Tuesday's Top Ten 2006-03-28

O'Reilly ASCS Tuesday's Top Ten TULSA, Okla. (March 28, 2006) -- The time has come for another edition of Tuesday's Top Ten, consisting of ten random items or relevance or an inherent lack thereof from this past weekend's American Sprint Car ...

O'Reilly ASCS Tuesday's Top Ten

TULSA, Okla. (March 28, 2006) -- The time has come for another edition of Tuesday's Top Ten, consisting of ten random items or relevance or an inherent lack thereof from this past weekend's American Sprint Car Series racing action. And as always, TTT is arranged in no particular order for your reading ease.

Roll on.

1. Spring in The City -- "The City" as its referred to by most Oklahoma residents, Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway greeted the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour with winter-like temperatures approaching the thirties each night. Still better than the foot or so of snow many Northern teams escaped from.

Whether it was the absurd amount of talent on hand (a total of 59 cars for the weekend) or work done on the 3/8-mile clay oval during the off-season, including the addition of some banking to the turns, the end result was by all accounts some of the most spectacular racing the legendary Fairgrounds track has seen since reconfigured to its current state in 2001.

With good crowds on hand each night to brave the chilly air, 55 cars filled the pit area for both cards ("dropping" the season average to 58.6), with four Friday casualties replaced by four newcomers on Saturday. Tracy Nichols and Kent Winters had their weekend cut short by Friday flips, Wendy Chapa made her Sprint Car debut on Friday before opting to sit out Saturday night and Dex Eaton was never able to fire his mount.

Filling in on Saturday were Danny Horner, an Oregon racer who finished fifth in 2005 Northern Sprint Tour points, Larry Neighbors, Johnny Miller and Robby Ross. Hometown hero Neighbors flipped in his qualifying race, while Horner's apparent qualifying race win was waved off when it was discovered his car was equipped with something other than the ASCS spec Hoosier tire on the right rear.

2. 100 and Counting -- Gary Wright attained yet another ASCS landmark over the weekend, as his Saturday night feature start marked his 100th consecutive ASCS main event start. He became just the second driver in ASCS history to start at least 100 consecutive feature events, just one short of Zach Chappell' s record streak of 101. Wright can tie the record on April 28 at Poplar Bluff (MO) Speedway, then break it the next night at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway.

Wright, who sits atop the all-time ASCS National Tour win charts with 104 wins, has racked up some impressive stats since last missing a feature during Knoxville 360 Nationals preliminary action in 2003. In those 100 starts, Wright has racked up 34 wins, 75 top-fives and 89 top-tens.

3. Pole Dash -- While the format of heat races and qualifying races continues to generate superb racing and draw rave reviews from the paying fans, the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour has added another twist to its two-day format.

In past years, the top four finishers were automatically locked into the second night's feature, lined up according to their finish the first night. To add some spice, now the second night's top two point earners get to join the four locked-in drivers in a Pole Dash to determine the line up for the front three rows of the main event.

Jesse Hockett climbed to second in Saturday points when awarded his qualifying race win after the Danny Horner DQ, then found himself on the pole of the dash when the five drivers before him left the number "1" matchbox.

Hockett chased Gary Wright to the line in the dash, then fell back several positions in the early going of the feature. Hockett got the topside working to his liking by the end of the feature and was on the march, with a legitimate shot at stealing the win from Jason Johnson before a lap 26 caution interrupted his rhythm. Hockett still settled for a strong third behind Johnson and Danny Lasoski.

4. High Five -- With eight O'Reilly ASCoT (well, 7 and a half with the Devil's Bowl rain midway through the March 17 card) events in the books, 140 drivers have competed in at least one event. Fifty-six drivers have started at least one feature event, with just five drivers making the cut for all seven features. Those drivers you ask? They would be Gary Wright, Nick Smith, Travis Rilat, Tim Montgomery and Darren Stewart. Only Wright and Smith are already locked into the Devil's Bowl feature postponed by rain from March 17 to June 24, as Rilat, Montgomery and Stewart will have to make the main through "B" Feature action.

5. Save of the Week -- It would have to go to Travis Rilat's save in Friday night's third "B" Feature. Rilat had seemingly checked out on his rivals. But that all changed when he ran afoul of a lapped car in turns one and two midway through the 12-lapper.

Rilat dodged to the high side of turn two to keep from running over a slower car and quickly got out of shape. Rilat fought his machine, nearly saved it, then went for a spin. Rilat somehow kept his machine under power and did a 360-degree spin, ultimately getting it going back the right direction after falling to third behind Danny Jennings and Andy Shouse. Rilat battled his way past a determined Shouse to take the second and final transfer position, leaving Shouse on the outside looking in.

Shouse joined, among others, Kevin Ramey on the sidelines for Friday night's " A" Main. Ramey and Shouse had earned front row feature starting positions just seven nights earlier at Devil's Bowl Speedway before the skies opened up. >From the front row to not making the show, just another example of how tough the competition is on the O'Reilly ASCoT trail in 2006.

6. George Mason Odds -- After a third-place finish in 2005 American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region points, the early portion of the 2006 campaign has been a nightmare for 19-year-old Cody Branchcomb.

After junking one car in Florida and battling recurring engine woes, Branchcomb scored heat race wins at Devil's Bowl and the first night at Oklahoma City before ignition problems derailed him on both nights. Having not made a feature yet in seven attempts, the odds of Branchcomb being among the top two point earners on Saturday night were similar to those of George Mason making the unlikely climb to the NCAA's Final Four.

But, on a weekend that featured the unexpected, Branchcomb turned in the rare feat of winning both his heat race and his qualifying race to rank as Saturday night's top point-earner to lock himself into his first feature of the year. The Cinderella run ended in the "A" Main though when the youngster slipped over the turn four banking. Branchcomb hung in to post a 13th place finish in his 105th career ASCS National Tour feature start.

7. Leading the Way -- With 200 laps of "A" Feature racing already in the books for the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour in 2006, nine different drivers have paced the field at some point. Winning two of three Florida features, Terry McCarl sits atop the "laps led" charts with 46. Travis Rilat is next with 35 laps. Jason Johnson climbed to third by leading 28 of 55 laps over the weekend at Oklahoma City, with Sean McClelland next on the list with 25 laps. Other lap leaders so far include Jesse Hockett (23), Gary Wright (22), Greg Wilson (9), Aaron Berryhill (7) and Zach Chappell (5).

8. Let the Regional Racing Commence -- Eight down, 170 or so to go. That' s right, with eight nights of ASCS action already logged into the books, we' re barely getting started as approximately 170 events remain for the series throughout the nation in 2006.

Regional action commences with this Saturday night's inaugural ASCS Mid-South Region event. The event will bear an uncanny resemblance to a National show with ASCoT hitters including Gary Wright, Travis Rilat, Darren Stewart, Jason Johnson, Sean McClelland, Jan Howard and Sam Hafertepe, Jr., on hand, and should serve as an excellent preview to the upcoming ASCoT event at I-30 Speedway on April 29.

9. ASCoT Winners -- With 7.5 nights of ASCoT racing completed, 111 checkered flags have been waved including all heats, qualifiers, "C" Mains, "B" Mains, Pole Dashes and "A" Mains.

And it's 2003 ASCS National champion Travis Rilat who has taken the checkered the most times by scoring eight wins aboard the familiar F&J Construction/Hard Eight Racing No. 29 entry. Rilat sits atop the qualifying race win charts with three victories and atop the "B" Main win list with two triumphs. Rilat also has two heat race wins and one "A" Feature win.

Gary Wright is next with six overall wins. Wright is tied with Darren Stewart atop the heat win list with four triumphs (the duo led the heat win list in 2005 as well), and also has a "B" Feature win and a Pole Dash win to his credit.

Tim Montgomery has topped five races, with six drivers tied with four wins.

10. Rookie Race -- With this critical stretch of ASCoT action in the books, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Nick Smith not only sits atop the Rookie of the Year points race, but is just eleven points behind Gary Wright in the series championship points race.

The 2005 COMP Cams Newcomer of the Year, Smith still has plenty of competition for Rookie of the Year honors, with Jesse Hockett just 40 points behind him and fourth overall. Other Rookie contenders currently ranked in the top ten include Tim Montgomery (sixth), Jerrod Hull (eighth) and Sean McClelland (tenth).

Smith sheds his wings for his Eldora Speedway debut this weekend.

Enough already for Volume II, No. IV, of TTT. As always, notes, comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome at ascsed@aol.com.

Until next week, any information you may desire regarding the American Sprint Car Series is available at www.ascsracing.com.

-lw-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Darren Stewart , Johnny Miller , Danny Lasoski , Larry Neighbors , Aaron Berryhill , Cody Branchcomb , Travis Rilat , Jesse Hockett , Greg Wil , Nick Smith , Danny Jennings , Kevin Ramey , Jason Johnson , Andy Shouse , Sean McClelland