raced for years, now competing in both winged and nonwinged divisions. Both sons along with 22 other winged 360 drivers were on hand this night, racing the first of four events called the Battle for the Milk Can. The series is paying $3000 to win plus added money to support classes, and all three divisions will have the unique milk can trophy awarded to the high point driver.
Keller Auto Speedway’s web site shows the Milk Can series trophy
Kings County has many milk production sites and adjacent Tulare County has the highest production in the state. California does produce over 20% of the entire country’s total, so there is no doubt the series is aptly named. I will be able to view three of the four events with the remaining shows on June 12th, July 24th, and October 9th.
The May 29th race drew a very solid 24-car field, led in qualifying by Bud Kaeding with a 14.677, followed by Jace Vander Weerd and Heath Duinkerken. These three earned the sixth starting spot in the inverted heats with the top 5 getting their time back for an inversion.
Bud Kaeding’s retro rig was car owner Morrie William’s when he raced (trailer getting new floor)
A pill draw sets the main event inversion with a single zero and 8 pill joined by a pair of 4 and 6 for six total. This night it was a six draw to the benefit of D. J. Netto. His front row assignment helped him lead all but lap 17, that one being a near photo lap that Ryan Bernal owned by inches. Netto was in control early but needed a lap 18 pass to regain the lead and collect the first Milk Can series win.
Over the last part of the 30 lap main, Netto and Bernal had some great racing between them before Bernal had to accept 2nd over Duinkerken. Seeing 14-year-old Ryan Robinson in action in a 360 was an eye opener as the first year driver ran some fast laps. The son on former star driver, David “Powerfeed” Robinson, Ryan graduated from the outlaw go kart scene before moving on to 360 racing.
The support divisions were a slim 6 IMCA sport mod field but the 17 IMCA modifieds had a good main to add to the evening. Track conditions early were not good but two manicuring sessions helped create a better main event surface. It was nice to see a large crowd on hand as the track was not a Friday track in prior years. Several sessions of being closed are now forgotten with Hanford running a fairly busy schedule, but not overdoing it.
Saturday Placerville combined a wing and nonwing Northern California series when the Civil War shared the pits with the Hunt Magneto series for nonwing spec sprints. With 23 wings and 20 nonwing entrants, 6 heats, a dash, and a pair of mains filled the evening and entertained the large crowd.
Andy Gregg set fast time but missed the dash, a race won by Greg DeCaires followed by Andy Forsberg. That pair created the front row of the 30 lap finale, one that would pay Shane Golobic $5000 to win and everyone else $2000 for leading the last lap. Golobic’s potential financial windfall was due to winning the night before at Watsonville and therefore being eligible for the bonus.
Golobic qualified 14th, seriously lessening his chances of the lucrative double, and started the main in that same position. Fighting his way forward, Golobic did make things interesting for his team, but DeCaires absolutely nailed the bottom groove and won after leading all the way.
Forsberg applied pressure for many laps, using his regular top of turn 3 and 4 drives to try to hit the front stretch ahead of the bottom grooving DeCaires, but it never quite worked. Just before mid-race Golobic was 6th and continued his advancement, albeit at a slower pace, and took 2nd from Forsberg on lap 27 with a low turn 2 maneuver.
A yellow with 4 laps left was a single file restart due to less then 5 remaining, and DeCaires kept Golobic at bay for the win over the the 5 grand hopeful and Sean Becker, coming from 12th.
The spec sprints main also had good action and their quickly paced 25 lapper went to Joe Stornetta over Colton Slack and Shane Myhre. Bill Macedo led 6 laps before Stornetta used the drive off of the top of turn 4 to take over. Myhre moved to 2nd on lap 10 but lost it to Slack after a final lap effort. Earlier this year, the Brentwood based Slack won the first ever Hunt series race at Calistoga.
Lincoln, CA…On Tuesday, September 8, an event of huge proportions will take place at Cycleland Speedway, just over 12 miles from Silver Dollar Speedway. Located south of Chico, the fifth mile clay oval that lies adjacent to highway 99 will kick off Gold Cup Week with the inaugural Outlaw Kart Showcase Presented by Kyle Larson Racing. With Kyle’s parents, Mike and Janet, providing tons of support, the event will be the first of its type by using the one day Trophy Cup format as a nucleus for the show.
The first three years of the Trophy Cup at San Jose Speedway were 410 races and completed the entire show in one night. A very similar format to that one will be used at Cycleland with some revisions to make it even better. The top division will be open winged karts while 250s and box stock will run a shorter program, with dashes and mains only.
The open kart class, sporting 500cc of power, will be split into 4 groups with each having a fast time, 2nd quick, etc. when qualifying is complete, the fastest from the 4 groups are compared and ranked 1 to 4. The 2nd fastest will be ranked 5-8, and so on. Qualifying points are then awarded with 150 going to the number one kart and a one-point drop per position.
The fastest 96 open karts will race 8 heats, 12 per, with an 8-kart inversion. Heats earn drivers 50 points for a win with a 3-point drop per position. Once complete, the heat points are added to qualifying points and the top 20 in points going directly to the A main. The 21-40 ranked drivers are B main bound, the C is for 41-56, eventually reaching the F main for point karts 89-96. All preliminary mains do not award points.
If needed, qualifiers 97 and beyond will run last chance races with transfers to the F main. All mains from B on down will be straight up by points and four transfers are added from the prior main. The quartet of B main transfers are guaranteed the front two rows of the A main because, just like the Trophy Cup, the finale will be completely inverted by points. Set for 50 laps, the A main has a built in fuel stop around the halfway point.
The A main cars will wind up the top 24 in points and all ties will be broken by who finished higher in the 50 lap test. The B main has a $1000 purse, the A main pays a total of $3870 with $1000 to win, but the big dollars are in the point fund. The OKSPBKLR champion receives an additional $5000 from the $15,620 point fund. The current total purse is $20,490, a phenomenal amount of money for a division that normally races for far less.
Kyle Larson at age 12 on Cycleland clay
Additional perks and prizes are in the works for racers and a huge number of entries is expected. Cycleland Speedway weekly shows draw 75-80 karts with 500cc of power and include the expected visitors along with some special names and the size of the event becomes obvious.
Combine a large field with an excellent format, toss in lots of money, and take into account how racy Cycleland’s fifth mile is and all the ingredients are in place for a memorable event. One of his first racing venues at age 7, Kyle Larson has always placed Cycleland at the top of his list of favorite tracks. Fans can enjoy the first ever OKSPRKLR and then venture north a dozen miles to four more special nights at Silver Dollar Speedway. Check outlawkartshowcase.com for updates.
Recent racing adventures included a trip to Tulare where D.J. Netto won his first King of the West main on a track that was rough in some spots and fast in others. While he did have plenty of pressure all the way, Netto claimed the win over Shane Golobic and Craig Stidham.
The USAC West Coast portion of the evening certainly added to the excitement with some great heat racing and a very competitive main. Tristan Guardino led 9 laps before Ryan Bernal raced past him with a low line entry to turn 3. Danny Faria Jr. moved to 2nd at the same time, and history shows that catching Bernal is not often done.
On lap 16 Bernal tested the turn 4 cushion and the slight delay allowed Faria to take over, leading the last 15 laps for the emotional win. The night was named the Chris and Brian Faria Memorial, two of Danny Jr.’s brothers who passed away in 1993 and 2006. Danny’s first ever West Coast series win at Tulare could not have come at a better time.
Also on hand that night were six Racesaver 305 sprints for a heat and main. Blake Robertson was the top dog this night in the 6th race out of 15 on the schedule not counting a Tulare rain out last month. Tulare, Bakersfield, and Hanford are the locations for the new found IMCA sanctioned series and, according to Scott Woodhouse, there are currently 12 cars with more expected later this season. Various issues kept the Tulare field smaller.
Last weekend it a different traveling series, the California Sprint Car Civil War teams racing Saturday in Marysville and a bit north on Sunday at the annual Chico fair race. Both nights drew 43 cars and both nights were could have been wins for Kyle Hirst.
Marysville had Andy Forsberg leading when Hirst got the lead on a lap 21 restart, but a red brought that effort back. The next time Forsberg was prepared and held the lead for the final 10 laps to win over Hirst and Shawn Becker. The following night Hirst led 28 of 30 but Jonathan Allard used a strong drive off of the top of turn 2 to lead the last two laps. It was Allard, then Hirst, followed by Willie Croft to fill the Chico podium.
Tomorrow I am looking forward to a return to Hanford for a Kings Speedway three division show headlined by winged 360s in a $3000 to win event. Then Saturday is a back to Placerville where Civil War teams are joined by nonwing Hunt Magneto Series sprints in an excellent menu of two sprint classes with diverse rules.
Lincoln, CA…The mainstream media is very good at making something out of nothing. I have lost count of the times a news broadcast or newspaper has made something seem very serious only to turn out to be nothing. Unfortunately, that trend does not apply to the California drought.
The state’s rainy season lasts approximately 5 months, so a quick thinking person realizes that means 7 months with essentially no rain. Two ways the state gets through those dry and usually warm to hot months, and both depend on sufficient rain (or snow).
Many reservoirs hold run off from rains as well as snow melt come spring and throughout the summer. Those reservoirs are around 60+ percent of normal currently, not good, but not the dreadful conditions media currently forecasts for the state this summer. Unfortunately, the media is correct, not due to current reservoir levels, but the far worse state of the Sierra Nevada Mountains snow level.
The plan, which works fine in a close to normal year but not with the series of below normal rainfall we have suffered from the last four years, is the reservoirs provide water to the state and then is replenished by spring and summer long snow melt from the mountains. That will not happen this summer because there is so little snow, even at the 6 and 7 thousand foot elevation.
The state is facing mandated water conservation rules and West Sacramento, a city of 50,000, has already ruled that this Friday mandatory one day a week watering rules for landscaping take effect. Cities and water agencies have difficult decisions to make regarding watering regulations, adding to the already extremely complex water rights and rules in the state.
Last weekend I spent my time at the two Dennis Gage promoted dirt tracks, Chico on Friday and Marysville on Saturday. A conversation with Dennis revealed that both tracks are currently fine on water supply to prepare the quarter mile ovals.
Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway is located on a state fairgrounds and a strong producing well provides water for the entire facility. Currently the track has a plentiful supply of the valuable liquid but there is always a possibility that the state steps in regarding used of the well water. The fairgrounds is already taking water conservation steps and will do dramatically less watering after the county fair later this month.
His Marysville track is on private property so the two wells on site belong to the property owner. The well nearest the track is weak in production but the other to the west by the flea market is far stronger. The possibility of tying the pair together is being explored. Marysville’s clay is better than the Chico stuff and holds water better. Both tracks use watering techniques now that lessen the amount of water used.
A 14 car field of winged 410s at Chico was assisted by four support divisions and a pair of heats moved the top 4 from each to a redraw. Andy Forsberg drew outside front row and led with 3rd starting Jonathan Allard in pursuit. Allard erased an early lead and used the bottom of turn 1 to take the lead on lap 7, leading the rest of the way for another Chico win for the veteran.
Forsberg was then in a heated duel with Sean Becker which ended on the last lap when Forsberg went up a bit in turn 3 and both Becker and Tanner Thorson got past to take the podium spots. A smooth evening of racing also had some good stock car action.
Saturday Marysville had a trio of sprint classes, a dozen spec sprints, 8 pro-4 sprints which is about all that exist, and 22 winged 360s plus a pair of stock car type divisions. While the spec sprint main had some delays, it was still a good race, but the 360s put on an outstanding show on a very racy track.
Johnny Burns won the spec sprint race, shortened by 3 laps due to time consumed after some wheel banging. He was the 4th leader in the relatively short and attrition filled event, using a low into turn 1 pass for the lead.
The 360 main had 4 yellows and a red of its own, but superb action on the quarter. Garen Linder was doing a California weekend from his Medford OR home. Having raced at Hanford the night before, Linder got the long tow award both nights. He noted being challenged at Hanford by the track, but enjoyed the experience anyway. It nearly became a win for the Oregon driver at Marysville, but Justin Sanders had other plans.
Linder started 3rd and Sanders was 14th on the initial green but by lap 8 Sanders had used high and low side passed to move to 3rd. Linder had been in a furious race with Cody Lamar for the lead and when Sanders moved into 2nd with a dive low into turn one on lap 18, Linder had a new face to race.
Racing for points the year at Marysville, Sanders used his experience and lapped traffic to get past Linder at the latter stages of the thrilling 25 lap main and took the win over Linder and Lamar was 3rd. A good show on a very pleasant evening, and only a half hour from home made it all a winner.
On hand at Marysville was 21 year old Jake Haulot from Cotati, a 2nd generation driver who is showing steadily increase speed. He was 9th quick and raced to a 4th place main event finish in his low budget entry. Jake started in quarter midgets, then on to micro sprints, when his father, Danny, realized it was too much travel. Jake then moved to sprints with nearby Petaluma Speedway a regular base for racing sprints after over 150 wins in quarter midgets and micros.
His father, Danny, raced at the paved version of San Jose Speedway from 1974-79 in a super modified and then switched to a late model on pavement. Racing many times at Ukiah and Lakeport, Danny won 40+ races in his late model career. I remember watching Danny race at San Jose in the late 70s, but I don’t recall seeing him in a late model.
Hopefully a trip to Tulare will occur this Saturday, but just like the last time this was the plan, rain in the area is forecast for Thursday evening and Friday morning. While it sounds hopeful with a rain forecast, the deficit is so large that it will be nothing more than a literal drop in the bucket, and it is a huge bucket.
Lincoln, CA…Recent Northern California winged sprint action has provided a variety of experiences at Chico, Placerville, and Marysville. Following the very successful first two events, the track held the first of four Placerville Posse special event races on the 11th. These are non-point races for winged 360s and carry a special purse plus additional money to be shared by the winners.
The $2000 to win each Posse event plus another $2000 to be split among the winners, assuming no sweep, means each race is $2500 to win. The first of four were on the night the Civil War for winged 360s was elsewhere, an arrangement for which Placerville received approval from the series owner, I am told. Instead of being idle that Saturday, 21 sprints were on hand, led to the checkers by Colby Wiesz after he fended off pressure from Greg DeCaires and Steven Tiner.
On Friday the 17th Chico had 13 winged 410s and showed how an excellent main does not need 20+ starters, in fact having fewer probably made the main better due to lesser yellows. It was Colby again for the win, only this time it was Colby Copeland winning after a superb 25 lap drive on a dry but very racy track. To top it off, Copeland did it by passing two of the more successful drivers to ever circle Silver Dollar’s clay.
With 8 laps to go, Copeland was 3rd behind Jonathan Allard and Sean Becker. But a lap later he passed Allard for 2nd and then on lap 21 raced past Becker to lead the last 5 and earn his first Chico 410 win. A perfect track coupled with accomplished drivers racing for the win made this one outstanding entertainment.
The next night I decided to do something different and went to All American Speedway, just 15 minutes from home. The third mile paved track hosted three traveling series, pro-4 modifieds, the NSCS modified series, and PCS late models. Car count was acceptable for the top 2 classes, but the evening’s events were not.
The pro-4 class ran an 8 car non-stop main but the modifieds took over an hour with 14 yellows and still only ran 51 of 60 laps due to finally stopping their race. That left about 50 minutes for the late model 100 lap finale of which 66 were run before the strict curfew.
To make it very clear, it was not the track officiating that caused the issues. The modified series refused to cut their race short, although they finally had to, despite the terrible display of racing. Not much could be done when the series was on the track and would not get off to give the late models time. Having seen the track run their point shows, I know they are very efficient and would never let a race division consume so much time.
Last weekend Chico had 20 winged 410s for the Bill Brownell Memorial, set for 33 laps and paying $3300 to win. A rain threat seriously dented the crowd, in fact the show ended just before the rain started. Very wisely, the sprint main ran 2nd of 4 divisions and the track showed they can start on time. The first heat race was on the track about 7 minutes before the advertised 7 pm start time. That proves it can be done and fans should expect that level of time management in the future.
Two things made it less than a thrilling main event, the track was very fast and Rico Abreu redrew the outside front row spot. Heat winners plus the next five fastest redrew for the front 4 rows and if Abreu had drawn further back it might have been very entertaining. Abreu led all 33 laps with relative ease with an attack by Jonathan Allard thwarted by a broken crank. Copeland and Mason Moore filled the podium.
Overnight rain Friday led to several tracks canceling Saturday but Marysville Raceway ironed the pits into shape and ran the first of three winged 410 nights. A 15 car field redrew the top 8 and Colby Copeland pulled the 1 pill and used it wisely, leading all 25 laps for the win.
Often a flag to flag run by a driver means a less than
interesting main, but this one had two things going for it that kept the
interest level high. In just over 5 ½ minutes, Copeland ran the 25 laps
as if it was rush hour on a congested L. A. freeway. Without any yellow
for a chance to breathe, he weaved around, under, and through traffic to
claim two 410 wins in 8 days. Throwing the 5V around Marysville’s
quarter mile while dealing successfully with slower cars was one part of
the intrigue that made the race a fun viewing experience.
The other aspect was the race for 2nd, another 25 lap experience with 22 of them featuring a duel between Bobby McMahan and Andy Forsberg. While racing each other they also dealt with lapping cars and it was an outside pass in turn 2 on the 24th lap that got Forsberg 2nd at the finish.
Both nights were quick shows and I was home in time for the 10 pm news. The only blemish for the weekend was Tulare canceling the first ever Civil War race at the home of the Trophy Cup. Forecast Saturday morning rain did occur after the mid-afternoon Friday cancellation. Nearby Hanford ran their first Friday winged 360 show and drew a strong 25-car field. Steven Tiner won the initial effort under Ron Vander Weerd’s promotional job at the newly renamed Keller Auto Speedway.
Lincoln, CA…Brad Sweet’s promotion at Placerville Speedway was a huge success, made possible by the foresight, investment, and effort of covering the track with plastic sheets on the Saturday night before. The forecast Monday night into Tuesday rain did arrive as scheduled and the inch or so would no doubt have canceled or postponed the event.
The plastic/pump plan worked so well that the track needed some watering while the adjacent top of turn 4 uncovered area was a swamp. With track promoter Allan Handy repeatedly driving heavy equipment over the area above turn 4, which is the usual way sprint cars enter the track, it eased the quagmire to the point of being drivable.
A pair of large grandstands were placed in the turn 3 area of the pit area and all ages were allowed to buy the needed pass. To handle the crowd in the pits, a “traffic director” was stationed as the east end. To reach their pit area, cars had to drive past the throng of people enjoying the great view from the additional bleachers and safety was foremost on the planning group’s agenda.
To further support the needs of the very large back gate, additional “facilities” were in place as well as two more concession stands. The massive crowd was by far the most people I have ever seen at Placerville Speedway. They were treated to a 37 car field and a dynamic battle between two Northern California drivers the made it a superb main event.
A new winner for the series on the red clay was guaranteed. Jac Haudenschild won the first and most recent events while Sammy Swindell was the pair in between. Most recent happens to be 23 years ago.
A significant change before the 35-lap main went green occurred when Andy Forsberg and another drive were late to staging. The one row penalty moved Forsberg from outside row 1 to outside 2 while Kyle Hirst was the beneficiary, moving up a row to Forsberg’s initial spot.
Hirst led over 20 laps with Forsberg chasing, trying every maneuver possible to get past Hirst. Running the top of turns 3 and 4 was something Forsberg has done countless times and repeated attempts to pass Hirst on the high side out of turn 4 came up just short. The plan is to run the top, build up momentum, and complete the pass out of 4, but it just did not quite work this time.
The downside of running the north cushion at Placerville is the complete lack of forgiveness if a tiny misjudgment occurs. That eventually happened to Forsberg and, never one to stop trying to pass someone, the result was a loss of several position, eventually finishing 7th. He was a big part of the show as he chased Hirst so many laps and made all those near passes.
After the long lap 21 red the resulted in injuries to Jason Johnson and Daryn Pittman, Donny Schatz took 2nd out of turn 2 and used the bottom of turn 1 to get past Hirst a bit later. Schatz’s win was obviously not a flag to flag romp but the result of an excellent race and working his way into the front spot. Other than the injuries, it was as close to a perfect outlaw show from a racing standpoint that Northern California is likely to see.
Brad Sweet and company put the time, energy, and planning into making the return to Placerville a success, and it was rewarded with a huge crowd and good show. That makes me think it will not be 23 years before the next outlaw event at the foothill quarter.
Lincoln, CA…The first weekend of April brought cooler but still dry weather, leading to a pair of race nights enjoyed from the pit area. Chico ran their first “regular” point race and Placerville opened their season with a strong two class evening: King of the West winged 410s and BCRA midgets. With the approaching change to our weather pattern of late plus the 2000-foot elevation, Placerville was chilly by early evening, at least by California standards.
I have seen promoters take steps to try an avoid a rainout due to a wet forecast, but Brad Sweet and his supporting cast have taken things to a much higher level. Following the final lap on Saturday around 10:45, the track was to be prepped, then covered with plastic in an amazing attempt to keep the track useable for Wednesday’s outlaw show.
Brad’s father, Don, was in the turn 4 pit stands and said about $800 in plastic along with some sand bags and a pair of pumps were ready to be put in place during a late night/early morning session. Supported by around 25 volunteers, the job was done with the results making for the strangest race track picture I have ever seen.
Saran Wrap Speedway replaces Placerville Speedway for a few days.
The view is from the top of turn 3 and only a small portion of the upper groove between 3 and 4 remains uncovered. The plastic also is up and over the berm so, if all goes as planned, the plastic will retain the collection of rain to then be pumped off the oval.
It is a clever, ambitious, and dice rolling effort to maintain the Wednesday night return of the outlaws to Placerville, a 20+ year absence. Today the pit area is having a large set of additional bleachers installed. The Sunday rain has been almost completely a fizzle and the next round is Monday night into Tuesday. With the plastic doing its job, the potential for things being fine for Wednesday is strong.
Both the KWS and BCRA mains on Saturday filled the Placerville air with yellow and red flags. The midget field, impressive at 29, had their main dominated by Shane Golobic before he was taken out in turn 2 on the 24th lap of the 30 lap race. With first and second sent to the back, Brian Gard now led until Ronnie Gardner used the top of turns 3 and 4 to take the lead. However, a yellow appeared and the lap did not count. Officials had their fill of the midget main delays and called the race, making Gard the winner over Gardner.
The KWS winged 410 field was a strong 31 car turnout with their share of yellows and reds contributing to the longer than hoped for evening. It took about an hour and 45 minutes to run both mains with plenty of action, both the good and not so good kind.
Cory Eliason used the high line around the foothill quarter to take the lead from Kyle Hirst on lap 7 but jumped the turn 3 cushion 12 laps later and spun. Still running 2nd at the time, Hirst became the beneficiary and led the last 11 to win over double duty Golobic and Carson Macedo. A huge crowd was treated to a pair of diverse divisions and plenty of close competition.
The night before Chico ran 5 divisions with 16 winged 410s putting on a smooth night of racing. It was great that the sprints were not last on the main event list, a move that I wish would become permanent. Two heats put the top four from each moved into the redraw, an exercise I like much more than a dash.
Keith Bloom led from the pole for 7 laps before Tanner Thorson ran the bottom of turns 1 and 2 to take over on lap 8. Thorson then proceeded to lead the last 18 laps for his first winged 410 sprint win, holding off such luminaries as Jonathan Allard along the way.
Minden, NV driver Thorson was making his 6th ever winged sprint start and his 3rd career main event run. To win so early in his career as a sprint car driver is amazing, although he is far from a rookie driver. Racing outlaw karts since 5, the young but veteran driver will be 19 next month. He has a couple of years of midget racing in his resume and has obviously transferred skills learned in that series to sprint car racing.
Chico has a new set of stands in turn 3 of the pit area that offer an excellent view. The permanently installed seats were moved north from the now defunct Victorville, CA track. Track conditions last Friday at the quarter mile on the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds were perfect.
The huge outlaw kart race at Cycleland Speedway on September 8 is taking shape with both a large purse and unique format being fine tuned. The event has also been named as it will be the Outlaw Kart Showcase Presented by Kyle Larson. The race will serve as the starting point for Gold Cup Week as Cycleland is 10 minutes from Silver Dollar Speedway.
I expect not only a very large turnout of outlaw karts, but probably some surprise drivers as they tackle the format based on the Trophy Cup. The big evening will culminate with a pair of A mains for the open division. One wonderful aspect of the event that is a Trophy Cup staple is large inversions. It will be a night of record setting action at the fifth mile oval.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…The last Saturday of March Irwindale Speedway held their first event of the year, titled Night of Destruction. This may be a sign of things to come for the Los Angeles area facility. It was also an odd coincidence that the Night of Destruction occurred just 3 days after Irwindale city officials voted in favor of a project that would lead to the speedway being torn down.
Already seemingly overloaded with shopping centers, the greater Los Angeles area may see yet another retail project if the Irwindale city council has its way. They have approved a project that would see the speedway torn down and replaced by a 7,000 square foot outlet mall. Making things even worse, the track destruction process could start early next year, making the 2015 season the last ever for California’s finest facility.
Built in 1999 on land that had been a dump site for construction waste, the facility was first class, setting the bar high enough that no track in the state can yet match its overall positive aspects. Tremendous grandstands, lighting, and PA system along with a completely paved pit area made it a showcase among short tracks. It has been used for numerous filming ventures among the half mile, inner third mile, and adjacent drag strip options.
My visits to Irwindale number the same as the amount of Turkey Nights that filled the pit area with USAC midgets and sprints. That ended when the track was shut down in 2012 due to management bankruptcy, and Turkey Night moved to the only place available, Perris Auto Speedway. New leadership got the track open after one idle year with the story at that point being the continuation of racing was on a year to year basis.
While the news of the potential dismantling of the track come January 2016 seemed startling, in reality it was only a matter of time before this type of threat became real. The city of Irwindale sees the outlet center for what it would do for the city, create many jobs and earn them lots of tax dollars. On the surface, it appears to be a done deal, but that is not the real truth.
Irwindale Speedway will have a 2016 season, and perhaps beyond, if tenants are not found for the center by the end of this year to the tune of 65% of capacity. That is a large amount of square footage that needs commitment from stores, and the project being stalled for a year or perhaps years is a definite possibility.
One only has to look at Elk Grove, CA along highway 99 where a huge outlet center is partly built, but sits idle. In fact, it has been several years since any work has been done on the now abandoned project. Every now and then the news has a story of some firm taking over the continuation of the project, and then nothing happens.
If you build it, they will come may apply to baseball stadiums, but not shopping centers. My completely uneducated guess is the outlet center to replace Irwindale Speedway will not happen next year, nor for some years after, and maybe never. I see the area as relatively ugly as across the street from the track is an active gravel pit, and lacking access roads necessary for the shopping crowd.
The acreage lies next to interstate 605 and a mile or so south of interstate 210. In Southern California, that would be next to THE 605 and south of THE 210. Their reverence towards interstates is shown by the constant usage of THE when stating a highway number. With only one 4 lane street providing access, getting to a big box store where turn 2 now lies might be chore. Also, if southbound on THE 605 there is no direct exit to the property and a bit of driving directions is needed.
So my stance is this has a very good chance of becoming a whole lot about nothing. If I were an Irwindale Speedway regular I would be understandably concerned, but as far as its destruction goes, I will believe it when I see it and not until.
One thing that will happen is the special race night at Cycleland Speedway on September 8th. Going back to a race that was held years ago, the outlaw kart special will start Gold Cup week, held 7 miles north at Silver Dollar Speedway. This will be unlike any other event ever held at the racy fifth mile oval that races outlaw karts weekly from April to September.
One person behind the event, Mike Larson, expects a huge turnout for what will be a very substantial purse. Two support divisions will be limited to 30 entries while the top open division will combine three classes that use the same engine rules to create the potential for a huge turnout.
The event will be billed as a racing vacation for kart teams from all over as the four-day Gold Cup will follow the Cycleland event. It is particularly exciting because the open division racing will follow the Trophy Cup format that was used the years it was a done day race. In the 1994-1996 years of the event, a one-day format was used that included a pair of A mains. The Cycleland race will be modeled after those early Trophy Cup years at San Jose Speedway.
While the open kart entry level is an unknown, it is certainly possible that it could exceed 100. Cycleland is a very racy facility and has been the training ground for many current drivers of sprint cars as well as other types of racing.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Although I only made one night of the pair of Tulare Thunderbowl Outlaw races last weekend, it certainly was an interesting evening of action. The unveiling of the new wall surrounding the 3/8 mile means the oft appearing welding truck can likely retire. Last year’s Trophy Cup set a new track record in welding truck appearances, but that should now be a thing of the past.
Much stronger poles now support a new wall and the prior plastic like material covering the fence is history. One difference is the clay did not stick to the old plastic like it now does to the wall. It looked to me as if seeing where track ends and wall begins is now a bit of a challenge.
Being co-sanctioned between the Outlaws and King of the West probably drew a few more entries from KWS teams with 46 cars on Friday being supported by 20 USAC West Coast entries. Preliminaries were decidedly unexciting as the track was narrow and fast, creating nearly zero passing. However, things changed right on time as the C main started a widening trend that continued through the B main. By A main time, it was a much more racy surface.
Tulare Thunderbowl is easily a fan favorite among the West Coast tracks, a stature resulting partly from being the home to the Trophy Cup. Having a wall completely around the high-banked track, it is an unforgiving oval. Most of the time the fast line by main event time is up top and running next to the wall becomes the way to win.
Friday night’s main followed that recipe for Tulare excitement and a dose of north end mayhem was the result. Turns 3 and 4 require a combination of quality decision making and driving skill, racing right up to the edge of disaster without going an inch too far. The series of accidents that delayed the 35 lap main also created drama while eliminating contenders.
As a result, it was Tim Kaeding, again in a Roth Motorsports entry, that survived for the win, sneaking past Terry McCarl when the Iowa driver wiggled a bit in turn 4. It was an amazing sight to see 4 cars bounce off the turn 3 and 4 wall and flip one after the other, sort of an expensive winged ballet, with a second or two separating each act.
USAC ran their main first and helped prepare the track for the Outlaws. Bud Kaeding, joined by Ryan Bernal and Colby Copeland, was one of three racing both divisions. Kaeding won after Landon Hurst and Danny Faria Jr. had turns in the lead. The Kaeding/Faria duel was good and minimal delays to the overall program made it a good thing that USAC was part of the show.
Commitments at home on Saturday worked out fine when Marysville had a good show to fill the evening. Four classes of sprint cars drew 23 winged 360s, 7 nonwing spec sprints, 8 pro 4 sprints, and 10 economy sprints. Specs are 360 cast iron powered, self-starting, pro 4 use a 4 cylinder power plant and are winged, and economy sprints are sort of a winged spec sprint. I believe the pro 4 sprints are a Marysville only class.
The economy sprint class had 4 of the ten entries towing from Lovelock, NV. That is a 420 round trip tow for a low pay division, but they wanted to race enough to make the effort. Lovelock has a nice track, but like the other Interstate 80 Nevada tracks, suffers from sparse population and similar car count. Their track opens next month.
The 25 lap main was a good one on a wide and very racy track. Just like the night before, the track was in the best race condition of the night at the right time and Andy Forsberg took advantage. Bud Walberg led with Justin Sanders and Forsberg in pursuit until 9 laps remained. Forsberg raced past Sanders the next lap and took the lead a lap later to win over Sanders and Colby Wiesz with the latter using a lap 22 pass for 3rd.
Pro 4 sprints had Misty Castleberry keeping Tim MacLaughlin from passing her and won, spec sprints saw Shawn Jones win, and the traveler bolstered economy sprint main went to Justin Henry, the 4th driver to lead the 15 lap main. Both nights enjoyed great weather with above average mid-March temperatures.
Harley Van Dyke was a spectator at Marysville and the car owner will be spending the race season living in Indianola, Iowa. The little city has a race track, but Van Dyke will not be competing on that combination figure 8 and oval track. He will be towing his 5H winged sprint car all over the area with Dakota Hendrickson as his driver. Hendrickson, a teenager from Omaha, will be following the new NSL series.
Besides the series, races at Knoxville, Huset’s, and just about anywhere else within a few hundred miles of Indianola will see the 5H big rig find its way to the pit area. Van Dyke is, or was, a rice farmer with fields northwest of Sacramento, but he stated the lack or expense of water will keep the fields inactive. He has family in Indianola, hence the relocation to that city just south of Des Moines.
Lincoln, CA…Over 90% of the countries tomatoes is produced in California, along with a similar domination of other vegetables/nuts. Record drought in the state is the worst in the areas that grow those products. Between thousands of acres of fields that will not be planted due to lack of water to the higher costs to grow those crops on fields that are planted because of expensive water purchases, the result will be felt by all at the grocery checkout.
Water rights are quite complicated since the reservoirs provide the valuable liquid to everyone during the dry summer months, yet each city has its own deal. Sacramento and neighboring Folsom rely heavily on the Folsom Lake reservoir, which is at 58% of capacity. Those cities had water use restrictions last year and this summer is certain to be worse.
The state uses 80% of its water in agriculture. This multi-year drought will hit that huge business the most, with decreased production leading to higher prices for many staples. It seemed strange last week when, despite the true crisis facing the state, Lincoln announced the city will have plenty of water this summer.
It is a case of whatever water deal a city has now determines its fate. The vast majority of Lincoln’s water comes from Lake Spaulding, located high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at over 5000 feet above sea level. Apparently there is plenty of water in the lake, fed by a fork of the Yuba River, so Lincoln will receive 90% of its allotment. The city can also take a certain amount of water from the American River.
At least there has been one industry that comes out ahead due to the record dry and warm winter, that being race tracks. Usually March racing dodges rain and cool temperatures, but this year we have late April weather in early March. Last weekend in Chico was upper 70s and this weekend Tulare will be in the low 80s for the WoO/USAC two night event, while Marysville has a similar forecast for their Saturday race.
Most years at least a couple March races are rained out and last weekend’s Silver Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway had the best weather in years for the often wet weekend. The last few years have been productive for the event following a string of weather related issues, with this year’s version being the warmest in my memory.
The Silver Cup has moved around during March to fit in the schedule around the Mini Gold Cup. In the past the Mini was the 2nd weekend and the Silver the last, this year they trade spots. Given the weather pattern this year, any weekend would be fine.
While the 360 winged sprints are the top class for the Silver Cup, it used to be modifieds and before that another stock car class. But the track is first and foremost a sprint car track so even in those years it was obvious that the sprints were the crowd favorite. With 35 and 39 entries over the 2 nights, an excellent field was on hand, supported by spec sprints (13 and 22), plus IMCA modifieds (35 and 29). The spec sprint count of Saturday grew substantially because it was a Hunt Magneto Series night.
Very visible ride for Canadian ultra long tow Steve Reeves.
Format possibilities were discarded in favor of the now redundant invert four, and take the heat winner plus the next whatever qualifiers to make a total of 8. At least instead of a mini main event, disguised as a dash, there was a redraw to figure who is where for the first four rows.
This event, being a non-points season opening special, would have been an excellent opportunity to use passing/finishing points to create heat races that make every position critical. The late model/modified series in January at USA Raceway had outstanding heat racing with the passing/finishing format point thing. Prior to that, the Cocopah Speedway series did the same plan and also had wonderful heat racing.
Andy Forsberg drew the pole for Friday’s 25 lap main and led all the way for a win over Sean Becker, 2nd all the way, and Shane Golobic, 3rd after regaining the final podium spot on lap 18 from Craig Stidham. Angelique Bell led half of the spec sprint main before being passed on the back stretch by Shane Myhre. Collecting the 20 lap win from 9th starting, Myhre was followed across the line by Shawn Jones and Bryan Grier.
Forsberg’s new ride for a lot of his 2015 racing.
Saturday added 4 wings and 9 nonwings to the party with a track that was a bit rough on Friday becoming one that was very rough in spots on Saturday. After drawing inside row 4 on Friday, Willie Croft improved to an outside row 1 place for Saturday. With Tim Kaeding the pole, early odds certainly favored a front row winner.
Croft led early, chased by Kaeding until Seth Bergman made a lap 5 pass on the bottom of turn 4. On hand after a Midwest rainout, Bergman drew 8th on Friday and finished 5th. Quickly closing on Croft, Bergman became the leader on lap 9 when Croft was tossed sideways by a turn 2 rut and rolled to the infield with steering issues.
Particularly in turn 1, ruts and holes made it an adventure on the high-banked quarter mile. Forsberg hit the ruts and was completely off the ground, but parallel to the clay for an instant for an unique view. Matt Peterson used the top of turn 4 to take 2nd from Kaeding on lap 14. That lasted 2 laps and Kaeding was again 2nd as Bergman stretched his lead.
Craig Stidham, running well both nights in his newly decorated ride, moved to 3rd on lap 17 but Peterson regained the spot after a lap 27 restart. Sean Becker took the hotly contested final podium spot on the final lap, coming from 14 starting to be the only driver with podiums both nights.
The spec sprints were to run 5 laps more than Friday with a different format for Hunt Series rules. Qualifying rather than draw heats preceded putting using heat winners plus the next 5 for the front 4 rows, drawing a six inversion. All that put Angelique Bell on the pole, matching her starting spot from Friday. She led 3 laps and then Colton Slack drove off the top of turn 4 to lead until a right rear failed after 5 laps.
With Slack to the rear and Bell out after lap 5, Joe Stornetta became the beneficiary, moving from 3rd to 1st on the restart. Leading the rest of the time considerations shortened race, Stornetta won over Nick Larson and a charging Slack who came from the back after a lap 6 restart to score third.
Craig Stidham’s car has a different look than past years.
The weekend enjoyed great early March weather, a jammed pit of race cars, and interesting racing both nights to make it another excellent opener for a Dennis Gage run track. With successful season starts at Marysville and Chico on consecutive weekends, Gage is off and running as a two track promoter.
What a difference a year makes. Last year Gage ran 6 pumps 24 hours a day to get the Silver Cup in, and that was a dry year, also. Over 2 inches of rain fell in Chico the 5 days before the event but this year the ground was as dry and the pumps were at rest.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…A new era has begun at the quarter mile track in Marysville, located just over 30 miles from the homestead. Over the last few years, Paul and Kathy Hawes have operated the track and made many improvements during that time. It became time for the Hawes folks to divest themselves of some responsibilities as retirement becomes more of an option.
As a retired middle school teacher, I understand well the concept of being ready for a new chapter. While I still enjoyed teaching when I ceased working, the desire to get out of San Jose was strong enough and Lincoln provided an excellent housing option. Running a race track is far more stressful than a classroom occupation, and probably consumes more hours a week also.
Early last year the idea of Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway promoter, Dennis Gage, taking over Marysville surfaced. Over time the deal came to finality and Gage joins John Prentice and John Soares as multiple entity promoters in Northern California. Prentice has Ocean Speedway plus a trio of series, King of the West, Civil War, and Hunt Magneto. Soares leads in tracks with three: Antioch, Merced, and Chowchilla.
I am not certain the last time I saw an outdoor race in February in Northern California. It may have been the one and only time that San Jose Speedway, the fairgrounds version, ran a race during the 2nd month. That probably would have been in the early 1980’s, I am guessing, and last Saturday barely made the cut with the February 28th date. Incidentally, San Jose Speedway has a very interesting tribute site located at http://www.legendsofsanjosespeedway.com and I still very much miss the place….not the city but the track, that is.
With support from Cycleland owner and promoter, Lowell Moural, both Chico and now Marysville have been the beneficiary of his track prep skills. The changes at Marysville were dramatic with a much wider track now in place. Whether or not it will prove to be racier remains to be seen, but it sure looks as if it will provide multi-groove competition.
Gage gambled a bit with the Feb. 28 date as it is still California’s version of winter, which is again lacking rain this year but providing one of the warmest winters on record. Scattered storms missed Marysville late in the week and, while on the chilly side, the weather was still very acceptable for the opening race.
Car counts were perfect for presenting a show that provided enough racing without running overly long. Marysville is one of the few tracks in California that is not on fairgrounds property, making it immune to the state mandated 11 pm curfew. Despite two lengthy delays for flips the show was complete just past 10:30, although an earlier start would have been appreciated. The crowd was one of the larger I have ever seen in Marysville and the 25 winged 360s, 11 nonwing spec sprints, and 17 IMCA Northern Sport Mods provided the entertainment. Probably few appreciate it besides me, but that was the first ever IMCA sport mod sanctioned race in Marysville.
The track started out on the wet side and with support from cool temperatures, not one iota of dust appeared. Probably a little drier track for main events would have been interesting, but Justin Sanders would not complain. Winning the season opener in Northern California from the outside front row start accompanied an announcement that Sanders apparently plans to run for the track title.
Rico Abreu provided the pressure on Sanders, running 2nd the entire 25 laps and pulling alongside Sanders several times. Mason Moore was 3rd until getting run into. The first four rows were set by a redraw from the trio of heat winners combined with the next 5 fastest qualifiers to get a top 5 heat finish.
The spec sprints had a competitive main but a rough ride for leader, Bret Youngman, early in the event delayed proceedings. Youngman caught the cushion and flipped wildly before emerging relatively unscathed. This made it a bit easier for Geoff Ensign to eventually win the 20 lapper with Scott Hall and Johnny Burns filling the top 3.
This particular event has been staged for some time, previously called the Sherm Toller Memorial. Since last year it has necessarily been renamed the Sherm and Loree Toller Memorial. The two were long time supporters of racing in Northern California in general and the Marysville track in particular, involved with announcing and scoring.
A very successful opener gained some winged cars that will not be there for weekly shows such as Abreu, Willie Croft, and Andy Forsberg, but it will be interesting to see if the new era of Marysville will be accompanied by an increase in winged 360 entries. It will also be interesting when the trio of winged 410 nights take place, one each in April, May, and June.
One thing for certain, the track will not race on Saturday when Chico has one of their few Saturday shows. For March, Marysville will race on the 14th and 20th, dates that do not have conflicting races elsewhere around the Northern California scene. With Gage at the helm, the track is certainly in good hands to continue the series of improvements that started during the Hawes years.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Casa Grande, AZ…While California lacks the midweek racing options of the Midwest, there is one huge racing benefit from living out west, and that is the proximity to Arizona. While the spring through fall months don’t create much personal interest in the Grand Canyon state, the months of November and January are another story.
Last November I went to the most races of any month for 2014, and several of them were in Arizona. Now this January I will probably see more racing than any other month this year, and it is entirely within the borders of Arizona. Would not want to live here in the summer, but the winters are another story.
The much anticipated Winter Heat series at Cocopah Speedway started the action, seeing 4 of the 5 events. The 2nd Saturday at Cocopah coincided with the Wild West Shootout Series at USA Raceway in Tucson and my long history of attending the WWS shows led to a Saturday relocation. Once the six race Tucson series is complete, it is on to Canyon Raceway for the USAC Southwest shows with added divisions, and then maybe a return to Tucson for the last part of that series.
While some late scratches for various reasons lessened the Cocopah car count from maybe low 50’s to 31-34, the wonderful format provided plenty of racing for the large crowds. In fact, to me the size of the field was perfect to present a compact show with finishing times between 9:15 for the 2nd Friday and 10:05 for the longest show for the opening night. Despite very pleasant daytime temperatures in Yuma, when the sun drops the temperature follows, and aggressively so at that.
Four draw heats followed by a like number of qualifiers lined up after heat points, then throw in a B main and there are 9 preliminary races. The 24-car main was straight up by points and every night was a new show with no locked in cars. While a bigger back gate would please many, the show had enough cars to make for a full evening.
It had been several years since I had the pleasure of listening to announcer, Fred Rannard Jr., and a lucky schedule change for the Northwest based announcer made it possible to attend when it had seemed unlikely. Joining Fred was another quality NW announcer in Ben Deatherage, so that aspect of the event was in very good hands. With one division on hand, necessary breaks after heats, qualifiers, and the B main were kept to a minimum.
The work that went into preparing for the Cocopah event was huge, starting with the track’s director of operations, Greg Burgess. The time and effort that went into making this event special was obvious with all the special touches that were part of the week. Everyone associated with the track is very friendly and include the wonderful grandstands and excellent track lighting and the 3/8 mile oval is a very nice package.
Then there is summer. I do not know how Yuma people can handle having 4 consecutive months where the average temperature is over 100. That means in a completely normal year, over 122 consecutive days of 100+ daily high temperatures are part of the deal. In 2014 Yuma had 2.72 inches of rain and half of that came in one day! That explains why the city is the sunniest in the country. Last year the hottest reading of the year was 117 on 2 consecutive days. Cocopah Speedway now has Winter Heat to go along with an entirely different Summer Heat.
Opening on January 2, the first night featured a fast, narrow track and a dominating performance by Paul McMahan. The next night was the best of the 4 I saw, by far, a wonderful winged 410 main event that will certainly be one of the best I see this year. Kyle Larson’s win on Saturday underscored how big a loss dirt track racing took when he moved to the boring but lucrative pavement world. Races 2 trough 4 were on a very fast, wide, and racy surface. Larson led Tuesday by a large margin when a tire failed, and he was off to the pavement stuff for the 2nd weekend.
Tuesday’s show drew a much larger crowd than I had guessed a midweek race would do to see Steve Kinser win, matching the “retirement” tenure of Jimmy Sills when the latter veteran retired only to resume racing under the name of “Luke Warmwater”. My personal finale on Friday was very smoothly run for the earliest finish of the first four, with a last lap, backstretch pass by Danny Lasoski creating an exciting finish.
After running so well but encountering difficulties, especially while leading, Aaron Reutzel won on the final night. He posted a very solid series, could have won 3 of the 5, in his first ever winged 410 action. Lasoski was also very steady throughout the series.
One of the best parts of the initial Winter Heat event was the announcement that January of 2016 will have a return to Cocopah Speedway for the series. With the opener on January 1, 2016, the track will follow the same schedule plan with a Tuesday race flanked by the two weekends of shows.
McMahan Dominates Heat Opener
by Ron Rodda
Somerton, AZ…Paul McMahan used the heat and qualifier to post the highest point total by a large margin, then made the most of the pole starting spot in the main to become the winner of the first ever Winter Heat event at Cocopah Speedway. The January 2nd opening race of the five night series drew a large crowd despite unusually chilly temperatures for the Yuma area. They saw a nearly perfect performance by McMahan, needing only one spot higher in his qualifier finish to win all 3 of his races.
A 34 car field of winged 410 sprints represented 17 states and one province for this series opener. Several entered drivers did not appear for various reasons, but the field was stacked with some of the best drivers in the sprint car world.
Four draw heats used the familiar passing/finishing point scheme and those were won by Joey Saldana, Roger Crockett, McMahan, and Craig Dollansky. After the heats, points were totaled and four qualifiers, inverting six by points, raced 10 laps. Points were added to the heat points and McMahan earned 238, well ahead of Aaron Reutzel with 194. It was noteworthy that Reutzel was making his 410 debut.
The straight up by points 30 lap main saw McMahan and Reutzel fill the front row with Saldana and Danny Lasoski in row 2. The first 10 laps were messy with 3 yellows and a red, but the last 20 went nonstop. Reutzel led a pair before getting up into the turn 2 wall and pitting for a new right rear. McMahan ran 2nd until Reutzel’s issue and assumed the lead on the restart.
Saldana and Lasoski had a duel for 2nd for a few laps before Saldana secured the spot and pressured McMahan for a bit, but as the laps disappeared so did Saldana’s chances of catching the former Elk Grove, CA resident. McMahan stormed to the win over Saldana and Lasoski settled for 3rd ahead of Stevie Smith and Crockett.
McMahan’s win paid $12,000 while Saldana earned $6000 for 2nd. Lasoski’s evening paid $3500, Stevie Smith collected $3000 for 4th, and Crockett filled the top 5 and won $2500 while the main event paid $1000 to start.
The Winter Heat series continues with shows on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 10th at the 3/8 Cocopah Speedway facility just south of Yuma.
A main… Paul McMahan, Joey Saldana, Danny Lasoski, Stevie Smith, Roger Crockett, Brian Brown, Freddie Rahmer, Seth Bergman, Henry Van Dam, Kasey Kahne, Sam Hafertepe Jr., Logan Schuchart, Willie Croft, Dakota Hendrickson, Kyle Larsen, Aaron Reutzel, Reece Goetz, Christopher Bell, Wayne Johnson, Craig Dollansky, Kraig Kinser, Steve Kinser, David Gravel, Dale Blaney
Lincoln, CA…A relatively small action can create a significant reaction given enough time, and that scenario has played out at Cocopah Speedway, located at the southern edge of Yuma, AZ. One could present the argument that a Northwest race fan that moved to Yuma put things in motion that has led to Cocopah hosting the Winter Heat winged 410 series next month.
Paul Finn lived in Spanaway, WA before moving to Yuma. After relocation, he contacted Greg Burgess about the possibility of bringing sprint cars to Yuma. At that time, Burgess was the region director for ASCS, a position he filled from 2008 to 2011. While that idea was not feasible at that time, it did put thought of relocating to Yuma in the mind of Burgess.
The Yuma area dirt track had closed after the 1999 season and was purchased by the Cocopah Indian Tribe in 2005. More idle time passed for the 3/8 mile oval until early 2010 when the Tribe decided to reopen the facility. Needed upgrades and replacement of parts of the facility were done and it first raced with the new ownership in September of that year.
The first season was accomplished due to a group of volunteers that did the work, spearheaded by David White, showing their determination of bringing dirt track racing back to Yuma. Their 13 race season brought the track back to life, creating the foundation for what the track has now become.
Former Spanaway now Yuma based race fan Paul Finn knew of the Tribe wanting someone to assume the duty of Director of Operations, and he again contacted Burgess to encourage him to apply. Burgess did, he was hired, and it has been an excellent decision for all involved. Under the leadership of Greg Burgess, Cocopah Speedway has grown and enjoyed huge improvements and will now become the focal point of sprint car racing with the five race Winter Heat series.
The initial racing involvement for Burgess came as a sponsor for cars at the Elma, WA track. His travel agency business sponsored race cars and he traveled around the Northwest to race tracks. During this time he met the late Fred Brownfield and helped him and now cites both Fred and Tommie Estes as people from whom he learned a great deal.
Burgess eventually sold the travel agency, did the stint with ASCS Northwest, and moved to Yuma in June of 2011 to become Cocopah’s Director of Operations. That is a very significant climate change as his Washington base in Shelton averages 66 inches of rain a year compared to Yuma’s 3.3 inches. Shelton averages 134 sunny days a year while Yuma claims to be the sunniest city in the country with 308 days yearly of nothing but sun. Temperature is another story, let’s just say Yuma is “somewhat” warmer than Shelton.
From the time Burgess was hired in mid-2011 to now, dramatic improvements to the facility have occurred. Since my last visit in November of 2011 until a return 10 days ago, huge changes have transformed the facility into one of the best in the Western US. A wall was built around the track, a very nice winner’s “circle” was created, and the pit area was dramatically enlarged. Over 100,000 yards of material were moved to build a pit area than will now be able to handle the huge haulers coming for Winter Heat. Track reshaping was done so that each set of turns now complement each other.
But the star of the remodeling list is the new grandstands. In just 24 days, the old stands were removed and 1500 yards of concrete were used to create the new seating. The 22 row stand will now hold around 4,000 and the $350,000 redo gives the track a much nicer appearance.
I noticed how well designed the stands were when two things became apparent. There is enough rise between rows to easily see over anyone sitting in front. Equally important is the width of each “step”, enough to allow plenty of legroom and as well as making access to the middle of a row convenient. Just remember, they are concrete so fans would be wise to bring adequate seat cushioning.
Burgess played a major role in the new stands, having been to many tracks and realizing the importance of being able to get in and out when seated elsewhere than on the end of a row. By Winter Heat time there may be a scoreboard and video board installed, certainly by sometime early next year, but hopefully by January 2nd. Future improvements will include paving the midway area and building a new men’s facility.
The first weekend of March in 2013, Tony Stewart was racing an ASCS National event at Cocopah. Stewart and Jimmy Carr, his director of the dirt program and crew chief, asked Burgess about the idea of a winter sprint car series similar to the Slick 50 idea from years ago. Stewart was impressed with the race track and initial thoughts were of a January 2014 event. Later that year Stewart suffered a broken leg and the idea was delayed.
It is a year later and the now well known title of Winter Heat will adorn the five race winged 410 series next month. Burgess met with the Cocopah Tribe to discuss the idea, realizing a purse of at least $50,000 per night would be needed to attract cars. The Tribe was solidly behind the idea and Winter Heat was born. The city of Yuma has adopted the event and daily activities will be ongoing during the 9 days of Winter Heat.
With the leadership of Greg Burgess combined with the support of the Cocopah Indian Tribe, Cocopah Speedway has been transformed from a defunct dirt track to a top notch facility. Having the ultra high profile Winter Heat series is sort of the icing on the cake for the Yuma track. To really top it off, the format for Winter Heat is wonderful, one that requires passing! No time trials, no putting the fastest cars automatically towards the front, just passing/finishing points that require a driver to pass cars to make the big main event. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
And the person who, in some way, put everything in motion? Paul Finn, his wife, and son are still there, working at the track every race and doing so as volunteers.
Casa Grande, AZ…After a successful Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas Dirt Track, it was south to Arizona for visits to Canyon, Central Arizona Speedway, and later this week Cocopah Speedway. Living in the far west has its advantages this time of year as I will get to more races in November than any other month this year. Next January will probably bring as many or more, all within the borders of the Grand Canyon state.
A major change will occur in 2015 at the Tucson International Raceway, namely it will cease to exist. The track will still be there, but not the name. A change in promoter will bring big changes to the 3/8 mile oval, starting with a return to USA Raceway as its name. In a deal just signed a few days ago, Chris Kearns is the new promoter at USA Raceway, set with a 3 year agreement to run the southern Arizona facility.
Their first set of races will be in January with dates set for 10, 11,14. 16, 17, and 18 when the Wild West Shootout returns to is original name for the late model/modified series. The January races will see the combined efforts of Kearns and Minnesota promoter and announcer of note, Chris Stepan. Along with the return to the prior passing/finishing point format that produced such excellent racing, the entire January series will be an excellent way to enjoy Arizona racing after Cocopah’s huge 410 Winter Heat shows.
The 2015 schedule for Tucson will necessarily be a relatively rushed affair due to the late promoter change but Santa Maria CA transplant, Kearns, states that 12 to 15 special event only race dates will be soon set for next year. One huge change is the Western Worlds, just completed at Canyon, will be in Tucson next year. One of the premier dirt track events in Arizona, the Western Worlds relocation will put USA on the sprint car racing map next November.
Last June Kearns relocated from the coastal city of Santa Maria, CA to the toasty city of Goodyear, AZ, trading mild summers interspersed with fog for hot days, interspersed with more hot days. That turned out to be a good thing, making the trip to his new venture in Tucson much shorter. His racing involvement from the management side goes back to 2006 when he was the race director of the Western All Star late model series, then the following year he was also the owner. After a year away from racing, he promoted Santa Maria Speedway from 2009 to 2012, his only prior tenure as a promoter. He is also now owner of the West Coast Late Model Series and serves as sort of a western director for USAC events. I still vividly remember the Tucson races in January when Kearns served as race director. Those race events were very efficiently run, always starting on time, and no time wasted. I look forward to that type of race next January at the Wild West Shootout.
I took in the first two nights of the Western Worlds at Canyon where each night drew 37 USAC Southwest/West Coast teams, although few were from California. Paying $7500 to win on Saturday, the sub-20 car field of USAC National midgets was a surprise. Thursday racing started with a narrow and tacky track and reached perfect track conditions by main event time. Ryan Bernal’s win in sprints came after strong efforts by Gary Taylor, Casey Shuman, and finally Bryan Clauson. Moving into 2nd on lap 23 of 30, Clauson tried every move ever invented to get pas Bernal to no avail.
Friday’s track was much more one groove up on the top and Bernal again won with much less pressure than the first night. Christopher Bell had a similarly dominant win in midgets after a more completive Thursday main was won by Tracy Hines after taking over on lap 12, getting to the line inches ahead of Zach Daum. Canyon seems to present more high profile events than any other western track and Kevin Montgomery’s dedication to open wheel divisions is certainly appreciated. Canyon races six nights in January featuring USAC Southwest sprints with the 23rd through 25th and 29th through 31st providing six reason to visit Canyon.
Five big paying winged races at Cocopah, six late model/modified shows at Tucson, six nonwing 360 events at Canyon, plus a pair of Arizona Speedway events and maybe even Casa Grande getting in on the action will present plenty of reason to spend January in Arizona.
Lincoln, CA…What has become an annual late season event to jump start our pre-winter travels is the Oval Nationals at the excellent Perris Auto Speedway. Certainly worthy of being called California’s finest dirt track facility, PAS combines a very racy track with superb PA system and lighting, plus large stands offering viewing options to please anyone. A huge plus for the track is the work of announcer, Scott Daloisio, simply one of the best anywhere. Added to the mix was great weather this year, particularly considering it is November and far different conditions could have dented the event.
Thursday opened the trio of nights with a 46 car field of nonwing 360 sprints, running under the combined USAC banner of Southwest and West Coast. Several national type names were also in the field to not only create a 10 car larger turnout than last year but also dramatically up the level of competition. The format called for six heat races, inverting 6 and moving the top 3 onto the A main, then a pair of B mains tacked on 3 more from each to create the 24 car field, inverting six from the heat transfers.
New to the Perris oval, Greenfield Indiana driver, C. J. Leary , set quick time at 16.416, and backed that up with a 2nd place heat finish, earning the 6th starting spot in the 30 lap main. The teenage Leary is sponsored by the family business, Leary Construction Company, a business that has been in the family for 75 years and is water tank maintenance specialists. It was a prior generation C. J. Leary that founded the company, the young driver’s great grandfather.
Qualifying had a scary moment when Marcus Niemela went for a very high ride in turn 1 when something broke in the right rear area, shedding tire just as he entered turn 1. Niemela was transported but luckily reportedly checked out OK. Austin Liggett, now a student at California State University, Stanislaus, or more commonly known as Stanislaus State, took a wild ride through turn 1 and into 2 in the main, ruining his bid for a championship in the Southwest/West Coast grudge series as he was the point leader when getting upside down, and he luckily was fine, racing the next two nights in Landon Hurst’s 360 car.
The track was in excellent shape all evening and the very competitive 10 lap heats provided something usually missing in winged sprint heats, that being entertainment. Half of the heats had winners coming from 6th starting with only one front row heat winner. I have never seen than amount of passing in winged racing heats, and most likely never will. The invert six main meant a front row of Bryan Clauson and Kevin Thomas Jr., and that is certainly an indication of the field’s strength. Troy Rutherford and Liggett sat in row 2, while Jake Swanson and Indiana’s Leary filled row 3.
Thomas got the lead, but just for one lap before Clauson used the bottom of turn 2 on lap 2 to take the lead. Rutherford was 3rd and Liggett a DNF following the unfortunate turn one and two ride. One lap later Leary was in 3rd, using the higher groove out of turn 4. A couple laps later Dave Darland pitted, another driver that raised the talent ante, and Leary was in 2nd after a lap 7 upper groove effort. One lap later Thomas slid up the track in turn 2 and Swanson was now 3rd.
Having seen Clauson race quite a few times, one thing I do not expect to see is someone passing the versatile driver. The normally unseen pass on Clauson was completed by Leary when he dove low into turn 1 on lap 20 to slide up in front of Clauson for what proved to be the winning pass. The Leary, Clauson, and Swanson trio ran unchanged the remaining laps to claim the podium spots and complete an enjoyable night on nonwing racing.
Night two brings in the 410 nonwingers and with some 360s playing along, the field totaled 55. Again it was C. J. Leary as the fastest of the bunch, this time a 16.295 with the larger engine. With experience in midgets and pavement late models in his relatively short career, it is certainly noteworthy that this young man shows up in Perris and is quick time the first two nights. This night was more of a struggle when his heat finish went south following a turn 2 mishap, but he won the B main and finished 5th after the 30 lap main. Troubles found other top cars such as Damion Gardner’s big heat race flip when he appeared to bounce off the turn 3 berm first and finished the move suspended several feet off of the track with his front wheels hanging onto a cable at the top of the track. Gardner got up to 9th in the B and used a provisional to start at the rear and record a 16th place finish.
The Friday track was drier and much dustier than Thursday’s version of the Perris half mile and the A main groove was top shelf all the way around. Friday heats were great despite four of five heat winners starting on the front row. Robert Ballou was the lone exception, taking his heat from 5th starting, perhaps a sign of things to come for the Rocklin, CA driver. Rocklin is next door to Lincoln, and when someone does not know where Lincoln is located, my usual reply is “next to Rocklin and Roseville”
Ballou’s 9th quick time became the 6th overall when Leary, Gardner, and Austin Williams were all faster in qualifying but had heat race issues. This benefit to Ballou was realized with the pole start with Darland alongside. It proved to be a front row battle when Ballou led a few, then Darland slid past to lead until about the half way mark in the nonstop main when Ballou regained the lead and posted the win. Brady Bacon was 2nd from 4th starting and Jon Stanbrough was 3rd after being the 6th spot starter.
Saturday the top 6 in points were locked into the A and ran a dash to decide the front 3 rows. The remaining 47 cars qualified with the fastest 32 running a quartet of invert 4, take 2 heats. A couple of those were decent, but not up to what the first two nights of heat races produced. Dave Darland won the dash and chose the inside alongside Mike Spencer while C. J. Leary and Robert Ballou inhabited the 2nd row. A pair of B mains moved 5 from each, those races producing some entertainment, but as usual it would be up to the A main to make the evening. It certainly did.
Spencer led the first 5 laps with the last one being a near dead heat at the line, before Leary took over, driving past Spencer with a high line effort out of turn 4. Spencer came right back with a low line pass out of 4, but again Leary led, using the bottom of turn 2 after one more lap. Leading from laps 8 through 19, Leary’s nearly straightaway lead ended with a series of yellows and reds, six over 9 official laps. Spencer again took over on lap 20 following a restart with a low turn 2 move and 4 laps later Leary bicycled, nearly went over, but saved it only to incur a flat.
It was now the prior night’s winner, Ballou who was chasing Spencer and lap 31 of the 40 proved to be the decider. Ballou raced low into turn 3, put a slider on Spencer, and held the lead out of turn 4 to go on and win the $20,000. One last restart as Ballou was coming to the white flag only delayed the victory lane celebration for the Rocklin driver. Spencer finished 2nd ahead of Bryan Clauson in an excellent main despite the numerous yellows and reds.
On Saturday the cars were packing before 5 pm yet the show ran until almost midnight. Some people left following the B mains, guess it was just too long a show for them, but they did miss a dandy main. But in their defense, a show with 53 cars along with 17 senior sprints that takes 7 hours from packing to conclusion is way too long.
This weekend it is the Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas Dirt track where over 300 modifieds will compete, and a full show will take less than 7 hours.
Trophy Cup Format Adjusted
by Ron Rodda
The Trophy Cup has always been open to trying format changes to make the event even better. The changes implemented this year dramatically improved the qualifying procedure. Two heat race transfers plans were tried with Thursday and Friday having different A main transfer rules. Having two preliminary nights with the driver using the better point total of the pair had an expected result and an unexpected result.
Having each driver’s better point night be used for Saturday racing closed the point gaps among the top 10 ranked drivers, but also made the front rows of the fully inverted by points A main tougher to catch than expected. A minor format adjustment will address this issue, while heat race transfers on the first two nights will now be a mix of this year’s plan.
The 22nd Annual Trophy Cup, set for October 15-17 next year at the Tulare Thunderbowl, will adjust how the heat transfers make that night’s A main. Both nights will see the heat winner along with the highest car in points after the 10 lap race go directly to the A main. If the highest car in points wins the heat, then the 2nd place car transfers also.
The 2nd place car (or 3rd place if the highest point car finished 2nd) will go directly to the B main along with the 2nd highest point car in that heat. Cars that do not earn a transfer to the A or B main will be assigned to C, D, or E mains based on points, not finishing position. The new method of determining the direct transfers to the A main will provide a good mix of drivers from the first 3 rows of the heats, which is the inversion.
Thursday and Friday A mains will continue to be a 2 point drop per position, but Saturday will be changed to a 3 point drop per spot. By reducing the point drop on Saturday from 5 to 3, the drivers starting at the back due to high point totals will face a slightly easier task to overtake the front starters.
The purse for 2015 will be increased by approximately $10,000 to total over $160,000. The 24 drivers in the Saturday A main automatically share the point fund portion of the purse as they are guaranteed of becoming the top 24 event point cars. Every driver is paid, however. Following is the 2014 payout for the top 24:
1. Willie Croft, $20,000 (guaranteed Cup champion amount), 2. Mason Moore $11,100 3. Roger Crockett $11,200 4. Carson Macedo $8,230 5. Bud Kaeding $6,540 6. Mitchell Faccinto $6,770 7. Kyle Hirst $8,220 8. Terry McCarl $5,100 9. Steven Tiner $4,075 10. Greg DeCaires $4,930 11. Justyn Cox $3,030 12. Brent Kaeding $2,950 13. Cory Eliason $2,445 14. David Gravel $3,980 15. Henry Van Dam $2,630 16. Colby Copeland $5,000 17. Jonathan Allard $2,445 18. D. J. Netto $2,615 19. Shane Golobic $2,910 20. Tim Kaeding $4,150 21. Rico Abreu $2,690 22. Craig Stidham $2,400 23. Andy Gregg $2,880 24. Dominic Scelzi $2,290
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…One thing about the Trophy Cup, it always generates conversation and opinions, both after the fact, of course. Changes that are made to the format are always, to a degree, risk taking, as the result of those changes cannot be known until the event is over. I like Trophy Dave’s approach, which is, let’s try it and see what happens and change it for the following year if needed.
The group A and B for qualifying purposes completely worked in my opinion. Last year in an attempt to make qualifying not disastrous for later pill draw drivers, a half-point drop per position in the results helped somewhat. With 81 cars timing last year, David Gravel was the 42nd car out and timed in 35th quick overall. But even with the half point interval, he was still 17 points behind Tim Kaeding who had set fast time from his 15th out draw. When the track went away last year, it seemed to occur suddenly and was dramatic as to times. Incidentally, Cup champion, Kyle Larson, was the 17th car to time in and was 4th overall.
Splitting the cars into two groups this year with each group having a fast time, 2nd quick, etc. made qualifying the fairest of the 21 years. On Friday group B went first and the order within the group was reversed. Each night had a point total for each driver and the better of the two was used for Saturday. Night two finished with 47 drivers having their better total while 37 scored higher on night one. That is close enough to equal because if only 3 more would have done better on night one now it would be 44 and 40.
It appears the result of having two preliminary nights with the better point total counting led to the front 2/3 of the final night A main field having record high point totals. Since 2013 was only 50 points for fast time and a half point drop, I just compared the A main lineup points from 2012 to this year as two years ago the qualifying point plan was the same as this year.
In 2012 the front 8 drivers in the Saturday A main averaged 236 points while this year it was 267. Rows 5 through 8 in 2012 had a 261 average but this year it was 285. The top 8 point cars occupy the last 4 rows and their 2012 average was 288, just a little less than this year’s 296. That was a huge factor in the final results this year as Willie Croft winning Trophy Cup title from outside row 3 starting would have been nearly impossible in previous years.
In 2012 Kraig Kinser started the A main on Saturday in the outside row 3 spot with 243 points. This year Willie Croft had 276 points starting in the same location. Between Croft winning the A main, that extra 33 points, and a track that over the last half or more of the 50 laps was very passing challenged, Croft was beyond reach for the Cup title.
Comparing the top five in final point standings, some data on passing is revealing. For the event, Crockett passed the most cars, counting only the heat and A main. Some drivers ran a B, some not. Crockett totaled 32 cars passed, 44 if one counted his B main. The 32 is from starting position, Crockett had more when he spun early in a main and restarted 23rd. Carson Macedo was 2nd in the total with 22, Willie Croft was at 17, Mason Moore with 11, and Bud Kaeding passed 8.
Thursday’s heats moved the top 2 finishers to the A main and front row starting paid off. Of the 20 direct transfers, 7 were off of the front row, 8 from row 2, and 5 off of row 3. On Friday when the top 2 in that night’s points transferred, it was zero off the front row, 5 from row 2, and 15 started row 3. Combining the two nights totals 7, 13, 20 for rows 1, 2, and 3, which is probably about what it should be.
This was the 10th year the Trophy Cup was in Tulare. The prior 9 years the Cup champion began the A main event on Saturday at an average spot of 22nd starting. From the top point finishers, a couple of drivers were sprinkled among the usual veterans. Carmen Macedo and Mitchell Faccinto, in 4th and 6th respectively, had excellent results, especially for drivers that do not have near the experience of the others among the top point teams. Among the more veteran drivers, Mason Moore was 2nd overall and just needed to pass 2 more main event cars for the title, and Roger Crockett was 3rd, needing 3 more cars passed to win overall.
With the Trophy Cup complete, big western events are still upcoming. Two weeks away is the Oval Nationals, followed by the largest western US event of the season, the Duel in the Desert, then the Western Worlds at Canyon follow.
Willie Croft Wins It All In Tulare by Ron Rodda
Tulare, CA…The script has always been one in which a dramatic climb forwards from the back of the pack results in a driver becoming Trophy Cup champion, usually starting from the last 2 or 3 rows. Saturday night Willie Croft wrote his own script when the outside 3rd row starter not only won the 50 lap main event, but also became the event champion by virtue of having 7 points more then Mason Moore. Croft became the closest to the front starter in Trophy Cup history to win the title.
The final evening started with a trio of D mains, elevating the top 4 to the C main. Jake Morgan, Koen Shaw, and Jonathan Cornell took those preliminary mains and became part of the C main later. A six pack of heat races followed for the top 48 in points from Thursday or Friday, inverting the field completely, and awarding 36 points for a win, dropping by 3 for each finishing position. Incoming point leader, David Gravel, stretched his lead after the heats and now had a 10 point gap between himself and teammate Kyle Hirst, Tim Kaeding, Roger Crockett, and Shane Golobic were next in line in the point battle while Croft was 19th in points leading to the A main to end the evening.
Transfers from the heats were assigned to a main event based on total points, regardless of finishing position. The lowest 8 from the heats were joined by the 12 D main transfers for a 20 car, 15 lap C main with the top 4 moving on to the B. On a racy track, Sean Becker won the C with Shawn Wright, Justin Sanders, and Travis Rilat emerging with the top 4 spots. Rilat won a furious three car battle for the final transfer.
The B main was for point cars 21-40 plus the quartet of C main transfers, inverting six by points and moving the top 4 to the A main. Another excellent race over the 25 lap distance included a dramatic turn of events for the final transfer spot. Mitchell Faccinto led 5 laps before Jonathan Allard took over and led the rest of the way. The coveted 4th finishing spot was the center of attention with Mike Faria owning it early before several virtual ties at the finish line dotted the race. John Carney II used the bottom of turn 4 to take 4th on lap 9 but then had terminal engine problems to surrender the spot to Jason Statler. That failed to settle the issue when Statler crashed and it wound up being a tussle between Faria and Dominic Scelzi. It was finally settled at the finish line when a near dead heat with the two cars banging off each other saw Faria slide to the infield and Scelzi win the spot by a very small margin.
Due to being the lowest point cars in the fully inverted A main, the B transfers always fill the first two rows. Greg DeCaires had an outstanding B main, racing from 18th starting to 2nd, finishing behind Allard and ahead of Faccinto and Scelzi to create the four transfers. Being the lowest point car, DeCaires was on the pole with Scelzi alongside. Top point car David Gravel shared row 12 with 2nd in points, Kyle Hirst, and a race to complement the excellent B main was expected.
Scelzi took the lead but lost an engine after 7 laps and DeCaires had the lead. With a 5 point drop per finishing position, the early laps showed Shane Golobic as having moved the most forward from his 20th starting spot, but still well behind the front runners. The first 33 laps were very smooth with just 3 yellows appearing and several lead changes at the front. DeCaires took over when Scelzi lost the engine and led with Faccinto and Croft in pursuit. Fifteen laps in Faccinto took over and two laps later Croft moved into 2nd with a low turn 1 drive. Tim Kaeding lost a right rear after lap 18 just before Allard moved into 3rd.
The track was beginning to shows signs of rubber and at the halfway point Golobic was 7 spots ahead of Gravel to lead among the back of the pack starters. It became obvious as the laps continued that moving forward was going to become more and more difficult as the race continued. Croft continued chasing Faccinto and took the lead on lap 30, driving past the 2nd generation local driver on the bottom of turn 2. When Allard came to a stop after 33 laps, the yellow became a red for the planned fuel stop, a fuel only opportunity. However, Rico Abreu needed to add air and both Hirst and Gravel changed a tire so all 3 were back to their original starting locations, at the rear of the field when racing resumed.
The move back to tail essentially ended all 3 from being contenders with only 17 laps left and passing becoming more unlikely. On the restart, Tim Kaeding flipped in turn 4 and a short term flame appeared. Having been collected in the flip, Rico Abreu jumped out of his car and helped Kaeding emerge safely from his and both cars were done. Golobics run ended after 36 laps with a broken rear end and the final stoppage was Craig Stidham’s hard flip into the turn 4 wall. Stidham was dazed but was able to walk away after a couple minutes.
With 8 laps left, the only threats to Croft’s title were Mason Moore, needed to finish 2nd from his current 4th to win, and Roger Crockett, still having to move up to 4th from his current 8th. Crockett was just too far back to make that happen but Moore caused excitement when he passed 3rd running DeCaires on the low side going into turn 1 on lap 43. That meant if Moore could get past Faccinto he would take the Cup title lead, but DeCaires motored around Moore on the outside in turn 2 on lap 44 and the threat was over.
Croft led the last 21 laps to win the A main and the Cup championship together. DeCaires finished a fine pair of drives to take 2nd over young and impressive Mitchell Faccinto. Moore finished 4th and was 7 points behind Croft in the final tally while Crockett was 3rd in points. Croft’s win and title came from 6th starting while 2nd in points Moore started 12th and Crockett’s 3rd point spot came after his 21st starting position assignment.
Earlier in the evening the Trophy Cup group of volunteers presented the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a check for $100,000 for this year’s contribution, raising the total over the last 20 years to $1,070,000. The money this year came from the entry fees, golf tournament, donations, and many prized given to the event. Dates for the 2015 race will be announced in the near future.
A main—Wlllie Croft, Greg DeCaires, Mitchell Faccinto, Mason Moore, Bud Kaeding, Carson Macedo, Roger Crockett, Terry McCarl, Steven Tiner, Kyle Hirst, Justyn Cox, Cory Eliason, Brent Kaeding, Henry Van Dam, Jonathan Allard, Colby Copeland, D. J. Netto, Tim Kaeding, Craig Stidham, Shane Golobic, Tim Kaeding, Rico Abreu, Dominic Scelzi, Scott Russell
B main—Allard, DeCaires, Faccinto, Scelzi, Mike Faria, Jason Meyers, Danny Faria Jr., Brad Furr, Randy Hannagan, Jason Solwold, Matt Peterson, Sean Becker, Kurt Nelson, Justin Sanders, Billy Butler, Travis Rilat, Jason Statler, Herman Klein, Shawn Wright, Jamie McFadden, John Carney II, Andy Forsberg, Seth Nunes
C main—Becker, Wright, Sanders, Rilat, Colton Heath, Heath Duinkerken, Reece Goetz, Trey Starks, Jayme Barnes, Scott Parker, Chase Johnson, Jeremy Chism, Jake Morgan, Koen Shaw, Colin Baker, Austin Wheatley, Landon Hurst, Bradley Terrell, Jonathan Cornell, Adam Walter
Top ten in final points—Willie Croft 426, Mason Moore 419, Roger Crockett 415, Carson Macedo 412, Bud Kaeding 410, Mitchell Faccinto 406, Kyle Hirst 404, Terry McCarl 401, Steven Tiner 397, Greg DeCaires 390
Colby Copeland Takes Night Two
by Ron Rodda
Tulare, CA…Roseville driver, Colby Copeland, scored the big win as night two of the 21st Annual Trophy Cup unfolded on a perfect night of weather at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Copeland’s drive to the win was spiced with an excellent duel with Andy Gregg before Copeland took over and led the last 7 laps.
Ninety of the original 94 teams returned to the high-banked 3/8. Groups A and B were switched in order and the drivers within the groups also reversed the order from Thursday. David Gravel again set quick time for his group, a 14.097 before group A fast time was set by Justyn Cox at 14.597, each driver earning the 150 points for their effort.
Five heats in each group inverted six by time and tonight the top two point cars, regardless of finishing position, moved directly to the A main, the next two in points to the B main, etc. Heat points are 36 to win with a 3 point drop and are added to qualifying points to determine main event assignment.
Jeremy Chism won the D main and moved on to the C, accompanied by Dustin Golobic, Geoff Ensign, and Kurt Nelson. The 12 lap C main saw Dominic Scelzi take the win ahead of fellow transfers Greg DeCaires, Austin Wheatley, and Cory Eliason. Those 4 were added to the B main transfers from the heats and a talent laden field raced an exciting 20 laps before Jason Statler won over Steven Tiner, Randy Hannagan, and Jamie McFadden.
The 30 lap A main inverted 12 by points, assigning Colby Copeland and Justyn Cox to row 1 with Brent Kaeding and Andy Gregg to row 2. Just 3 yellows slowed the pace with the first 17 laps nonstop. Copeland led from the green with Gregg and Cox in pursuit. Lap 2 saw Cox get sideways on the bottom of turn 4, but he saved it to keep the race green but Brent Kaeding was now 3rd.
The top 3 raced each other intently but remained unchanged in order until Gregg grabbed the lead by driving under Copeland into turn 1 on lap 10. That order stuck until 5th starting Roger Crockett moved into 3rd just before the first yellow. On the resumption of the tight battle, Gregg continued to lead Copeland and Crockett until lap 24 when Copeland drove off of the top of turn 4 to edge past Gregg at the line. Copeland built up momentum running the top line though 3 and 4,using that speed to beat Gregg to the line.
Two laps later Crocket used the same move in turn 4, although not as high on the track, and took 2nd. David Gravel, the 12th starter due to his high point status, used the bottom of turn 2 to move to 3rd on lap 28 while Crockett closed on Copeland. A last turn effort led to a drag race to the line and Copeland held off Crockett by a couple feet for the win while Gravel was 3rd to again be the night’s high point driver.
The finals tonight will see the top 48 in points run six heats, fully inverted by points, with the usual 36 points to win and a 3 point drop. Each driver’s higher point total from the two preliminary nights was used to create the heats. The top 20 in points after heats, no matter which heat nor where a driver finished, will move to the A main while the next 20 to the B main, etc. All drivers from both groups A and B are now in one group for heat race assignments. Several D mains will open the race program with the top 4 from each moving into the C main.
The evening and event will culminate with the crown jewel of Trophy Cup racing, the 50 lap fully inverted A main with a built in fuel only stop after lap 20, always in conjunction with a yellow or racing red. The driver who finishes the A main with the most points from a qualifying night and tonight will be crowned the champion of the 21st Annual Trophy Cup and receives the $20,000 payout from the over $150,000 purse.
The total purse has two components, the usual racing purse, and another $81,500 that is paid to the top 24 in points, which will be the A main starters tonight.
A main 1 Colby Copeland 2 Roger Crockett 3 David Gravel 4 Kyle Hirst 5 Andy Gregg 6 Shane Golobic 7 Tim Kaeding 8 Brent Kaeding 9 Carson Macedeo 10 Justyn Cox 11 Henry Van Dam 12 Willie Croft 13 Mitchell Faccinto 14 Bud Kaeding 15 Jason Statler 16 Randy Hannagan 17 James McFadden 18 John Carney 19 D.J. Netto 20 Seth Nunes 21 Andy Forsberg 22 Mason Moore 23 Mike Faria 24 Steven Tiner (DNS)
B main 1 Jason Statler 2 Steven Tiner 3 Randy Hannagan 4 James McFadden 5 Craig Stidham 6 Jonathan Allard 7 Matt Peterson 8 Jason Meyers 9 Reece Goetz 10 Colton Heath 11 Justin Sanders 12 Shawn Wright 13 Dominic Scelzi 14 Brad Furr 15 Bradley Terrell 16 Austin Wheatley 17 Cory Eliason 18 Heath Duinkerken 19 Greg DeCaires 21 Chase Johnson 22 Travis Rilat 23 Jake Morgan 24 Trey Starks 20 Brock Lemley
C main 1 Dominic Scelzi 2 Greg DeCaires 3 Austin Wheatley 4 Cory Eliason 5 Jayme Barnes 6 Danny Faria Jr. 7 Sean Becker 8 Herman Klein 9 Steven Kent 10 Jonathan Cornell 11 Dustin Golobic 12 Adam Walters 13 Geoff Ensign 14 Jeremy Chisum 15 Robbie Price 16 Colin Baker 17 Kurt Nelson 18 Garen Linder
D main 1 Jeremy Chisum 2 Dustin Golobic 3 Geoff Ensign 4 Kurt Nelson 5 Koen Shaw 6 Roberto Kirby 7 Jace Vander Weerd 8 Collin Markle 9 Scott Parker 10 Rob Lindsey 11 Luke Didiuk 12 Dylan Black 13 Billy Butler 14 Anthony Simone 15 Mike Stallings 16 Tomas Bray
Top 15 in points, better night used
1. David Gravel 282 2. Roger Crockett 274 3. Colby Copeland 274 4. Tim Kaeding 273 5. Rico Abreu 272 6. Kyle Hirst 272 7. Andy Gregg 267 8. Mason Moore 266 9. Terry McCarl 265 10. Brent Kaeding 261 11. Shane Golobic 260 12. Steven Tiner 257 13. Henry Van Dam 257 14. Carson Macedo 257 15. Justyn Cox 256
Hirst Has Huge Trophy Cup Night
by Ron Rodda
Tulare, CA…Coming back from a heat race finish that assigned him to the C main, Kyle Hirst turned the setback into success when he won the C, B, and A mains on the opening night of the 21st Annual Trophy Cup at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Despite his performance, Hirst finished the opening night 4th in points as only qualifying, heat races, and the A main earned points for the 84 teams on hand.
With 42 drivers in each group, the first to test the clocks from group A were led by Hirst when he posted a 13.920, the only sub-14 second lap. Group B qualifiers were led by David Gravel, a 14.208 with the two groups running five heats each, inverting six and moving the top 2 onto the A main. Finishers 3 and 4 went to the B main, etc. Hirst was 6th in his heat while Gravel won his, awarding Gravel 15 more points than Hirst.
The A group heats were on a difficult to pass track as post qualifying track prep led to a fast surface, but by the 2nd heat for group B, and 7th overall, the racing saw more heat race passing. There were still 15 of the fastest 20 qualifiers that did not make a heat transfer, leading to assignments in the B, C or even D mains.
As the five mains started, the track had continually improved and dramatic racing followed. Geoff Ensign and Jared Georges were to two and joined the D. Seth Nunes took the D main and moved onto the C along with Kenny Allen, Colton Heath, and Steven Kent. The C main, straight up by points, put Hirst on the pole and he won over fellow transfers Willie Croft, Bud Kaeding, and Mike Faria,
The B main was a 20 lap test with 6 inverted by points and again the top 4 moving on. With a field that would normally mostly be A main cars, the racing was furious and multiple turn 4 sliders spiced the action. Hirst won from 7th starting over Steven Tiner, Mason Moore, and Roger Crockett with Crockett coming from 16th starting.
The 4 transfers joined the 20 cars that finished top 2 in the ten heats with 12 inverted by points. Terry McCarl and Jason Solwold were front row starters with high point David Gravel in 12th. Seven yellows flew during the 30 laps on a track that started very racy and turned rubber dominated over the last 10 or so laps.
McCarl led a pair of laps before Hirst used the upper line out of turn 2 to take over from his 3rd starting spot. Mason Moore was 3rd until throwing a slider on McCarl on lap 5 and taking over 2nd. Three laps later McCarl regained the spot down the back stretch while Hirst continued to lead.
Just before mid-race Hirst distanced himself from McCarl and Tim Kaeding, starting 8th, moved into 3rd on lap 15 with a low side turn 2 effort. Kaeding then battled Rico Abreu for a couple laps before moving into 2nd with another turn 2 low groove move on the 19th circuit. T. Kaeding slowly closed on Hirst but his latter laps effort fell short and Hirst had the win over T. Kaeding, McCarl, Abreu, and Moore.
Tonight the program will repeat with this time group B cars qualifying first and the order within the group reversed. That means that Bradley Terrell, the final to test the clocks Thursday, will be the first on Friday while Mike Faria will be the last overall after leading off for group A opening night. Friday’s point total for each driver will be compared to Thursday’s total with the larger being used for Saturday’s heat assignments. Friday’s direct heat transfers to the A main will be the top two point cars from each of the ten heats no matter their finishing position.
D Main 1 Seth Nunes 2 Kenny Allen 3 Colton Heath 4 Steven Kent 5 Reece Goetz 6 Landon Hurst 7 Dylan Black 8 Kyle Miller 9 Luca Romanzzi 10 Jeremy Chisum 11 Adam Walters 12 Nick McColloch 13 Mike Schott 14 Mike Stallings 15 Anthony Simone 16 Roberto Kirby 17 Geoff Ensign 18 Dustin Golobic 19 Jared Goerges 20 Jace Vander Weerd
C main 1 Kyle Hirst 2 Willie Croft 3 Bud Kaeding 4 Mike Faria 5 Randy Hannagan 6 Chase Johnson 7 Colin Baker 8 Jayme Barnes 9 Austin Wheatley 10 Steven Kent 11 Collin Markle 12 Heath Duinkerken 13 Garen Linder 14 Robbie Price 15 Jonathan Cornell 16 Colton Heath 17 Seth Nunes 18 Scott Parker 19 Kyler Shaw 20 Jake Morgan 21 Kenny Allen 22 Bradley Terrell 23 Andy Gregg
B main 1 Kyle Hirst 2 Steven Tiner 3 Mason Moore 4 Roger Crockett 5 Shane Golobic 6 Bud Kaeding 7 Andy Forsberg 8 Mitchell Faccinto 9 James McFadden 10 Greg DeCaires 11 Jason Statler 12 Jason Meyers 13 Sean Becker 14 Henry Van Dam 15 Mike Faria 16 Justin Sanders 17 Trey Starks 18 Shawn Wright 19 Colby Copeland 20 Travis Rilat 21 Koen Shaw 22 Willie Croft 23 John Carney 24 Jake Haulot
A main 1 Kyle Hirst 2 Tim Kaeding 3 Terry McCarl 4 Rico Abreu 5 Mason Moore 6 David Gravel 7 Roger Crockett 8 D.J. Netto 9 Herman Klein 10 Danny Faria Jr. 11 Steven Tiner 12 Justyn Cox 13 Cory Eliason 14 Jonathan Allard 15 Brock Lemley 16 Craig Stidham 17 Brad Furr 18 Kurt Nelson 19 Billy Butler 20 Brent Kaeding 21 Jason Solwold 22 Dominic Scelzi 23 Matt Peterson 24 Carson Macedeo
Thursday points top 15 1. David Gravel 276 2. Tim Kaeding 273 3. Rico Abreu 272 4. Kyle Hirst 271 5. Mason Moore 266 6. Terry McCarl 265 7. Steven Tiner 257 8. D. J. Netto 254 9. Roger Crockett 252 10. Cory Eliason 250 11. Herman Klein 250 12. Jonathan Allard 247 13. Craig Stidham 244 14. Danny Faria Jr. 244 15. Carson Macedo 238
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Last Saturday’s KWS/USAC race at Tulare Thunderbowl had the 3/8 surface in excellent racing condition. First heat of the night the KWS drivers were racing up near the turn 3,4 wall and the second heat had the first slider of the night. When the cushion built itself into a small ledge about three feet off of the turn 1,2 wall, things got really interesting. However, drivers proved how little margin there is for error when challenging the Tulare walls.
The car count was just right, 29 King of the West winged 410 sprints and 18 non-sanctioned nonwing 360s using USAC West Coast rules. One 410 scratched early, even before Jonathan Allard set quick time at 13.234, just a third second faster than the winged 360 fast time a week earlier. Ryan Bernal was nonwing quickest at 15.500.
Nonwing ran 3 heats, moving all to the A main and inverting six. Austin Liggett, racing both divisions, led from the pole while Bernal moved from from his 6th starting assignment, taking 3rd by lap 7 with an outside move out of turn 4. Three laps later Bernal took 2nd along the front stretch and closed on Liggett.
With 14 complete, Liggett raced along the front side and opted to lap a car on the outside, but was squeezed into the guardrail and sat at the top of turn 1 with front end damage. Bernal had the lead on the restart and raced a few very good laps with Danny Faria, Jr. before pulling away for another win. Geoff Ensign finished 2nd, taking that spot from Faria on the bottom of turn 2 during lap 19 while Faria was 3rd.
Lubbock, TX driver, John Carney II made his Thunderbowl debut, getting a look at the track before this week’s huge Trophy Cup. Calling Devil’s Bowl his favorite, Carney expected to see a larger track in Tulare, and was surprised by the amount of banking. Later we chatted again and he gave the track a thumbs up, stating how busy a driver is at Tulare whereas Devil’s Bowl requires far fewer steering adjustments.
Our 2nd conversation took place outside turn 1 in the pit area while the welding crew was at work on the fence poles, the result of a three car melee during the KWS B main. Carney noted how quickly the welding truck appeared and I said how they get plenty of practice. If the track is as racy and up to the wall for the Trophy Cup, expect at least a couple welding truck appearances.
The KWS main was very good with plenty of wall banging and one questionable restart. Kyle Hirst led from the pole for 15 laps when a restart was needed, double file per the series rules. D. J. Netto was now in 2nd, the result of a lap 14 low line turn 2 effort that put Bud Kaeding into 3rd.
Hirst gets to go first somewhere within the box bordered by cones, but it sure looked to me as if Netto went first and the race was allowed to continue with Netto now leading over Hirst and Jamie McFadden. With 9 laps left Netto suffered a flat, just after Hirst suffered the same fate so formerly 3rd running McFadden was now in the lead.
The last 9 ran with one yellow and McFadden led them all for the win over Willie Croft and Bud Kaeding. Croft started in the 5th row alongside McFadden and took 2nd on lap 24, using the bottom groove through turns 3 and 4. Finishing just behind Bud was his father, Brent, with an impressive run from 20th.
The track seemed to have the berms pushed out compared to the week prior and if the track for the Trophy Cup is even close to what is was last Saturday, everyone is in for an amazing event. Sliders, wall banging, and tons of passing is likely to thrill the huge Tulare crowd.
The focus on the event this year seems to be at an all time high with the most unique format in racing being adjusted this year to make it better still. The two preliminary nights are complete shows and for Saturday the larger of the two point totals from each of the first two nights will determine the lineups.
In 2008 a three day Trophy Cup was run at Tulare and only 59 cars were on hand. Six years later the 3 day returns and 102 entries were received. With approximately 4 cars not expected to race and maybe another 2 or 3 no shows, there will still be low to mid 90s. With the new format, 60 of those cars will be in the heat race inversion on the first two nights.
No matter who wins the Cup title, this year’s race figures to be an outstanding event. Adding to the racing thrills, the Trophy Cup donates every dollar of the entry fees to the Make-A-Wish Foundations and this year it is expected to reach the million dollar mark in donations from the Trophy Cup.
Large field, over $150,000 purse, and the most exciting format anywhere will combine to make the 21st Annual Trophy Cup unforgettable!
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…A trip south of the homeland was made logical by the chance to return to Lemoore Raceway the night before Tulare Thunderbowl’s Tribute To Harry Talbot race for winged 360 sprints. One drive south for a pair of races, located about 35 miles apart, sounded good so it was done. Besides, it had been 12 years since my one and only Lemoore visit, so I was looking forward to some micro sprint action on the high-banked fifth mile.
Kyle Evans promotes both Lemoore and its companion track in Visalia, both fifth miles and running the same divisions. This was his first season at Visalia while Lemoore has been his show for several years. Plaza Park, the Visalia track, is a Friday track while Lemoore runs Saturday and has more nights of action. Evans raced some himself before becoming a promoter, including some winged 360 action.
Hot laps at Lemoore Raceway
Lemoore ends the season with the Cal Cup, this year being the 5th annual. Last year 82 cars were on hand for the track’s four regular divisions while this year drew 89. Junior sprints are the entry class for the younger set and drew a dozen entries, while the nonwing division had the most at 31. Restricted with 25 and Super 600 bringing 21 made for full fields and only a nonwing B main.
The format had qualifying for all but the junior sprints, leading to straight up heats which still had some good racing despite the format. Garth Kasiner dominated the junior sprint main during their 20-lap race. The two micro sprints tracks are replete with relatives of current or former racers in the general area. Ben Worth is an example, as Tim Worth ran winged 360 sprints in the Hanford area, always a black car with bright markings. Ben led all the way in the nonwing main, holding off Cory Elliott by a couple feet at the line.
The restricted main had a bit of controversy when a flagging situation had the white flag shown to the first two cars before being withdrawn since it was not time to wave it. The leader ran a lap and then slowed because the checkers were not called for. This malady led to Joey Ancona collecting the win.
The night’s final race was the super 600 division and Michael Faccinto continued his strong season with another win. Faccinto is another racing family name from the area as Mitchell Faccinto is one of 102 Trophy Cup entries. The night was well run and I particularly appreciated the announcer’s work. A warm day became a very pleasant evening once the sun dropped. Several nice upgrades have taken place at Lemoore during the Evans tenure.
The next night was off to Tulare where 34 winged 360s convened at the high banked 3/8 oval. Every entrant was also a Trophy Cup entrant, using the chance to get some track time on the oval. A slightly overcast day may have helped keep the track tacky and it was too fast, becoming ready for some better racing only when the main event was nearly over.
Bud Kaeding set quick time at 13.584 as the 28th car out as the track became quicker for the later cars. A Civil War format was used and the 8 car dash was won by Jason Statler over Jason Meyers. Meyers used his outside front start in the 30 lapper to lead over Statler until a lap 6 drive into the bottom of turn 1 put Kaeding in 2nd.
Six laps later Kaeding made the same move to grab the lead until Meyers returned the favor with the same move in the same spot on lap 22, and the former Trophy Cup champion led the rest of the way. Kyle Hirst was 3rd until using a push off of turn 2 on lap 29 to take the 2nd place finish from Kaeding. Good racing for the lead made this one entertaining.
Austin Liggett’s new 360, built in 4 days
Debuting a new car, Austin Liggett was thrilled to have his own ride for some winged 360 adventures. The popular 83 number on his car matches what he ran in nonwing, mostly USAC West Coast action the last couple years. Liggett, a recent Tracy High graduate, will be in action this coming Saturday in both winged and nonwing divisions back at Tulare, as well as his first Trophy Cup a week later.
While the crowd was small, the 34 car field was a pleasant surprise with about half coming from the greater Sacramento area and the other half being Fresno type cars. This race helped make up for the Civil War race last month that did not happen since Kings Speedway closed during the season.
This weekend is a mixed bag…..what should be an excellent five division stock car type show at Bakersfield Speedway on Friday then back to Tulare on Saturday with KWS winged 410s mixed with USAC West Coast nonwing 360s, with some drivers running both.
It all serves as appetizers for the following week when the 21st Annual Trophy Cup unveils the new format. As of this minute, 102 cars are entered and even a few no shows will still leave the total around the mid-90s.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Chico closed their season as usual with the two day Fall Nationals featuring winged 360 sprints and IMCA modifieds. Excellent weather prevailed as the rain threats both days were limited to a very light rain lasting for 2 heats on Saturday. Very good car counts of 48 and 52 for sprints and just enough modifieds at 15 and 16 to provide some support action. The biggest variable between the two nights was having a hooked up rocket ship of a track on Friday and a dry, slick offering on night two.
Friday Bud Kaeding was quickest at 11.688 with a dozen drivers in the 11 second bracket. Jonathan Allard ran a 11.378 in his heat race and turned an 11.875 in the main event. Saturday was a fast time of 12.658, essentially a second slower, and the fastest lap in the main was a 13.731, nearly two seconds slower than Friday. While the Friday main was a torrid battle between Allard and Willie Croft once past the halfway point, I still prefer Saturday’s track.
The event flier stated “Civil War Hoosier Rules” which is confusing to me. The line below that one states “Hoosier Tire Rule Applies”. Does the first line mean rules as to the sprint car itself only, or does it also include format? It was deemed to be an “open show” so as it turned out the format did not follow the Civil War format. I guess I will never know the meaning of “Civil War Hoosier Rules”.
Five heats inverted 4 and took the heat winner plus the next fastest 5 drivers who transferred to a ten car dash. Then an inversion pill was applied, an eight on Friday, which put Allard and Sean Becker on the front row. They finished the dash in that order and assumed the front row of the 30 lap main.
The weekend racing was a tribute to Jonathan Allard’s late brother, Stephen, and JA led all 30 laps for the win. Becker chased initially until biking and nearly losing the handle in turn 4 on the 9th circuit, elevating Rico Abreu into the 2nd spot. When Abreu had a tire go after lap 12, it was Willie Croft who inherited 2nd.
Starting with lap 15, Allard and Croft had a superb battle, racing side by side at times as a very fast track continued to provide frantic racing. A couple times Croft pulled ahead on the back side, but Allard was in front every time across the and won over Croft and Becker.
Saturday was a much different deal with a slower track allowing some transfers in heats from behind the inversion. Shane Golobic won the dash from 4th and Kyle Hirst was 2nd after starting 8th after a 4 inversion was used for the dash grid. Becker qualified more than 3 spots after his drawn spot due to transponder issues, and his 2nd fast time still saw him placed behind the inversion in heat one. Becker transferred and his qualifying time was then used to place him in the dash.
The Fall Nationals always runs 40 laps on Saturday and Golobic led Hirst until a lapped car caused some delay for Hirst and Becker took 2nd on lap 9. Becker used the top side out of turn 2 on the 18th lap to move into the lead, a location he held until the end. Some outstanding action in the Becker/Golobic duel was made even more dramatic when Becker’s front wing came loose with 10 laps left.
Becker became the beneficiary of a red for fuel with 7 laps remaining as the allowed 80 laps before a fuel stop had been exceeded. A lap 33 yellow led to the fuel stop, which was made an open red despite the track curfew looming. Becker’s crew could then address the nose wing, although the fix was not entirely successful.
Resuming action, the final 7 ran nonstop and Becker held off Golobic in a furious last lap to win by about the same 1½ car lengths that was the difference on Friday. D. J. Netto was 3rd, winning the duel with Hirst. I enjoyed both nights very much, especially with the two markedly different track surfaces, and both mains had excellent racing for the lead.
Each night had a driver that was able to make the A main after running the C. Friday it was Jason Statler who started the run with a 4th to 2nd C main to claim the last transfer. He then started 16th in the B main and made it up to the last transfer spot again, a 4th. A main activity saw Statler race from 24th starting to 8th, creating a total of 30 cars passed in the trio of mains.
Saturday it was Steven Tiner, winning the C main from 4th, then traveling from 15th starting to 3rd in the B main. He capped off the run with a 24th to 17th A main ride to total 22 cars passed. Both drivers completed a difficult task of running an A main after starting with the C.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…The fire a bit east of Placerville rages on, but despite having grown from 20 to almost 93,000 acres, it is now nearly 40% contained. Improved weather conditions have helped the 7,600 personnel on the fire line, with 556 fire trucks and 21 helicopters involved. The dollar cost to fight the fire is astronomical and a person had been arrested and charged with arson. A dozen homes have been destroyed and another 12,000 are threatened.
The Placerville fairgrounds continues to be used as a fire camp, but with the quarter mile track having completed their season, no further events will be moved or canceled. Last Saturday’s Civil War race moved to Petaluma and drew only 23 cars for the Colby Copeland win
I decided to stay with a much shorter drive and attend the history making first ever USAC race at Marysville. One obvious conclusion from the evening is that the USAC Western Classic series has become a tiny fraction of what it once was. Consider that 7 of the top 10 in Western Classic points did not go to Marysville shows how winning the title is next to meaningless.
The only time the Western Classic series seems to draw a decent field is when the USAC West Coast series is co-sanctioning. This Marysville event did not allow co-sanctioning because USAC Western Midgets were at Bakersfield, yet I do not see a single sprint car name in the 20 car list that was at Bakersfield. As a result, what could have been a good Marysville field turned into a 14 car show with a bunch of normally winged sprint car drivers helping to create even that number.
Despite all that griping, I am still glad I saw the Marysville first ever USAC race and for 2/3 of the main event, it was quite a show. Josh Vieira, a local spec sprint driver, set quick time at 14.324 which was a track record due to the first time ever injected nonwing sprints have qualified on the quarter. In fact, the announcer made a big deal about each car as the temporary fastest as being the new track record holder. Someone was guaranteed of being the track record holder, no matter how slow the time.
A pair of heats, while not solving anything, were still pretty good as the drivers raced as if there was a 40 car field and driving at full steam was needed to make the A main. Support classes had the right number of cars to provide some entertainment without undue time consumed.
Ryan Bernal started 8th, and given the year he is having, it figured to be when not if he would lead. Adam Brenton led 5 laps off of the pole and looked good as the leader, but the more nonwing experienced Austin Liggett passed Mark Tabor Jr. on the backside on lap 4 to take 2nd, and set sights on Brenton. Entering turn 1 on lap 6, Liggett drove under Brenton to take the lead and quickly distanced himself from Brenton.
Liggett was maybe thinking a win, I certainly was, when he came to a stop in turn 4 with a tire issue. That elevated Brenton back into the lead with first Tabor then Max Adams chasing. Bernal took 3rd on lap 15, passed Adams on the outside leaving turn 4 three laps later, then got the lead on lap 19 when Brenton went up the track in turn 2. Once in front, Bernal was dominant for the win over Adams with Scott Hall 3rd. Despite the car count, the show the small field put on was good.
Liggett recently made his winged debut, and very successful it was, especially considering the level of competition he raced against. The two King of the West races at Santa Maria and Ventura saw him finish 10th from 19th starting at Santa Maria and the same finish from 12th for Ventura. He is obviously excited about this new venture and reports a winged 360 sprint is being put together for the Trophy Cup. He hopes to race Tulare on October 4th, and also plans to run his new 360 versus the KWS teams a week later, also at Tulare.
It is unusual as well as exciting that Tulare Thunderbowl is racing all four weekends of October. Some transplanted races from Hanford plus the Trophy Cup and 360 special two weeks before the Cup will create the busiest month in track history. October weather in that area is usually excellent and I expect the racing to match.
Promoter Paul Hawes reports that he is ready to hand the leadership of the Marysville quarter mile to Chico promoter, Dennis Gage. Hawes is starting to divest himself of his business interests and look towards the northern reaches of the state for some property. Hawes has made many positive changes in the track during his tenure and will still be around as a racer rather than promoter.
Lincoln, CA…For the 2nd time in just 8 weeks, Placerville Speedway has had to cancel an event due to a wildfire in the general area. July 26 a fire caused the fairgrounds to become home to the large number of people involved with fighting the fire. Now an immense fire has led to the final race of the season at Placerville, a Civil War series race, being moved to Petaluma as again the track is home to fire personnel, not sprint cars.
The fire is so large that by Tuesday it became obvious there was no way to use the fairgrounds even 4 days later, and Petaluma was able to adjust their schedule to take the event on short notice. An April rainout for the Civil War series for winged 360s at Petaluma means with the event next Saturday moved to the coastal oval, the track winds up with its full complement of series races.
This is the 3rd home for the next to the last Civil War event for this season. Originally, this race was to be at Kings Speedway, but the mid-season closure of that track saw it move to Placerville.
Petaluma Speedway and the racing community dealt with a huge loss recently when long time track promoter, Jim Soares, passed away following an illness. Track manager, Rick Faeth, is continuing with this year’s schedule and will no doubt have the track in excellent shape for the just moved Civil War show.
Dubbed the King Fire, it is located about 11 miles northeast of Placerville adjacent to Pollock Pines. It started last Saturday as a relatively benign 20 acre fire. Four days later it is approaching 19,000 acres with over 2,500 personnel attacking the blaze, an amazing 950 times larger than the initial fire. Being in a forested area with very dry conditions coupled with occasional strong winds, it is an example what can happen with a California wildfire. The only positive wrinkle is, as this afternoon, no structures have been lost, although over 1600 homes are threatened.
The King fire from 39 straight line miles away.
Brandon Morse and Ron Vander Weerd have taken over the promotional duties at Kings Speedway and will provide racers and fans with a Christmas present…..the 2015 schedule is to be out that day. Ron’s twin sons, Richard and Jace, have raced since they were age 9 and regularly race nonwing sprints with an occasional trip into the winged world of sprint cars.
With Placerville now being done a week earlier than expected, last week’s show not only ends the point battles but the season as well. A full pit area with 78 cars on hand included 27 winged 360s. The usual preliminaries with heats winners plus enough of the fastest qualifiers to make a transfer to total 8, all to go to the redraw.
Andy Forsberg got the pole with recent Trophy Cup entrant, Jake Morgan alongside. Forsberg led 15 laps before nearly spinning at the exit of turn 4, dropping to 5th while Morgan led. With 19 complete, Morgan got into the hill alongside the back stretch to elevate 9th starting Justin Sanders into the lead. Sanders held the top spot to win over Shane Golobic and Mason Moore.
A good race, some dust, but still an example of the excellent quality of sprint car racing offered weekly at Placerville. The track championship goes to Greg DeCaires after his steady season at the foothill quarter mile.
Now only 5 weeks away, the 21st Annual Trophy Cup has 97 entries to enjoy the new and improved format. For 20 years it was a wonderful format, now it is even better. What do you call something which is one step above wonderful?
Lincoln, CA…The first two nights of the Gold Cup four night run at Silver Dollar Speedway are complete, and it was an entertaining pair of events. I particularly enjoy the variety the first two nights offer with something for everyone when it comes to open wheel action. Winged 360s, nonwing spec sprints, nonwing injected 410s, and midgets create an open wheel buffet, one that still leaves the fan wanting more.
Wednesday’s Civil War race for winged 360s as well as a Hunt Magneto series race for nonwing spec sprints drew well, 40 wings and 25 specs on a very pleasant evening once the sun went away. The wings were led in qualifying by Rico Abreu at 11.881 with only Mason Moore also in the elevens. This year’s format is the same as King of the West, heat winners plus the fastest transfers not winning a heat to total 8 run a dash.
Steven Tiner drew the pole, won the dash, and had the same starting location for the 30 lap main. Andy Forsberg went from 5th to 2nd in the dash to earn the outside front row start. The two fastest qualifiers were in row 4 after taking the last 2 finishing dash spots. The spec sprints group qualified and Geoff Ensign was quickest at 14.133 and ran 2nd to Scott Hall in the dash to set their front row.
Scott Hall led 10 laps in the spec sprint main before Ensign used the bottom of turn 2 to take the lead. A lap later Hall became a DNF when a suspension part broke and Shane Myhre chased Hall for many laps. Despite 4 yellows, Ensign was too dominant to feel much pressure and went on to win over Myhre and a resurgent Austin Liggett. Liggett had fallen well back in the running order and charged to the final podium spot over the last dozen laps or so.
The Civil War main saw Forsberg led 9 laps until Moore took over from his 8th starting spot. Moore looked as if the win was to be his, but a surprising run by Matt Peterson was set to play a huge part in the outcome. Seemingly having more tire left than others, Peterson closed on Moore and then surprised everyone but perhaps himself when he drove right around Moore in turn 3 and 4, completing the outside pass on a slick track.
Leading the last 4 laps brought Peterson his first ever winged 360 win, and his memorable victory came in the very tough Civil War series and, as if that was not noteworthy enough, during the huge Gold Cup event also. Moore and Forsberg filled the podium after a racy 30 laps despite the dry, slick surface.
Thursday was a no wings allowed night when 34 USAC/CRA mostly 410s sprints were joined by 25 midgets, co-sanctioned by USAC and BCRA. Some 360s and even a spec sprint or two were part of the USAC/CRA field with several drivers making a very rare nonwing appearance. As expected, it was the combination of 410 power and experience that settled this division’s main, another Damion Gardner win in his long list of successes.
Gardner’s 13.467 was fast time, dominated of course by the 410 teams, and started the usual sixth in the 30 lap test. Jake Swanson and Brody Roa had front row seats and Swanson led only 1 lap before Mike Spencer used the top line exiting turn 4 to lead the next 15 times around the quarter. Bud Kaeding was throwing some thrilling turn 4 sliders and took 3rd on lap 16, now behind the leading Spencer and Gardner, in 2nd following a lap 10 move.
Taking over on lap 17, Gardner drew away from would be competition to collect the win. Bud Kaeding and Colby Copeland had a great battle between the pair to settle the dispute for 2nd and it was Kaeding at the end while Copeland settled for 3rd. The sprints produced numerous yellows but also produced the best heat race likely to be seen this week. Kyler Shaw won heat 4 after a five car battle during most of the laps.
Trey Marcham led the midget main for 13 of the 30 laps but wandered up the track in turn 4 on the 14th lap and Brian Gard, running 2nd at the time, used the opening to take the lead away. Gard led the rest of the way with Marcham in pursuit until the checkers. Third was an interesting position with Shane Golobic and Richard Vander Weerd racing for the spot with Geoff Ensign also in the mix. It was Golobic who prevailed following that interesting duel.
Thursday night was particularly well run and having Kevin Montgomery “in the house” was the reason for that. Despite the time consuming main events, especially with the sprints, the show was over by 10 pm with not a second of time wasted. Listening to Montgomery on my scanner made it clear it was his leadership along with a supportive team of officials that pulled it off.
I recall years back when having a dry, slick surface was far from my preference. Fast cars was the wish back then, but over time the realization that a dry, slick track can often provide far more entertaining racing changed the perspective. What I used to rue I now relish.
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