American Sprint Car Series -- Tuesday's Top Ten TULSA, Okla. (May 3, 2005) -- Time for installment Number Four of Tuesday's Top Ten. The time-honored tradition of gathering ten items of random degrees of relevance and/or ...
American Sprint Car Series -- Tuesday's Top Ten
TULSA, Okla. (May 3, 2005) -- Time for installment Number Four of Tuesday's Top Ten. The time-honored tradition of gathering ten items of random degrees of relevance and/or general disinterest gleaned from this past weekend's American Sprint Car Series racing action and assembled in no particular order for perusal.
Let the perusing commence.
1. Red Hot -- Five podium finishes in five starts, including three feature wins, to kick off the 2005 American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region season. Not a bad start at all for Collinsville, OK, racer Sean McClelland, who continues to rank among the nation's hottest drivers after adding another win this past weekend.
McClelland rebounded from his worst Sooner Region finish of the year, a paltry third place showing behind Danny Wood and Kevin Ramey on Friday night at State Fair Speedway, by racing to his third triumph of the season the next night at Lawton Speedway. Tony Bruce, Jr., with whom McClelland tied for third in Sooner Region points last year, tried to reel in career win number one until the bitter end but McClelland couldn't be topped.
Tied with Danny Jennings atop the overall ASCS win charts in '05 (both have three wins), McClelland is earning his share of the national spotlight and will be on John Katich's usadirtracing.com Full Throttle Racing Show today, May 3rd. The show airs at 6:00 p.m. CDT. Don't fret if you miss the live version, the show is archived and can be heard at your leisure. Jennings was an entertaining guest after his Devil's Bowl sweep and McClelland, still on Cloud Nine to be sure, figures to be a good listen as well.
2. Winter Nationals in April? - It looked like an Eskimo invasion at Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway Friday night as everyone in attendance piled layer upon layer to fight off temperatures that dipped into the low 40's along with a steady north wind.
In typical Oklahoma fashion, Friday's frigid conditions succumbed to an ideal Chamber of Commerce-type day for Lawton Speedway on Saturday, with pleasant temperatures and not a cloud in sight.
Watching the steam roll off the right rear tires in Friday night's hot lap sessions was a rare treat though.
3. Hammer Time! -- Not the former rap star turned evangelist that's now trying to break back into the music biz, but Danny "The Hammer" Martin, Jr., who dropped in on the Heintz Performance ASCS Southern Tour at Thunder Valley Speedway in Lawndale, NC, Friday night.
The 19-year-old Florida shoe made the most of his ASCS debut by posting the biggest win of his career, racing to an eight car-length victory in his best "You Can't Touch This" manner. Scott Young took over the series' point lead with a breathtaking last-lap pass of Lance Moss for the runner-up position in yet another entertaining Southern Tour feature.
"That's the most fun we've had racing Sprint Cars in at least two years," members of the Martin camp commented afterward, a sentiment echoed by the ASCS Southern Tour contingent of racers.
4. There Must be Some Way Out of Here -- Said the champ to the rookie, as defending ASCS Rocky Mountain Region kingpin Keith Rauch sought an escape from a snowy Thornton, CO. Rauch and fellow Colorado traveler, rookie pilot Josh Fellows, found the answer, leaving nine inches of snow in their wake to compete in Friday night's Sooner Region event in Oklahoma City.
Rauch, carrying the #71 rather than the more familiar #99, made it into the main event after Nick Smith and Foster Landon crashed out in front of him in "B" Feature action and then took the checkered flag 15th in the "A".
Fellows, another grad of the Karting ranks, made his first ASCS start and gridded his heat race on the front row alongside ageless veteran Earnest Jennings, who had easily turned more laps over the course of his career than anybody else in attendance Friday night. With a stout 35-car field on hand, Fellows would miss the show in his sprint debut.
5. New Crew Chief -- During idle weekends for the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour, Darren Stewart typically hits weekly action at Memphis Motorports Park on Friday night and I-30 Speedway on Saturday night, largely due to those tracks' proximity to car-owner Bobby Sparks' residence. When Sparks called early Friday informing of a Memphis rainout, Darren made the trek down the turnpike instead to take in Friday's Sooner Region outing at Oklahoma City.
Stewart had little more than sidled into the pit area before Broken Arrow, OK, racer Nick Smith put him to work. With Stewart spinning the wrenches like an old pro, Smith's night came to an early end when he climbed over Foster Landon's mount on a "B" Feature restart while both held transfer positions. "Darren's setup made me do that, so he's fired," Smith quipped afterward.
Relieved of his crew chief duties, Stewart returned to the cockpit of Sparks' mount to capture his second consecutive win at Little Rock on Saturday night.
6. 200 and Counting -- No, not the Toby Brown streak of consecutive events competed in (although that would have been a good guess), but more than 200 drivers have already competed in at least one ASCS event in 2005 with just 15 events in the books. The exact total thus far is 202 drivers from 21 different states. With the addition of the Midwest Region (which recently added a pair of dates at I-90 Speedway in Hartford, SD) and the Southern Tour (with several new tracks ready to jump on board), well over 500 drivers will compete in at least one ASCS event this year, topping last year's mark of 437.
With a handful of Sooner Region races, four National events, three Gulf South shows, a pair of Southern Tour events and the Midwest Region opener in the books, Sunnyvale, TX, teen Sam Hafertepe, Jr., has competed in the most ASCS events thus far in '05 with eleven starts. Sam, whose last name gives announcers fits, is one ahead of Tony Bruce, Jr.'s ten starts.
7. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly -- The Good: Mustang, Oklahoma's Kerry McAlister climbed to fourth in Sooner Region points over the weekend, after entering the double tied for sixth. The Bad: McAlister somehow made the climb with a pair of DNF's, being credited with finishes of 19th and 20th. The Ugly: The weekend for a pair of 11's, Foster Landon and Preston Peebles II, each of whom watched McAlister bypass them in the points race. Peebles limped into Friday's main event and finished 18th aboard the #11p before missing the show at Lawton. Landon missed both features. The Nick Smith tangle effectively ended Landon's chances on Friday night, while the #11F's front end mysteriously collapsed while racing through turns one and two during Saturday's B Main.
8. Closer to Home -- "Being on the road week in and week out, keeping the car going, it's really tough, it wears ya out after a while," Cody Branchcomb commented prior to Friday night's Sooner Region event. "But I'm gonna want to be back out there pretty soon I think, I hate just reading about what those guys are doing out there."
After three years on the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour, the 19-year-old Sapulpa, OK, racer has his sights set on the Sooner Region championship in 2005.
"I really don't like this track (Oklahoma City), but Dude, Lawton is awesome, I love that place. At Lawton, you've gotta be hauling ass all the time, take it easy for a second and people are flying by you."
Branchcomb picked up a handful of positions in the final two laps to claim ninth at Oklahoma City, then scorched his heat race field at Lawton to earn the pole position for the feature. The young shoe led the way until a power steering fitting gave way, effectively ending his bid for a first feature win.
Through five of 18 scheduled events, Branchcomb is third in current Sooner Region points behind Sean McClelland and Danny Jennings.
9. Smitten by the Media Darling -- Line-dancing Chili Bowl announcer Randy Ward, also the track announcer at Oklahoma City and Lawton, almost seemed smitten by lady racer Natalie Sather of Fargo, ND. But who could really blame him?
Sather charmed the listeners of Lawton's K-LAW FM 101.3 radio station Saturday afternoon, and then warmed up the fans during opening ceremonies to become an instant favorite in the process. Fans even demanded that Ward chase Sather down on track during an intermission to hear more of her Dakotan accent.
And, Sather is showing sure signs of progress on the track. Sather has qualified for three consecutive Sooner Region main events (Ada, Oklahoma City and Lawton) against some salty competition over the past two weekends. Even better, Sather has been around for the checkered flag in all three events. Look for even better things from the 20-year-old racer down the road.
10. New Digs -- After thirteen previous Sooner Region events atop the famed Lawton Speedway quarter-mile red clay oval, Saturday night marked the first time for ASCS sprints atop the newly reconfigured track.
Major facets of the reconfiguration included lengthening the straightaways by 40 feet and widening the track by 20 feet.
The general consensus was that the track was perhaps a little bit faster, but there was little perceived difference. A few random comments from early in the night:
"It seemed about the same to me, even had the same hole getting into three," Liberal, KS, racer Jason Martin kidded after hot laps.
"It seems like it's a little bit faster, maybe the straightaways are just a little longer," according to 2001 Sooner Region champ J.P. Bailey.
"I'm not sure if I like it yet or not, ask me at the end of the night," Foster Landon laughed. Landon's night ended early so his later comments probably wouldn't be suitable for print.
Kevin Ramey said, "It flattens out coming off of two and the car falls over on the right side. It's like that until about half way down the backstretch then it hooks up good again." Which would likely be the reason why several drivers brushed the new backstretch wall after exiting turn two just a bit too high.
Enough for this week. Putting the wraps on weekly installment Number Four of Tuesday's Top Ten, comments, questions, suggestions, critiques and more are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week, any information you may desire regarding the American Sprint Car Series is available at www.ascsracing.com.