Digging For Gold: Veterans Ready for Gold Cup Chico, CA--September 6, 200 6-- There are races on the calendar each year that drivers look forward to months before the green flag flies, and one of those is the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver...
Digging For Gold: Veterans Ready for Gold Cup
Chico, CA--September 6, 200 6-- There are races on the calendar each year that drivers look forward to months before the green flag flies, and one of those is the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway. On the eve of the event, World of Outlaws Sprint Series drivers are waiting in anxious anticipation to take to the track for this year's race, which will pay an event record $50,000 to the winner.
The total purse for the 53rd Annual Gold Cup will be over $180,000 for the three nights of racing. Action kicks off on Thursday night with half of the field taking part in a qualifying night, complete with time trials, heat races and a preliminary feature. The same format is in store on Friday night for the rest of the field. Points will be accumulated each night to set the starting field for Saturday night's 40-lap main event.
Donny Schatz enters the event on top of the World of Outlaws Sprint Series standings on the strength of 12 A-Feature wins. He also has crossed the line first in two preliminary features. On top of this he etched his name forever in the record books as the winner of the 46th Annual Knoxville Nationals. He heads to the Gold Cup with plenty of momentum on his side, as he continues his quest for his first series championship.
"When we heard the Gold Cup was going from $25,000 to $50,000 to-win, I was excited," said Schatz, driver of the Parker Store J&J. "It's always been a great event and we have run well there the last several years. We've had a lot of top-five finishes and managed to win one a few years ago. Anytime you have won at a race track and go back, you feel like you are in a good contention to win. We're excited to get there and glad. The weather has been great out here, and we're looking for another good weekend."
While he won the Gold Cup in 2004, there is nothing Schatz would like more than to win it for a second time. He ranks his win in the Gold Cup as one of the highlights of his career, and would love to hoist the trophy again in RacinSoles Victory Lane on Saturday night.
"You have your biggest events of the year, and Knoxville is obviously the biggest one, but the Gold Cup ranks right up there with the National Open and the Kings Royal," he said. "We've managed to win them all but the Kings Royal. We're looking to come back to the Gold Cup and if not be in victory lane, at least fighting to be there in the process."
Joey Saldana aboard the Mopar-powered Dodge/Curb Records JEI has won seven A-Feature races this season including the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway, which paid $50,000 to-win. He wants to pick up another big paycheck for his team which is owned by NASCAR star Kasey Kahne, who has been in attendance for the team's last two victories. Having raced in the Gold Cup a number of times, Saldana is thrilled to have the added bonus to win on the line this year.
"It's really big this year," Saldana said. "It's neat that the World of Outlaws and John Padjen are working together to have a big Gold Cup this year. This is probably what most races should pay, the $50,000. The owners put a lot of money into these deals. It's nice to have some races that help pay the budget. Hopefully we can be up front for that event and it's definitely a good race to win."
With a field of over 90 cars already pre-entered, Saldana knows the importance of a good performance on his qualifying night. He will take to the track on Friday, and will have an extra day to closely watch what the other teams are doing and how the track is prepared when the cars hit it for the first time on Thursday.
"The qualifying night is huge, like at the (Knoxville) Nationals, and the three-day event at Williams Grove (Speedway)," he said. "You have to qualify well and points mean a lot. You definitely want to be at the front in the feature on Saturday. If you don't qualify well, you will not be able to do that. I've run second there before, and qualifying well and running good on your qualifying night, definitely helps. Hopefully we can get it done this year. We know we can run up front."
Craig Dollansky enters the Gold Cup on a roll, having picked up the win at the Harvest Classic on Sunday night at Calistoga Speedway. He turned in a dominating performance, leading all 30 laps on the always demanding track. For his fifth win of the year, he earned $12,000. He is chasing his first win in the Gold Cup, and has been close to victory a couple times in the past. He has been fast all season on the short tracks, including picking up a win at Tri-State (Ind.) Speedway earlier this season.
"We are excited for it," said Dollansky, driver of the Karavan Trailers Maxim. "They raised the purse up for it. $50,000 is definitely a good thing. We've been close there the last couple years, and come up second or third. We're going in there a lot stronger right now. I feel good about the race team right now. The car has been really good, and the motors are running good. We'll go in there hopefully with a little luck on our side and see what we can do."
The last time the World of Outlaws Sprint Series raced on a quarter-mile track at Princeton (Minn.) Speedway, it was Daryn Pittman sweeping the weekend. That was at the end of July, and he is eager to get back on the short tracks and eager to get back to RacinSoles Victory Lane. Though he calls Owasso, Okla., he knows the history and prestige of the Gold Cup.
"It is usually one of the biggest events of the year," said Pittman, driver of the Titan Garages & Carports Maxim. "This year, add another 20-grand to what they normally pay, and it's even bigger yet. The Gold Cup is one that everybody wants on their resume. The $50,000 is what everyone wants today. I'm looking forward to it. It has a unique format like the (Knoxville) Nationals with a split field. The three nights are always exciting, and everyone feels like they have a good chance at winning. It's great to race in front of the crowd that they get there. We're definitely pumped for it and looking to improve off of last year."
Brooke Tatnell has won his fair share of big races in his career both in the United States and in his native Australia. One of these big wins came a couple weeks back at Skagit Speedway during the early stages of the Gold Rush Tour for the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, when he picked up a very emotional win for his Rush Racing Team and pocketed $25,000 in the process. With car owners Tim Hanson and Bob Campbell on hand, the always optimistic driver turned in a stellar performance free wheeling a car home that had no front brakes on it, and only had rear brakes after his crew was able to cap the brake line under a red flag.
Tatnell knows with the big money on the line, that it will be no holds barred on the track and that is the way he likes to race. He has been strong all season on every type of track, and enjoys going to the short tracks that remind him of the tracks he grew up on racing.
"They definitely have stepped up the mark this year, with the $50,000 on the line to win," said Tatnell. "It is prestigious with the guys that have won it. It's winding down on the year and everyone is trying to make their win quotas and money quotas, and the points are still up for grabs. You may not have many friends by the end of the weekend, I can guarantee that. That's basically what it is going to be. That place is not the easiest to pass at, because it is very narrow, especially coming out of turn four. I think you will have a few bruised egos and some upset friends by the end of the weekend."
Terry McCarl has been around sprint car racing for as long as he can remember, and though he grew up in the shadows of Knoxville Raceway, the Gold Cup has a special place in his heart as well. He enjoys racing on tight high-banked tracks as he cut his teeth racing at Huset's Speedway in Brandon, S.D., where he has won six track championships and holds the all-time win record. He cannot wait to take to the track at Silver Dollar Speedway on Friday.
"It's always been a big event," said McCarl, driver of the Big Game Treestands Eagle. "I lived in California in 1990 and 1991. We ran Chico a lot. We were running really good last year, and I blew a tire late in the race on the qualifying night. With the point thing, that kind of messed us up. It was a fun race last year and a good track. The $50,000 is a big deal. The race itself is a big deal. It's been going on a long time and has a lot of history involved, having the $50,000 adds to it."
For Randy Hannagan, coming back to California is always a special occasion. With the rigors of traveling from coast-to-coast with the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, it is not very often that the San Jose native can come home. After getting to spend a few days with family and friends after the Harvest Classic at Calistoga, he is ready to attack Silver Dollar Speedway in search of his first Gold Cup win.
"There is a lot of history behind the Gold Cup," said Hannagan, driver of the Penthouse Racing Maxim. "I started going to it back in the late 1970's when it was at West Capital (Raceway). I've seen a lot of good racing at the Gold Cup, and gotten to participate in it for the last 10 or so years. It's always good to be back in California and go back to Chico. We have had a little success, not a lot, and we'll see if we can capitalize on it."
It has been a few years since Dion Hindi raced in the Gold Cup. He was turning wrenches on Donny Schatz's car last season when Schatz made a remarkable charge from the back of the field to finish fourth after an early spin. Hindi enters the race with plenty of confidence after a strong run in the Harvest Classic. He won the dash on the preliminary night to secure his second pole position of the season. He came home sixth on Saturday night.
"It is a big event, with a lot of tradition, especially for the West Coast people," said Hindi, driver of the Realtruck.com J&J. "The last time we ran it, we were eighth on our qualifying night, and we went right to the A-Main on Saturday. When you have 100 race cars, you have to beat 100 race cars. It makes you earn the money...$50,000 to win on a quarter-mile is great. We have done pretty well on the quarter-miles this year. We'll be pretty good on Saturday."
For ticket information about tickets the Gold Cup Race of Champions call 916-969-7484 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., or visit johnpadjenmotorsports.com/silver_dollar. On Thursday reserved tickets will be $35.On Friday reserved tickets will be $35. On Saturday reserved tickets will be $45.
.*Note: Three-day tickets are available for $115.