Notebook 2008-04-30

ASCS Notebook -- April 30, 2008 Lonnie Wheatley, TULSA, Okla. (April 30, 2008) -- The American Sprint Car Series put the wraps on the month of April with an unpredictable weekend of action that featured from some fresh...

ASCS Notebook -- April 30, 2008

Lonnie Wheatley, TULSA, Okla. (April 30, 2008) -- The American Sprint Car Series put the wraps on the month of April with an unpredictable weekend of action that featured from some fresh faces in victory lane.

Only Nick Smith had graced an ASCS victory lane before, as fellow ASCoT victor Skip Wilson and Canyon Region conqueror R.J. Johnson both posted first career wins in ASCS competition.

The weekend of O'Reilly ASCoT action opened on Friday at Paris Motor Speedway, marking the series first Parisian outing since 2005. But wicked storms throughout the area made the likelihood of the event actually happening seem quite remote.

Paris proper was hit hard by storms, as was Blossom. Actually located a few miles south of Blossom, the track received just a few drops around 5:00 p.m. as menacing clouds swirled overhead before moving off to the east.

A 20-year veteran of the Sprint Car wars, everything fell into place for Skip Wilson on this night. And he took full advantage, making no mistakes to cash in on his first ASCS triumph over a stacked field that included a half dozen past ASCS National champions.

One night later at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway, Nick Smith added his first National win of the year to a Sooner Region victory at Oklahoma City on April 11. It was Smith's first ASCoT score since his 2005 Rookie of the Year campaign when he took top honors at Missouri's Poplar Bluff Speedway and then Virginia Motor Speedway.

Meanwhile, R.J. Johnson became the fourth different driver to top an ASCS Canyon Region feature with a late move around Charles Davis, Jr., at Manzanita Speedway, in the process denying Davis a third consecutive win.

Throwing his hat into the mix for the Discount Tire Co. ASCS Canyon Region championship, it is easy to forget that R.J. is just 21 years old. Already carrying the battle scars of seven Chili Bowls, R.J. became legal just ten days earlier.

---Sixteen drivers took in both nights of O'Reilly ASCoT National action at Paris and Little Rock. The 13 full-time ASCoT travelers (Eric Baldaccini, Zach Chappell, Don Droud, Jr., Jason Johnson, Wayne Johnson, Garry Lee Maier, Kathryne Minter, Travis Rilat, Nick Smith, Chris Tarrant, Gary Taylor, Kenneth Walker and Gary Wright) were bolstered on both nights by three-time ASCS National champ Tim Crawley, I-30 Speedway regular Justin Sturch and Memphis racer Don Young.

Skip Wilson and Sooner shoe John Ricketts joined in at Paris to bring the field to 18 cars, with a half dozen or so shying away because of nasty weather.

After missing his first ASCoT event of the year the night before, Jason Sides swapped engines again in time for I-30, with Sooner Region title contender Matt Covington joining in as well. Nine more I-30 Speedway regulars took part (Cody Gardner, Jerry Kamer, Lewis Jenkins, Jr., Jeremy Newkirk, Rick Pringle, Zach Pringle, Tommy Snellgrove, Dave Speer and Joe Young) with seven Memphis-area reps (Brad Bowden, Derek Hagar, Andy McElhannon, Wade Oliver, Marshall Skinner, Lee Sowell and Chris Williams) bringing the I-30 count to 34.

---Friday's 25-lap feature at Paris Motor Speedway ran off in non-stop fashion. It's a good thing too, since a snake had commandeered one of the tow trucks in the infield. What kind, you ask? Nobody determined the make and model, only describing it as, "A big one." Apparently big enough that everyone kept his distance until the snake left the vehicle of its own accord. Welcome to Texas.

---John Ricketts got upside down in the second heat race at Paris. He returned for the feature minus the right side panel on his wing, making a few laps before pulling to the infield. Without a complete wing, a possible journey up the road to Little Rock was ruled out.

---Friday night got off to a rough start for Don Droud, Jr., when a brake caliper was spit out of the Sparks 91. After scrambling to change out the rear end, a u-joint exploded in the heat race, prompting the team to load up for the night. Droud bounced back to finish eleventh at Little Rock.

---Skip Wilson nearly won last year's ASCS Gulf South championship, falling just ten points short of Brandon Berryman at season's end. No point chases for Skip this year, as he'll mix it up in Sooner, Gulf South and National action.

---Don Young ranked as the top earner in passing points at Paris and started fourth row outside in the feature after pulling the eight in the redraw. But after bicycling off the top of turn one, he was forced pitside. Currently leading ASCS Coastal Region points, the 19-year-old Bartlett, TN, racer is set to chase down the Coastal title this year and then pursue ASCoT Rookie of the Year honors in 2009.

---Kenneth Walker and Nick Smith were racing for more than the win at I-30 Speedway on Saturday night, where they exchanged the lead several times over the first half of the race. They were racing to stay in the top ten in ASCoT points after leaving Paris tied for tenth. Following a tenth-place run at Paris for Walker, a sure top-five Little Rock run went up in smoke just four laps short of the checkered flag when a spinning Wayne Johnson left him no place to hide.

---Wayne Johnson started the night at Paris with a new Fisher powerplant. But after some broken rocker arms in his heat race, it was back to the Wesmar. Johnson closed in on Wilson a couple of times in traffic, but was busier fending off Tim Crawley for the runner-up spot most of the race.

At I-30, Johnson got around Walker for second in the latter stages and was trying to set up Smith for a shot at the lead. But it was Crawley on the move in Mike Ward's No. 88 from the fifth row. Getting a scent of the leader after getting by Walker for third, Crawley got underneath Johnson on the 27th lap with Johnson spinning in turn four after contact.

"He tried to cut down on me the same way he did last night," Crawley explained. "I wasn't up for that again."

---With car owners Mike and Megan Eubanks unable to take in the weekend festivities, Gary Taylor brought in his father from Washington along with former Conklin wrench Mark Matejka from Colorado. Taylor netted eleventh in his first visit to Paris and then made a late charge at I-30 to capture a career best ASCoT finish of third.

---I-30 regular Joe Young captured his first career ASCoT heat race win on Saturday night. And this time, there was no "DQ", as was the case for Mighty Joe during ASCS Speedweek last July at Creek County Speedway where his nose wing was too far forward.

---Four-time series champ Gary Wright found himself at the back of a well-loaded I-30 heat race, leaving "The Texan" to wonder if he may have to work through a "B" Main just to make the show. But when Jason Johnson stopped after a near-spin on the initial heat race start, Wright moved up a row and found the path he needed to earn a position in the redraw along with son-in-law Nick Smith.

The Lauren Smith formerly known as Lauren Wright, not to be confused with Nick's sister Lauren who has carried the Smith name since birth, teased her husband that, "Daddy says he's gonna blow by you real quick if you don't get faster."

Whether that was intended to get Nick's elbows up or not, it did. He took to a narrow topside of the 0x00bc-mile oval and rode it to near perfection for 30 laps. The only miscue was a slight detour off of turn two on the tenth lap that put Kenneth Walker back in front for a few rounds. It was a route similar to the one that Crawley took several times on the way to winning the spectacular Speedweek finale of 2005.

---Falling into the "Strange but True" category, Crawley hasn't won an ASCS National feature event since that memorable Speedweek victory of 2005.

---Hernando, Mississippi's Brad Bowden cracked the top ten at I-30 as he made his first ASCoT appearance of 2008.

---Matt Covington was in the hot seat during hot laps at I-30 Speedway when a fuel line came loose. The 18-year-old bailed out before things became too serious, getting enough heat on his posterior to make for an uncomfortable four-plus hour ride back to the Tulsa area. Covington worked his way past former I-30 Speedway track champ Rick Pringle for the fourth and final transfer from the second "B" Main.

---Until Wayne Johnson's lap 27 spin at I-30, Tommy Snellgrove was the only one of the 24 starters to make an early exit. Kenneth Walker then left on the hook, while Zach Pringle opted to watch the final four-lap dash to the stripe rather than restart as a lapped car separating Smith from Crawley.

---Max Jantz of Max Jantz Excavating was on hand to watch Garry Lee Maier drive to a strong fourth place finish at I-30 Speedway. Jantz is a sponsor on the familiar No. 11x, which has climbed to fourth in points.

---The dilemma: To pursue Brodix Rookie of the Year honors with the O'Reilly ASCoT National series or to chase the American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region championship? That is the choice the Eric Baldaccini team is faced with this week.

We'll know the answer on Saturday when the No. B4 pulls into either Lake Ozark Speedway in Eldon, MO, for National action for Mid-America Speedway in South Coffeyville, OK, for Sooner competition.

---Baldaccini is currently ranked eighth in National points, tops amongst a stout rookie crop that includes Don Droud, Jr., (ninth), Kenneth Walker (11th), Gary Taylor (12th), Kathryne Minter (13th) and Chris Tarrant (16th).

---Baldaccini is currently fifth in Sooner points, although two of those ahead of him are National regulars (Travis Rilat and Garry Lee Maier). Thus, the 20-year-old is effectively third in Sooner points behind Kolt Walker and defending Sooner champ Brian McClelland.

---David Chappell serves as crew chief for Baldaccini. David's son, Zach, reeled off another pair of top-tens over the weekend to climb to fifth in points, just eight points behind Maier.

---With his ASCS Canyon Region win on Saturday, R.J. Johnson jumped from eighth to fourth in points behind Jeremy Sherman, Charles Davis, Jr., and Nathan High. The lead trio in points have each finished among the top five in five of six feature events thus far in 2008.

---DNF's dropped Jeremy Reagles and Thomas Ogle three positions each in Canyon Region points, from fourth and fifth down to seventh and eighth, respectively.

---Jeff Henry picked up his first top-ten of the year with a sixth-place run at Manzanita.

---Yuma's Mike Martin has reeled off four top-ten finishes in a row, including a fifth-place showing Saturday at Manzanita, to climb to fifth in points.

---Saturday's ASCS Canyon Region card at Manzanita Speedway is a Tribute to Kole Kaskey, departed son of Micro racer Ken Caskey and Andrea Caskey.

A 50/50 drawing, raffle, auction and more that includes a Tony Stewart autographed helmet and Jimmie Johnson autographed jacket among other items will benefit the Phoenix Children's Hospital as well as the Driver's Fund of Arizona.

---When the ASCS Sprints on Dirt open the season Saturday night, it will mark the 100th time that Crystal Motor Speedway has hosted a SOD event. Gerry Lippert won the first event in SOD history at Crystal Motor Speedway on May 24, 1980.

Since that time, 40 different drivers have won at least one of the 99 SOD features at Crystal, with all-time series win leader Hank Lower and Dustin Daggett knotted atop the Crystal charts with ten wins apiece. Daggett, the series champion in 2003 and 2004, has enjoyed recent Crystal domination by winning ten of the series most recent 19 events atop the 3/8-mile oval.

---The ASCS Patriots also fire to life on Saturday with the Fulton (NY) Speedway season opener. Two-time and reigning Patriot king Chuck Hebing won last year's Fulton opener, with Justin Barger a Patriot winner at Fulton last September.

---The ASCS Southwest Region is in action over three of the next four Saturday nights at Tucson's USA Race Park beginning this weekend. Ensuing USA cards in May are on the 10th and 24th, with the Southwest Region also taking to Show Low's Thunder Raceway on the 25th.

---Through the month of April, there have been 19 different winners in 28 overall ASCS feature events, with 305 different drivers competing in at least one event so far.

The pace quickens in May with a total of 35 ASCS events slated for the next month.

The nation's most prominent Sprint Car sanctioning body with a dozen different Regions throughout the United States in addition to the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour National series, the American Sprint Car Series' (ASCS) 17th year of activity will include approximately 250 nights of racing at more than 100 different race tracks throughout 28 different states and Canada.

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

-credit: ascs

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Series Sprint
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Mike Martin , Travis Rilat , Justin Barger , Chris Williams , Derek Hagar , Nick Smith , Wayne Johnson , R.J. Johnson , Gary Taylor , Tim Crawley , John Ricketts , Chris Tarrant , Matt Covington , Jason Johnson
Teams Williams