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From The Grandstand
by Ron Rodda
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.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…How many reasons are there to attend the 21st Annual Trophy Cup this year? There is the $150,000 purse for winged 360 sprints. How about the approximately 100 cars that are expected at Tulare Thunderbowl for the October 16-18 event? Of course, the most unique format in dirt track racing is even better this year, making the likelihood of the 21st version of the event being the most competitive almost a certainty.
As if that is not enough, you can also see one of the most exciting car owner/driver combinations around. Rod Tiner has confirmed his driver will be Tim Kaeding at the Trophy Cup, in fact, the truly dynamic duo will become a team starting with next month’s Gold Cup and continue the rest of the season.
Tiner’s relatively generic looking #83 car is a clean looking entry, being a white car, red numbers, and not much of anything else for décor. There is no guessing whose car it is when the unadorned sprint car is on the track. But it is not just the unique appearance that makes the car special, it is always a very strong contender for any race it is part of at any time.
Rod Tiner was the winning car owner in 2008 when Brad Sweet drove it to the title and Tim Kaeding has won the Cup three times, always doing so in exciting fashion. TK’s 2nd win was in 2006 when he drove the Tiner entry to a Cup title. The Tiner/Kaeding duo will not only bring further excitement to the Trophy Cup but the other California events they race this fall, starting in Chico in two weeks.
The past weekend Chico held their next to last point race and the night’s final three mains of the five total raced were especially good. The street stocks and limited late models preceded the winged 410 main with their best main events ever on the quarter mile of clay. Not to be outdone, the sprints then put up 25 nonstop laps to more than match the fender division efforts.
The 16 car field ran two heats, inverting 4, and taking the top 4 to the redraw. All that activity led to Andy Forsberg drawing 8th starting spot and chasing early leader, Jason Statler. Forsberg took 2nd on lap 5 leaving turn 2 and closed on Statler by lap 13.
On the 17th circuit, Forsberg used the bottom of turn 2 to get past Statler and lead the rest for the win. Statler was 2nd and Sean Becker was 3rd. Entering the final point night, Becker leads by 8 over Mason Moore and one of them will emerge with the title after this coming Friday.
The next night at Placerville, a 23-car field of winged 360s moved the trio of heat winners and the next fastest five to the redraw. Forsberg, drawing the opposite of Chico, got the pole and led 13 laps before Justin Sanders closed on him to use the top of turns 3 and 4 to take the lead. I have lost count of how many times Forsberg has used the same real estate to pass a car, but this time it was Sanders who rode the berm to the pass and win. A pair of Andy’s, Forsberg and Gregg filled the podium. Gregg was racing this weekend after his first taste of the Knoxville IA half mile, earning the rookie of the year at the famed oval at the Nationals. While having 3 yellows after getting going, the Placerville main was another very competitive 25 laps at the foothill quarter.
With the season reaching turn 4 soon, Greg DeCaires leads Forsberg by enough points that, while being possible, catching DeCaires is looking less likely. Placerville hosts an unusual pairing this coming Saturday when the BCRA midgets make their 2nd August appearance and will by joined by the first ever IMCA modified race. Modifieds have raced before at Placerville but were not IMCA legal cars. Many of the track regulars will be at Ocean Speedway for the Civil War event.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…One good trip deserves another, and that was the case with Ocean Speedway when a 2nd 2014 visit joined one last month. After 9+ years between visits, it seemed strange to lessen the interval to 4 weeks. The occasion for the 2nd trip was the draw of seeing USAC West Coast cars in competition on the well-maintained quarter mile. Support from 3 track divisions made for an attractive package easily worthy of the long drive.
A 22 car USAC field lost one before qualifying on a track that remained consistently fair, shown by the fastest five being in the 3rd through 20th spots in the order. Division dominator of late, Ryan Bernal, was quickest with a 12.832 effort before a trio of heats went to Nic Faas, Richard Vander Weerd, and Austin Liggett.
Heats were interesting, support division provided its own dose of entertainment with minimal delays, but it would be the USAC main that would give this trip a grade. The result, a grade of A for the journey, thanks to an USAC main that had excellent competition for all 30 laps.
Brody Roa and Danny Faria, Jr. were front row assignees, something that worked for Roa by taking the lead for 12 laps. Faria and Marty Hawkins pursued until Matt Mitchell took 3rd with a low turn 2 pass on lap 3. Sixth starting Bernal used an outside push off of turn 4 on lap 6 to displace Mitchell for 3rd and used the upper exit off turn 2 a pair of laps later to move into 2nd.
Bernal closed on Roa and took the lead on the 14th lap by leaving turn 4 on the bottom for the pass. But after one lap in front, Bernal had his front end make a bit of a right turn while speeding through turn 4 and Roa was back in front.
Bernal was ready to move into the lead again after a lap 16 restart, but his right side dug in through turn 2 resulting in nearly tipping over before spinning to a stop. His restart at the back provided additional action over the last half of the 30 laps as he got up to 5th before the checkers ended his run.
Bernal’s turn 2 misfortune put Mitchell back behind Roa and he pressured the leader, particularly over the last couple of laps. Heading into turn 1 for the final lap, Mitchell put a slider on Roa to leave turn 1 with the lead and win. Leading only ¾ of a lap was enough and Mitchell won over Roa despite the latter leading 28 of the first 29 laps. Richard Vander Weerd was 3rd, a spot he earned with a low groove effort in turn 4 on lap 29. It was an excellent example of nonwing racing and one I am certainly glad I viewed.
The following night it was more of the same but different. This time it was winged 360 sprints when the Civil War drew a 34 car field to Placerville. A few more would have been on hand, but there was some race in Knoxville, IA that drew a few away from the foothill quarter mile. The usual invert four, take four heats moved the winners plus another 4 from the fastest qualifier group to a dash, won by Andy Forsberg over Greg DeCaires. Perhaps a sign of things to come, DeCaires got into the dash by the luck of the heat 4 fastest car not earning a dash spot. Then he draws 2 for the dash and finishes 2nd to get a front row main spot.
Forsberg on the front row at Placerville usually means a podium finish for the Auburn driver, and this night looked to be a win. Leading by a comfortable margin, if such a thing exists at Placerville, he was leading DeCaires and Shane Golobic when disaster for the track veteran ended his night.
When two cars collided in turn 4 on lap 14, Forsberg was on the mess moments after and became collateral damage when his right rear was torn off and the rear end broken. With his night ended as well as a strong potential of collecting the $5000 prize for winning, it was the final piece of good luck that DeCaires needed. Leading the last 17 laps, DeCaires held off a furious last turn effort from Golobic to win over the point leader and Colby Wiesz.
Two diverse locations, Friday being the sweatshirt mandated cool costal location of Ocean Speedway, while Saturday at Placerville was a t-shirt night. Ocean’s crowd was light, and people who stayed away missed a very good one, and Placerville was packed. Add to the mix was the nonwing Friday and winged Saturday to make it a fun weekend with variety in all areas.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…When Antioch Speedway canceled the King of the West race for July 26, Tulare Thunderbowl stepped up quickly and took the date. Tulare does not usually race in July or August, being the two hottest months of the year for the Southern San Joaquin Valley location. Having added prior Kings Speedway dates to their calendar in October, once again Tulare became the event saver.
Just over a year ago Peter Murphy was seriously injured in an accident during a King of the West event. Still recovering, his racing career is over but his commitment to the sport is not. The Tulare race became the Peter Murphy Classic and it seemed appropriate that the race was close to his home due to the relocation.
One of the most popular drivers to ever strap into a sprint car in California, a great effort by Murphy and a large group of volunteers and supporters led to a much larger than usual KWS purse. After several announced increases, it became a $6,000 to win and $700 to start event, assisted by nonsanctioned nonwing 360 sprints.
With Placerville canceled due to the fairgrounds being used for wildfire support, some teams were at Tulare as a result, bumping the car count to 35. Being a relatively late schedule addition and not carrying sanction points, the nonwing count was a disappointing 14 despite the purse increase also involving their portion of the night.
A hot day did not cool that much after sunset, showing how the plan of not normally racing the two hottest months is a valid idea. A large crowd was still on hand, despite not being on the original schedule. Preliminaries for KWS were nothing special with all but one on the heat transfer spots going to cars from the first two rows.
Instead of a dash, a series of two lap races for two dash qualified cars eventually led to Kyle Hirst earning the pole. Every one of these two lap races could have been a fourth of a lap since each winner was decided between the turn 4 start and the flag stand. While I am not a fan of dashes, this was a situation that I would have welcomed a dash instead.
Despite only 11 starters, the nonwing main was still set for 30 laps. It took just two times around the third mile for Ryan Bernal to take yet another win back to Hollister. Racing for 2nd was good and Bud Kaeding finally took that spot with Danny Faria Jr. finishing the podium crowd. Bernal’s domination was offset by the position racing behind him as Bernal was so dominant that starting last would have been a good idea.
The KWS main was another successful chapter in the winged 410 season’s diary. After the dynamic finish in Placerville a week earlier, an excellent surface despite the heat led to another wonderful main at Tulare. Carson Macedo, just 18 years old but racing like a much more veteran driver, almost won back on May 17th on the Tulare clay. Running out of fuel with 3 laps left took a likely victory away and it looked for a while as if this night might offset that fuel issue.
Starting outside front row, Macedo grabbed the lead with Hurst and Brent Kaeding in pursuit. While Macedo enjoyed leading some laps, intense action among Hirst, Kaeding, and Jonathan Allard created numerous passes for top 3 positions. Just after a mid-race flat on Hirst’s Murphy tribute car, Brent Kaeding used a classic turn 4 slider to pass Macedo and lead lap 15.
Allard was using the top line in turn 2 to find traction for a push off the corner and used that move to take 2nd from Macedo on lap 16. Four laps later, Allard repeated that turn 2 effort to pass Kaeding for the lead and eventual win. Over the last 10 laps Macedo and Kaeding put on a show racing each other for 2nd, a spot Macedo claimed after the 30 laps ended following a turn 2 effort on lap 23. Kaeding took 3rd by just edging his son, Bud.
Two reds before a lap was scored along with a fuel adding session accompanying the 2nd red made things look ominous, but once going just two yellows flew to lead to a 10:15 finish. Justyn Cox collected $1100 for the night, part of which was the bonus for the highest finishing 360 powered entry.
A long drive and “enjoying” the hot weather was all worth it to see this show, particularly with the slider filled KWS main. Track maintenance during the show turned out to be just the right touch.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…There was a time that I made several visits a year to what was then called Watsonville Speedway. My primary Friday night home in those days was Baylands Raceway Park until its closing in 1988. Baylands also had a drag strip, home to the first ever sub-7 second run, a jet dragster in 1962, and a 3/8 oval, once with a road course included.
Starting in 1989 Watsonville’s tacky quarter mile was a weekly destination, lasting until moving to Lincoln mid-2002. That is 13.5 years of making the drive over Hecker Pass from San Jose, often carrying winter apparel despite the calendar displaying summer. Such is Watsonville’s ocean assisted climate, cool or cooler, despite it being a 90 degree day in San Jose 45 miles away.
It is the picturesque Santa Cruz mountains that contain the cool air on the Watsonville side, and those overgrown hills also provide a scenic backdrop for the former Watsonville Speedway. Other tracks may claim an attractive surrounding setting, but the race track at the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds is as good as any.
Everything changed for me in mid-2002 when retirement and an accompanying move to Lincoln meant Watsonville’s Friday race program traded places with Chico’s Silver Dollar Speedway offering on the same night. Now it was Watsonville that was 3 hours away and Chico that was just over an hour. A couple of trips were still made, but a long stretch of Watsonville absence ensued.
It was at Watsonville that I met the most dedicated motorsports journalist of all time, Gary Jacob. We lost Gary 3 days before his 58th birthday when he suffered a heart attack while attending a late model meeting. This and many other memories flooded my mind on July 11th when I returned to what is now known as Ocean Speedway. It had been at least 9 years and during that time the track has changed so much only the stands and Santa Cruz Mountains remain from the last race I saw there.
Taking over as promoter in 2006, John Prentice has made big changes in the facility that really stood out to me, having not seen the place become what it now is one step at a time, but all at once. The old memory was shattered by the new look that turns it from what was sort of a basic oval to one that greatly elevates the appearance.
Several changes particularly stood out, one of which was the increase in banking and a wall all the way around except for turn 4 and 1 entry and exit openings. While walls do provide something for drivers to run into, it gives the place such a more finished look. The banking increase is matched by a significantly wider track, one that provided 3 wide action at times. I like the new look far more than the one the old memory had stored.
Another very nice touch that has nothing to do with the race surface is the nicest infield I think I have ever seen. Infields at dirt tracks are usually used for collections of dirt, ruts, and associated vehicles. Ocean Speedway’s infield looks like a nicely manicured lawn. The effect is dramatic, giving the entire track a visual upgrade that is a tremendous improvement since my last visit so many years ago.
Along with the good changes, one bad change came along, that being unhappy neighbors wanting to see the track close. I don’t recall anything like this from my pre-Lincoln days and, while Prentice has a lease through 2019, it probably would be premature to say the battle is over. To help be a good neighbor, the track starts earlier and tries to finish earlier than any other dirt track in California.
This season, for the first time ever, there is a coordinated schedule between the winged 360 Civil War series and the winged 410 King of the West series. The came about when Ocean Speedway promoter Prentice became the owner of both. The benefit is huge as a Civil War race now has some of the top drivers added to the mix that were mostly missing from the series for years.
A Civil War field is stronger this year than ever and it was the July 11th CW race at Ocean that finally got me back into Santa Cruz County. The 37 car field was a mix of track regulars, Central and Sacramento Valley teams, and drivers who are racing CW this year because their King of the West schedule allows them the opportunity.
Brad Furr led all the way for the win but heated action for spots behind Furr kept things very interesting. Jonathan Allard took 2nd and Alyssa Geving was 3rd after 30 laps on a track that reached its peak during main events. Furr races in the Friday night point programs when winged 360s are on the schedule.
That represents another major plus compared to my earlier days at Ocean. What used to be a rare happening, that being sprint cars on the quarter mile, is now far more often due to the birth of the Friday night series. Now that I have seen Ocean Speedway and all the improvements it offers, a few more visits this season seem to be a very good idea.
After a very successful Midwest trip, Ocean was the first race after returning, and the 2nd was the Saturday point show at Placerville. A 27 car field of sprints along with 3 support divisions provided the action on a warm night. As the sprint main came onto the track, the full moon appeared over the backstretch, noted by officials with a touch of concern in the voices.
The result of the lunar event: only two yellows in the smoothest sprint main the season. Eight laps were scored before a yellow, then another 14 laps before the 2nd and final yellow. That made it a particularly enjoyable main as not much is worse than a stop and start race caused by numerous yellows. Andy Forsberg started 7th after the redraw and, with the help of a good first lap, was 3rd after two scored tours.
Mason Moore led from the green with Greg DeCaires in 2nd until a lap 7 bicycling trip through turn 4 dropped Moore to 3rd. Now in 2nd, Forsberg chased DeCaires, closing each lap, until using the high line out of turn 4 move to take the lead on lap 16.
Forsberg led the remainder and Andy Gregg snagged 2nd from DeCaires with a low line turn 4 move on lap 22. Just as the night before, the track was best come main event time, helped along with the support divisions playing a part in making it wider. Placerville will pack their stands this coming Saturday when the King of the West series tests the red clay quarter.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Jackson MN…Races in Minnesota and Iowa have kept things busy, some fantastic racing with IMCA sanctioned classes, before a return to Jackson for the $10,000 to win winged 360 event on July 3. Rained out earlier this year, the new date came at a busy time, perhaps leading to fewer sprints than I was expecting, given the strong payout.
Two nights prior a 158-car field at Algona Raceway battled each other and two rain delays while putting on an outstanding show. You know you are in Iowa when that many cars show for a midweek event. Algona has a special place in my memory as it was the site of my first Iowa track in 1991.
Opened last year, a very nice building just north of the track houses a combination agricultural and racing museum. While some very ancient farming tools and equipment showed how difficult things were years ago, it was the racing part of the museum that attracted more of my attention.
A pair of particularly interesting cars caught my eye, one that qualifies as the ultimate fixer upper. The Russ Larson driven coupe was built in 1964 and raced just two times, both at Algona. It proved too difficult to handle and additional ignition problems made it a two-night wonder. After sitting in a field for nearly 50 years, it has found a place in Kossuth County Agriculture and Motorsports Museum.
What 50 years of neglect will do.
Nearby was a beautiful replica car of one that raced in Algona in the 1970’s. Home to a 427 cu. In. powerplant, the original was a winning car at what was then called Fair Street Speedway. The group that has created this museum is rightfully proud of their accomplishment and the blend of the two facets of history was interesting. Further information is available at kossuthmuseum.com.
This replica car would fit a taller driver.
While only 8 more sprints appeared than last Saturday’s JSTS/UMSS co-sanctioned event at Jackson, the strength of the field was considerably greater. The wonderful no qualifying and passing/finishing point format was used to move the top 20 in points after the heats directly to the 25 lap main. The top 10 from that group redrew for a dash to set the first five rows.
Brian Brown was the top point car as a result of winning a heat from 4th. Roger Crockett went from 5th to 2nd to be next in line in points, followed in the point order by Joe Riedel, Dusty Ballenger, and Danny Lasoski. Kaley Gharst won the dash from the pole with Ballenger 2nd, Dusty Zomer 3rd, and Brown 4th.
The $10,000 to win and $500 to start main turned out to be a flag to flag run for Brown, using a great first lap to lead by turn 3. Brown split the front row from 4th starting on the front stretch at the start, ran 3 wide into turn 1, and led by turn 3. While ahead all 25 laps, it certainly was not easy.
Gharst was 2nd and by lap 5 Lasoski, starting 5th, was running 3rd following an outside pass out of turn 4. Ballenger dropped out with mechanical problems and lap 9 showed Lasoski in 2nd and 13th starting Jason Johnson now 3rd. Johnson used the upper groove around the big half to charge forward and used that same groove to pass Lasoski for 2nd on lap 12. Lasoski put a slider on Johnson in turns1 and 2 at the 15 lap mark to regain 2nd.
A beautiful and unusual trophy was awarded at Jackson.
The lead trio of Brown, Lasoski, and Johnson ran some entertaining laps as hopeful winners, but the final laps saw the podium finishers spread out to finish unchanged. Gharst was 4th and Crockett took 5th. A red after 13 laps was closed, but when Lasoski’s crew were on his car, officials changed to an open red. Brown’s win was the 3rd time he has taken this event. It appeared that Johnson or Lasoski would get past Brown on multiple occasions, but as the race wound down, Brown eventually stretched his lead.
A 15 car field of micro sprints ran the inner track and Jody Rosenbaum won another 20 lap main, also having won last Saturday at Jackson. Rosenbaum started 3rd and led the last 16 times around the small oval.
A large crowd enjoyed not only a very competitive race night but also one of the best days one could hope for on an early July southern Minnesota day. Jackson Speedway is back in action on the 5th with a point show for all divisions.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Redwood Falls, MN…One rainout and four late model or modified based races preceded the winged 360 sprint car event at Jackson Speedway last Saturday. It was a combined Jackson Speedway Touring Series and Upper Midwest Sprint Series race for what was to have been the 3rd in a trio of days. Cresco, IA was rained out on Thursday and Friday’s winner here in Redwood Falls was Skylar Prochaska. This weekend had the first ever JSTS/UMSS/Minnesota Mafia combination.
The ribbon on concrete across the extreme southern part of Minnesota, I-90, is the gateway to numerous dirt tracks. Even with Worthington remaining closed, the four lanes of concrete still provide plenty of options. Jackson Speedway is a fairgrounds track in the small city, a full half-mile with plenty of stands to support viewing needs.
With sufficient lighting, a good PA system, and an efficiently run show, Jackson has all the needed ingredients. While some of the support divisions are small in number of entries, I have seen time and again where a dozen cars put on an excellent main whereas twice that many could not have done better.
A strong 25-car field of winged 360s was assisted by at least one Knoxville team that turned around and returned to Jackson when the weather south looked grim. Hartford SD also rained out, providing at least one more entry, and Jackson fans and teams spent the day being missed by the storms. A mid-day thunderstorm was east of town, a later round was west of Jackson, and as main events were starting, a large cell bearing down on Jackson apparently broke up.
Three draw heats used the ASCS passing/finishing point chart to create the main event grid. Local chiropractor, Matt Wasmund, won heat one from 3rd starting to earn 110 points, proving to be the top total. Dusty Ballinger and Isaac Schreurs won from outside front row for a 105 total. Those 3 were joined by Kaley Gharst, Chris Graf, and Matt Juhl as the top 6 point cars, earning the right to redraw for the first 3 rows.
Wasmund and Schreurs drew the front row for the 20 lap finale. Wasmund led for a lap with Ballinger and Gharst in pursuit before Ballinger used a turn 4 pass to take the lead. Gharst took 2nd at the same time, pressured Ballinger, and took the lead away on lap 7, using the bottom of turn 1.
Graf joined the fray, moving into 3rd with a low side turn 2 pass on lap 4 and one spot higher on lap 10 by driving under Ballinger in turn 1. Graf was momentarily trapped behind a lapped car on lap 12, allowing Ballinger to regain 2nd and Wasmund to retake 3rd. A yellow with two left gave Ballinger one more shot at Gharst, the leader since lap 7. Gharst held on to the lead for the win over Ballinger and Wasmund in the very fast paced main that had plenty of tight racing at the front.
A 16 car field of micro sprints raced on the inner small track and Rock Rapids IA driver, Jody Rosenboom won from 6th starting, the 3rd leader in their 20 lapper. The micro sprints raced their heats early and main first during which time the big half mile could be massaged into shape. Although the inner oval is tight, passing was possible for the micro sprints, running nonwing this night.
The Minniakota sanctioned micro sprints were led for 3 laps by John Sullivan before Wade Huisman completed a low turn 2 pass. After a pair of laps in the lead, Rosenboom used the same piece of clay to take the lead and lead the rest of the way, winning over Huisman and Sullivan.
Jackson certainly put on a good show and now I look forward to this coming Thursday’s huge winged 360 event. Paying $10,000 to win could draw double the number of sprints. I am hoping for a repeat of the draw heat, passing/finishing point format, one that made the heats very interesting. The micro sprints and sport mods will also be in action.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Marshalltown, IA…Preceding a Sunday that saw all racing opportunities rained out, three shows in Nebraska provided trip opening action. One trait in common was the top notch efficiency with which the shows were run. A second trait definitely not in common was car count. All three shows provided very good racing and a forced weather venue change worked out very well.
It started at U. S. 30 Speedway just west of Columbus NE located adjacent to, you guessed it, U. S. 30 highway. This high-banked quarter uses Thursday as their race night, making it a convenient choice since it is usually the only race in Nebraska. Last year an early June race with the same 5 divisions drew 71 cars while only 49 appeared this time. It was still a pretty good show and run with maximum efficiency.
Friday a return to Albion NE for a Boone County Raceway 56 entry show just beat the rain by 15 minutes. Albion is in a small city location and a thin crowd saw a good show, perhaps lessened in quantity by the 3 thunderstorms that approached Albion but left the track alone.
Saturday was to be a return to Junction Motor Speedway after several years absence, but overnight rain was too much and a cancellation proved to work in my favor as a change to Eagle Raceway led to a great racing night. Having a backup track just over an hour away from JMS that is such a nice facility was very convenient.
The trend continued with a show as efficiently run as can be done, except the intermission seemed to drag on. A promotion involving kids was a good idea, but the time needed to use the front stretch for it was too long for me. The show was still over by 10:45 but the last five laps of the sprint main were cut, eliminating what might have been a very dramatic finish.
With Junction and Norfolk NE both cancelled, the car count grew to at least a small degree and 157 cars in five divisions crammed the pit area. Topping the chart were 30 RaceSaver 305 sprints with four of the five divisions having 30+ entries. I enjoy support division racing usually and the Eagle show had excellent racing in every division.
A large crowd, paying only $10 for this huge show, got much more than their money’s worth (despite the sprint 5 lap shortage). The 305 sprints ran a trio of draw heats, 10 cars each, with a complete inversion by points. The top 5 from each heat went to the main and the first four of each heat were part of the inversion.
Using a point average per night, the main inverted those 12 cars with any driver not having at least 2 prior appearances starting 12th. Two appearances will establish a point average.
Set for 25 laps, the sprint main had Richard Weers lead a couple laps off of the pole before Terry Richards use a 3 wide move to take over on lap 3. Gene Ackland’s lap 7 slider in turn 4 put him in front until the lap 13 mark when 12th starting Jason Martin used the low line down the backstretch to lead through lap 20.
Jason Martin supports 305 sprints, won his 5th of the year.
The 5th yellow with 20 laps scored proved to be the final straw in the timed race and the checkers flew when a 3 car battle among the podium finishers was imminent. Martin won over Ackland and Adam Gullion so the podium spots went to the 12th, 8th, and 10th starters. Any doubt about the 305s being able to replace the former 360 class was completely erased by the show.
The 2nd season for Eagle to feature 305 sprints is certainly working as the 1st year 18 car count average has bumped up to the mid-30s on occasion. The format is wonderful and I saw more passing in one night than I could imagine. Tight time limits on races all but guarantee a finish at a decent hour. Support division racing was also very good.
By coincidence, it was Jason Martin that I spoke with before heat racing to get some 305 info. The Lincoln based veteran has over 100 wins and this night was his 5th RaceSaver win of the year, adding to a pair from last season. He stated an all new engine would be about $10,000 and Eagle pays $700 to win.
Martin also noted that the Des Moines fairgrounds runs RaceSaver rules on Fridays but Knoxville uses a much more open rules package. That currently leaves Eagle Raceway as sort of an island for the division, but with the excellent RaceSaver car count other tracks should take notice.
Adam Gullion’s sharp looking RaceSaver sprint.
The attempt to start a RaceSaver sprint class in California is now stalled since Kings Speedway in Hanford has closed for the remainder of the season. The major events at Kings have now been moved to Tulare
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…The first weekend of June presented a pair of very enjoyable nights of racing with a commonality between the two tracks, that being the final race of the night being the best by far. No matter what division is the “top” class for the night, the quality of preliminaries is secondary to how good a show the main event provides.
That is the way things should be so the evening ends with a drama filled and entertaining main event. I have been to many races in which the heats provided good racing, but the track changed so that the main event could not match the earlier races. Saving the best for last will make for a happy crowd as they exit, relegating what transpired earlier almost unimportant.
Chico was first up last weekend with the David Tarter Memorial and the return of the King of the West series to action after taking a break in favor of Civil War events. A field of 33 winged 410s was on hand to open a hot weekend of weather. Preliminaries these days are the commonly used invert 4, take 4 heats with the heat winners plus the next fastest qualifiers to make 8 total. Those run a dash to set the first four rows.
Set for 35 laps, the track was dry and more dust flew than what is normal for Chico. Parked in the turn 4 bleachers for a change, I had a great look at the turn 4 action where cushion jumping became a podium deciding factor. Some of the best action at Silver Dollar Speedway takes place in turn 4 and this race continued that trend.
Dash winner Mason Moore led from the pole for a lap before Willie Croft went from 3rd to 1st, using the upper groove in turn 2 to pass Shane Golobic before driving around Moore on the outside line in turn 3. Bud Kaeding used the upper line on a lap 8 restart to take the lead going down the backstretch, and looked as if he just made the winning pass.
Croft, Golobic, Tim Kaeding, and Jonathan Allard put on a show racing for position behind Bud Kaeding. Lap 30 concluded with Bud Kaeding still enjoying the lead, but the normal 30 laps distance was changed to 35 for this night, matching the car number that David Tarter had raced. It was the next lap that proved to decide the race.
Starting 16th, Kyle Hirst had been using the top line around the still racy quarter since the green first flew, reaching the 2nd running spot on lap 22. As lap 30 was ending, Bud bounced off of the turn 4 cushion, still ahead at the line, but Hirst moved to the bottom. Building momentum heading into turn 1, Hirst put a slider on Bud to lead coming our of turn 2, holding that place the last 5 laps for the win. Bud was 2nd and Allard took 3rd after 35 excellent laps of racing.
Saturday the KWS teams traveled just 45 miles south to Marysville, but I opted for the slightly cooler foothill location of Placerville. Positioned just under 2000 feet elevation, Placerville was a bit more comfortable temperature wise and another very good main event was an added bonus.
A field of 22 winged 360 sprints plus a trio of support divisions provided the action and again it was the best coming last. The 25 lap sprint main had a red with no laps complete, a yellow with four done, and the last 21 went nonstop. Running without delays allowed the race to unfold and become a battle in traffic.
Drawing the pole, Jimmy Trulli led and a low groove turn 2 pass on lap 14 elevated Andy Forsberg to 2nd. If I was leading a race at Placerville, Forsberg is the last driver I would want chasing me. A James Sweeney move low into turn 3 on lap 21 briefly took 2nd from Forsberg, but half a lap later that changed back after a low line turn 2 move.
With 3 laps left and Trulli having led all the way, Forsberg used the turn 4 cushion for the umpteenth time in his career to pass a car, this time it was Trulli on the final turn of the very entertaining 25 lap main. Leading less than a quarter of a lap was all it took. Justin Sanders was 3rd.
This weekend Chico is again presenting a Friday night program but Placerville is off for the annual county fair.
Lincoln, CA…The negative thing about cooperative scheduling between the winged 360 Civil War series and the winged 410 King of the West series is the gaps in the respective schedules. While the CW had a 3 race in 8 days run the KWS only teams were idle. Now the KWS teams take the stage for a hot weekend and races in Chico and Marysville. Triple digits or very close to it are forecast.
Three more June races and a trio in July will keep the 360 traveling series mostly in hibernation over the next two months with just a pair of early July dates. The stronger fields and somewhat larger in number make it all worthwhile, as evidenced by the recent CW triple, the final of which was at Placerville last Saturday.
A warm evening helped lead to the expected jammed grandstands at the foothill quarter. The 33-car turnout was a few less than I expected, but the entertainment value was not the least bit diminished. A well run show with minimal on track delays led to a convenient 9:20 finish.
The now standard invert 4, take 4 heats elevated the 10 lap winners plus the next 4 fastest qualified cars to the dash. That preliminary resulted in Andy Gregg and Greg DeCaires sharing the front row for a 30 lap tussle on the racy surface.
Gregg led 8 laps but slid up the track in turn 2 to allow Steven Tiner to lead just a lap before diving under the Visalia driver the next lap as they raced into turn 3. Starting 4th, Andy Forsberg took 3rd for a few laps until DeCaires used the bottom of turn 4 for a one lap claim on that spot.
With 14 complete, Forsberg was back in 3rd and ran the high line out of turn 4 a lap later to take 2nd from Tiner. Forsberg closed on Gregg and made his move coming out of turn 2 on lap 21, shuffling Gregg to 2nd ahead of a superb Shane Golobic duel with a surging Cory Eliason. After trading the final podium spot a few times, Golobic settled that one on lap 25 and set sights on Gregg in 2nd. While Forsberg cruised to the win, Golobic took 2nd on a restart and held the position for the last 2 laps.
Golobic has enjoyed regular podium photo ops of late, although he may be growing weary of 2nd. These 3 CW races saw him earn a 2nd at Marysville, winning at Chico, then a 2nd at Placerville. Preceding all that was a 2nd at Tulare in the most recent KWS race. In between all that was another 2nd at Watsonville in their Friday night 360 program.
The 3 race podium string has Golobic leading CW points over Sean Becker and Geoff Ensign. The 1st race in March that preceded two rainouts was Golobic’s lowest finish with an 8th place that night in Marysville.
Along with the on track success, Golobic recently graduated from the demanding mechanical engineering program at San Jose State. It is so rigorous that Golobic’s father, John, reported than less than 10% make it to the diploma stage. Is it possible that Golobic is using a slide rule to set up his car, leading to this recent run of top finishes?
The Trophy Cup has about 75 teams that have responded to the preferred entry forms that were mailed, all being returning entries from last year. All entered cars from last year received priority entry forms with a May 31 mailing deadline. Now that the date has passed, the remaining 25 spots can be taken by anyone on a first come basis.
Never lacking for exciting racing with the exceptional format that has helped make the event so well known and respected, this year’s previously detailed 3 day format will take things to a new level. I expect the tightest battle in 21 years when the winged 360 drivers hit the Tulare Thunderbowl clay on October 16-18.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…It takes a significantly attractive race program to travel 240 miles each way for a one night racing trip. The mid-May offering at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway met those requirements when KWS winged 410 sprints were paired with USAC West Coast nonwing 360 sprints. An added bonus was IMCA modifieds but their handful on hand provided little other than nose powdering opportunities.
Running a now and then schedule, Thunderbowl is, of course, well known primarily as the host of the Trophy Cup and at least one sprint car division is part of every event. I would not travel that far for just USAC, or KWS, but together is a different story.
Counts of 25 KWS and 28 USAC were certainly acceptable and heat racing was very good. If only the track conditions that existed for the heats could have continued all evening, it would have been wonderful. USAC heat winners started 6th, 6th, 5th, and 3rd but their main came last and the KWS 30 lapper finished the track’s racy characteristics.
My notes have lap 11 of the KWS main when the rubber officially locked the track, an observation both of a visual nature and the distinct odor of overworked tires backing up the opinion. Willie Croft led the first 23 laps but it was fuel starvation, not tire issues, that led to him slowing and handing the lead to Carson Macedo.
Six yellows preceded Croft’s misfortune and another appeared with two laps left when Macedo fell to the same fuel fate. Second running Kyle Hirst was now in the lead and had enough fuel to finish and win over Shane Golobic and Bobby McMahan. Hirst started 8th, Golobic 6th, and McMahan moved forward from 19th.
The USAC main had a lesser surface to showcase their skills and the sliders from earlier in the evening were not in attendance during their 30 lapper. This one became a battle of the right rears and when leader Bud Kaeding started smoking the right rear with enthusiasm mid-race, it figured his time would be up soon. After 21 laps the yellow appeared and Kaeding’s lead disappeared along with a healthy right rear.
Nic Faas was now leading, but that was a two lap stretch for him before another right rear failure created the 2nd lead change, this time elevating Ryan Bernal to the lead with 7 left. Bernal’s tires and lead held and he collected the win over Danny Faria Jr. and Marcus Niemela. At least it was dramatic, wondering who was to be the next tire victim.
Memorial Day weekend the reappearance of the Civil War series after two rainouts led to nights at Marysville and Chico. The lone event to date was at Marysville when the mid-March series opener went to Andy Gregg over a 33 car field. This time a 38 car field was on hand along with a large crowd on a very warm evening. Time trials offered a challenging track with Jon Michael Bunch putting up a 12.981, the only sub-13 car. As the evening progressed, the track got faster and wider, turning an evening that looked as if a rubberized surface might be the story to an exciting main on a very quick surface. Half second faster laps that time trials were recorded during the main.
The new concept this year of not racing KWS and Civil War on the same night is proving to be a good thing as evidenced by the strength of the field. Winning a Civil War race in past years was difficult enough, but when the field includes some top KWS drivers, it reaches a new level of competition.
Preliminaries, including the beloved(?) dash, set the 30 lap lineup with Bunch on the pole and Cody Lamar alongside. Mason Moore and Andy Forsberg filled row 2 of the 22 car field. Moore got the good start and led for 9 laps with first Lamar and then Forsberg in pursuit. Forsberg took 2nd from Lamar on lap 7 with a low line drive through turn 4 and then led after Moore’s bad luck.
After 9 laps, Moore came upon a car to be lapped in turn 2 but contact led to his leading car doing a flop onto its side and Forsberg inherited the lead. Seventh starting D. J. Netto made a backstretch pass for 2nd on lap 17 and assumed the lead when misfortune struck another leader, this time Forsberg.
Visiting the pits for maintenance with ignition issues, the multi-time Civil War champion continued a string of mixed results. Winning at Medford Thursday, flipping at Willamette the next night, and then had the looks of a win coming at Marysville only to hand it over to Netto with 10 laps remaining.
Shane Golobic, a 9th place starter, was 2nd with the restart coming and Lamar had 3rd. Golobic was right on Netto’s rear nerf and a final lap charge worked briefly when he moved to the bottom of turn 3 and edged ahead of Netto going into 4. Exiting the final turn for the final time, Netto went outside of a slower car and regained the lead in an exciting last turn pass for the win. Golobic was a very close 2nd and Lamar 3rd to end the final Civil War visit to Marysville for 2014.
Teams had a 47 mile tow to the Sunday race in Chico. This was the annual Civil War visit in conjunction with the fair, creating a bargain for the fans. For $9 or less depending on age to enter the fair, the races are then free, probably a 40% discount at least over a stand alone Civil War race.
The second night of the CW weekend drew 46 cars on another very warm night but a racy track prevailed despite the heat. Jonathan Allard was quickest at 12.591 before the format du jour took heat winners and the next whatever number of quickest transfers needed for an eight car dash.
The dash did not prove anything, although Sean Becker went from 8th starting to 3rd finishing but Jon Michael Bunch was a scratch for the evening after the short run. Trying for an early finish particularly due to being a fair race, the 22 car field for 30 laps was on the track about 9 pm. Mason Moore and Shane Golobic drew the front row of the dash and finished the same order and Moore used the pole to lead 7 laps on a two groove quarter mile.
Lap 8 was interesting when Golobic took the lead with a push off the top of turn 2 and Jonathan Allard got 3rd in turn 4, using a low groove move. A lap 12 restart gave Allard the chance to take 2nd and 3 laps later Becker grabbed 3rd from Moore with a topside drive out of turn 4.
A few laps of very close racing between Golobic on the high line and Allard staying low followed. Allard drew every closer until a bottom groove pass in turn 4 put him in front with 9 laps left. Golobic ran the top of 1 and 2 to edge ahead, but Allard stayed low and led each time across the line.
A yellow with six left was the last restart, still double file, and Golobic switched to the low side and made it work with a pass on lap 26 along the lower reaches of turn 2. He held onto the top spot the remaining laps to win over Allard and Becker. Golobic was a turn 4 pass at Marysville away from sweeping the Civil War weekend. Two seconds and this win over the last two weekends for the Fremont based driver is impressive.
Two top notch nights lead into a third series race in a row when Placerville hosts the 4th race of the season for Civil War teams next Saturday. A full pit and grandstands is a certainty.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…The early season racing weather has been brutal for much of the upper Midwest while in Northern California some rain has nixed a few nights but temperatures have been excellent. Yesterday the high temperature for Grand Forks ND was just 43, approximately 30 degrees below normal. The season for the River Cities Speedway in town already lost the first 4 races and tomorrow night’s event is in jeopardy.
I mention Grand Forks ,home one of my favorite Midwest tracks, because the city’s college baseball team, University of North Dakota, is in Sacramento the next 3 days to face the Sac State team. I decided to go to the 3 pm game today, despite the forecast of 100 degrees. At least I have been in a 90+ world the last couple of days instead of a climate less than half that temperature. The UND baseball team may either bask in the warmth or wilt.
Chico has held 7 race events, 4 point shows and a trio of non-point specials. The featured winged 410 division did not participate in the first point show and their 3 nights have resulted in Keith Bloom, Kyle Hirst, and Jonathan Allard winning 25 lap mains.
Last Friday was a dry, slick offering but a racy surface, one I prefer to a overly fast passing challenged quarter mile. After 35 entries the prior Friday, the lack of a Saturday KWS race in Chico showed car count wise when 16 were present. No matter, that is enough for a main, one that Andy Gregg led for a lap before Allard used the top line in turn 4 to lead the rest.
Mason Moore dove low into turn 3 on lap 12 to take 2nd and with traffic in the way over the last five laps, Moore was able to make a last lap, last turn pass attempt on Allard, racing side by side through the turn, but Allard had the faster groove and edged Moore at the line. Moore leads points by 8 with defending champion, Sean Becker five ahead of Gregg.
Tim Sherman Jr. won the only nonwing spec sprint race and leads points as a result. The econo sprints, basically a winged spec sprints, has raced twice and Jason Standley has the point lead with two top fives with a very tight early point battle for the division. Chico will make up a rained out week this Friday, a week that was originally no racing, with 410s and spec sprints in action.
Placerville has lost one race to wetness and is averaging an excellent 26 winged 360 sprints for point racing. After Andy Forsberg won the opener, Justin Sanders has been unbeatable, claiming three in a row at the foothill quarter. Last Saturday Sanders redrew the pole and led all 25 laps. Charlie Cagle and Colby Weisz joined Sanders on the podium.
Winning at Placerville is tough enough, but to take 3 consecutive is quite a feat, especially considering the quality of the cars and drivers on hand. Not surprisingly, Sanders leads the points over Greg DeCaires and Matt Peterson. Support division car counts at Placerville are also certainly sufficient and last week’s 29 dwarf car field helped jam the pit area. Placerville holds a point race this Saturday with BCRA midget lites joining the three regular divisions.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…After 20 years, the Trophy Cup has a very large group of fans that anticipate the race each October. Many times the Cup is mentioned as a can’t miss race on forums, or is an event that fans have on list of races they must see some day. The number one reason for its continued support by fans is, quite simply, the best format in racing.
Being satisfied with what has been created over these years is not something the Cup founder, Dave Pusateri, is willing to do. Always looking for ways to make it better, Pusateri has come up with a plan for 2014 that raises the bar even higher. Even with the most talked about main event finishes last year in its 20 years, this year’s 21st Annual may make last year’s dramatics a distant memory.
In 2008 a three day Cup was held at Tulare Thunderbowl and “only” 59 teams entered. The following year the idea of a three day show was dropped because of the smaller car count. Then a nonwing night was introduced in 2012 and two years of using Thursday for that show showed that the division just could not produce the car count needed to continue. Despite racing for much more money than usual, there just are not enough nonwing 360 sprints that can make a Thursday show to justify the race.
Cutting back to two nights for 2014 was not an option as it would have represented a step backward for the long running race event. The decision to go back to the three day winged plan comes with a new procedure that will produce an even higher level of drama and make the battle for the championship even tighter.
Thursday’s pill draw will create group A and B qualifying groups with each group having a fast time driver earning 150 points. Each group then is split into 5 heats each, ten total, inverting 6 and moving the top 2 directly to the A main. A series of preliminary mains lead to a 24 car field for the A main, inverting 12 by points.
Friday mirrors the Thursday format except group B qualifies first, then group A. Also, within each group the order is reversed from Thursday. Drivers are in the same group each night and the same racing format is followed as opening night. For qualifying and heats, it is like there were two separate fields of cars.
The higher point total from the two preliminary nights will be used for each driver for Saturday, the highest 48 moving to the final night heats. Cars ranked 49 and higher race in a trio of D mains. Once all the preliminary mains are contested, a 50 lap finale with a 24 car inversion by points will cap the 21st annual event.
This three day format will address the fairness of qualifying issue as well as give drivers two chances to have a good point night. The total purse will reach $150,000. Thursday pays $16,430, Friday is $23,110, and Saturday will be over $110,000 due to the final night paying a racing purse plus the point fund. One hundred priority entry forms were mailed and the format is designed around having 100 entries. It is very likely that the point battle will be the closest in the 21 years of the Trophy Cup. It all unfolds at Tulare Thunderbowl on October 16-18.
After the last weekend of April had many California tracks fall to rain, things were back to normal on May’s first weekend. Chico had two days of racing and the second night being the Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial with King of the West sanctioning, the first night saw a car count major growth. A 35 car field on Friday meant it was mostly a KWS race using the weekly format.
Andy Gregg drew the pole and led until the next to last lap when he spun in turn 1 and handed the lead to race long 2nd place, Kyle Hirst. A green, white, checker required finish made it a 26 lap race and Jonathan Allard made the most of the extra lap to dive under Rico Abreu for 3rd as they raced into turn 3.
Sean Becker and Abreu had a battle for 3rd over many laps until Becker used the bottom of turn 4 to take the spot as lap 16 was ending. Gregg’s misfortune put Becker in 2nd where he finished in front of Allard.
Saturday it was time for a different venue and Placerville was the choice with 25 winged 360s. Justin Sanders redrew the 7th starting position and rode the top of the track in turns 1 and 2 on lap 13 to complete his charge to the front. A very racy surface made this one particularly good and the last 15 laps being nonstop was a bonus. Jimmy Trulli was 2nd and Greg DeCaires took 3rd after starting 13th.
The BCRA midget lites drew 16 cars and were dominated by Bradley Dillard, although Scott Kinney was closing as the laps evaporated and came up just short on a last turn effort. Brian Corso was 3rd and Hunter Kinney, Scott’s 17 year old son, was 4th. Scott reports he will be driving a midget in all the BCRA shows and the midget lite when available.
A severe accident in the Stockton area after the races resulted in serious injuries for 65 year old midget lite driver, Howard West. His trailer was rear ended and when he checked to make certain the other driver was OK, the trailer was hit again and struck West. He faces a long recovery period from serious injuries.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…What a fantastic piece of news for those of us who are not thrilled by qualifying. The huge series of winged 410 races set for next January at Cocopah Speedway will use a wonderful format, one that does not involve time trials. Draw heats will use passing/finishing points to then create qualifiers with a point inversion to be determined. Points for all of the preliminary action will be combined and main event lineups determined.
Now drivers will be motivated to pass whoever is in front of them every time they circle Cocopah’s 3/8 distance. Essentially two sets of heats but with a different mix of drivers the second time around will make for a very intense and entertaining show. The first two weekends of January are set with Friday and Saturday night races for a four event Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown.
Besides the format, the payoff is also excellent with each night paying $12,000 to win, $6,000 for 2nd, $3500 for third, and $1000 to start. The main event total for each night is $53,800 for a $215,200 four race series. It will be a special way to start the 2015 season, plus being in Yuma in January is another bonus.
Excellent weather last weekend made for another pair of successful racing nights at Chico and Placerville. Chico had been idle since mid-March due to one planned Friday off, two rainouts, and, dare I say it, a monster truck weekend. They finally returned to action with the Bill Brownell Memorial and the first winged 410 race of the season.
Economy sprints plus 3 other divisions shared the pit area with a 24 car field of the featured 410 class on hand. Andy Forsberg put up a 12.309 for quick time honors but suffered a DNF heat that spelled a finish to his evening. Heat winners plus the next five fastest to score a top five heat run moved to the evening’s redraw. Rico Abreu and Keith Bloom were front row beneficiaries and the smart money immediately went on the Abreu 24 entry.
Things followed the expected script for 8 laps with Abreu establishing a solid lead, but a lap 9 slip off of the top of turn 3 and subsequent loss of multiple positions led to an unexpected and revised story. Bloom ran 2nd for 8 laps and inherited the lead with the Abreu slip. Using the opportunity to his maximum advantage, Bloom went on to lead the rest of the way and collect the win over R. C. Smith and Bud Kaeding. While Bloom qualifies as an unexpected winner, Smith finishing 2nd was equally noteworthy since he did it with a 360 engine.
The winged economy sprint class is basically the nonwing spec sprint car with an added wing. The class showed signs of being something last year and their first race of this year drew an eight car field. Showing car count isn’t everything, their 15 lap main had a last lap pass for the win. When race long leader, Scott Gannett, got behind a slower car on the last lap turn 2 clay, Brandon Powell was able to drive under Gannett and lead the last half lap for the win. Gannett was 2nd and Jason Standley was 3rd. The 2nd of eight nights for the economy sprints is this Friday along with 410s and three fendered divisions.
Saturday the 2nd King of the West winged 410 race of the season absolutely jammed the Placerville grandstands. The series drew an excellent 35 car field, making their first two shows a full field evening. Preliminaries included invert 4 heats with the winner and fastest 4 to finish within the top 4 in a heat going to a dash.
A dash redraw saw Rico Abreu draw the pole for the 2nd night in a row but he finished 2nd to front row outside starter, Kyle Hirst. Swapping spots for the main, Abreu got the drive off of the outside groove to lead all 30 laps, making up for the disappointment the night before. Abreu had some pressure at times, especially by a 14th starting Logan Forler.
Great view from Placerville’s turn 4 pit location.
Racing for 2nd and 3rd was excellent the entire distance with Andy Forsberg driving low into turn 3 on lap 5 to take 2nd from Hirst. Three laps later Hirst used the top of turn 4 to retake the spot, then another four laps and Cory Eliason was in 3rd, an outside line move leaving turn 2 result.
Lap 18 was when Eliason moved into 2nd with a low line pass in turn 2, a few laps before Forler moved into 3rd on lap 23. Forler dedicated the 2L entry to the low line and took 2nd from Eliason on lap 26 with a turn 4 bottom groove pass. A restart with two left gave Forler a shot at Abreu, but he settled for 2nd with Eliason in 3rd.
A racy track, strong field of winged sprints, and jammed grandstands made for an excellent evening for Placerville’s first King of the West race of the year. July 19 is a return for the KWS series and if last Saturday is any indication, the return will again pack the foothill quarter. This weekend, with the Civil War in action in Petaluma, the KWS is idle since the new scheme avoids conflicting dates. Placerville will present the Hunt spec sprint nonwing series plus BCRA midgets plus stock car support.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…A recent acquisition by Colfax driver, Colby Wiesz, is paying dividends. When Northwest driver, Mitch Olson, sold his equipment Wiesz purchased a KPC chassis and has now posted a win and a 2nd in two starts. He called the win on April 5th at Marysville the result of driving the best car he has ever driven, having hit the setup just right.
With over 50 wins at Marysville, Wiesz hardly needs an edge when it comes to tackling the quarter mile, but his new car appears to make it even harder to keep him off the top podium spot. Enjoying one of the best Marysville mains I have ever seen on April 12th, Wiesz was a couple feet short of another win, settling for 2nd after a furious finish.
Some of what he can do with this KPC ride was shown in his heat, storming to a win from 6th starting, using low and high side passes for that effort. The main for the 22 car field was set by the top six qualifiers that earned a top 4 after invert six heats participating in a redraw.
The KPC ride for Colby Wiesz is working out well for him.
Before the green flag had a chance to completely unfurl, a massive pileup at the turn 4 exit damaged several cars with 8 involved total. After some tow truck trips to the pit with dangling front end parts for a few, the restart was designated to be single file.
With the pole car gone, Jeremy Burt and the rest of the inside line moved forward one spot. But since the new initial start was deemed to be single file, it seemed odd to me that Burt was in front of the original front row outside car, Wiesz. If the restart was double file, then Burt does belong on the pole alongside Wiesz. But when the restart is single file, it seems to me the initial grid would be used to create the line with involved cars removed. That would have put the order at the front as Wiesz, Burt, and Mike Stallings.
That lineup restart procedure may have created the dramatic 20 lap main that followed. Three yellows appeared, but when the final 14 laps were nonstop and race long leader Burt hit traffic with 5 or so to go, things got really interesting as Wiesz and John Michael Bunch closed on Burt.
Getting steadily closer to the front, Weisz and Bunch joined Burt for a frantic last lap, leading to a 3 wide race from turn 4 to the line to claim the victory. Burt was able to reach the checkers just ahead of Weisz who in turn barely edged Bunch. From the pit grandstand angle it was hard to see who finished where it was that close.
The pit grandstands put the Marysville quarter at ones feet.
As to the pit grandstands, the view from the western facing location is excellent, allowing one to view the entire track with just minor head swiveling. Added a few years ago, it gives a spot for a different view of an oval than usual, but it does come with a price. When the oval is on the damp side, tiny rockets disguised as clay blobs pelt the pit stand dwellers with veracity. As the evening progresses the onslaught of right rear launched missiles lessens, making it a small price to pay for the view.
The nonwing spec sprint group numbered 10 with Josh Vieira leading 4 laps from the pole until Tim Sherman Jr. used the top line in turns 1 and 2 to take over and go on to collect the win. Also on hand were three fendered divisions with an additional 37 race teams to complete the full card. A well run program on a very racy and quick track with not a speck of dust combined for an entertaining evening.
Tim Sherman Jr. drove this nonwing spec sprint to a win
It was good to see the King of the West sprints drew a quality 31 car field to the Tulare Thunderbowl as they finally opened their season. Tommy Tarlton won at what could be called his home track. The only other appearance by the King of the West teams at the Thunderbowl this season is May 17th, and a very strong program is planned. KWS drivers will share the track with USAC West Coast teams with IMCA modifieds included for a big night. Anytime winged and nonwing classes are on the same menu, a full night results.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…First was Chico’s opening race, a two day Silver Cup back on the 2nd weekend of March. Then it was Marysville the following Saturday when they held their opener, a Civil War race. Last Saturday it was Placerville’s turn for their opening show, a four division point night. All three tracks had very successful season starters and now it is Petaluma’s turn this coming Saturday.
Placerville packed both the pits and stands, not a surprise on either count. An excellent field of 30 winged 360 sprints was assisted by 62 support division entries over three classes. That is the most cars I have seen in the foothill quarter mile pit area in a long time, maybe the most ever since my 2002 track regular status being established.
The sprint field was so strong it was essentially a Civil War race. With Petaluma and Golden State King of the West opening their seasons the following week, Placerville was the beneficiary. The now common Northern California format of invert 4, take four heats moved the winner plus the next fastest 4 qualifiers to secure a top 4 finish to a redraw.
Third quick, Andy Gregg, drew the pole while heat 2 winner, Scott Parker picked outside row one. Steven Tiner won a heat and drew inside row 2 while Matt Peterson made the redraw when fast timer, Matt Barber, did not garner a top 4. Peterson started 4th and played a huge part in the main event.
Row 3 was filled by 4th quick Willie Croft and heat winner Andy Forsberg, and the final redraw row had heat winner James Sweeney and 2nd quick Jimmy Trulli. Tough luck for front row starter Parker allowed the outside line to move forward a spot before a lap was scored and Peterson was on the front row when the green finally flew.
Peterson took the initial lead with Gregg and Forsberg in pursuit, an order that held for 4 laps before Tiner made a 4th to 2nd move on the 5th circuit, using the bottom groove in turns 3 and 4 for the dramatic gain. It was just a lap later when Forsberg took 2nd from Tiner as the packed stands got to enjoy the last 20 laps running nonstop.
Peterson continued his strong run at the front until wandering just a bit high in turn 4 on the 16th lap and Forsberg drove under him to take the lead. The same Peterson tiny bobble 4 laps later in the same turn allowed Tiner to take 2nd and pressure Forsberg the final handful of laps.
Excellent track conditions plus the long green flag session made this a main event that showcased Placerville at its best. Forsberg won yet another trophy at the track which has been the site of much of his success while Tiner settled for 2nd and Peterson claimed 3rd. It is so nice to get a long stretch of laps without any yellows.
An eye opening announcement came out of Yuma AZ this week when a January big dollar series of winged 410 sprint races were announced. The four races will pay $12,000 to win and $1,000 to start, certain to bring a strong field to the 3/8 Cocopah Speedway. Listed dates are the 2nd and 3rd followed by another pair of shows a week later on the 9th and 10th.
Cocopah reopened in 2010 after a decade of silence. The casino across the road from the clay oval purchased the track in 2005 and started renovations in January of 2010. Since then it has become a big player in the ASCS National scene. I made my first visit in November of the reopening year, just its 3rd or so race since returning from dormancy, and I was shocked what good condition it was in after a decade of silence.
Improvements since that first visit certainly include enticing Washington state resident Greg Burgess to relocate to Yuma and become the track’s general manager. Burgess made a huge climate change, going from one of the rainiest locations in the country to the sunniest city in the U.S. Burgess was the ASCS Northwest competition director when I first met him.
Although a little more than six months away, the priority entry forms for the 21st Annual Trophy Cup will be mailed in a few days, sent to all teams that participated last year. That group has until the end of May to send in their entry, after that date available spots in the field will be open to any team.
The new format for 2014 will run all cars on Thursday and Friday with drivers being able to pick their better point night of the two for setting Saturday’s lineups. Nonwing sprints are no longer part of the event after a very mediocre car count during the two years they were included. Last year’s finishes will be tough to top, but somehow it will probably happen in Tulare come this October.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA….Driven south last weekend by Northern California’s suddenly rainy season, it turned into an enjoyable outing, visiting a rarely seen facility along with another stop at a track vacant from the notebook for several years. In between that pair was an enjoyable season opener, all completed with no rain causing complications. In fact, rain was an assist this time.
While our drought and accompanying water shortage had been eased by a literal drop in the bucket, the last month saw 10 days of measurable rain, although some days it was a small amount. That is more days than the prior 4 months combined, the heart of the rainy season. Many acres of Central California farmland will grow nothing this summer as there won’t be water available. The result, higher prices for many things due to the supply vs. demand ratio.
Friday opened the action at Plaza Park Raceway, located just off highway 99 at the west edge of Visalia. The 1/5 mile dirt oval is now promoted by Kyle Evans, also the promoter of Lemoore Raceway, located 25 miles west of Plaza. Lemoore runs the same divisions on Saturday allowing many two race weekends for area teams with little travel.
Running junior sprints for drivers age 5 to 12 along with 3 classes of micro sprints provides full fields and an action filled evening. Bryce Eames used an outside front row start to win the junior sprint main over a 14 car field, a nonstop run. Cody Smothermon led 10 laps of the 21 car nonwing main before Ryan Reeves used a low groove turn 1 pass to win over Smothermon and TJ Smith.
The nonwing, restricted, and super classes all use a version of a 600cc engine and 18 restricted were on hand. Their main was a little messy, but once the multi-car mess was cleared at the start, things went smoothly. Nathan Rolfe led 20 laps until Ryan Deslile used the bottom of turn 2 on a restart to take the lead and eventual win. Cole Macedo and Kyle Offil completed the podium.
The super 600 field was the largest at 24 and Ryan Reeves led that one for 7 laps until Michael Faccinto drove past him on the back stretch. Faccinto led the rest of the 30 laps to win over Jake Hagopian and Reeves. Many drivers are sons and daughters of fathers that raced all over the San Joaquin Valley themselves.
Plaza’s concrete grandstands offer excellent sight lines, lighting is very good, with only the PA system inadequate. The show was well run and this season opener drew a large crowd. The oval was a bit too fast and narrow, but racing was still good with most races having a tight battle for the lead. Fewer races are scheduled this year which may help keep the car count strong.
The next night was spent at Kings Speedway, about halfway between Plaza and Lemoore Raceways, all off of highway 198. Hanford’s 3/8 track has received a noticeable improvement in lighting and a new guardrail in turn 1 will keep errant cars from getting too far south of the track. New clay and what seemed to be a wider turn 1 and 2 area combined to make it better than ever.
The event featured late models as it was labeled the Gary Jacob Memorial race. Gary was a very dedicated race journalist and late model specialist who would travel great distances to cover races. His knowledge about racing was legendary. Since his passing in 2006 he has not, nor ever will, been replaced as that is just not possible. The fact the race night was in his memory was mentioned at the driver meeting, but I did not hear one word in the grandstands from the PA system to honor Gary.
Supporting the late models were 24 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s for their 4th point race. Austin Liggett won his first ever West Coast race at Las Vegas in the point opener, Dennis Howell won at Tulare, Troy Rutherford took Tulare, and now Jace Vander Weerd has a win after Hanford. Marcus Niemela is the current point leader.
Qualifying was a tough deal for Liggett and Matt Mitchell with tough tumbles. Liggett was done and Mitchell’s ride was not ready to qualify, but tagged a heat. It was refreshing to watch invert 6, take 4 heats, putting Nick Faas in row 3 following his 15.610 quick time.
Despite the track showing wear by main event time and a little rut action here and there, it was still a good main event. J. Vander Weerd led 11 laps before Michael Pickens drove under Vander Weerd in turn 2 to lead. That lasted until the 22nd lap was trying to end when Pickens spun in turn 4 and Vander Weerd was again in front.
Faas put some pressure on the leader but the last few laps saw Vander Weerd’s lead improve and the Visalia driver collected the win over Faas and 21st starting Mitchell. Using a slider in turn 1 on lap 26, Mitchell had taken 3rd for an 18 position gain and maybe one more yellow could have seen him gain more. Some really good position battles over the 30 laps kept the Kings tradition of how special nonwing racing is at Hanford intact.
This unusual NCMA car of Don Arriaz has a mosquito abatement sponsor.
Weather gave me an opportunity to visit Madera Speedway after several years of absence. The track moved their Saturday show to Sunday afternoon due to weather concerns, and the third mile paved track is conveniently right on my way north to home base.
The fairgrounds and track look very good, one of the nicer appearing facilities in the state. While what cars were on hand were beautiful, there just was not enough of them in all but the BCRA/USAC co-sanctioned midgets. Those dozen cars were led all 30 laps by Darrin Snider for that win. The 7 USAC Ignite midgets followed the same scenario when Jake Swanson led all the way for that trophy.
Sprints of Cody Gerhardt (L) and Tim Skoglund (R))
Seven was the magic number as hobby stock, vintage sprints, vintage midgets, and the winged sprint/supermodified mixed group had that number for entries. Kyle Vanderpool took that win in the visually odd mix of two distinct body styles. Only 4 NCMA sprints were present and Audra Saselli was the winner.
Mix of winged cars in a sprint/supermodified heat.
Perhaps the one day delay cut into the car count, but nevertheless it was nice to return to the tidy facility, and on a perfect afternoon of weather, too. The show was run in a timely manner, but the number of events presented could have been lessened.
Early week rains are scheduled to end tonight, hopefully allowing tracks to get in all their events next weekend after wide spread cancellations to end March.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…The new era of the California Civil War Sprint Car Series for winged 360s started Saturday in Marysville. A new series owner and new format led to an all new look to things, but some things remained unchanged. Those include two significant items, drawing a very strong field of drivers and putting on an intense evening of racing.
One of the largest crowds since Paul and Kathy Hawes took over the track in 2007 jammed the quarter mile’s grandstands, also enjoying near record high temperatures and the work of series announcer, Troy Hennig. While the mid-March date can be shaky even in Northern California, an 81 degree day and accompanying sunshine along with fans’ hunger for some sprint car action created the superb turnout.
A new format that pleases some but certainly not others inverts 4 in heat races and takes the top 4 finishers to the A main. The first dash in Civil War history was formed from the four heat race winners plus the next fastest 4 to earn an A main transfer. Those 8 drew for dash starting spots to set the first four rows. Sound familiar? It should, as this seems to have become the format of choice.
Before the change, Civil War racing used invert 6, take 4 heats and pulled a pill to set the inversion with an option as high as 10 in the bag. The redraw for the dash offers some interest with the new program, but I would still rather the dash not happen and the redraw 4 row setup just goes directly to the A main. Using double file restarts is another new series wrinkle and it certain made for a more competitive main for the opening race.
Jonathan Allard put his new team’s 3C ride into the fast time slot, followed by Alyssa Geving, Andy Gregg, and Tommy Tarlton. Justin Sanders got a main transfer when Tarlton missed the top 4 finish, otherwise it was the front two rows taking the top 4 heat spots.
Gregg drew the pole for the dash, which he then won to get the A main pole. Geving went from 4th to 2nd in the dash to share the front row for the 30 lap, $2000 to win main. Despite 6 yellows and a red in the main, the show was so efficiently run that it was just past 9:30 when the checkers flew for the first new era Civil War winner.
Andy Gregg led all 30 laps to win, which sounds like it might have been a mundane race. It was, however, one of the more interesting races I have seen in Marysville, combing fast cars on a fast surface with plenty of drama along with cars making huge gains over their starting spot.
It was Gregg, Geving, and Allard for 10 laps before a restart saw things go sour for Allard. Bicycling entering turn 2, Allard put the 3C on its side and was hammered by an oncoming car. A scary deal turned out OK when Allard emerged unhurt, in fact was able to repair and restart although 12th starting Geoff Ensign now had the 3rd spot.
Gregg hit traffic despite the flow of yellows soon after the green appeared each time and Geving put intense pressure on the leader. At one point the top 3 ran as a tightly bunched trio. Sean Becker took 3rd on lap 20 before a lap 23 spin in turn 2 nixed the challenge from Geving. Sean Becker was now 2nd ahead of Ensign. A lap 24 wheelie entering turn 3 put Becker into 3rd and a lap later 22nd starting Herman Klein drove past Becker for 3rd, using the outer groove out of turn 2.
The last six laps after the final yellow saw Gregg hold on for the win over Ensign and Becker who regained 3rd by slipping under Klein in turn 2 on the 28th circuit. Klein was 4th for a fine effort and multi-time series champion, Andy Forsberg, was 5th after also coming from the back. Forsberg pitted early with a sour sounding engine but a quick fix got him back without losing a lap. The main event was great to get the series off on a good start and there is no question that double file restarts made it much more exciting.
The night before Chico continued the March winged 360 program and 19 were on hand, assisted by 3 support divisions. The same format as Civil War minus the dash, just a redraw, has been used this month at Silver Dollar Speedway and Sean Becker drew the pole. While Becker did score the expected win from his priority starting spot, Adam Brenton made it very interesting for a while, running some of the best laps I have witnessed from the young Browns Valley based driver.
Brenton started outside front row and led 8 laps before Becker used a topside move out of turn 4 to take the lead and eventual win. Andy Gregg set the tone for his win the next night by taking 2nd from his 7th starting position start over Billy Wallace, Kirt Organ, and John Michael Bunch. A very rare nonstop sprint main allowed me to make the 72 mile drive home and arrive before 11pm, a rare occurrence indeed.
Between entertaining racing, superb weather, and efficiently run shows, the mid-March weekend was a winner on all counts. The next Civil War race is the 29th at Antioch while Chico offers another 360 program this coming Friday.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA… Records for little rain fell over the last couple of months with nearly none for the normally rainy months of December and January. Finally the pattern changed, just in time to lead to canceling the opening Northern California sprint car race at Marysville on March 1st. That track should hold their opener this coming Saturday with the year’s first Civil War race.
Last week it rained nearly 2 inches in Chico between Sunday and Thursday. Added to prior moisture, the potential for holding the Silver Cup on Friday and Saturday was somewhere between zero and none. However, promoter Dennis Gage was not deterred by flooded pits and ran 6 pumps around the clock. Assisted by prior treatment of the ground and many supporting cast members, the place was useable and an excellent Silver Cup event occurred.
It was a special event for several reasons. Just the fact that it happened was remarkable, and when great weather for the weekend was assisted by strong fields and very good racing, it made let this often rained out event prevail for 2014. As if that wasn’t enough, enjoying the superb kettle corn of Chico made it even better.
Friday the heavier haulers were kept west of the regular pit area and parked on a paved surface. The non-big rig teams used the normal pit area and drivers commented on how good the pits looked despite the adverse weather for the days prior. Saturday things were more solid and anyone could use the regular pit, although the south end was still way too wet and the overflow was along pit road.
The Silver Cup has always offered a division other than sprint cars as the featured class. This 2nd year of the track being IMCA sanctioned for modifieds helped draw 33 on Friday and an outstanding 43 cars on Saturday. Remarkable for a track that usually gets 10 at best for that class for point shows.
Winged 360s drew 22 on Friday and 28 on Saturday with both nights having strong fields, particularly night two. Adding the likes of Andy Gregg, Brad Furr, Rico Abreu, and Henry Van Dam to the already quality Friday group made the competition a notch tougher on Saturday.
Unfortunately, it seems as if it is cookie cutter time for creative formats in Northern California. Inverting four in heats and taking the heat winner plus the next fastest four (five on Friday) to make a top four in the heat to a redraw means the fastest car in each heat has no need to pass anybody. At least the top 8 redrew as opposed to running a dash.
Friday’s winner of the redraw was Andy Forsberg, joined on the front row by Jayme Barnes. The two ran some excellent laps on a track that had two distinct grooves, very low and topside, with canyons between. Turn 4 was particularly canyon-like, created by excessive rain and a soft track. Instead of dampening the racing quality, it seemed as if the terrain made it better.
Barnes led with Forsberg and Steven Tiner in pursuit until Forsberg took the lead from the turn 4 low groove as Barnes slid up to the wall. That lasted two laps when, with 8 complete. Forsberg flipped in turn 4 after catching a rut. Back in the lead, Barnes had Shane Golobic on his tail until a sideways slip in turn 4 put Tiner back in 3rd and 8th starting Sean Becker now in 3rd.
Becker used the bottom of turn 2 for passes on laps 14 and 16 to lead for the last 10 laps. Golobic regained the runner up spot with a low side effort in turn 4 on the 22nd lap and Barnes finished 3rd. The slim 9 car nonwing spec sprint field saw 4th starting Scott Hall win over Rowdy McClenon and Shane Myhre.
Saturday added 6 winged 360s and the same increase in spec sprints. Rico Abreu drew the pole with Andy Gregg outside for the 30 lap test. Becker started 4th in his quest for a sweep, sharing row 2 with Justin Sanders while Tiner and Brad Furr anchored row 3.
Gregg took off and Abreu slipped to 4th after a few laps. Sanders ran 2nd until slipping above the turn 4 ruts and Becker took 2nd with a dozen complete. Abreu got inside Sanders in turn 4 to run 3rd after 17 and made dramatic moves 5 laps later.
A restart with 22 scored led to Abreu building up momentum entering turn 1 after the restart and use that speed to drive past Becker on the top of turn 2. A lap later he raced under Gregg on turn 4’s lower reached and led the last 7 laps for the win over Becker and Gregg. Golobic lost an engine early in the Saturday show to end his weekend. Following a Yuma sweep in ASCS racing, Abreu is 3 for 3 in winged 360 action.
The 15 car spec sprint field was dominated by outside front row starter, Tommy Laliberte. Leading all 15 laps, he dealt successfully with several challenges by Joe Stornetta for the win over Stornetta and Taylor Nelson. Silver Dollar will feature winged 360s again this Friday with a superb weather forecast this time.
Returning to Chico for the first time since the end of last September, this version of the Silver Cup seemed like one of the best since I became a track regular in mid-2002. Many people had a hand in getting the facility ready for the weekend and the show rewarded that effort.
Chico is also home to another top notch effort. Last year I tested the kettle corn at every track at which that option was available. After scientific taste testing, the results are clear and the best kettle corn award goes to the Silver Dollar vender. Ma and Pa’s Kettle corn is available at both Chico and Marysville and provides an excellent product. They provided the “icing on the cake” that was baked by the race teams that put on an excellent show.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…The last sprint car action of 2013 and the first of 2014 for my viewing pleasure utilized the same piece of clay, namely the quarter mile at Canyon Speedway Park a few miles northwest of Phoenix. Last November was the Western Worlds and was my first racing event at the desert oval in quite a few years. It seemed strange after such a lengthy absence prior to return to the facility last weekend for the Winter Classic.
We were able to take in the first two races of the six race schedule, one that concludes this weekend with a trio of events. We spent much of January in sunny and mild Arizona, first at Tucson International Speedway with one race at Arizona Speedway mixed in for variety. Tucson drew star filled fields of late models and modifieds with most of the late model drivers from back east and plenty of North and South Dakota based modified drivers included.
Arizona Speedway is a high-banked racy quarter mile that will be in its 4th season, a track that could be somewhat considered as Manzanita East. Stands, fencing, and various other items that are now part of Arizona Speedway came from Manzanita Speedway. Owner and promoter, Jonah Trussel, is a very hands on type person, as is Kevin Montgomery at Canyon, and Trussel acquired the rights to promote Central Arizona Raceway earlier this month. The Casa Grande track was in limbo after the prior promoter moved on. Arizona Speedway and CAR will host sprint car events, but Canyon is far more involved in open wheel action with a schedule dominated by big events.
With three tracks operating in the Phoenix metropolitan area and the ability to race year round with the mild winter, the Arizona scene for racing looks bright. The only issue is something called summer when triple digits make outdoor activities trying, no matter how dry the air is.
Last year were at Canyon Speedway Park in late January, unfortunately so was the rain and the first weekend of the Winter Classic was completely rained out. When Friday evening was canceled, I checked the forecast and saw gloom and doom and headed for home. This year the only reason to check the forecast was to see how close to 80 the temperature would be. As nice as the weather was for our earlier Grand Canyon State adventures, Canyon got the best days of our trip.
On tap were USAC Southwest nonwing 360 sprint cars with a 24 car field both of our nights, and over 30 IMCA modifieds plus enough pure stocks, winged mini-sprints and mod lites. The sprint format used draw heats and moved the top 18 in passing/finishing points directly to the A main. Of the group, the top 6 in points were inverted. The ASCS point chart, my favorite version of all the passing point options, was used.
Josh Pelkey and Casey Shuman were on the front row of Friday’s 30 lap finale. Pelkey led 12 laps while 13th starting Brady Bacon worked his way forward. That effort culminated with a bottom groove pass out of turn 4 on lap 13 and Bacon had the lead for the remaining laps. A lower groove effort by Bacon was the ticket for a win over Pelkey and R. J. Johnson, a 14th place starter. A two groove track made for excellent racing on Friday as after Shuman in 4th, Ryan Bernal was 5th and he started 15th.
Saturday followed the same format leading to Ty Mihocko and Bernal on row one. Starting 4th, Dave Darland was behind Bernal until they reached traffic, leading to a high out of turn 4 effort by Darland. Bernal chose low when they encountered traffic, Darland went high and made the pass for the win over Bernal and once again, R. J. Johnson, a 15th place starter. Most drivers ran the top, but watching Bernal and Darland deal with traffic as well as each other made this one good.
With nearly three times as many races over a three month period as I had watched for a career total at Canyon before, it almost feels like becoming a track regular at the facility that was once labeled the “Diamond in the Desert”.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Casa Grande,AZ…It had been almost 9 years since I had seen racing at Canyon Speedway Park. An attempt to end that long void earlier this year was met with a three-day weekend completely rained out at the end of January. We entered Arizona for the first time ever when it was something other than January following the 320 car count Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas with Canyon the destination.
The occasion was the 46th annual Western Worlds at the track once nicknamed the Diamond in the Desert. Formerly named Canyon Raceway, the high-banked quarter mile is a rarely seen venue for me, I think twice ever not counting the January loss this year. Spending three days at Canyon showed me it was a lucky choice to make a first time visit to Arizona in November. It also was my first time with sprints and midgets to enjoy as any prior visits were IMCA modified shows.
These were also my first races at Canyon since coming under the leadership of Kevin Montgomery. Canyon was once the host of weekly live sprint car TV broadcasts on Sundays but apparently hard times fell on what was once the home of nationally viewed races. Montgomery took over as promoter a couple years back and the track is having nothing but success since.
Despite the rustic last quarter mile or so of road needed to reach the facility, Canyon seems to run the most high profile events of any track out west. It is clear that Montgomery is not shy about risk taking as the Western Worlds $7,500 to win in both midgets and sprints showed.
I recall reading in the RPM literature how a track’s schedule never should show “regular racing” on a given night. Canyon seems to understand that theory because reading the poster for each of their events always catches my eye, even from 800 miles away. With great weather for the week, the Thursday crowd seemed pretty good for that night, and the following two nights led to a packed house on Saturday.
Right at 50 USAC Southwest and West Coast sprints raced the event and just over 30 USAC National midgets, all nonwinged of course to make it even better. The sprints were split between Thursday and Friday with 27 and 23 while midgets all raced both preliminary nights. Everyone was on hand Saturday for last chance type races and finales.
The sprint format was wonderful for a while, draw heats with passing/finishing points then a set of qualifiers, really another round of heats, with 6 inverted by heat points and more passing/finishing points accumulated. Then it was not as good when the A mains on the first two nights were lined straight up by points.
R. J. Johnson ran away with the Thursday sprint main and Bryan Clauson did the same on Friday. Some excellent position racing took place behind them, but the straight up start worked to their advantage to dominate. Both were high point cars with Johnson going from 6th to 2nd in his heat and 6th to 3rd in a qualifier. Clauson was perfect on Friday, winning a heat from 8th and qualifier from 6th. Clauson passed 15 cars in those two 8 lap races so he certainly earned the pole.
Saturday’s main took the 8 locked in drivers from the first two nights and did a redraw thing for the dash to set the first four rows. Clauson went from 7th to 5th in the dash and used the bottom of turn 2 to take the lead and win in the sprint finale, collecting the $7,500 for his effort. Four yellows slowed the main but nothing slowed Clauson.
For the three days, I felt the midgets put on better show, less tire, less engine equals more exciting racing. Their format was a standard qualifying, invert six heats, and four moving to the A main. Tanner Thorson got sideways in turn 2 and a quick recovery did not keep Christopher Bell from taking over and leading the last 23 laps for a win on Thursday.
On Friday the same format resulted in Darren Hagen starting 4th and winning a very competitive main full of multi-groove racing and position battles. Points earned both nights moved the top 8 to Saturday’s final race with the field filled by qualifiers and B main transfers.
By winning the sprint main, Clauson was the driver who could take the $5000 bonus by winning both mains. Starting on the pole following a dash win, Clauson went backwards for a while and a Hagen/Bell duel for the lead was outstanding. A very top groove coupled with a bottom that was very useful made for some top notch racing for the Western Worlds final main.
Running 4th at one time, Clauson was only 3rd with 11 laps left but used the bottom of turn 4 on the 25th lap to grab 2nd. One more pass meant a lot more money for the former Northern California resident, and he made that pass in the most dramatic fashion possible.
Building momentum entering turns 3 and 4 for the final lap, Clauson used the cushion while Hagen committed to the bottom. They left turn 4 together but Clauson’s midget had more speed and he edged Hagen at the line for the win and bonus in a most exciting fashion.
For not having seen racing at Canyon for so long, it was an outstanding way to return. Track conditions were great and the very well run show was slowed only by driver mishaps. Being a track with no electricity, Canyon relies completely on generators. However, electric racing certainly dominated the Western Worlds.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Barstow, CA…Opposites. Hot and Cold. Up and Down. Thursday night of Trophy Cup and Thursday night of Oval Nationals. October 17 in Tulare came with at least 15 flips, many yellows, and a race that once over brought more relief than entertainment. Two weeks later, the same division of sprint cars presented an excellent program in Perris with zero red flags and only 4 yellows the entire night.
On a nearly perfect surface, 35 nonwing injected 360 sprints under USAC sanctioning put on a smooth and very efficiently run show with a 9:10 pm conclusion and excellent main. Charles Davis Jr. started things with a 16.739 quick time, leading to four invert six, take four heats that had their own share of action. Some good competition for the final transfer spot made the heats very worthwhile and the fastest 8 of those 16 transfers ran a dash.
Ryan Bernal had some luck getting a transfer to the dash since he needed either Danny Faria Jr. or Jon Stanbrough to falter in heat 4. Stanbrough was the loser in a bumping incident and Bernal got the dash spot and the pole to boot in the 8-invert plan for the five lap effort.
Richard Vander Weerd won the dash from the outside front row over Faria to create the front row of the 30 lap main. The track was showing some dust in turns 1 and 4 by now, but along with that came some sliders, certainly an acceptable trade-off. R. Vander Weerd, the Trophy Cup nonwing champion 14 days prior, led 4 laps until 2nd running and 3rd starting, Mike Spencer used the top of turn 4 to take the lead.
Spencer controlled things until 8th starting Bryan Clauson put a mid-race turn 3 slider on Bernal for 2nd and closed on Spencer. Lap 20 a big turn 3 and 4 slider put Clauson in front, Spencer 2nd and 12th starting Matt Mitchell now 3rd with some traffic in front of the lead trio. With only a single yellow through lap 12, the race then slowed twice, after 26 and 27 laps had been counted.
Stating later he received some good input from his father, Spencer used another turn 3 and 4 slide effort to pass Clauson and led the last 3 times around the racy half. A last lap effort by Clauson saw him bang the turn 4 wall, staying upright, but stopped while Spencer took the checkers over Mitchell and Bernal.
An excellent night of racing was impacted by not only being a Thursday but also it was Halloween. Looking ahead, next year if Perris uses this same weekend then Halloween falls on the Friday night of the Oval Nationals, and even worse, a year later it would be on Saturday.
Friday a 53-car field of USAC sprints were assisted by 15 senior sprints and 20 lightning sprints (mini-sprints) in a late running evening. Showing how the average of sprint car drivers has become lower, a senior sprint is for a driver age 45 and over. Showing my age, when I first began writing in 1992 at San Jose Speedway, many sprint car drivers were 45 or older and the under 21 driver was unheard of. Now the under 21 sprint car driver includes some of the best around.
Time trials were led by Dave Darland at 16.126 with the top 40 in qualifications running one of five invert 6, take 4 heats. It took just over 80 minutes to run a C main for qualifiers 41 and higher and 9 total heats for the 3 classes. Just as the night before, some excellent racing took place during heats as drivers vied for the valuable top 4 finish. Then the show’s pace slowed considerably, starting with a time consuming B main. The B was on a very racy surface, but the dust was flying.
As it turned out, the A main might have been better if the track did not receive a grooming that ate more clock. Track prep was probably needed since increased dust would have been unacceptable, especially with the breeze blowing into the stands. Nic Faas led all 30 laps off of the outside front row as the main inverted six of the heat transfers. At times Faas had a half straightaway lead while racing for 2nd was close all the way. Chase Stockton had that spot for all 30 laps also, but the pressure on the Indiana driver was also there all the way.
Bryan Clauson was 3rd for a lap before Brady Bacon used the low line around the half-mile to take 2nd on lap 2. Bacon raced with Stockton most of the final 28 laps before taking a 3rd. The lap 2 Bacon move was the last podium pass on a track that, while not exactly one lane, had a more preferred lane than I recall seeing at Perris in the past. Clauson was 4th, Mike Spencer 5th and Dave Darland wound up the top six point cars and received a free pass to Saturday’s main.
The final night of the 18th Annual Oval Nationals drew 2 less nonwing 410s but otherwise the same counts. Heats were again good, especially being invert 4, and taking only 2. A pair of B mains elevated another 5 each to the A with added provisionals eventually making a 27 car field.
Of that large group, only one ever led the 40 lap test and that was Dave Darland, capturing another Oval Nationals crown and the $15,000 accompanying check. A dash for the six Friday locked in cars put Darland on the pole, but fellow front row starter, Mike Spencer, won the dash over Darland to switch the two in the A main grid.
Darland led with relative ease until a lap 32 red
created an interesting finish. Bryan Clauson had started 4th and
reentered the top 3 on lap 30 with a move under Nic Faas in turn 2. Two
laps later he used the bottom of turn 4 to take 2nd from Spencer and the
red was what he needed as Darland was well ahead before the stop.
It was announced that tomorrow (Monday) the 2014 schedule will be released so the Ovals vs. Halloween thing will soon be known. My sprint car season is not over as later this month a Canyon Raceway Park visit will provide more nonwing entertainment. In between is the Duel in the Desert, not sprint cars but one of the best racing events I see all year when a ton of cars invade Las Vegas Dirt Track.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…After 19 years of annual events, I thought nothing that much new would occur at the 20th Annual Trophy Cup. I just expected another year of excellent racing action using the best format ever invented. What I did not expect is three days of such dramatic racing that the first 19 years seem almost routine compared to what occurred on the Thunderbowl Raceway clay.
Things started on a disappointing note when only 29 of 41 pre-entered nonwing cars showed up on Thursday. The purse, over $32,000 was something like 2 ½ times as much as the usual payout for the nonwing 360 field. The previous Saturday at nearby Kings Speedway in Hanford, 27 drivers were on hand for the much smaller purse. Being on a Thursday is, of course, a factor, but with a year’s advance notice it would seem like more teams could make necessary arrangements to run this race.
On the other hand, maybe having only 29 was a good thing or the nonwing night might have taken 3 days to run on its own. A plethora of cars getting upside down and multiple hospital runs made a small field into a large mess. For the record, each of the 4 drivers that visited the hospital was OK other than the expected bruise or two and soreness.
The total count of cars getting upside down on the Thursday night is debatable, but I am going with the Lance Jennings count at 14 with 10 during the 2nd main. The Tulare welding truck made so many appearances for fence repair that I had it scored 12th in the 2nd A main, and on the lead lap.
After racing 30 laps nonstop at Hanford less than a week earlier, many of the same drivers were on hand in Tulare for a much different night. Two cars were done for the night after hot laps and Ryan Bernal followed suit following hard ride into the turn 4 wall in qualifying. The small field shrunk to the point that a B main was not needed.
While a berm built up, the track was smooth, but fast and maybe some drivers were just plain driving over their head. The high point car, Andy Forsberg, was taken out and done just 8 laps into the first A main, driven into the turn 3 wall by an overly aggressive competitor.
After Matt Mitchell set quick time and some decent heats, Max Adams led the first 2 laps of the invert 12 opener and Danny Faria Jr. the rest to win over Geoff Ensign and Austin Liggett. With all events earning points, the first main ended with Faria the point leader, followed by Adams, Liggett, and Richard Vander Weerd. Their success was rewarded with the last two rows location in the 2nd main, oddly enough the place to be in this fully inverted main.
The 2nd main was messy, to say the least. Requiring nearly an hour and a half to complete 40 laps, it resembled a nonwing destruction derby at times, such as when, with 10 laps complete, 4 cars were strewn around the oval, three of which I believe flipped. One was the race leader, Matt Mitchell, who had something go very wrong to get upside down in turn 2.
Geoffrey Strole used the outside front row spot to lead 8 laps before 14th starting Mitchell used the bottom of turns 2 and 4 to go 3rd to 1st on lap 9. Mitchell was 8th in the first main and was running very well when disaster ended his run. Landon Hurst led on the restart until Richard Vander Weerd used the bottom of turn 2 on the 35th lap to make the winning pass.
R. Vander Weerd collected the win and Trophy Cup title. Kyle Hirst was 2nd in the final main ahead of Hurst, Bud Kaeding and James Sweeney. For all the problems this night of racing produced, it still came down to the wire. If Hirst could have gotten past R. Vander Weerd, Hirst would have won the Cup title by a half point.
The top ten in nonwing points were, Richard Vander Weerd (324.5), Kyle Hirst (315), Bud Kaeding (307), Danny Faria Jr. (301.5), Max Adams (283.5), Landon Hurst (281.5), James Sweeney (280), Austin Liggett (273.5), Scott Hall (257.5), and Matt Mitchell (254). R. Vander Weerd earned approximately $5,550 for his evening of work.
The next two nights were far smoother running, unlike last year when the winged nights produced more than their share of red flags. The 81-car field was the 2nd largest in Tulare Trophy Cup history, just four less than last year’s top turnout. With 14 entrants not showing, it turned out to be a good thing, making for 14 fewer drivers to face a qualifying abyss.
Some solution to the time trial thing must be out there, but every new idea carries its own issues. One thing seems clear to me, this year was absolutely not fair. While getting a decent qualifying result held up through 38 cars, the following 43 drivers faced degrading track conditions. Evan Suggs was 20th quick, the 38th car out, but following him only Jac Haudenschild and Jonathan Allard could make the top 24 group, surrounding Suggs with 19th and 21st quick.
Considering the top 24 qualifiers, 22 came from the first 38 cars and 2 from the following 43 cars to hit the track. Brad Sweet was able to turn a 9th quick lap as the 33rd qualifier, but shortly after that the track must have gone south. When drivers such as Shane Stewart and Sean Becker drew 76th and 77th to qualify, ideas of winning the Trophy Cup became hoping to make the 48-car inversion.
Last year was much better, Jonathan Allard was 7th quick and was the 64th car to qualify. That was not because it was slick early, Craig Stidham was 5th quick and was the 3rd car to time in. I don’t recall the start time for qualifying last year nor the weather, but this year’s low 80s day with a 4:30 qualifying date did not work for the last half of the pill draw list.
Keeping in mind that points for qualifying, heats, and mains are compiled to find the champion, every time a driver is on the 3/8 mile their final standing is being created. This year’s half point drop per qualifying position made the point gaps smaller and Tim Kaeding’s fast time (15th car to time in) was only a half point better then 2nd quick, Carmen Macedo (2nd to time in).
Friday heats were excellent with great racing for the 3rd and final transfer spot dominating the six heats, inverting six by points. Preliminaries continued until a 24 car field was set for an A main, inverting 12 by points. After 30 laps the first photo finish in Trophy Cup history was recorded, or perhaps the first transponder finish is more accurate.
Shawn Wright led a lap before David Gravel ran the upper line to take over, leading all but the last foot or so of the main. Starting 2nd, Gravel was chased by T. Kaeding from 10th starting for the last 10 laps. Coming to the checkers, Gravel’s engine soured and Kaeding moved under the Connecticut driver to win by 0.003 seconds, according to the transponder readout.
This was the most talked about main event finish in Trophy Cup history, but only for 24 hours. Some thought Gravel seemed to be the winner, but luckily the result made no difference in Gravel’s final point standing of 8th. Tim Kaeding tied Kyle Hirst for 4th in final points and Kaeding got the spot due to a faster qualifying time. Had Gravel been the Friday main winner, Hirst is now 4th and Kaeding 5th, but they are teammates with Roth cars so it is kind of the same either way.
Just when one figures Friday’s main cannot be topped for a finish, Saturday’s main does just that. Very tough heats for the top 48 in points move the top 20 in the point list to the A main, no matter where they finish in a heat. Incoming high point car, Tim Kaeding, finished 4th from 8th while 2nd in points, Kyle Larson, had the same result.
They were still the top 2 in points entering the fully inverted main, sharing the 12th row and a 3.5 point difference favoring Kaeding. With a 5 point drop per position, whoever finished ahead of the other was the top candidate to win the Cup, assuming they both moved forward during the 50 laps.
I figure every sprint car fan in the country pretty much knows what unfolded during the main. Steven Tiner led 18 laps from outside row 1 before 7th starting Brad Sweet took over. Early on, T. Kaeding was ahead of Larson, but that changed in time and Larson had the point lead. Jason Meyers made a run and was ahead of Larson and had the point lead for a few laps. Going where few have gone successfully on the Tulare clay, Larson passed Meyers on the topside of turn 2 on lap 39 and led the Cup point battle the last 11 laps.
A final yellow with 3 laps left set up a finish that made Friday’s seem mundane by comparison. Larson had the title sewn up, barring some mechanical issue, but wanted the race win also. Last lap Larson is against the wall from the middle of turn 3 and 4 on, Sweet a few feet below the top, and contact at the exit of turn 4 left Sweet upside down and Larson battered.
Video of the situation indicates Sweet slid into Larson, leading to a battered and bruised sprint car limping across the finish line with Larson hanging on for the main event win and Trophy Cup title. No question about it, Larson deserved the win and title with his performance over the two days, but should he have gotten both honors?
Everyone I have spoken with agrees with me in that the red absolutely should have been thrown and the race restarted. Yes, Larson would have had the Trophy Cup title he wanted so much taken away by a last turn, last lap mistake not of his doing. Jason Meyers very likely would have won the title as beneficiary of the turn 4 tangle. I guess it was the most unusual finish to any main event I have ever seen and, coupled with the Friday transponder finish, should provide discussion for some time.
Recognition to a driver who overcame pill draw blues in dramatic fashion goes to Sean Becker. Pulling the 77th pill, his qualifying time on a worn out track got him a spot in a non-qualifier heat where he finished 2nd to move on to the C. That led to disaster when a turn 4 skirmish saw no laps completed for Becker and a DNF.
With nothing going right on Friday, Becker made the most out of it one could imagine, starting with a Saturday D main visit. A 2nd place finish moved him to the C, starting 9th and making a charge off of the top of turn 4 on the last lap to earn the 4th and final transfer spot.
Becker started the B main in 22nd and continued his amazing night with another 4th and final transfer finish. Since the 4 B main transfers are always the lowest 4 point cars and therefore fill the front two rows of the fully inverted main, Becker started the finale on the pole. It would be incredible if he won the main, but a wall banging adventure on lap 12 ended his great evening.
It is a guess, but I would certainly bet that Sean Becker was the first driver in Trophy Cup history to make the A main on Saturday after starting the evening in the D main. The concept of “running the alphabet” at a Trophy Cup just does not happen, but having a driver of the caliber of Sean Becker in a D main is equally rare.
As always, the biggest winner at the Trophy Cup was the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year’s contribution will be $132,000, bring the total for the 19 years the Cup has donated to the Foundation to $932.000. Next year the million dollar mark will be reached, an amazing level of support from a race. The donations started in year 2 of the event.
Every year the Trophy Cup seems to be more dramatic and special than any year prior. I think the 2013 version will make the 20th Annual unbeatable for thrills and spills. Then again, maybe not!
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Kings Speedway in Hanford ended the sprint car portion of their season in grand fashion, hosting 27 winged 410s and a like number of nonwing 360s. Being a King of the West sanction, having race director Mike Andreeta on hand kept the show moving along. The nonwing portion was the final USAC West Coast point race and Danny Faria Jr. claimed the title. One more King of the West race is scheduled to conclude their season.
It is great to see Kings Speedway draw people and cars like the October 12th show did, the Cotton Classic being the event title. Named after a major crop in the area, the Classic produced an entertaining conclusion to my racing weekend, coming after a great Friday show at Bakersfield Speedway with 154 stock cars in five classes.
Tim Kaeding produced fast time before a trio of invert four, take five heats preceded a B main that moved 7 more to the finale. In between a dash set the first four rows and all that preliminary action led to Garrett Netto getting the pole with Kyle Hirst alongside. Jason Meyers and T. Kaeding filled row two, all of which helped create 30 laps of excellent action on the racy 3/8.
Hirst got the jump to lead 7 times around before Meyers passed him on the bottom of turn 4 on the 8th circuit to take over. Hirst was right back on top a lap later, using the lower area of turn 2, and a yellow flew with 10 complete. On the restart, T. Kaeding moved into 2nd by using the bottom of turn 4 as the green reappeared. Hirst, T. Kaeding, and Meyers put on a very good show, racing each other while the last 16 laps went nonstop.
Hirst got a bit sideways in turn 2 on the 20th lap and T. Kaeding and Meyers were past him in an instant, Hirst falling to 3rd. Turn 2 continued to be the site of drama when Meyers regained the lead on lap 24, using the lower piece of clay to get the drive off of the turn to pass T. Kaeding.
Finishing the race in dramatic fashion, T. Kaeding used that popular bottom of turn 2 spot to take the lead on the last lap and held it to the line to win over Meyers and Hirst. The track was perfect, the top 3 put on a show racing each other, and the dramatic finish put the icing on the cake.
The USAC race also was very good and Netto was on the pole for this one, also. Running both divisions, Netto winding up on the pole of both mains defied the odds, and came after winning both dashes. Other drivers running both divisions were Kyle Hirst and Bud Kaeding.
Netto led a lap before Marcus Niemela used his outside front row spot to take the lead in turn 2, using the bottom. Fourth starting Hirst took the lead on lap 4, leaving turn 4 on the bottom for the move. That lasted only one lap and Niemela led again after a drive down the backstretch. Lap 9 saw Hirst used a turn 2 slider while Niemela went high in the turn and Hirst led again over Netto and Niemela.
Again Niemela used the backside for a pass, regaining 2nd before Netto pitted just before the halfway point, elevating Richard Vander Weerd to 3rd. Hirst built a larger lead while Vander Weerd got past Niemela for 2nd with ten to go. Hirst reached traffic, Vander Weerd closed, and on the next to last lap Hirst slid off the top of turn 2 with the help of a bent steering part.
Hirst’s misfortune allowed both Vander Weerd and Niemela to get by with Vander Weerd leading the last two laps for the win. The fifth and final lead change settled this one with the Vander Weerd win coming over Niemela and Hirst. Danny Faria Jr. was 8th, good enough to claim the 2013 title. Faria had a strong latter part of the season, claiming 3 in a row at one point, to earn the championship.
Just over 22 miles from Kings Speedway in Hanford the sprint car center of attention will focus this week on Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. The 20th Annual Trophy Cup has drawn 42 nonwing sprint car entries and 96 winged teams in pursuit of the record purse of approximately $165,000. The nonwing field is considerably tougher than last year’s first version and the winged group is, as always, exceptionally talented.
Often given credit for the best format in racing, the Trophy Cup is also famous for its support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Another huge check will be presented to the Foundation on Saturday night, made possible by the large number of activities that are the source of the funds. All 138 of the race teams have been a part since every dollar of the entry fees is donated to Make-A-Wish.
A couple of changes have been made, starting with qualifying. Instead of a one-point drop per position in qualifying results, it will be a half point this year. This will lessen the point gap at event’s end and it is the highest point total that determines the Trophy Cup champion.
With support from Abreu Vineyards, a bonus program for heat races has been added to the purse. On Friday, the fastest qualifier starts 6th in each of the heat races. If that driver wins the heat, a $500 bonus will be paid to that driver. If the fastest qualifier in a heat does not win, a $200 bonus will be paid to the driver that passes the most cars in that heat. If event of a tie for most cars passed, the bonus will go to the driver with the better finish.
On Saturday the highest point cars start 8th in each heat. The same $500 or $200 bonus will be paid following the procedure used on Friday. The heats for the fastest 72 qualifiers on Friday or the top 72 in points on Saturday are the only heats eligible for the bonus.
The race event that so many race teams and fans wait for is just two days away from invading Tulare. The Trophy Cup has a long history of exciting racing combined with its dynamic format, and the 20th Annual starting this Thursday in Tulare expects to continue that tradition.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…The first Saturday of October was the last winged 360 race of the season for Marysville’s quarter mile with 30 winged and 14 nonwing spec sprints on hand. Nice weather plus an exciting finish on a very good track surface made it a winning night for the track and a pair of drivers.
Track preparation was just right, one sign being the pit stands were not under siege from clay rockets being thrown from right rears. Zero dust meant it did not go too far in the other direction, either. Whatever was done, if the same process could produce the same surface weekly it would be wonderful. Of course, weather conditions make track prep a puzzle to solve every race.
The nonwing spec sprint main was led by Rowdy McClenon until less than a handful of laps remained. Dealing with a deflating tire as well as a closing Cortney Dozier, a little backstretch contact between the pair put Dozier into the lead and 3 laps later the win. Shawn Jones was 2nd over Peter Paulson while McClenon’s tough luck had him cross the line in 9th.
The wing format inverted six and took four out of the heats with the fastest six making a transfer going to a redraw. All that activity put Andy Gregg on the outside of the front row, a starting spot he used to full advantage by leading 29 ¾ of the 30 lap race. Unfortunately for Gregg, the only time past the flagstand that matters is the last one.
Shawn Wright was in 2nd for 16 laps before 7th starting Becker used the top of turn 4 to take the runnerup spot. Becker closed on Gregg, using the top of turn 4 each lap to put pressure on the leader. The last turn of the last lap was when Becker used the very top groove in turn 4 to squeeze past Gregg and finish the excellent evening of racing with his exciting pass. Eleventh starting Jonathan Allard was 3rd over Wright and Mason Moore.
Next week will bring one of the most awaited events in the country when the 20th Annual Trophy Cup is hosted by Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. Somehow this event seems to continue to get better and this year follows that patters. Trophy Cup records will be set for car count and purse with 137 cars entered and a purse that is approximately $165,000, drawing the usual very strong field of teams.
In 1994 Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San
Jose CA, came up with the idea of an event that featured a main event
that was fully inverted, putting the fastest cars at the rear for a
passing filled race. The event was called the Trophy Cup and its
remarkable history continues this year with the 20th annual event.
It is a winged and nonwinged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country. The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion from the final night main that puts the highest point cars at the rear of the 24 car field. From qualifying on opening night to heat races and mains, drivers earn points and the highest total after the racing ends wins the Trophy Cup. There are two parts to the purse money, part is paid in the usual racing method and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.
Last year was the first time ever to include nonwing 360 sprints for a very special Thursday night of racing. The nonwing sprints return this year, chasing a much larger purse with the $32,175 total paid between racing and point results. Qualifying and heat races will award points and two main events will be raced. The first main will invert 10 cars by points while the second main completely inverts the field. Point totals will determine the overall champion to conclude a very busy night of racing.
The next two nights winged 360 sprints follow a similar format with a full program each night. Drivers qualify only on Friday and that night’s point results are used to create lineups for Saturday’s preliminary races. When the final 50 lap main goes green on Saturday, a 24 car inversion will test the highest point cars as they race their way to the front to gain maximum points.
After qualifying, each time a driver is on the
Thunderbowl Raceway clay, points can be earned by passing cars. There is
no being complacent while cruising around the 3/8 oval while in 3rd
place in a heat race. More points can be earned by racing into 2nd, for
example, and when the two days of points are earned in the winged
action, the champion is the top point driver.
The Trophy Cup has always been a cooperative effort
among businesses, the host track, fans, and all the volunteers that
shape the Trophy Cup organization. The event has earned the Short Track
Race of the Year from National Speed Sport News, an award befitting the
level of competition that fans have enjoyed each year.
San Jose Speedway was the host track until closing in
1999 and the inaugural victory went to Ronnie Day. A one day format in
its early years, two mains were raced and Day won the first one and
started next to last as a result of his point total in the finale. His
7th place finish in the 2nd main was enough to garner the top point
total for the night and the championship. The first 3 years the show
featured winged 410 sprints.
Kevin Pylant won in 1995 after running 4th in each main
while the following year Brent Kaeding won his first of 4 titles in what
was the last year as a 410 event and also the last year as a one day
Cup. Concerns over car count prompted the change to the 360 engine and
the move to a two day format allowed teams to not have to race two mains
in one night.
In 1997, drivers were in the pit area from 9 states and
Mark Kinser took the treasure back to Oolitic, IN. Kinser, making his
only appearance in the event, was 6th quick and won his heat and the
opening night main. He backed up that performance with a 2nd in the
closing night’s heat and finished 2nd in the main, coming from 24th.
Brent Kaeding won his 2nd title in 1998 despite being
only 11th in points after the first night. His 2nd place finish in the
final night’s main continued a trend of the champion finishing
runner-up. The following year was the last for San Jose Speedway as the
track closed and an era in racing concluded. Brent Kaeding was champion
again, finishing the popular 2nd in the final fully inverted main after
starting 18th. Terry McCarl won the Saturday main, the last race ever on
San Jose’s third mile clay.
Watsonville Speedway hosted the Cup in 2000 and Tommy
Tarlton was the champion, again seeing a Cup title going to the 2nd
place finisher in the final main. Tarlton started 16th as he was only
9th in points as the final 30 laps unfolded. The following year the Cup
was held at Kings Speedway in Hanford and Craig Stidham won the
championship, coming from 21st to 2nd in the final main. In 2002 it was
Tim Kaeding winning his first Cup title, collecting the Friday main and
finishing 2nd in the Saturday main, coming from 23rd. It was the 6th
consecutive year that the champion finished 2nd in the final main,
having to come from the back rows each year to claim the title.
The 2003 version was the closest in Cup history and it
was a last lap, last turn pass that made Steve Kent the champion by the
slimmest of margins. Ricci Faria passed Tim Kaeding in the last turn,
lessening Kaeding’s point total by five and allowing Kent to win the
point battle by 2 points. Ronnie Day also came so close to winning,
needing to pass only one more car for the title.
The 2004 Cup was the last at Kings as the track closed
in August the following year, at least temporarily. Ronnie Day was again
so close to a title, winning the Saturday main from 18th, but coming up
5 points short of Jac Haudenschild’s total. The Ohio driver known as the
Wild Child passed 34 cars over the two day span to earn the honor.
Tulare Thunderbowl, about a 30 minute drive from Kings
Speedway, took over the 2005 version on short notice after Kings shut
their doors. An unusual Saturday main developed when Brent Kaeding and
Mike Faria were ahead enough in points before the 40 laps started that
whoever finished in front of the other would win the title. BK went from
24th to 4th, passing 5 drivers in one six lap stretch to edge Faria for
his 4th title. His son, Tim, won the main on Saturday.
The 2006 show saw Tim Kaeding win his 2nd title to total
six Cup wins for the well-known racing family. TK started 19th and
finished the seemingly magical 2nd in the Saturday main to capture the
Cup. Then in 2007 it was Jason Meyers from nearby Clovis who won the
title, finishing 3rd from 20th on Saturday to establish the 2nd largest
margin of victory in the 14 years.
In 2008 the first ever three day event drew 59 teams to
Tulare and most who have seen every Cup version agree it was one of the
most exciting years. Superb track conditions led to equally fantastic
racing, especially for Brad Sweet. Finishing 3rd in the final night’s
main event after starting 24th, Sweet collected $11,000 after edging
Sammy Swindell by six points.
In 2009 the idea of a three day winged show was dropped
to help lessen expenses for teams. To control the car count, only 65
cars were allowed to enter and a flurry of entrants on the last postmark
date allowed, built the field to 72. Keeping the car count to a
manageable level was necessary as the fairgrounds has a state imposed
History was made in that year when Tim Kaeding won his
3rd title and 7th for the famous racing family. The Saturday night main
event winner had never come from last starting (24th). TK accomplished
that feat in 2009 when he used every inch of the Thunderbowl clay to
collect a thrilling main event win on the 2nd night and capture the Cup.
In 2010 it was finally time for Jonathan Allard to enjoy victory at the Trophy Cup. Often in position to claim the title as Saturday’s main went green, problems seemed to follow Allard to deny a Cup crown. That changed in 2010 when Allard raced from 24th starting to 4th on Saturday to become the champion by a larger than usual 14 point margin.
In 2011 Stevie Smith won the Friday main event over a 70 car field despite never racing on the Tulare Thunderbowl clay before. The second night produced a dominating main event win for Kyle Larson while the race for Cup champion reached new heights.
A lap 48 yellow set up one of the most dramatic finishes in Cup history. Jonathan Allard was 3rd, Jac Haudenschild was 4th, and they were nose to tail on the restart as they raced each other for the title. Haudenschild passed Allard on the bottom in turn 1 of the 49th lap, Allard came back in turn 2 and they crossed the line to end lap 49 in a near tie. Had their not been one more lap, a photo finish would have settled the Cup.
The duo entered turn 2 on the final lap side by side, Haudenschild on the top, and he used that ground to get a good push off of the turn to lead Allard down the backstretch, adding a pass on Roger Crockett to finish his final lap. Allard dropped to 4th at the line and Haudenschild had won the Cup title over Allard and Brad Sweet.
Last year an 85 car field of winged sprints tested the Thunderbowl clay, and unfortunately, all too often the Thunderbowl wall. Rico Abreu won the Friday main after Roger Crockett’s lead was erased by a car flipping off the wall in front of Crockett. Jason Meyers won his 2nd Cup title on Saturday by finishing in the popular 2nd place spot, coming from 23rd to establish a larger than usual point gap after the 50 laps were scored.
The Thursday purse for nonwing sprints is $32,175, much more than the division usually races for. The Thursday show will have two mains for the top 24 in points. The first main will invert 12 by points while the second main inverts all 24. With the increased payouts for both winged and nonwing nights the total paid out over the three days will approach $165,000 to set a new event record.
A significant change this year is a one half point drop
per position in qualifying. Cutting the drop from a full point to one
half will make for closer than ever point standings. It will also make
passing cars in every race all the more critical as each car passed
earns more points for a driver.
The Trophy Cup organization has supported the
Make-A-Wish Foundation every year and every penny of entry fees is given
to the cause. Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction,
and other items add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very
worthy cause. The Trophy Cup has raised over $800,000 for the
Make-A-Wish Foundation. The entire event is possible only through many
volunteers supporting the Cup as well as the outstanding support from
the host track, Tulare Thunderbowl.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Chico’s season closed is the usual way, the two day Pacific Sprint Nationals. This was once a three day event with winged 360s only, drawing over 90 cars. The field was split between Thursday and Friday while Saturday was a main event only night. The last year of that format was 2009 when 74 sprints made for a large enough field to make the three day deal work.
The following year was the first of the two day Fall Nationals and the sprint field fell to mid-50s, but everyone ran each night. Then in 2011 the show was changed to a three division effort, adding nonwing spec sprints and modifieds. This year continued that plan and created a packed pit area and maybe too full of a plate to comfortably run given the state mandated curfew.
Friday opened with 46 winged 360s supported by 32 total cars in two support classes. Early qualifiers dealt with a still slick track, dooming some to C or B main assignments later that evening. One glaring example was Jonathan Allard, a superb qualifier at Chico, but coming out 3rd led to a 35th quick time.
The last six cars to qualify produced five of the fastest six times. Now if that is not a glaring example of pill draw skewing a race night, then I don’t know what would be. Only Sean Becker broke the late qualifier dominance with his 4th quick coming as the 20th car out.
Between these time trial results and the 2nd night offering a freight train main event, partly due to a marathon of pre-qualifying hot laps, the idea of passing/finishing point draw heats needs to be considered. California seems fixated on time trial formats that produce heats where there is often no incentive for a car running a heat in 4th place to even think about trying to be 3rd.
A time trial format too often produces heats where following is the norm, not trying to pass. Also, the Friday heats inverted 4 and took 5 to the A main, so the fastest car in each heat did not have to pass anybody to make the dash, and could go backwards one spot and still benefit from the dash invitation. At the same time, a driver could start 10th and race up to 3rd in a heat and get nothing for the effort. Heats took top 2 to the dash, plus the 2 fastest qualifiers that did not finish top two but did make top five.
Friday’s main was on a very good track surface, led initially by Andy Gregg. Sean Becker used the bottom of turn 2 on consecutive laps to move from 3rd to the lead, enjoying that spot from laps 11 to 21. Gregg came back to lead lap just lap 22 with a low turn 4 pass, but Becker used the top of the same turn to regain the lead a lap later.
Becker held off Gregg for the win while Tim Kaeding took 3rd from 12th starting for the final podium spot, using the low area of turn 2 for that move on lap 26 of the 30 total. The nonwing Spec Sprint field saw Dustin Thompson led 2 laps before Rowdy McClenon took over to win over Colton Slack and Don Emery. McClenon won the track title with 4 wins during the season. Slack finished one spot better the next night, winning over Scott Hall and Geoff Ensign.
Saturday brought extended hot laps but a track that produced a much wider range among the fastest six. Allard’s quick time came as the 18th car out and the next five were spread over the next 17 qualifiers. A fairer track than Friday for qualifying, yes, but at what price to the track surface come main event time?
Heats were excellent, although I heard a fan grumbling at the track conditions compared to Friday. Some fans don’t get it; good racing is not going fast with less passing. Good racing was the Saturday heats with an abundance of sliders for passes or near passes, certainly the best set of heats I have seen this year at Chico.
It would have been a perfect track for a main event, unfortunately modified and spec sprints heats and mains plus a winged sprint dash, C, and B mains were yet to happen. By main event time, the track had been used up and it all started with the long hot lap sessions followed by 100+ more laps as the 52 car field of winged sprints qualified.
Mason Moore was in the right spot for Saturday’s main, that being the pole, and he led all 30 laps for the big win. Tim Kaeding was 2nd for all 30 laps, pressuring Moore much of the way, but as long as Moore stayed on the bottom no pass was going to occur without divine intervention. Rico Abreu ran 30 laps in 3rd to continue the trend.
Drivers fussed about tire wear so the planned 40 lap main was cut to 30, eliminating the drama of tire conservation. Drivers fussed about the dash format on Friday and successfully got that changed. The dash was to have taken the top 2 from each heat into a redraw and then add the two fastest qualifiers who did not make a top 2 onto the rear. Instead, all cars were in the redraw after the drivers made their wishes be known…. at least some of them had complained. The fastest two qualifiers could go from 4th starting to 5th finishing and still have an equal chance of drawing the front row of the dash.
While needing a top 2 finish in a heat to go to the dash made for some very good heat race drama, a passing/finishing point format can make even a race for 3rd or 4th very important. And no way does a car go backwards in a heat and still get rewarded in that format.
Marysville is the focus of sprint car action this weekend, offering winged 360s and spec sprints. Things move south in a big way the following weekend with the Cotton Classic at Hanford featuring winged 410s and nonwing injected 360s, then it all comes down to the Trophy Cup at Tulare, the one so many fans and teams wait for each year.
Lincoln, CA…It was great to sit in the Hanford and Tulare grandstands last weekend, the first time this season at Kings and the 3rd night this year for Tulare. A rare Friday night show in Hanford coupled with Tulare’s race just 25 or so miles away the next night made the trip south mandatory. When Northern California had rain on Saturday and canceled every track north of Madera, being 240 miles south of Lincoln proved very convenient.
While still in a rebuilding mode, the Rebel Cup winged 360 series shows promise, particularly when the young talent from the Fresno greater area is taken into account. Names such as Steven Kent, Mitchell Faccinto, Carmen Macedo, and Luca Romanazzi are graduates of nearby Plaza Raceway’s mini-sprint program and know how to get around a track in a sprint car, too.
A 20-car field of Rebels along with 21 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s made for perfect numbers for the all 360 evening. Three support divisions had 24 cars total so their one heat and a main program did not impact the show’s length too much.
When living in San Jose and prior to the track’s 2005 first time closing, Kings Speedway often offered an agenda that was worth the 5 hour round trip. My favorite was when Rebel Cup was paired with the Bandit Sprints, a nonwing 360 division that essentially became USAC West Coast years later. The Rebels drew low 20s, the Bandits mid-20s, and the quality of the fields was excellent.
In 2005 the track closed mid-season, leading to the Trophy Cup moving to its current home in Tulare. Two following attempts at promoting the 3/8 mile were unsuccessful and the track’s future was not bright. Along came Scott Woodhouse and now the place seems to be, well, back on track. Despite being a Friday and facing competition with both high school football and Fresno State football, a large crowd was on hand for this rare Friday fling.
USAC ran their main 1st, well after D. J. Netto was quick time at 15.761 and a trio of heats helped create the grid for a 30 lap test. A six inversion assigned Danny Faria Jr. and Marcus Niemela to the front row, a spot that allowed Niemela to lead initially. Faria and Bud Kaeding were in pursuit but when Niemela slid up and a bit off the track in turn 2, a lap 3 lead change followed and Faria led.
With Kaeding now 2nd, Richard Vander Weerd was in 3rd for a pair of laps before Vander Weerd used the bottom of turn 4 to take 2nd on lap 5. Two laps later Vander Weerd drove past Faria on the bottom of the back stretch to now lead. Just two laps elapsed before Faria again took the lead, using a drive off the bottom of turn 2. Faria led laps 9 to 30 for the win, creating a significant gap between himself and the Vander Weerd/Kaeding duo after a few more laps.
A mid-race excursion off of turn 1 dropped Kaeding back several positions but he came back by lap 22 and was the bottom car of a three wide departure from turn 2, using that move to regain 2nd. That was the final podium pass and the Faria, Kaeding, and Vander Weerd trio ran the last 10 laps with no changes in order.
The winged main put fast timer, Justyn Cox, starting 4th after his 13.902 quickest effort. A very strong front row of Steven Tiner and Andy Forsberg plus Craig Stidham inside row 2 made for a fast front of the pack group. Tiner led all 30 laps, Forsberg ran 2nd all the way, and Stidham followed all the way in 3rd. Sounds like an uneventful race, but that was hardly what it was.
At times Tiner pulled away and it looked as if he was in control, then Forsberg would make up the space and challenge for the lead. From the last half of the main to the checkers, that was the scenario, repeated challenges as the laps were used up. One final effort leaving turn 4 on the last lap came up just short for Forsberg. He left the turn on the bottom, Tiner was halfway up the track, and the race to the line was a very close Tiner win.
Twenty-four hours later and almost the same number miles away from Hanford the Tulare Thunderbowl came to life for the first time since Memorial Day weekend. On hand were 28 King of the West winged 410s, a couple 360s included, and 21 USAC West Coast nonwing 360s for another nice field of open wheel cars.
As qualifying drew to a close, the winds seemed to increase in strength and shifted direction to fill the 3/8 oval with dust. During the time between time trials and heat one, the dust worsened such that seeing the winged sprints race that heat was a challenge. I could barely make out a car in turns 2 and 4 of the nonstop heat, then with a power outage stalling activities, the winds lessened and maybe shifted again and no dust issues followed. At Placerville the following Wednesday Tim Kaeding told me he could not see much at all in that first heat for KWS. Following his brother Bud during the heat was the only way he made it around the track.
Peter Murphy was on hand at Tulare and looked to be well on the road to recovering from his July 20th very serious accident at Antioch Speedway. He was presented a check for $18,000 to help with expenses, made possible by an effort led by Brent Kaeding and supported by many others. In the days that followed the accident, Brent left his motorhome at the hospital so Peter’s family members could stay overnight in it. This was a prime example of racers helping a fellow racer.
Jason Meyers started outside front row of the KWS main and led 23 laps before a tire issue ended his winning plans. Bud Kaeding, starting 6th on the adjusted initial lineup, became the leader with Meyers misfortune and collected the win over his brother, Tim, and Kyle Hirst. The race was messy to put it mildly with 3 multi-car tangles in the same spot between turns 1 and 2 involving 18 cars total, some multi-time losers in those deals. Those three reds plus another as well and four yellows threatened to turn a main into a marathon. Some very good racing took place, highlighted by Tim Kaeding’s run from deep in the pack to 2nd.
The plan was to run the USAC main last, figuring track conditions at the end of the night would be better suited for nonwing racing. It seemed to work as the KWS main ran on a racy surface and 30 laps of pounding on the Thunderbowl clay still allowed the USAC field to have a competitive track.
Richard Vander Weerd led 11 laps before 4th starting Bud Kaeding took over, raising the potential of a sweep. That likelihood increased as laps wound down and taking the white flag still ahead it became an almost certainty. Unfortunately for fans hoping for the sweep, contact with a lapped car on the backstretch of what should have been the final lap left Kaeding’s car sitting sideways and a very unhappy driver.
Running an extra lap as a result, Vander Weerd collected the win over Danny Faria Jr. and 8th starting Austin Liggett, a Tracy teenager having a strong late season series of races. This combination of KWS and USAC will move back the short distance to Kings Speedway on October 12th for the Cotton Classic, another must see event in the San Joaquin Valley.
While Tulare got by with just some short term wind, rain did a number on Northern California racing, including the Civil War finale at Placerville Speedway. Not wanting to end the point season for the series that way and being willing to risk a Wednesday night race on short notice, Placerville ran the makeup race on the following midweek date.
With 28 winged 360s and a dozen BCRA midget lites supporting, a cool evening led to a fast track and, while passing was not easy, the fast paced racing was still entertaining as position battles filled the evening. A cool day turned into a chilly evening and the track just did not dry out as usual, making the signature two groove racing harder to create.
An eight inversion put Tim Kaeding on the pole, a move that immediately created a likely to win choice. He did win, but not without plenty of resistance from Justyn Cox, the early leader from outside front row. Kaeding seemed to practice using the upper groove exiting turn 4 until a lap 8 effort allowed him to just edge Cox at the line.
From there on, Kaeding led with a lap 23 yellow coming at a time when he was in very heavy traffic. Cox finished 2nd and Kyle Hirst was 3rd in the quickly run program. Dakota Albright won the midget lite main, led initially by Scott Kinney before he had a mechanical issue turn a lead into a DNF.
It was a risk to run a Wednesday night on 3 days notice, something I am not sure any other track in Northern California would have been willing to try. Finishing at 9:20 was the result of keeping things moving, a wise choice considering the midweek situation. Sean Becker is the Civil War champion and there is no asterisk attached since Placerville was willing to run the final event in the series.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Petaluma Speedway drew 33 winged 360 sprints last Saturday on a typical summer evening, starting out mild and turning chilly once the sun called it a day. The track seemed to change with the weather, finishing the night as a very quick 3/8 mile of clay. Another well run show ended just past 9:30, hopefully keeping the neighbors and city happy with the early conclusion.
Mason Moore was quickest in qualifying, a 13.094 effort, leading to the usual four heats with six inverted and the top four moving directly to the A main. Half of the fastest 8 qualifiers did not make the transfer from the heats while racing for the final transfer spot was certainly intense.
Moore, the only one of the top four qualifiers to make a transfer, watched an 8 pill being drawn for the main inversion. High school junior and varsity football player, Nathan Washam, was on the pole and had an excellent run despite a tire issue developing mid-race. Eleventh in points at Ocean Speedway, Washam was surrounded by much more experienced drivers and showed he has the skills to run with them.
Washam led initially with Sean Becker in pursuit and David Lindt Jr. a spot further back. Moving up from nonwing spec sprint racing in 2012, Washam led through lap 7 before Becker, a series title challenger, got under Washam on the bottom of turn 4. Becker went on to lead the last 23 laps for the win, turning laps late in the main that were seven tenths of a second quicker than fast time.
Moore took 2nd from Washam on lap 11 and the tire issue on Washam’s ride was not helping his cause. Alyssa Geving drove under Washam going into turn 1 on lap 20 to take 3rd and the podium was set with that move. Becker, Moore, and Geving took the top 3 spots with Bradley Terrell and Washam completing the top 5.
Andy Forsberg’s recent Gold Cup finishes of a 2nd and a 3rd along with an apparent major error by the sanctioning group sets up an interesting situation. Following the Friday race at Chico a press release stated a $5000 bonus would be paid to the driver with the best combined finishes for the two mains. That was clearly Forsberg after his two podium visits.
When the group stated the press release was in error but after the Gold Cup was finished, it created a problem suitable for one of the many TV judge shows. Based on what I was told last Saturday, the group has no intention of paying the bonus. I wonder if that would be the answer if one of the full time series travelers was the driver owed the bonus.
An event that will have absolutely no issues with paying what is promised is the 20th Annual Trophy Cup. Now just a month away, the three day combined purse is in the $161,000 range with $32,305 going to the nonwing Cup Thursday purse and $117,940 guaranteed to the winged shows on the following two nights. The winged Cup champion will receive $25,000 after bonus money is added to the earnings from the posted purse. That amount of bonus money will not be determined until the final checkers fall on October 19.
A change in points for qualifying could create closer point standings in the quest for high point driver. Instead of a one point drop per qualifying spot, it will be a half point for both nonwing and winged nights. Looking at last year’s results shows that this change can work in both directions.
Ryan Bernal was the nonwing Cup champion last year even with Bud Kaeding winning both Thursday night main events. Bernal was fast time, Kaeding was 14th quick, so Bernal had a 13 point lead after qualifying. This year the same scenario would mean a 6.5 point lead.
Although Kaeding won both mains, Bernal finished 2nd both times to lessen the point impact of the two wins. The final margin was 9 points whereas this year identical results would mean a 2.5 point margin on victory. Looking at the top 5 in overall points, Kaeding’s margin over 3rd place Kyle Hirst would be greater this year, 13.5 compared to 8 last year. The top five would still be in the same order.
On the winged side, Jason Meyers won by 14 points last year over Shane Stewart. Because Meyers qualified 6th and Stewart 2nd, this year’s scoring would increase the margin to 16 points over Stewart, but now it would be only 15.5 over Hirst. So there is a change that would result from 0.5 scoring in qualifying, Hirst would have been 2nd in points and Stewart 3rd.
Rico Abreu would have really gained points due to being 24th quick, enough to tie Stewart for 3rd, a spot that would have gone to Stewart as he qualified faster. Roger Crockett would still be 5th.
Last year the change to 0.5 point differential would have only switched two positions in the top five, but that is due to the point gaps being larger than usual between the positions. Three of the top five in winged racing final points last year qualified higher than 18th in the order, so it is possible to recover from a lackluster time and finish towards the top of the point standings.
With 128 cars entered as this moment and 12 openings remaining, all in the nonwing group, the 20th Annual Trophy Cup will not only be the highest paying ever, it will also set a record for car count. Taking into account the field of drivers that have committed to being in Tulare in a month, it will also be the strongest field ever.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Half of the four Gold Cup events have been concluded at Silver Dollar Speedway, and excellent nights of racing opened the 2013 event. Winged and nonwinged 360s have been accompanied by midgets and carbureted sprints to provide a buffet of open wheel entertainment. The first two nights of weather have been great with warmer days ahead for the next pair of evenings.
Wednesday’s opening night drew 38 winged 360 sprints and 23 nonwing carbureted spec sprints, perfect numbers for a midweek event. Track conditions started a bit too fast but when main event time arrived the quarter mile high-banked clay surface was in excellent shape. Thursday started much the same with a fast and on the narrow side track but was again just right for main event action.
Tracy CA high school senior, Austin Liggett, started the evening with quick time for spec sprints at 13.918 before a trio of invert six, take four heats moved six drivers into the redraw to set the first three rows of their 25 lap Hunt Series event.
Drawing the pole, Geoff Ensign made the most of the opportunity and led all the way to collect the win for car owner, Dave Brown. Terry Schank Jr. provided pressure for 15 laps before Scott Hall and Tony Richards both drove past Schank on the bottom of turn 2 at the 16 lap mark. Ensign drew away to grab the win over Hall and Richards with the last 19 laps going nonstop.
Winged qualifying put Willie Croft at the top of the list after his 12.442 time. A very competitive field had five cars in the 12.5 bracket and another seven landed in the 12.7 group. Four heats inverted six and moved the top four to the A main with four of the fastest 10 not making the top four. Six more from the B main created a 22 car field for a 30 lap main.
After Dominic Scelzi drew the 10 pill to put himself on the pole, the first of six yellows flew before a lap was scored. Half the flags slowed the action in the first six laps, but it took the remaining 24 laps to see the other trio of yellows. Scelzi led with Matt Peterson and Justin Sanders following until Sanders used a turn 2 slider to take the lead on lap 6 while Justyn Cox moved to 3rd at the same time.
Sanders started inside row 2 and had Kyle Hirst behind him by lap 8, Hirst starting 8th. Scelzi came out on the short end of contact and went off the back stretch and wound up 8th. Andy Gregg used the top of turn 4 to take 3rd from Cox but the ASCS driver regained the spot five laps later with a low side pass in turn 2.
During a yellow after 17 laps, a right rear on Sanders’ ride was obviously low and it figured to be a matter of time for the Prunedale based driver. Sanders would easily win the tough luck award for the year and another chapter in that story was set to unfold. Lap 22 was tough luck for Cox when he dropped out with engine issues and Gregg was 3rd again.
With the Sanders tire approaching flat, Hirst used the low groove out of turn 4 to take the lead on lap 26 and the Sanders right rear finished its race one lap later. That put Gregg in 2nd and Mason Moore in 3rd for the last 3 laps and podium positions were set. Tough luck for Sanders and Cox, but it was a very good main despite a few too many yellows.
Thursday figured to be special, and it was when USAC 360 or restricted 410 sprints were joined by USAC/BCRA midgets for a nonwing night. With 25 sprints and 20 midgets, the numbers were just right with a few vintage and about a dozen hardtops added. What was not needed was another class, and the 22 dwarf cars put too many cars in the pit area and nearly led to a curfew shortened race.
Fastest of the sprint was Geoff Ensign 14.354 while the co-sanctioned midget field had Ronnie Gardner post the quickest time, a 14.511 lap. Passing filled preliminaries certainly lived up to expectations of a very good night of racing, and main event action was even better.
Midgets inverted six and Sean Becker, making his 5th career start in the class, was joined by teammate Jonathan Henry on the front row. Becker led at some point in each of the first four times in a midget, winning once, but that streak ended this night.
Henry led from the green, Becker 2nd for 2 laps, before Jake Swanson and 6th starting Gardner passed Becker, the track winged 410 champion this season. Gardner got past Swanson on the back stretch on lap 6 and used the same stretch of clay to take the lead from Henry on lap 9.
A four car pack was racing for the lead when misfortune and a lapped car struck Shane Golobic, sending him into an altitude impressive flip to end the Fremont based driver’s race and put Gardner’s drive on hold. When the race resumed, Gardner was untouchable while action behind him was intense.
Swanson used the bottom of turn 2 to take 2nd on lap 11 and Matt Streeter took 3rd a lap later, driving under Henry on the bottom of turn 4. Streeter and Scott Pierovich put on a show racing for the final podium spot, one which Pierovich took with a lap 24 pass on the low side in turn 2.
The Gardner, Swanson, and Pierovich podium came after just one slowdown on the Silver Dollar surface, one that was in perfect condition for the midget run. Seeing this one makes me dream of more midget racing on the high-banks in Chico.
Next up was the 20 car USAC main, set for 30 laps and inverting six. Jimmy Trulli was making one of a very few career starts in a nonwing sprint and was on the pole alongside former Hanford resident, Chad Boespflug, back in California from the Midwest for a few days. Row two was filled by Andy Forsberg and Austin Liggett with Forsberg making a rare nonwing start also.
Trulli led with Forsberg and Boespflug chasing for two laps before Liggett used the top of turn 2 to take 3rd. Goeff Ensign moved from 6th starting to 3rd on lap 7, a spot he held until lap 16 when Liggett made a turn 2 low side pass for the position.
Trulli continued to lead, establishing a large lead until the last 10 laps unwound and traffic slowed him, allowing Forsberg to close. Things were really heating up when a lap 24 tangle in turn 4 by back of pack cars proved bad luck for Forsberg. He was unable to avoid the spun cars and suffered front end damage just as he was challenging for the lead.
Trulli now had Liggett to deal with Kyle Hirst in 3rd after driving past Ensign and soon to be series champion, Ryan Bernal. A lap later Bernal regained 3rd and Trulli continued his smooth drive to claim the win over Liggett and Bernal. While Trulli led all 30 laps, the race had excellent position racing behind the winning driver. Trulli won his first nonwing sprint car race and did it during Gold Cup week.
As the midgets showed, Silver Dollar and nonwing racing go together very well. With excellent support from drivers who rarely race nonwing, the size of the field was just right and half the top ten were from the winged fraternity. Two nights of right sized car counts and excellent racing on very good track conditions was certainly the way to start the 2013 Gold Cup week.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Silver Dollar Speedway concluded their point season with two Friday nights of good racing due to excellent track conditions. The current plan of running five or so divisions creates a decent total car count although some of the fendered classes are one heat and a main groups.
What I have noticed of late is how much the crowd seems to enjoy the support classes almost as much as the sprint car action. I am guessing the crowd has become more of a race fan group rather than just being focused on the sprint cars. I can tell that I have adjusted to the new way at Chico since the old days of 40+ sprint cars in two divisions are gone.
Sean Becker was one of six drivers to make all 12 point races and won the title over Andy Forsberg and Michael Tarter. Forsberg had one forgettable night when he took an ambulance ride after a heat race flip and that proved costly to his point total. Becker and Forsberg each won twice as did Andy Gregg while Roger Crockett and Willie Croft had single wins in far fewer appearances. Jonathan Allard had, by far, the best “batting average” going 4 for 7 in the win department, still finishing 7th in points despite missing almost half the races.
The nonwing spec sprint point races were mostly a single digit field, yet some of the races were just as good as if there had been 20 of them, and maybe better. Fewer yellows is usually a benefit of smaller fields and the group of drivers that appeared regularly were a talented bunch. Out of 18 drivers that appeared, only 3 made all 8 point races and Rowdy McClenon won half of those mains to take the title over Ron Laplant.
The economy sprints, basically a winged spec sprint, showed signs of becoming something with a car count once reaching an impressive 13. Last year was more like 5 cars at best so the percentage increase is very good. Becoming a track regular in the division seems to be an issue since only two cars made all 8 point races. One of the pair was Kyle Standley who is the track champion for 2013.
Andy Gregg won the next to last point race with Andy Forsberg putting on an impressive run from the 3rd row to finish 2nd. Then the last point race, a tribute to Tyler Wolf, was a Forsberg win ahead of Rico Abreu and Becker. Tyler Wolf was the youngest Silver Dollar sprint car champion ever at age 19. Forsberg became the first custodian of the very impressive Tyler Wolf Memorial trophy, as he will have possession of the huge award until next year’s event.
The very good racing conditions of the last two shows will hopefully be a sign of things to come next week when the four day Gold Cup series starts. Wednesday will be a winged 360 show with nonwing spec sprints, the Thursday calendar features no wings for the USAC sprints and midgets, then the next two nights are outlaw races. A huge amount of planning and work have created numerous accompanying activities to make the week very special.
Chico has four days of top notch racing with most every open wheel division getting track time. Car count should be excellent and the way tickets have been selling, a large crowd is expect for each event. The track conditions of late have me thinking this will be something exceptionally good this year.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln, CA…Petaluma Speedway offered another dose of their brand of dirt track racing on the 10th with a fast, smooth, and dust free surface accompanied by cool weather, a feature normally enjoyed at the 3/8 mile oval. An appearance by the Hunt Spec Sprint nonwing series along with BCRA midgets and midget lites made for a trio of reasons to make the trip west.
Three consecutive weeks of racing for the BCRA divisions took a bit of a toll on car count. Having no home track means every race is on the road, but the 16 car field of midgets was still four times the USAC midget field at the paved Madera Speedway. Just 4 cars showed in Madera, apparently the result of conflicting events for some pavement racers as well as BCRA being in Petaluma on dirt. The July race in Madera drew 18 midgets when it was co-sanctioned.
The midget lite field was also slim with 9 cars, half what competed at Antioch two weeks prior. An every other week schedule or at least not more than two consecutive weeks might fit these divisions’ plans better. Dakota Albright won the lite main with relative ease.
Shannon McQueen set quick time, recording a new track record in the process at 14.203 before a pair of heats awarded wins to McQueen and Greg Bragg. McQueen started 10th and Bragg 5th in the 30 lap main, but it was Trey Marcham in a McQueen team car that became the center of attention.
The Newcastle, OK traveler is just 21 years old and a mechanical engineering student at University of Oklahoma. A busy travel schedule has seen multiple appearances in California this year in the McQueen midget. Marcham started 6th in the finale, but was not in that spot for long.
Gary Conterno led early with Marcham in 3rd after a lap, 2nd a lap later, and completed the charge to the lead with a high side pass in turn 2 on the 3rd lap. Once in front, Marcham was in charge to collect his first midget win. Some pressure was developing with 7 laps left, but Marcham added enough to his lead to erase that threat.
Bragg used the bottom of turn 4 to move into 2nd on lap 5 while McQueen took 3rd on the 13th circuit with a low side pass in turn 2. That set the podium for the quickly run main with McQueen racing cars flanking Bragg’s ride after 30 quick laps.
A 20 car field of nonwing spec sprints group qualified and used heats to select the redraw drivers. That activity put Colton Slack on the pole with Tommy Laliberte alongside. A 25 lap chase had just two flags slowing Slack’s run to the win. Weaving through traffic, Slack won over Laliberte and Shawn Jones from 10th starting. The next Hunt Series race in on opening night of the four day Gold Cup series at Chico on the 4th of September.
One of the best and most highly regarded later season events in the Western US, in fact the entire country, is the Trophy Cup. This always dramatic event was created by Dave Pusateri, a sprint car fan who wanted to see racing where the fastest cars had to start in the back. Born in 1994 at San Jose Speedway, the Cup was first a 410 event but was switched to 360 engines after three years.
Car count concerns over the dwindling number of 410 teams prompted the switch, and it has proven to absolutely to be the right move. The entry list has grown to the point that a limit is now placed on the number of teams that can race the event. California’s strict 11 pm curfew at fairgrounds tracks led to the maximum entry level and this year’s 90-car list was filled months ago.
The Trophy Cup was held at San Jose Speedway through 1999 before the track was closed to build a concert venue that was never constructed. The track’s final race was the Trophy Cup main, won by Terry McCarl, while Brent Kaeding won the overall title.
The event spent the next year at Watsonville before becoming a San Joaquin Valley transplant, racing the next 4 years at Kings Speedway in Hanford. In 2005 Kings closed during the season and nearby Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway stepped up to host the race, a location that is still the home for the spectacular event.
The plan since 2011 was to have this year’s Cup event, the 20th in the series, to be the final one. Dave Pusateri was ready to end the rewarding, superbly supported, but time consuming work necessary to do all that his group of volunteers does each year. Then family members intervened, deciding to take over the bulk of the work, while Dave gets to take a huge step back and serve in a more advisory-like role. The Cup will continue, much to the delight of race teams and fans.
The result is the prior planning done towards the 2013 Trophy Cup being the last will bring the payoff and event overall to new heights. Drivers that raced last year had priority entry for this year’s race and nearly 100% are back for the 20th version. They will be chasing the largest payout for the Cup ever.
The initial plan when this year was to be the last was a $50,000 prize for the overall point champion. After the change in leadership following the 2013 version will lead to continuing the Cup, the total purse was not changed but the champion will receive $25,000 for the two days of winged racing. The payout was increased for other positions to spread the additional $25,000 among the field. This year’s total payout is a record $130,940 for the two days of winged 360 racing.
Last year a 3rd day was added for nonwing 360s and Ryan Bernal was the 1st ever Cup nonwing champion, accumulating the most points after a full night of racing that included two mains. Bud Kaeding won both mains but was 9 points behind Bernal after qualifying and heat racing points were included. Last year’s $21,000 purse is much larger this year, set at $32,305. That makes the three day total $163,245, a phenomenal amount for 360 sprints.
As well as race teams, another financial winner is the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Each year of this event every dollar of entry fees has been donated to the Foundation along with a large amount of money raised via various efforts proceeding and during the event. Those efforts have meant over $800,000 has been given to Make-A-Wish since the Trophy Cup started. Make-A-Wish, race teams, and fans all win by continuing to have this remarkable event.
From The Grandstand by Ron Rodda
Lincoln CA…Silver Dollar Speedway scheduled several winged 360 races on Friday point show nights, giving the 410 division a night off. The first night for this change was canceled, the 2nd time drew 19 winged 360s, and the 3rd and final effort last Friday drew 22 entries. Given the most recent two winged 410 point shows drew 15 and 13 cars, the thought of weekly 360 racing at Chico might be something to consider.
The track conditions were among the best all season and all divisions took advantage of that to put on some entertaining racing. Even though there were only 5 nonwing spec sprints, their main was probably the best of the season in Chico when the quintet of cars raced together the entire 20 laps.
While Don Emery did lead all the way, that does not reveal the level of competition that developed. Emery was pressured by one and sometimes two competitors before he claimed the win over Rowdy McClenon. Two grooves and dust free conditions made the evening all the better.
An eight inversion put the track’s two time 2013 winner, Sean Becker, outside row 4, creating what figured to be an interesting charge towards the front in the Dan Menne owned ride. That charge became a bit easier when three tries to start the race and a similar number of yellows put some to the back and Becker was now starting 5th.
Brad Bumgarner led off of the pole, chased by Kevin Sharrah until Becker used lap 3 to take the runner up spot with a topside drive out of turn 4. Eight laps later Becker took the lead, diving past Bumgarner when he slipped up the track coming out of turn 4. Becker’s 3rd Chico win came after leading Bumgarner and 12th starting Andy Forsberg to the line. Forsberg’s charge offered further interest as the laps counted down as his top of the track effort justified his Mr. Excitement nickname.
The next night was a return to Antioch Speedway after an absence of at least 3 years. The occasion was not only to see the place again, but the draw of having BCRA midgets, a division I have never seen at Antioch as best as I can recall. It turned into a very entertaining evening of racing and one of the best midget mains I have ever seen, making it both a lucky and rewarding choice for Saturday evening.
When Antioch was made a little larger and wider the track received positive reviews on the changes. What I saw were excellent track conditions except for a bit of a rut in turn 4 and exciting racing despite some classes having few cars. The open wheel portion of the six division show was all BCRA, midgets and midget lites.
No qualifying was another nice touch but hot laps for all the classes put the start time about 20 minutes late. Officials do a good job of keeping things moving along and will cut laps if a race is taking too much time. The midget lite field was at 18, assisted by 5 cars from southern California. With 16 midgets on hand, I was certainly satisfied with the open wheel car count. Support classes were less, but some of the single digit divisions still had competitive mains.
Midget lite pole car driven by Marcus Smith led 18 of the 20 laps but, coming upon a lapped car in turn 4, chose the bottom while Scott Kinney was ready to used the top. Kinney drove around the leader and lapper to lead just the last two laps for the win. Smith was 2nd and Brad Dillard took 3rd in the dramatic finish.
The midgets put on a very thrilling main, one that got better as the 30 laps reached a conclusion. Gregg Bragg led a lap before 6th starting Scott Pierovich blasted into the lead running the high side around the fast quarter. Using the top of turn 4 to take the lead, Pierovich was pursued by Bragg until he hit the turn 4 rut, allowing Pete Davis to drive by for the 2nd spot.
Sean Dodenhoff used the bottom of turn 4 to move into 3rd on the 9th circuit and moved one spot higher a lap later with a low groove pass in turn 2. Bragg took 3rd back following a low groove drive in turns 1 and 2. Pierovich set a blistering pace while racing the topside of the track with Dodenhoff and again Davis took 3rd after Bragg went a bit high in turn 2 on lap 16. That would turn out to be the winning pass, although it was for 3rd at the time.
With ten laps remaining and the pace growing even more frantic, Dodenhoff closed on Pierovich before assuming the lead along the back stretch on the 22nd lap. Dodenhoff created a bit of a lead but Pierovich closed on him with 5 to go and the pair entered turn 4 glued together as the white flag was to appear. They bumped each other and the wall at the top of turn 4 leading to a slow roll for Dodenhoff and a red.
A somewhat distant 3rd at the time was Pete Davis and he inherited the lead on the restart, leading the last 2 laps for the win. Between dramatic duels and the lead pack furiously turning laps on Antioch’s quarter, it all added up to one of the best mains I have seen this year. If only they could all be like this one.
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