National notebook 2003-05-06

ASCS National Notebook (Volume I, No. IV) TULSA, Okla. (May 6, 2003) - The O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers kicked off the month of May by successfully getting in a ...

ASCS National Notebook (Volume I, No. IV)

TULSA, Okla. (May 6, 2003) - The O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers kicked off the month of May by successfully getting in a full weekend of racing after inclement weather had nixed a night of racing in each of the previous two weekends.

While Shane Stewart and Travis Rilat shared victory honors over the weekend at 67 Texarkana (AR) Speedway and Champion Park Speedway in Haughton, LA, it was Bixby, OK, Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Darren Stewart moving atop the series' point standings by the narrowest of margins as a result of a pair of strong third place finishes over the weekend.

Piloting the Sparks Construction/Ostrich Racing Engines machine, Darren emerged from the weekend with a two-point advantage over Rilat, who became the series' first repeat winner through the first five events. 2001 ASCS National champion Zach Chappell sits third in points, just ten points out of the lead, with Gary Wright only six more markers back in fourth.

Hooks, TX, veteran hotshoe Gary Wright left 67 Texarkana Speedway on Friday night with a two-point advantage over Darren Stewart in the points chase, only to surrender the lead when a cut right rear tire on Saturday at Champion Park Speedway relegated him to the rear of the field.

With lightning flashes illuminating the Texarkana sky all around the speedway on Friday night, Darren Stewart led much of the way before older brother Shane Stewart, making his 2003 O'Reilly ASCS debut, raced by for the lead on the 14th round and charged to his first career ASCS triumph.

In true "Wide World of Sports" fashion, Shane enjoyed the thrill of victory, then endured the agony of defeat on successive nights. After battling past brother Darren, then holding off Wright over the closing rounds, Shane and company enjoyed a much needed first win of the season at Texarkana on Friday night, then generously gave the winning hardware to a young fan following the post race victory festivities.

Shane appeared to be on his way to making it a weekend sweep on Saturday night until a tangle in lapped traffic while leading on the 17th lap sent Shane's Snyder-powered MCI-chassis spinning in the fourth turn. After crew team Rob Hart and Cathy Barrows removed the remnants of the mangled front wing, Shane restarted at the rear of the field and charged back to finish eleventh in the Pro Lube Center/Penske Shocks/Sander Engineering/Express Transit machine.

Rilat was the benefactor of Shane's misfortune, taking command on the restart and racing to his second victory in the past three events in the F&J Construction/Archer Motorsports/Haulmark Trailers Snyder-powered Eagle. For those of a superstitious nature, last year's winner at "Champion" Park Speedway, Tim Crawley, went on to win the ASCS title, perhaps a good omen for the Texas City, TX, native. The victory also marked the third consecutive trip to victory lane for a Snyder Enterprise-powered mount in O'Reilly ASCS action.

Zach Chappell chased Rilat to the line Saturday night, settling for a strong runner-up finish in the Carbone-powered Champco Concrete Construction Maxim. The checkered flag flew just in time for Chappell, as a cut in the right rear tire had the tire quickly deflating as the race concluded. Following a 13th-place finish after flipping on a lap 22 restart the previous night, one of six Texarkana tumbles, Chappell and company were pleased with the runner-up showing.

Gary Wright wasn't quite so fortunate with the cut-tire scenario. After chasing Shane Stewart to the checkered flag on Friday and momentarily moving into the point lead, Wright had seemingly moved into fourth in Saturday's Champion Park main when the caution for Shane's incident appeared, only to be forced to the work area with a cut tire. Wright chased Shane through the back half of the field over the final nine laps, working his way back up to 12th at the finish in the Salina-powered Southwest Express/The Shop/Richwood Construction Maxim.

After an admittedly slow start to the season, Toby Brown and the ABF Truck Rebuilders team got things on the right track, notching a pair of top five finishes over the weekend, including a fourth place showing at Champion Park on Saturday.

2002 Brodix ASCS National Rookie of the Year Cody Branchcomb continues to show improvement. After fighting an ill-handling car to secure a seventh place finish at Texarkana, Branchcomb scored his first career top-five run by finishing fifth at Champion Park.

Defending series champion Tim Crawley showed up on Friday night with William Hope's regular ride and raced to a fourth place finish. With potential engine problems, Crawley returned to his Mabelvale, AR, home, and made repairs in time to win the weekly show at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway. Crawley will more than likely be aboard the Hope machine this coming weekend in ASCS National action in Oklahoma City on Friday, then in the Sooner Region non-winged event on Saturday.

After brake problems sent Matt Clevenger pitside early in Texarkana's feature, Clevenger bounced back and posted his first top ten finish of the season by crossing the stripe eighth at Champion Park on Saturday.

Kelly Angelette briefly surrendered the ASCS Gulf South Region point lead for the first time in the series' history when a turn one skirmish on the fifth lap Friday night left the Thibodaux, LA, native with no place to go, sending his machine flipping off the track in turn one. Angelette made repairs and regained the point lead from Todd Johnson Saturday night at Champion Park by running a solid sixth.

Gulf South Region regulars swept the weekend's Hard Charger awards, with Todd Johnson coming from 18th to eighth at Texarkana, and Greg Rilat racing from 13th to seventh at Champion Park.

Gulf South Region contender Chris Sweeney's weekend was cut short when a hard flip down the backstretch on the second lap at Texarkana rendered his machine damaged beyond repair for Champion Park action, sending Sweeney back to his Huffman, TX, home a day earlier than planned.

Sitting fourth in Gulf South Region points entering the weekend, Jimmy Brooks was conspicuously absent Friday night at Texarkana. "Flip-flop", as Brooks is commonly known among some in the Gulf South Region, showed up on Saturday and earned a ninth-place finish in the main event at Champion Park.

Sam Hafertepe, Jr., of Sunnyvale, TX, fared the best of the ASCS Gulf South Region rookie contenders over the weekend, notching a pair of tenth place finishes, the first career top-ten showings for the 17-year-old Sprint chauffeur.

Fellow Gulf South rookie Brandon Berryman raced to a ninth place finish at Texarkana, but was an early casualty Saturday at Champion Park.

Louisiana rookie pilots Stephen Chevallier and David Forbis returned to familiar territory Saturday night, as both have turned a number of laps at Champion Park Speedway in other forms of racing. Among Friday's flip victims, Winged Outlaw 600's founder and former competitor Forbis made repairs and just missed Saturday's feature. Former Legends racer Chevallier also repaired Texarkana damage and qualified for his first career ASCS main event, ultimately finishing 16th.

After flipping in ASCS Sooner Region action at Ada, OK, the previous week, Tina Creswell was on hand for both nights of action, with an eleventh-place run at Texarkana her top showing of the weekend.

Several I-30 Speedway regulars made the trek to Texarkana on their off-night Friday, including Justin Sturch along with the father-son combo of Tim and Jake Simmons. Sturch fared the best of the trio, finishing 15th.

Next Up: The O'Reilly American Sprint Car Series National Tour presented by Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and United Trailers joins forces with the ASCS Sooner Region Friday night at Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway. Saturday night, the ASCS goes wingless for the first time ever with a Sooner Region event at Creek County Speedway in Sapulpa, OK.


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Series Sprint
Drivers Darren Stewart , Cody Branchcomb , Shane Stewart , Travis Rilat , Tim Crawley