National notebook 2003-04-20

ASCS National Notebook (Volume I, No. II) TULSA, Okla. (April 20, 2003) - Weekend number two for the O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers featured one of ...

ASCS National Notebook (Volume I, No. II)

TULSA, Okla. (April 20, 2003) - Weekend number two for the O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers featured one of the nation's hottest drivers storming to victory lane at Devil's Bowl Speedway on Friday night, with Mother Nature nixing Saturday night's go at 67 Texarkana Speedway.

Ft. Worth's Kevin Ramey continued his early season hot streak, taking command from his front row outside starting position at the outset and pacing the field throughout at Devil's Bowl Speedway. Ramey's third career ASCS National triumph brought his overall 2003 win total to six, including the ASCS Sooner Region opener and four victory drives in weekly competition at DFW-area tracks.

"The engine started running a little hot the last few laps, but it never really slowed down much," stated Ramey afterward.

With the triumph, Ramey now sits atop not only the ASCS National point chart, but the ASCS Sooner Region points as well. Something has to give though, as the National Tour has a double set at Memphis Motorsports Park this upcoming weekend (April 25-26), while the Sooner Region is also in action this Saturday night, April 26, at Oklahoma Sports Park in Ada.

Ramey says, "We're really just racing to have fun this year, picking and choosing our races for the most part. The only points thing we're really concerned with is the ASCS Sooner Region, we want to try to win that championship."

With that said, look for a new ASCS National point leader following Memphis action, as Ramey and the potent Wells-powered Harvill Industries Eagle try to make it two wins in a row in Sooner Region competition.

Bixby, Oklahoma's Darren Stewart entered the season considered to be the leading contender for ASCS Brodix Rookie of the Year honors. With a pair of runner-up showings in the first two events however, the chase for Rookie of the Year honors may soon become a secondary concern for the Stewart/Sparks combination, as Stewart has established himself as an early contender for ASCS National championship honors, sitting just two points behind Ramey entering Memphis.

Stewart has reason to feel confident about the upcoming double dip at MMP, as he has turned a number of laps there aboard the Ostrich Racing Engines/Sparks Construction machine, recently winning the season opening weekly event at MMP. Stewart will be seeking to at least double his career ASCS National win total, as he notched his first career ASCS victory at MMP last September en route to ASCS Newcomer of the Year honors.

Stewart and the No. 91 Sparks sprinter will also be appearing at the Love's Travel Stop located in Palestine, AR, just west of Memphis on I-40, on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The saga continues for the much talked about teaming of Zach Chappell and Penn Racing. Chappell was expected to be aboard the Penn machine for the weekend, but a call late Thursday night from the Penningtons informing of an undisclosed family illness made for a late change of plans.

The Chappells dusted off their winning mount from the week before and made the trek to Devil's Bowl, where Zach raced from sixth to second in the opening heat, good enough to earn the pole position for the main event. Zach settled for a fifth place fun after slightly missing the feature setup. In his quest for a second ASCS National title, Zach is just four points off the pace in third.

Once again, current plans call for Chappell to be aboard the Penn Racing machine at MMP. Tune in at MMP to see how this plays out.

Gary Wright, always strong at Devil's Bowl, won his heat from the pole, then ran a solid third in the main event, although he was never able to seriously challenge either Ramey or Stewart for the top two positions. It was Wright's second consecutive top five finish in ASCS National competition. Wright is fourth in points, ten markers out of the lead entering MMP.

While not part of the team's master plan for 2003, Travis Rilat is making an early habit of earning Hard Charger awards. After coming from 20th to eighth in the opener at Murfreesboro, AR, Rilat qualified for Friday's main event at the Devil's Bowl by topping the first 12-lap B Main. Rilat then put on show for the fans, charging from 15th to fourth in the main event, notching his second Hard Charger award in a row.

After Travis Rilat topped 2001 USAC Silver Crown champion Paul White and Rick Behr in the first B Main, his father Greg was not to be outdone, as he led all the way to win the second B Main. Greg led ninth-starter Toby Brown and Sam Hafertepe, Jr., to the line.

Claud Estes turned in another strong performance, recording a sixth place finish. It marked Estes' second consecutive top ten finish in ASCS action, elevating him to sixth in early season points.

Long-time Devil's Bowl Speedway shoe Skip Wilson was the final car on the lead lap, notching a solid seventh place finish.

Unexpected guest of the week would have to be Rick Ziehl of Las Cruces, NM. Ziehl's journey from the Land of Enchantment resulted in a fine top ten showing, as he claimed eighth in the main event.

2002 ASCS Brodix Rookie of the Year Cody Branchcomb notched his first top ten finish of the year, taking the checkered flag in ninth.

Also a points race for the ASCS Gulf South Region, fourteen Gulf South regulars made the journey, most from the Southern Texas and Louisiana area. Todd Johnson of Eunice, LA, was the top-finishing Gulf South shoe, notching a tenth place showing. Other Gulf South drivers making the main event for the 38-car field were Sunnyvale, TX, teen Sam Hafertepe, Jr., who finished 14th, and Greg Rilat, who exited the main event after 15 rounds.

Defending ASCS Gulf South Region champion and current 2003 Gulf South points leader Kelly Angelette finished fourth in the second B Main, missing the transfer by one position.

Like many of the Gulf South drivers, Tina Creswell of New Braunfels, TX, was making her first racing appearance at the Devil's Bowl. Creswell acquitted herself quite well on the fast half-mile oval, getting quicker as the night progressed, ultimately just missing a transfer position in the second B Main.

A handful of Gulf South rookie contenders were on hand, including Hafertepe, who fared the best of the group, Stephen Chevallier, Cody Pearson, David Forbis and Brandon Berryman. Berryman, who had topped his fellow rookie pilots in the Gulf South's first two events, encountered mechanical problems during his heat and was unable to make the call for his B Main.

Harry Yerrington, father of the aforementioned Tina Creswell, was late arriving to the track, as tow truck problems put his arrival in question. Yerrington made it in time for the B Main, but plumes of smoke began billowing from his machine in less than a lap, sending him pitside for the night.

Jerry Bell of Rowlett, TX, was running a strong second in the opening heat when he spun a bearing in his engine, bringing an early end to his evening.

Matt Clevenger struggled with fuel problems all evening and was never able to get his machine up to speed. Clevenger hasn't ruled out the possibility of competing at MMP this upcoming weekend.

Blake Mallory, who was credited with 16th in the main event, informs that he'll likely be competing with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series at Charlotte in late May.

Sooner Region shoe James Shoun was spotted in the pits lending a hand to fellow Oklahoma City racer "Jammin" Jimmy Taylor. Shoun hopes to be ready to go for the Sooner Region event at Ada. Taylor's first outing on the half-mile came to an abrupt end in the second B Main, when something in the rear end broke exiting turn four, jamming Jimmy's machine into the frontstretch wall. Taylor commented later, "This wall hurts a lot more than the wall at Lawton's quarter-mile does."

Missing in action was 1992 ASCS National champion Garry Lee Maier of Cimarron, KS. At this time, it is expected that Maier, who ranks second in career ASCS National wins with 34 triumphs, will be in "pick-and-choose" mode for the 2003 season.

With the first night of 2003 ASCS racing at the Devil's Bowl in the history books, most of the 38 teams on hand for Friday's action and several others were en route to Texarkana when persistent heavy rains cut the weekend short.

Next Up: Memphis Motorsports Park on April 25-26 for the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers, with the Sooner Region in action at Oklahoma Sports Park in Ada on April 26.

>From there, it's a Louisiana weekend as the Gulf South forces take on the National Tour regulars at New Leesville 171 Speedway and Haughton's Champion Park Speedway on May 2-3. After a May 3 outing at Lawton Speedway, the Sooner Region then takes on the National Tour at Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway on May 9. The ASCS then offers up its first ever non-winged race the next night, May 10, for a Sooner Region topless shootout at Sapulpa's Creek County Speedway.

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Series Sprint
Drivers Darren Stewart , Paul White , Blake Mallory , Rick Ziehl , Cody Branchcomb , Travis Rilat , Kevin Ramey