National notebook 2003-04-13

ASCS National Notebook TULSA, Okla. (April 13, 2003) - Ideal weather conditions, with pleasant temperatures and not a cloud in sight, provided the perfect setting for opening night of the 2003 O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series National Tour ...

ASCS National Notebook

TULSA, Okla. (April 13, 2003) - Ideal weather conditions, with pleasant temperatures and not a cloud in sight, provided the perfect setting for opening night of the 2003 O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers at Southwest Arkansas Super Speedway in Murfreesboro, AR, Saturday night.

With the quartet of Gary Wright, Darren Stewart, Kevin Ramey and Pete Butler entering the ASCS National opener with a hot hand, each having already claimed multiple feature triumphs in early season action, it was 2001 ASCS National champion Zach Chappell of Talala, OK, who stole the headlines by leading every lap of his heat race, then leading wire-to-wire in the 25-lap main event.

Chappell's second consecutive ASCS National Tour season opening triumph didn't go uncontested however, as first A.G. Rains, then Darren Stewart, both stuck their noses underneath Chappell, only to have Chappell fend off their challenges. Chappell beat Stewart to the checkered flag by little more than a car length, with Ramey, Tim Crawley and Wright hot on the lead duo's heels.

The victory, also Chappell's second in a row atop the three-eighths mile high-banked Murfreesboro dirt oval, capped a busy weekend for Chappell, who finished a close second behind NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart in Sedalia on Friday night. The Chappells departed Sedalia after midnight on Friday, got back to their Tulsa-area shop about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, made a few quick changes, then hustled down the long, winding road an hour or so later for an appearance at the Love's Travel Stop in Prescott, AR, at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

The effort proved to be well worth it, although sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll on Zach and car owner/father David as the adrenaline from the victory charge began to wear off.

After driving the Penn Racing machine in Sedalia, Zach drove the family-owned Champco Concrete Construction Maxim at Murfreesboro, as the Penn Racing team opted to stay home after Wayne Pennington's mount suffered damage in the Sedalia go. Zach, only aboard the family-owned machine when the Penningtons are unable to attend, will be back aboard the Penn Racing machine for next weekend's events at Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX, and 67 Texarkana (AR) Speedway.

After much off-season speculation regarding exactly what cockpit defending series champion Tim Crawley of Mabelvale, AR, might land in, he made a surprise appearance on opening night aboard the Avenger regularly driven by I-30 Speedway competitor William Hope. After tweaking the setup to his liking, Crawley battled from ninth to an impressive fourth in the main event. The ride was a one-time deal though, as Hope resumes weekly action at Little Rock next week, leaving Crawley still in search of a full-time ride.

Travis Rilat's debut aboard the newly-formed F&J Construction/Archer Motorsports mount got off to an inauspicious start, as he rolled to a stop on the backstretch on the second lap of his heat race with a broken throttle linkage. Rilat bounced back in the feature though, charging from 20th to snare eighth, earning the race's Hard Charger award.

Darren Stewart, already with a number of top finishes in weekly action including wins at Little Rock and Memphis Motorsports Park, continued his recent trend of running near the front. Stewart tried to sneak underneath Chappell on several occasions before settling for second.

>From West Memphis, AR, A.G. Rains was strong all night, topping Ramey in the second heat, then challenging for the lead during the early going of the feature until a turn two 360 set him back. Rains still posted a solid sixth place showing.

Little Rock's Justin Sturch recorded his first career ASCS win by edging former series champion Garry Lee Maier in the third heat, then followed up by claiming seventh in the main, his best career finish in ASCS competition.

Making the tow from Mansfield, TX, Claud Estes notched a tenth place finish after thrashing to make engine repairs after his heat race.

Also "thrashing" to make the A Main were Rick Behr, Sooner Region regular Foster Landon and Wade Oliver, who all suffered some degree of damage in heat race action. Behr had driveline problems in his heat, while Landon and Oliver both exited the track via the hook after separate incidents in the opening heat.

Rick Behr announced that he will run the entire tour, as long as his construction business doesn't become too time consuming and he's still having fun on the track.

Pete Butler, already with two wins this season at Little Rock, had a trying night. A broken mount on the nose wing ultimately sent Butler's suddenly ill handling machine into an infield tire in the heat race. Butler's night later came to an end when he and Rick Behr tangled in turn three on the 12th lap of the main event.

In addition to Ramey and Estes, 2002 Devil's Bowl Speedway champion Marvin Lough and Matt Clevenger both made the trip from the Dallas area. Lough was holding down a top ten spot until a turn two spin on the 11th round relegated him to the rear. Lough came back to finish 14th. Mechanical problems hindered the teen-aged Clevenger's efforts, as he pulled his machine pitside in the early going.

Bryce Vowan shared that he plans to expand his racing efforts beyond his home base Memphis-area this year. Vowan, who finished a close second in points at Riverside Speedway in West Memphis last year, plans to run 15-20 ASCS National events this year. Vowan finished 15th on opening night.

While Toby Brown wasn't overly enthused with his 12th place run, he and the ABF Truck Rebuilders team were still excited about his second place finish in a Midget run on Friday at Coffeyville, KS.

Kevin Ramey, who has been dominant in Dallas-area weekly action, posted a strong third place finish. Ramey will run selected National events, as he focuses on winning the ASCS Sooner Region championship. Ramey's teammate, Brian Harvill, was missing in action Saturday night, as he had a wedding to attend. Both will be on hand this Friday night at Devil's Bowl Speedway.

Nick Smith scrambled all week putting together a brand new Eagle chassis, getting it assembled just in time to make the trip to Murfreesboro. Smith's feature run came to an early end soon after he and Foster Landon got tangled up in turn one on the fourth round.

Scott Robertson drove a steady race to claim 11th. Formerly a Nebraska racer, Robertson has recently relocated to Camden, AR. Robertson plans to compete on a majority of the ASCS Gulf South Regional tour this year.

Travis Rilat, newly relocated from Texas City to Forney, TX, will try to establish a trend this coming weekend. Chappell made a Love's appearance on race day, then raced to victory lane. Rilat will try to do the same, as he'll be making an appearance at the Love's Travel Stop at I-20 and Polk in Dallas this Friday, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

All in all, a great night of racing at Murfreesboro's Southwest Arkansas Super Speedway to kick off the season. Next up: Devil's Bowl and 67 Texarkana Speedway.

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

-ascs-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Tony Stewart , Darren Stewart , Scott Robertson , Travis Rilat , Nick Smith , Kevin Ramey , Tim Crawley