Danny Wood Holds Off Gary Wright for O'Reilly/NCRA 360 Sprint Car PARK CITY, Kan. (May 22, 2005) -- Two weeks ago on Mother's Day, threatening skies and a fast moving thunderstorm forced NCRA officials to reschedule the event to tonight after...
Danny Wood Holds Off Gary Wright for O'Reilly/NCRA 360 Sprint Car
PARK CITY, Kan. (May 22, 2005) -- Two weeks ago on Mother's Day, threatening skies and a fast moving thunderstorm forced NCRA officials to reschedule the event to tonight after having completed the five heat races.
As clouds accumulated and lightening gradually encircled the track, more than one person understandably cast a wary eye skyward while the night progressed. But Mother Nature held off long enough for 46 sprint car drivers to complete the evening as a pair of veterans shined though the starless night.
The final caution of the race set up a green-white-checker, two-lap shootout as Danny Wood held off the hard-charging Gary Wright to win his first race in the O'Reilly/NCRA 360 Sprint Car Series, presented by Hoosier Racing Tires.
With a full moon glowing overhead early in the evening, strange things were definitely happening during the Cherokee Casino and Resort Heat Races on the 3/8ths-mile oval below. Combined with the elimination of the pole dashes because of anticipated bad weather and time constraints, drivers started the A feature in a rather topsy-turvy manner. Three of the top four drivers on the grid were in previously uncharted and unfamiliar territory.
Unheralded Chris Morgan captured the pole for the 30-lap feature after winning the first heat from 10th place, thanks in no small part to attrition and the subsequent disqualification of the top two finishers for being underweight.
Local driver Rick England started on the outside of the first row, with veteran Brian Brown and another relative unknown, Chad Meinholdt, on the second row.
A good young driver, Morgan was quick to admit before the feature he didn't "quite have the engine to keep up with the others" starting behind him. To his credit, Morgan kept the lead until Brown dove low coming into turn three on the fourth lap.
While Brown was working up front to get around Morgan, Wood was roaring to the front from eighth on the grid.
He quickly dispatched Mike Peters and current NCRA points leader Garry Lee Maier to move into sixth by the second lap. Two circuits later Wood, who hails from Norman, Okla., had passed defending series champion Mike Woodruff and Meinholdt to move into fourth. On the sixth lap, Wood powered by both England and Morgan into second place and set his sights on Brown.
"Just feathering that throttle," Wood chuckled as he explained how he got around the track so quickly tonight.
"I love this track when it's slick without the rubber down. When it's slick, it's a driver's race track. You've got to be so smooth on the throttle to keep from spinning the tires," he said.
"You jump on that throttle just a sixteenth-of-an-inch and that means breaking the tires loose and you'll lose two spots. That's how crucial it is on the throttle at this race track."
His cause was aided when the first caution came out on lap eight as Meinholdt and Maier spun in turn two. Maier was able to keep his machine fired and continued, which was critical as he held on to seventh.
Defending series champion Mike Woodruff got a great jump on the restart and moved around Meinholdt and Morgan in the first two turns to take over third. Maier led Preston Peebles around this pair into fourth and fifth on the next lap.
A second caution flew on lap 10 as Peters and Jon Freeman got together in turn four. On the restart, Wood dropped low and slide by Brown for the lead. Woodruff held on to third with Maier and Peebles rounding out the top five.
With everything going on up front, Wright had been quietly and quickly slicing his way through traffic. The Hooks, Texas, hot shoe won the first B feature to start the A in 11th and had moved into sixth by lap eight. With Tony Bruce Jr. in tow, the duo passed Peebles on lap 13 to move into fourth and fifth, respectively.
Brown slowed in turn three on lap 16, which brought out the third caution, his night over with ignition problems.
On the restart Wright passed Maier for third, trailing only Wood and Woodruff. The trio quickly moved away from the others until encountering lapped traffic on lap 23 which allowed Maier and Bruce to catch up.
Tire wear became critical for everyone late in the race.
"The tires were vibrating real bad so I knew we had to be chewing on them real bad, just like everybody else," Wood said.
Woodruff's tires had been going away for some time, which helped Wright get by him into second on lap 27. Woodruff continued to fade as Maier and Bruce also got by him in the next two laps.
Peters slowed to a stop in turn four, his right rear tread gone, which brought out the final caution and set the stage for a suddenly familiar scene for Wright. Saturday in Dodge City he had dogged Maier all night before taking the lead with two laps to go and holding on for the win.
"I had heard he had won last night like that but it was one of them deals where I knew I had a nice car," Wood said. "I kept in my mind, I know Gary's back there but he's going to have to be a lot faster than me because of the tire situation."
But that was then and this is now -- Wood led the field to the green on the restart and led them to the checker two laps later as well. Wright dogged him the final two laps but couldn't mount a charge and finished second.
"I picked the pace up a little more and smoked the tires a bit, but I was just trying to keep from spinning them and it worked out perfect," Wood said.
"I knew he was going to have to really do something or I was going to have to mess up really bad for him to pass me, so I just tried to keep my cool."
Maier came home in third with Bruce Jr. fourth, while Woodruff held on to finish fifth.
C.J. Johnson, who was second in points going into tonight, won the second B feature to start the A in 12th place, which is where he finished.
Aside from Morgan's victory in the first heat, youngster A.J. Selenke held off Wood to win the second heat while Dennis Park captured the third heat. Maier made it four-for-four in heats this year in heat four with Woodruff taking the checker in the final heat.
Cherokee Casino and Resort Heat #1 (10 laps):
1. Chris Morgan, Topeka, Kan.; 2. Rick England, Wichita, Kan.; 3. James Riner, Wichita, Kan.; 4. Brian Herbert, Dodge City, Kan.; 5. Kerry McAlister, Mustang, Okla...; 6. Paul Flynn, Abilene, Kan.; 7. Scott Lehman, Hutchinson, Kan.; 8. Geoff Dodge, Colorado Springs, Colo.; 9. Don Droud Jr., Lincoln, Neb. (DQ); 10. Mike Chadd, Lincoln, Neb. (DQ).
Cherokee Casino and Resort Heat #2 (10 laps):
1. A.J. Selenke, Wichita, Kan.; 2. Danny Wood, Norman, Okla.; 3. Tony Bruce Jr., Liberal, Kan.; 4. C.J. Johnson, Quinter, Kan.; 5. Rick Ideus, Roca, Neb.; 6. Jake Pierson, Bellvue, Colo.; 7. Dwight Schroeder, Moundridge, Kan.; 8. Marcus Jackson, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; 9. Gavin Punch, Collinsville, Okla.
Cherokee Casino and Resort Heat #3 (10 laps):
1. Dennis Park, Liberal, Kan.; 2. Chad Meinholdt, Topeka, Kan.; 3. Mike Peters, Wichita, Kan.; 4. Gary Wright, Hooks, Texas; 5. David Wheeler, Valley Center, Kan.; 6. Travis Adams, Oklahoma City, Kan. 7. Abe Sherwood, Tulsa, Okla.; 8. Shane Bangerter, Dodge City, Kan.; 9. Steve King, Jetmore, Kan.
Cherokee Casino and Resort Heat #4 (10 laps):
1. Garry Lee Maier, Cimarron, Kan.; 2. Brian Brown, Grain Valley, Mo.; 3. Jason Martin, Liberal, Kan. 4. Eric Jobe, Kansas City, Mo.; 5. J.D. Johnson, Goddard, Kan.; 6. Kent Kantor, Tulsa, Okla.; 7. Allan Unruh, Valley Center, Kan.; 8. Natalie Sather, Fargo, N.D.; 9. Nick Smith, Broken Arrow, Okla. (DQ).
Cherokee Casino and Resort Heat #5 (10 laps):
1. Mike Woodruff, Satanta, Kan.; 2. Preston Peebles, Lubbock, Texas; 3. Larry Neighbors, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; 4. Jake Martens, Fairview, Okla.; 5. Jon Freeman, Salina, Kan.; 6. Luke Cranston, Ness City, Kan.; 7. Shane Howard, Hutchinson, Kan.; 8. Derek Drown, Amarillo, Texas.
B feature (12 laps):
1. Wright; 2. Peters; 3. Neighbors; 4. Jobe; 5. Freeman; 6. McAlister; 7. Howard; 8. Flynn; 9. Riner; 10. Martens; 11. Kantor; 12. Dodge; 13. Lehman (DNS); 14. Sherwood (DNS); 15. Bangerter (DNS); 16. Punch (DNS); 17. Dougan (DNS); 18. Chadd (DNS).
B feature (15 laps):
1. C.J. Johnson; 2. Bruce Jr.; 3. Ideus; 4. Cranston; 5. Martin; 6. J.D. Johnson; 7. King; 8. Smith; 9. Wheeler; 10. Adams; 11. Sather; 12. Jackson; 13. Drown; 14. Pierson; 15. Herbert; 16. Schroeder; 17. Unruh (DNS); 18. Droud Jr. (DNS).
A feature (30 laps):
1. Wood; 2. Wright; 3. Maier; 4. Bruce Jr.; 5. Woodruff; 6. Martin; 7. Peebles; 8. Morgan; 9. Park; 10. Ideus; 11. C.J. Johnson; 12. Jobe; 13. Cranston; 14. England; 15. Peters; 16. Selenke; 17. Meinholdt; 18. Brown; 19. Freeman; 20. Neighbors.