Jones wins Jeff Bagley Classic. VENTURA, CA, MAY 4, 2002 - Tony Jones usually runs well at Ventura Raceway, but until Saturday's Jeff Bagley Classic he had been held without a main event victory at Seaside Park. Putting that demon to rest in a...
Jones wins Jeff Bagley Classic.
VENTURA, CA, MAY 4, 2002 - Tony Jones usually runs well at Ventura Raceway, but until Saturday's Jeff Bagley Classic he had been held without a main event victory at Seaside Park. Putting that demon to rest in a big way, the only thing that prevented Jones from sweeping the race program was a second place finish in his heat race.
With 12 career NAPA Auto Parts / Auto Trader Magazines SCRA main event wins, Jones now ranks seventh in all-time feature wins. Of greater importance, Jones has now established himself as a legitimate title contender. Enduring some hard luck in the prior two races, Jones sits only 12 points behind defending series champion Cory Kruseman.
"I'm not sure what the points deal was coming into this thing, but I've been telling everyone not to worry, that there's a bunch of races left," Jones said. "I'm looking forward to challenging for the point championship. It seems like I never get to run a full season, and if we can win a championship this year it would really be a feather in my cap."
After starting on the pole, Jones finished second to John Scott when the last time the SCRA visited Seaside Park in October. As fate would have it, Jones and Scott would share the front row for the start of the 40 lap main event. Even though he prefers to not lead early, Jones got the better start and led Scott, Gary W. Howard, Mike Kirby and Troy Rutherford at the end of the opening lap.
"I hate starting on the front row. It's just too much damn pressure," Jones joked. "When you start in the front row you have to be able to make quick decisions, and, as I've said before, it's a lot easier for me to be running second, third or fourth and watching what the leaders and the lapped cars are doing."
In Kruseman's case, running sixth was the place to be. With the first five cars hugging the infield berm, Kruseman, who won the inaugural Bagley Classic last May, was able to make the cushion work. Passing both Rutherford and Kirby on lap four, Kruseman was up to fourth when the yellow flag flew on lap eight for an incident involving Adam Mitchell and Rip Williams in turn one. Moments after the yellow flag waved, Williams' teammate, Mike English, tangled with Rickie Gaunt in turn three.
Kruseman passed third place Howard on the restart and quickly closed in on Jones and the Pace Electronics No. 83 TCR driven by Scott. Fearlessly, Kruseman darted off the turn four banking and squeezed his way between Jones and Scott on the eleventh lap. Not seeming particularly comfortable on the bottom, Jones pushed his Ferreira Dairy No. 87 Avenger up to the middle of the racing surface. Jones' change of lines did little to slow Kruseman's momentum and by the end of the 14th circuit "The Kruser" had car number one in the top spot.
Once out front, Kruseman pulled away from the rest of the field until he hit lapped traffic on the 18th lap. As a tribute to Bagley, Buzz Shoemaker and Billy Wilkerson posted bonus money for leading lap 21. Shortly after Kruseman collected that bonus, the red flag appeared for Jimmy Thompson who flipped hard off the back straightaway billboards. Thompson was not hurt, but his accident did create a longer than normal clean up.
Kruseman, who earlier won the Sander Engineering Fast Time Award, continued to pace the field comfortably until he reached the last car on the lead lap with ten laps to go. Heavy lapped traffic allowed Jones to instantly erase Kruseman's comfort zone. With Kruseman trapped behind a side-by-side battle for position, Jones took a couple unsuccessful of stabs at the lead. Fully aware that he was being pressured, Kruseman shot low on lap 35 hoping to break up the race in front of him. Kruseman's strategy didn't work out as planned and the door was left wide open for Jones on the top.
Now in front, Jones was faced with the same dilemma. Lapped traffic did, however, play out nicer for Jones than Kruseman allowing him to put a couple of cars between his Johnny Vermeer / Bubby Jones owned car and Kruseman. Naturally frustrated, Kruseman figured his last hope for victory was to split a couple lapped cars in turn three on the white flag lap. Kruseman's attempt came up short and he was relegated to a 12th place finish after contact with a slower car caused him to slide to a stop.
"It's kind of tough when your groove is going away and cars are everywhere," Jones recalled. "We had Rickie Gaunt in front of us on the bottom and Danny Sheridan on the top and they were fast enough to where we couldn't split them. There were times that I wanted to go down to the bottom and try a slider, but everyone was fast and you just couldn't get enough momentum."
Kirby brought the Brad & Nancy Geurin / Statewide Towing No. 5 Stinger home in second place ahead of Scott and the Jim Ruth entry driven by Howard. Steve Ostling started 13th and finished fifth in the Fischer Motorsports No. 29. Richard Griffin won the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award with a 19th to sixth place run.