USAC Western States Midgets Team HK at Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV. After a six-week delay due to rain, the Western States Midgets resumed their racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday April 25, 1998. Team HK had a good start to their evening with a 5th quick qualifying time of...

Las Vegas, NV.

After a six-week delay due to rain, the Western States Midgets resumed their racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday April 25, 1998. Team HK had a good start to their evening with a 5th quick qualifying time of 19.696sec around the half-mile dirt oval with Bryan Stanfill having quick time with a 19.127sec lap. Klepper started 4th in the heat race and moved into second on the first lap following Bobby Boone into turn one. By lap two Klepper was all over Boone but was unable to pass because of tacky track conditions, not to mention Boone was fast. However, on the white flag lap Klepper got a great run out of turn four and passed Boone on the outside of turns 1 and 2 winning before the LVMS crowd. After the heat race Clay said, "I'm real glad we're having a good showing so far tonight. We've got some new sponsors we're displaying on the car this weekend [Apple Masonry & Straight-Line] and I'd like to show them we can run up front and get their businesses some exposure."

With two main events of 360 sprint cars on the track and the midget semi-main already ran, the track had taken its toll. By the time the #69 midget rolled out onto the track, crew chief Rob Klepper and assistant Greg Bashian decided to make a torsion bar, stagger, right front spring, and weight transfer changes to get the Stealth Gaerte hooked up on the tacky/rough magic mud track. Klepper lined up with Shane Skully on the inside of row one at the beginning of the race and fought a loaded up fuel problem at the start. Skully jumped into the lead briefly and Klepper settled into second in turns one and two. Going into turn three, Klepper took the high line and caught the ruts the wrong way forcing him to back out of the throttle giving up six positions. Now in eighth, Clay was determined to fight back, and he did. Patiently, Clay passed drivers such as: Wally Pankratz, Shane Skully, and Bryan Stanfill to regain third position. With only three laps to go there was a red flag. Team HK made some slight changes, but the car was extremely good. With Rick Hendrix leading and Donnie Beechler in second, Clay knew his work was cut out for him. On the re-start Klepper got a great run out of turn two and ran side-by-side with Beechler down the back straight. Beechler lifted in turn three, but Klepper did not, overtaking second position. However, it was short lived as Klepper's speed forced to catch the ruts the wrong way again and give up the second and third position. At the checkered flag, it was Hendrix, Beechler, Stanfill, and Klepper. After the race, the John Lawson entry did not pass tech, so Klepper along with Stanfill moved up a position to second and 3rd respectively. After the race Clay had this to say, "I knew we had a fast car and our Hoosier tires and Eibach springs were really doing the trick, but when I drove under Donnie that fast, I knew I was going to finish either 2nd or 4th. It's just one of those moves that makes you either a hero or a zero." The newly sponsored Apple Masonry, Straight-Line, Lucas Oil Co., Eibach Springs, Hoosier Tire, Full-Bore, and Seed Services Inc. race car was extremely fast. Klepper feels more top finishes heading his way real soon, along with some wins. Action returns this Saturday in Ventura.

Greg Bashian grb10@csufresno.edu gregba@sirius.com

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Series General
Drivers Donnie Beechler , Wally Pankratz , Bryan Stanfill , Rick Hendrix