Wright Denies Sather ASCoT Honors in OKC Prelim! OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 23, 2007) -- For the longest time in Friday night's State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals preliminary event, it appeared that 22-year-old Natalie Sather would become the...
Wright Denies Sather ASCoT Honors in OKC Prelim!
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 23, 2007) -- For the longest time in Friday night's State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals preliminary event, it appeared that 22-year-old Natalie Sather would become the first female "A" Feature winner in American Sprint Car Series history.
But three-time and reigning O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour National champion Gary Wright of Hooks, TX, had other ideas, sweeping past the spunky North Dakota lass on the 24th round of the 25-lap main event to capture his 109th career series victory and third of the year, padding his current series points lead in the process.
But it wasn't easy for "The Texan", as he had to race from the 14th starting position and spent several late laps struggling to get by South Dakota's Chuck Swenson for second.
"I didn't know if I was gonna get there or not, I knew we were running out of laps," Wright explained after the win aboard the Wesmar-powered Richwood Construction/Whiteco Commercial Funding/Southwest Express No. 9 Maxim. "We were really zipping around the top of turn two good, once I got around Chuck I thought we could get there. I kinda hated to take that away from her, she drove a really good race, probably the best race that she's ever driven, at least feature-wise."
Asked of any disappointment, Sather smiled and shrugged, "Well, sorta," as throngs of fans flocked to the attractive young driver of the Shaver-powered Gateway Chevrolet/Brookings Auto Mall No. 94s J&J seeking autographs after a career-best second place finish.
Sather had kicked off the evening by outgunning Danny Shouse for the point and leading all the way in the opening heat race. After drawing the front row outside for the Pole Dash, Sather got the jump on Swenson at the start and held off both Swenson and Danny Jennings to earn the pole position for the feature event.
Meanwhile, Wright chased Jennings to the stripe in his heat race after starting on the pole and found himself mired outside the seventh row of the 23-car feature grid, with a tough field ahead of him just to get locked into Saturday night's State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals finale.
"The most important thing was to run in the top four and get locked in for tomorrow night, it's so tough against all this competition that if you can get locked in then you don't have to try to fight your way in tomorrow," Wright explained.
Wright and Sather are joined by third-place runner Foster Landon of Collinsville, OK, and Swenson as the four drivers locked into Saturday's 30-lap finale.
At the start of the feature, it was Sather outgunning Swenson for the early lead. Sather's early pace was interrupted after just two laps when Shane Stewart got sideways in turn two and collected Kevin Ramey, who got upside down. Ramey was done for the night, while Stewart would spin on the fourth round and ultimately pull pitside just past the halfway mark.
While Sather paced the opening circuits in front of Swenson, Landon, Darren Stewart and Jennings, Wright had already advanced a half dozen positions to eighth by the time the second caution flew for Shane Stewart's turn two spin on the fourth lap.
Back under way, Swenson kept the pressure on Sather as Wright meticulously worked his way forward, cracking the top five by the tenth circuit.
At the same time, Sather was approaching lapped traffic with Swenson sensing an opportunity to pounce upon his first career O'Reilly ASCoT National win as well. And when Sather slipped high exiting turn four on the 12th circuit, Swenson challenged on the low side. The pair raced underneath the flagstand side-by-side, with Sather edging back into the lead as they charged into turn one.
After Wright made his way past Darren Stewart for fourth a lap later, Swenson made one bobble that allowed both Landon and Wright to race by. But a caution would fly for Wayne Johnson's turn two spin as Landon and Wright raced side-by-side on Sather's tailtank, putting Swenson back in second with eleven laps to go.
Back to fourth on the restart, Wright quickly made his way past Landon for third. But Sather continued to drive a nearly flawless race, opening up a three car-length advantage as Swenson fought off Wright for second.
Wright tried the high side of turn two for several rounds only to have Swenson shut the door. But having tipped his hand one too many times with the block, Wright dove to the inside of Swenson exiting turn two on the 21st lap to take over second.
Wright wasted little time reeling in Sather and charged by on the high side of turn two on the white-flag lap to take the lead for keeps, forcing Sather to settle for second. Rookie of the Year hopeful Landon made a late move past Swenson to post a career-best ASCS National Tour feature finish of third aboard the Wells-powered Sooner Surplus Sales No. 11F Maxim, while Swenson took the fourth and final lock-in position in the Fisher-powered K&C Conversions No. X Maxim.
Darren Stewart rounded out the top five in Bobby Sparks' Ostrich-powered RESM Transport No. 91 Eagle, while past ASCS National champion Travis Rilat rallied from 17th to sixth. Jennings, Garry Lee Maier, 21st-starter Jason Johnson and Kenneth Walker completed the top ten.
Sather, Gary Owens, Darren Stewart, Landon, Jennings and Swenson topped heat race action for the 43-car field. Rilat made a last-lap pass of Wayne Johnson to win the first 12-lap "B" Main, with Johnny Miller wiring the field in the second "B" Main.
O'Reilly ASCoT State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals Preliminary Results:
Heat Races (Top 16 in passing points to "A" Main; Balance to 2 "B" Mains)
Brodix Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 94s-Natalie Sather, 2. 27-Andy Shouse, 3. 7m-Kevin Ramey, 4. 83s-Larry Neighbors, 5. 21x-Brian Brown, 6. 4-Jamie Passmore, 7. b4-Eric Baldaccini, 8. 45-Martin Edwards.
Wesmar-Shaver Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 33-Gary Owens, 2. 03-Joe Wood, Jr., 3. 2-Kenneth Walker, 4. 41-Jason Johnson, 5. 87-Brian McClelland, 6. 2x-Whit Gastineau, 7. 25-Derek Cottrell.
Brodix Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 91-Darren Stewart, 2. 15-Jon Corbin, 3. 97-Aaron Berryhill, 4. 94-Wayne Johnson, 5. 29-Travis Rilat, 6. 21-Nick Smith, 7. 22b-Ben Gregg.
Wesmar-Shaver Heat Four (8 Laps): 1. 11F-Foster Landon, 2. 71-Keith Rauch, 3. 11x-Garry Lee Maier, 4. 5$-Danny Smith, 5. 43-A.J. Selenke, 6. 98-J.D. Johnson, 7. 93-Bob Schaeffer.
Heat Five (8 Laps): 1. 61J-Danny Jennings, 2. 9-Gary Wright, 3. 59-Dex Eaton, 4. 57c-Chris Schmelzle, 5. 15x-B.J. Fay, 6. 17b-Ryan Bickett.JDNS: 22-Koby Barksdale.
Heat Six (8 Laps): 1. X-Chuck Swenson, 2. 14x-Shane Stewart, 3. 64J-Johnny Miller, 4. 92-Mike Sitzmann, Jr., 5. 94x-Cody Branchcomb, 6. 20-Dusty Ballenger, 7. 81au-Gavin Punch.
Pole Dash (Top 6 in Passing Points from Heat Races; Finishing Order Determines Front Three Rows of "A" Main):
Pole Dash (5 Laps): 1. 94s-Natalie Sather, 2. X-Chuck Swenson, 3. 61J-Danny Jennings, 4. 33-Gary Owens, 5. 11F-Foster Landon. DNS: 91-Darren Stewart.
"B" Mains -- Top 3 From Each Advance to "A" Main
First "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 29-Travis Rilat, 2. 94-Wayne Johnson, 3. 41-Jason Johnson, 4. 59-Dex Eaton, 5. 57c-Chris Schmelzle, 6. 21-Nick Smith, 7. 4-Jamie Passmore, 8. b4-Eric Baldaccini, 9. 43-A.J. Selenke, 10. 17b-Ryan Bickett, 11. 22b-Ben Gregg, 12. 21x-Brian Brown, 13. 81au-Gavin Punch. DNS: 22-Koby Barksdale.
Second "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 64J-Johnny Miller, 2. 87-Brian McClelland, 3. 2x-Whit Gastineau, 4. 83s-Larry Neighbors, 5. 5$-Danny Smith, 6. 94x-Cody Branchcomb, 7. 98-J.D. Johnson, 8. 15x-B.J. Fay, 9. 20-Dusty Ballenger, 10. 93-Bob Schaeffer, 11. 92-Mike Sitzmann, Jr., 12. 45-Martin Edwards. DNS: 25-Derek Cottrell.
O'Reilly ASCoT State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals Preliminary "A" Main Event:
"A" Feature (25 Laps): 1. 9-Gary Wright, 2. 94s-Natalie Sather, 3. 11F-Foster Landon, 4. X-Chuck Swenson, 5. 91-Darren Stewart, 6. 29-Travis Rilat, 7. 61J-Danny Jennings, 8. 11x-Garry Lee Maier, 9. 41-Jason Johnson, 10. 2-Kenneth Walker, 11. 87-Brian McClelland, 12. 97-Aaron Berryhill, 13. 21-Nick Smith, 14. 94-Wayen Johnson, 15. 64J-Johnny Miller, 16. 03-Joe Wood, Jr., 17. 33-Gary Owens, 18. 71-Keith Rauch, 19. 27-Andy Shouse, 20. 2x-Whit Gastineau, 21. 14x-Shane Stewart, 22. 15-Jon Corbin, 23. 7m-Kevin Ramey.
Lap Leaders: Natalie Sather 1-23, Gary Wright 24-25.
Note: Nick Smith utilized a provisional starting position for the "A" Main.
O'Reilly ASCoT Points (Top Fifteen): 1. Gary Wright 583, 2. Wayne Johnson 534, 3. Chuck Swenson 526, 4. Darren Stewart 509, 5. Jason Johnson 501, 6. Travis Rilat 497, 7. Foster Landon 419, 8. Garry Lee Maier 384, 9. Danny Jennings 382, 10. Andy Shouse 372, 11. Johnny Miller 366, 12. Nick Smith 346, 13. 13. (tie) Natalie Sather and J.D. Johnson 329, 15. Kevin Ramey 319.