Croft Takes Win In Northern Sprint Tour 2004 Opener Southern Oregon Speedway - Medford, OR - Saturday, May 29, 2004 -- When the 42-car field at Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, OR flashed across the finish line in the May 29th Northern...
Croft Takes Win In Northern Sprint Tour 2004 Opener
Southern Oregon Speedway - Medford, OR - Saturday, May 29, 2004 -- When the 42-car field at Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, OR flashed across the finish line in the May 29th Northern Sprint Tour season opener, Sacramento, CA driver Willie Croft was leading the way. Taking advantage of the misfortunes of others, Croft grabbed the lead from Jayme Barnes just past the mid point of the 30 lap feature event, giving the rest of the pack a good view of the back of his car as they chased him to the checkered flag. "This was great", said Croft. "Jayme bicycled and I got by at just the right time".
Home-town favorite, Dan Menne of Ft. Jones, CA, took the lead on the opening lap and looked to have a good chance of going the distance until several cars in front of him slowed in turn two. Trying to miss the slower cars, Menne and Anthony Nunez went into a synchronized double spin and as Menne tried to power out of the spin the front end went toward the sky and Menne went over. A quick trip to the pits had Menne back out at the back of the pack with Jayme Barnes, of Everett, WA in the Ft. Jones based Finley Farms machine now in front.
Barnes quickly opened a comfortable lead on the restart while Menne returned to the pits a couple of laps later where he parked with throttle problems. After five laps out front, Barnes saw his lead disappear when he, as stated post race, "screwed up, slid over and Willie went by for the lead." Jimmy Trulli also got by, but Barnes quickly regained second and held to the finish with Placerville, CA's Trulli nipping at his tail.
While the racing was close at the front, action aplenty was going on throughout the pack with plenty of close racing, thumping and bumping. Richard Brace, Jr. of Auburn, CA and Colby Weisz of Colfax, CA diced several laps for tenth place and Medford's Todd Zeitler battled with defending NST champion Roger Crockett of Eugene, OR as Crockett was trying to move up through the pack.
Rick Fauver dropped out mid race while running fifth when major motor problems had him shut down the #5sp machine and last years Southern Oregon Speedway winner Barry Martinez pulled out a few laps later when he also lost a motor.
The first red flag had flown with just 4 laps down when Matt Menne lost a wheel and flipped in turn two. The final of three red flags came out when Jay Barnes of Everett, WA went end over end off turn four on lap 23. Neither driver was hurt, but the same could not be said for the cars. Of the original 20 starters, only 13 were able to take the checkered flag.
Asked about his first NST win and how it compared with his others, Croft said his Mini Gold Cup, Civil War and NST wins were his hardest ever to win.
In his post race comment, third place finisher Trulli stated, " I was way too tight. I got by Jayme but he took it back. I'm happy with the third. We are going to try to make all the Northern Sprint Tour races this season so I'm expecting to do better."
Crockett made easy work of the B-main event, leading flag to flag through the 15-lap event that was slowed by four yellow flags, and a red. Ron Smith of Central Point, OR brought out the red on lap 3 when he flipped into the turn three fence after jumping the wheel of another car.
As Crockett led, Fauver and Herman Klein of Sacramento, CA fell into place behind him with Lake Stevens, WA driver Travis Hawthorne holding a solid fourth through the race to make the last transfer spot to the A-main.
Farther back, Dale Smith was doing the best job of passing, moving from 12th to sixth as he sliced through the pack.
Brandon Johnson of Payette, ID came home the winner of the C-main, with Cottage Grove, OR's Marvin Smith also getting a transfer to the B-main.
The evening's first race came to a halt on the first lap when Chris Adams of Nampa, ID got squeezed into the back stretch wall and went for a wild ride into the wire and cables. Tearing out several feet of wire netting and fencing, Adams ended up half hanging from the fence. Adams limped to the ambulance for a ride to the pits and a check over while the track crew took about 20 minutes to repair the damage.
Once again underway, Jim Van Lare of Santa Rosa, CA took the heat one win over M. Menne, Trulli and D. Menne. Heat two went to Brace over Martinez, Jayme Barnes and Croft.
Weisz took the third heat win with TJ Winningham, Jay Barnes and Jeff Hodgson. The final heat had Zeitler taking the win as Shawn Rice of Tacoma was fast closing the gap in the final lap with Chris Schmelzle of Victoria, BC and Crockett following.
Barnes was the trophy dash winner over D. Menne, Croft, Trulli, Hodgson and Schmelzle.
Fast Time for the night went to Crockett with a 12.050 second lap.
Fast Time -- Roger Crockett -- 12.050.
Heat 1 --Jim Van Lare, Matt Menne, Jimmy Trulli, Dan Menne, Roger Crockett, Herman Klein, Ron Smith, Marvin Smith, Dawn-L Morrison, Chris Adams.
Heat 2 -- Richard Brace, Jr., Barry Martinez, Jayme Barnes, Willie Croft, Nick Evans, Herman Van Dam, Charlie Cash, Brandon Johnson, Bob Brooke, Randy Pierce.
Heat 3 --Colby Weisz, TJ Winningham, Jay Barnes, Jeff Hodgson, Mark MacKay, Travis Hawthorne, Ron Ellis, Charlie Rodgers, Paul Zimmerly, Bryce Fugate, Vern Wheeler.
Heat 4 -- Todd Zeitler, Shawn Rice, Chris Schmelzle, Roger Crockett, Rick Fauver, Dale Smith, Billy Nutter, Alex Hantel, David Gilmore, Mark Torres.
Dash -- Jayme Barnes, D. Menne, Croft, Trulli, Hodgson, Schmelzle.
C-Main -- Johnson, M. Smith, Fugate, Gilmore, Torres, Cash, Zimmerly, Adams, Wheeler, Wayne Kniffen.
B-Main -- Crockett, Fauver, Klein, Hawthorne, MacKay, D. Smith, Pierce, Morrison, M. Smith, Rodgers, Ellis, Van Dam, Evans, Brooke, Hantel, R. Smith.
A-Main -- Croft, Jayme Barnes, Trulli, Hodgson, Crockett, Van Lane, Hawthorne, Weisz, Rice, Brace, Jr., Zeitler, Nunes, Winningham, Martinez, Jay Barnes, Fauver, Schmelzle, D. Menne, Klein, M. Menne.