ASCoT: 2007 season opens in January

East Bay's Winter Nationals Open with O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour TULSA, Okla. (January 2, 2007) -- Tampa, Florida's East Bay Raceway Park kicks off its 31st Annual Winter Nationals in grand fashion as the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars...

East Bay's Winter Nationals Open with O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour

TULSA, Okla. (January 2, 2007) -- Tampa, Florida's East Bay Raceway Park kicks off its 31st Annual Winter Nationals in grand fashion as the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour take to the semi-banked, 1/3-mile dirt oval for the Ninth Annual "King of the 360's Nationals" on January 25-27.

Just three weeks away, the season opener for the ASCS National Tour culminates with $10,000 to win Ronald Laney Memorial on Saturday night, January 27.

A stellar field of drivers is expected for the prestigious event, with defending race winner Terry McCarl and three-time and reigning ASCS National champion Gary Wright among the early entries.

Wright will begin his pursuit of a fourth consecutive ASCS championship in the Florida opener, as he returns to action aboard the Wesmar-powered No. 9 Maxim. Wright will have his hands full in 2007 though, as a number of top shoes will try to dethrone the king.

Among Wright's toughest adversaries will be Louisiana's Jason Johnson, who will return from Australia in time for this year's season opener. Last year, Johnson spotted Gary Wright 110 points when he missed the East Bay event. Johnson enjoyed a stellar season and fell just 30 points shy of Wright at season's end. Johnson is currently leading the World Series SprintCar points in Australia with just three events remaining.

Also expected to vie for the ASCS crown in 2007 are Missouri's Jesse Hockett, who ranked third in ASCS National points last year, and 2006 Brodix Rookie of the Year Nick Smith.

Forney, TX, hotshoe Travis Rilat will make a bid for a second National title as well. Rilat, the 2003 series champion, finished fifth last year.

Also expected to vie for the crown are the Oklahoma trio of Darren Stewart, Sean McClelland 14-year-old Trey Robb. Stewart, runner-up in 2006 National points, earned the ASCS Mid-South Region championship and a National ranking of seventh in 2006.

McClelland netted a sixth in National points in his 2006 Rookie campaign, also finishing second in ASCS Sooner Region points after claiming the Regional title in 2005. Robb, also part of a rugged Rookie class in 2006, raced to an impressive ranking of eighth last year.

Sam Hafertepe, Jr., of Sunnyvale, TX, the 2006 ASCS Sooner Region champion, raced to his third consecutive top ten ranking in ASCS National points last year and is expected to be back for more this year.

A pair of veterans will hit the road again in 2007, including Garry Lee Maier of Cimarron, KS, and Larry Neighbors of Oklahoma City.

Maier, the first ASCS National champion in 1992, returns to the ASCS full-time for the first time since 2004, when he ranked eighth in points. Maier has stayed sharp over the past two seasons, bagging a pair of NCRA titles.

Neighbors returns to the road on a full time basis for the first time since 2001, when he posted a runner-up finish in ASCS National points.

Among this year's Rookie crop will be 16-year-old Jack Dover of Springfield, NE, who ranked second in 2006 ASCS Midwest Region points, and Canadian Chris Schmelzle.

The ASCS National championship contenders will face a contingent of heavy hitters in the season opener at East Bay, including Terry McCarl, who bested a field of 83 drivers to earn the "King of the 360's" crown in 2006.

East Bay Raceway Park is located off I-75 Exit 250, then two miles west, then 1.2 miles north on US 41, then right 1.3 miles on Old US 41 to Burts Road. For more information, contact the track at 813-677-7223.

The O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour National slate will consist of approximately 50 nights of racing at nearly 30 different tracks throughout the nation in 2007.

The 2007 season will mark the 16th year of sanctioning Sprint Car racing for the American Sprint Car Series, with the series set to sanction more than 225 nights of racing at approximately 100 different race tracks throughout at least 30 different states and Canada.

Additional information regarding the American Sprint Car Series is available at www.ascsracing.com.

-credit: ascs

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Larry Neighbors , Travis Rilat , Nick Smith , Jason Johnson , Sean McClelland