Series notebook 2008-04-24

ASCS Notebook -- April 24, 2008 TULSA, Okla. (April 24, 2008) -- Jason Johnson exacted some degree of vengeance in this past Saturday night's American Sprint Car Series action, while at the same time 17-year-old ...

ASCS Notebook -- April 24, 2008

TULSA, Okla. (April 24, 2008) -- Jason Johnson exacted some degree of vengeance in this past Saturday night's American Sprint Car Series action, while at the same time 17-year-old Channin Tankersley drew first blood with "Chargin" Charles Davis, Jr., going back-to-back.

Meanwhile, our friends to the north continued to be plagued by the lingering effects of winter, either sent southbound in search of on-track action or forced homebound.

Two years ago, Jason Johnson had nearly erased the deficit of his East Bay absence as he tried to chase down Gary Wright in the $50,000 O'Reilly ASCoT championship chase. Johnson was running third in the feature at Lucas Oil Speedway on September 30, 2006, when a failed bleeder valve bled too much, forcing a flat tire. The resulting 19th-place finish cost "The Ragin' Cajun" at least 32 points and he ultimately lost the title by 30 markers.

Not that the track can be blamed for a faulty bleeder. But pulling into the "Diamond of Dirt Tracks" had to conjure up painful memories of two years ago.

Just pulling into the parking lot at Lucas Oil Speedway is a trip in itself. Nobody gets there by accident, as the sleepy, little town of Wheatland, MO, is situated in the vicinity of similar hot spots like Weaubleau and Humansville, meaning it's approximately an hour or so from any noticeable form of hustle and bustle.

It's worth the journey though. The "Diamond of Dirt Tracks" moniker doesn't do Lucas Oil Speedway justice. As far as dirt track facilities go, it's second to none in this nation.

And on Saturday night, the 3/8-mile clay oval held up well to the pounding provided by 51 ASCS vs. WOW Sprint Cars as well as the 80-ish modifieds and 25 305's.

Wolf drew Jason Johnson a big number, but it worked this time. Slated for the fourth row outside of the fourth heat, Johnson moved up a row when third-row outside starter Brad Roberts scratched for the night. And when second-row starter Austin Alumbaugh of Higginsville, MO, spun on the initial start, Johnson was suddenly up to the second row.

A front row comprised of young Taylor Walton and Sedalia's Matt Fox did little to impede Johnson's progress. In fact, it did nothing. Johnson led by the first turn and thumped the field by more than a half-lap margin.Third in passing points behind Danny Lasoski and Jack Dover, both of whom ended up in Wheatland after an early Knoxville rain out, Johnson drew the five pill.

Johnson methodically picked off spots early, taking second from Zach Chappell by the tenth lap and surging past pole starter Brian Brown two laps later. Johnson then checked out, leaving his rivals to battle amongst themselves as he dashed through lapped traffic nearly a straightaway ahead.

It marked Johnson's sixth overall ASCS feature win in a dozen starts thus far in 2008, including three wins in eight National events.

Two weeks earlier, Johnson had moved into second in the early stages of the ASCS Gulf South feature at 105 Speedway in Cleveland, TX. And that's where he thought he was staying.

"I didn't have anything for him," Johnson commented of race-leading Channin Tankersley. "We'd already lost a cylinder. I thought that maybe if he got caught up in traffic, I might be able to do something. But otherwise, there was no way."

Tankersley did a little more than get caught up in traffic, climbing a right rear and flipping out of contention.

"I just made my car as wide as possible after that," Johnson commented of his third Regional win of the year aboard Marvin and Peggy Pearson's No. 11 machine.

Young Channin bounced back in true Tankersley form, taking to the top side of Chatham, Louisiana's Fast Trax Speedway and disposing of early battlers Chris Sweeney, Greg Rilat and Gary Watson en route to capturing his first ASCS Gulf South feature win at Louisiana's Fast Trax Speedway on Saturday night. Expect there to be more.

---Saturday's count of 51 kept the O'Reilly ASCoT National average at 51.4 cars per event. The season "low" thus far was 48 cars on the final night of Oklahoma City's Spring Nationals on March 22.

---Early washouts for the Outlaws at Haubstadt as well as Knoxville's slated season opener sent a handful of extra cars to Missouri, including Brian Brown, Jack Dover, Danny Lasoski, Natalie Sather and Jason Sides. All five made the feature.

---After racing from eighth to win the night's first heat race, Lasoski advanced from seventh to finish second to Jason Johnson for the second time in a row in ASCoT action. "The Dude" also chased Johnson to the stripe at Oklahoma City on March 22.

---Starting ninth in the same heat race, Zach Chappell rebounded from a lap two spin to finish third, good enough to make the redraw. Chappell caught an early break in the feature when the caution flew for a turn four tangle as he was doing some donuts in the turn two infield. Back in third on the restart, the 2001 National champion moved back and fourth before eventually taking the checkered flag in third.

---With the aid of Wayne Priddy, who was wrenching for Jason Johnson two years ago, Nebraska teen Jack Dover posted his third top-ten in five ASCoT starts this season with a sixth-place run at Lucas Oil. Dover has cracked the top ten in points but will likely surrender that ranking and tow money package unless the floodwaters rise in the Iowa cornfields.

---With several assists from Mother Nature, Jason Sides has competed in each ASCoT event thus far in 2008. A fourth-place Lucas Oil run was his fourth top-five in the last five events. A top-ten finisher in final ASCS National Tour points for five years running from 1996 to 2000, including a ranking of third in 1997, Sides is currently fourth in points behind Gary Wright, Wayne Johnson and Jason Johnson.

---After battling past Garry Lee Maier to win the second "B" Main, Wayne Johnson earned Hard Charger honors by racing from 18th to seventh in the feature. Johnson is just 40 points behind Gary Wright in the $50,000 championship points chase, but only 18 markers ahead of Jason Johnson.

---Brian Brown won the first ASCS event at Lucas Oil Speedway in 2006. And after fending off Gary Wright to win the night's fifth and final heat race, he was in a prime position to make it two Lucas Oil wins in a row after drawing the pole position. But after leading the opening eleven laps, Brown faded to fifth by the time the checkered flag flew.

---A last corner pass of Eric Todd to snare third in the third heat netted Natalie Sather the 16th and final passing points position for "A" Feature status through the heat race action. Natalie's night was cut short after turn four chaos just two laps into the feature that also eliminated Jay Russell and 2007 National Rookie of the Year Josh Fisher, while Matt Fox and Chris Tarrant returned after time in the work area.

---Kathryne Minter was in the right place at the right time. Holding down the third position in the night's fifth heat race, the 17-year-old Brodix Rookie of the Year contender from Bedford, TX, suddenly found herself in the lead when leader Garry Lee Maier spun exiting turn four on the final lap and collected second-running Travis Rilat. Minter held on for her first ASCoT National heat race win (and second overall ASCS heat race win after capturing her first in recent Sooner action at Cowtown) and started her first ASCS National Tour feature event.

---Saturday night marked just the seventh time in 521 ASCS National Tour feature events that two ladies have been in the same feature field with reigning Midwest champion Sather and rookie candidate Minter in the mix. It happened five times in 2001 with Stephanie Chappell and Christi Passmore, the first occurrence in series history at Yellville, AR, on June 29. The last time the average appearance of an ASCS National Tour feature was bolstered by the inclusion of two lady racers was on May 3, 2002, when Stephanie Chappell and Tina Creswell were among the feature field in Leesville, LA.

---Minter was one of three drivers making a first career ASCS National Tour feature start on Saturday night, with Missouri's J. Kinder and Elwood, KS, shoe Jay Russell also making the grade.---Farmington, Missouri's Dustin Barks broke in the night's first heat race and was done for the night.

---Sedalia's Jonathan Cornell paced the opening two rounds of the night's third heat race before spinning alone in turn four. Cornell came from 12th to fourth in the first "B" Main, missing the feature by one position.

---After Cornell spun, Jack Dover went on to win his fourth ASCS National Tour heat race of the year. Nobody else has won more than two.

---At about the same time that Terry McCarl was sucker punched in Iowa, the Hinck brothers were seriously wanting to open a similar can on Travis Rilat after the 2003 ASCS National champ flipped the former WOW king on the frontstretch during the first "B" Main. While Terry Hinck climbed from his overturned machine in turn one, his brother tumbled underneath his four-wheeler trying to get to Rilat in turn four. Aside from a few words, no further damage was done.

---Among Missouri's 305-ci aces over the past several years, Eric Todd was ever so close to making his first ASCS National Tour feature on Saturday night. And it happened twice. Todd gave up third in the final corner to Natalie Sather in his heat race, finding himself second row inside of the second "B Main rather than eighth row outside of the "A" Main. Todd then held the third and final transfer until he bicycled in the final corner of the 12-lapper, with Rookie of the Year candidate Gary Taylor taking quick advantage by snatching the position to make his third ASCS National feature in four attempts thus far in 2008.

---Chris Tarrant used a provisional to start his second career ASCS National Tour feature event. Tarrant's first start came during the opening night of the Devil's Bowl Winter Nationals last October.

---Past ASCS Sooner Region champion Sean McClelland made his first start of the year, taking the wheel of Aaron Berryhill's No. 97 entry. A second-place ASCoT finisher to Brian Brown at Lucas Oil Speedway two years ago, McClelland missed the feature this time around. Plans for now are for McClelland and Berryhill to split time behind the wheel.

---Aboard the Wright-Cooper No. 01 for the first time since Florida, Gary Wright could only manage a tenth-place finish. That brought an end to his streak of 20 consecutive top-five runs in ASCS National Tour action, bettering the previous mark of 16 in a row. The longest active streak of top-five finishes is now shared by Jason Johnson and Danny Lasoski, who both have three top-fives in a row.

---Trying to close ground after using a provisional during the Devil's Bowl Spring Nationals, Jason Johnson has extended his streak of top-ten feature finishes to 27 in a row, still 14 shy of Terry Gray's record of 41. If Johnson can continue, the record could potentially fall during Speedweek in July.

---A second-place Gulf South finisher at Fast Trax on Saturday night, Chris Sweeney moved back atop the series point charts after his fourth top-ten in five starts. He's just eight points ahead of Gary Watson and Greg Rilat, who are tied for second. Tankersley is 38 points back in fourth.

---Rookie racer Travis Elliott reeled off his third top-five in a row by snaring fourth at Fast Trax.

---Klint Angelette, son of former ASCS Gulf South champion Kelly Angelette, made his first career ASCS feature start Saturday night at Fast Trax. Klint was credited with 15th in the final rundown.

---Tankersley became the third different driver to win a Gulf South vs. Coastal clash, with Michael Dupuy taking two showdown wins last year while Jason Johnson topped the other.

---Don't look now, but Memphis teen Don Young is the ASCS Coastal Region points leader after a fifth-place finish at Fast Trax. The ASCS Coastal Region next sees action on May 16 and 17 at Southern Speedway (Hattiesburg, MS) and Jackson (MS) Motor Speedway.

---Jeremy Sherman swept last year's set of Discount Tire Co. ASCS Canyon Region events at Tucson's USA Race Park. It won't happen this year, as Charles Davis, Jr., broke a three-way tie for second in points with his second consecutive series win.

---Nathan High took the show position behind Davis and Sherman in Tucson for his fourth top-five in five starts. Sherman and Davis are the only two other drivers with four top-fives thus far.

---Thomas Ogle extended his string of top-ten runs by claiming eighth in Tucson. Ogle and Sherman are the only two drivers to finish among the top ten in all five ASCS Canyon Region events this year. Davis, High and 19-year-old Jeremy Reagles have each finished outside the top ten just once.

---Andrew Reinbold snared fourth at Tucson for his second consecutive top-five run.

---When Josh Pelkey is running at the end, there's a pretty good chance he's in the top five. The former Arizona champ was fifth at Tucson for his third top-five of the year. A pair of DNF's have hindered point pursuit though, as he currently sits sixth.

---After ranking third in ASCS Canyon Region points last year, Mike Leslie cracked the top ten in points for the first time in 2008 despite a 19th place finish and a mangled mount. "At least the left side kickout wasn't bent," shared car owner Kevin Montgomery. Apparently, everything else was.

---They have winged cars in Arizona too. And the ASCS Southwest Region has added a pair of Manzanita dates, dropping in on the 1/3-mile on August 15 and 16 when some of the wingless guys are chasing the Sprint Bandits TNT trail through Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma to a Lakeside conclusion.

---After several weeks off, the ASCS Southwest Region opens the first of four May events next Saturday at USA Race Park.

---With rain once again nixing the ASCS Midwest vs. Northern Plains Regional opener at Nebraska Raceway Park's I-80 Speedway last Friday night, the Midwest Region now opens up on May 23 Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, NE. The Northern Plains chaps have to wait even longer, with their opener on June 19 at Fargo's Red River Valley Speedway. Hopefully the snow will be melted by that time.

---Saturday night, May 3, marks the first "Mega" night of ASCS action with a handful of Regional events playing out across the country while the National Tour sails into Lake Ozark Speedway.

---Two nights of bullring action for the ASCoT National series at Paris, TX, and Little Rock, AR, this weekend is a guaranteed formula for an abundance of action, exciting moments and perhaps even a few bumps and bruises of one sort or another. The short tracks bring it out of 'em. Read about it here next week.


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Series Sprint
Drivers Danny Lasoski , Aaron Berryhill , Brian Brown , Jason Sides , Travis Rilat , Josh Fisher , Eric Todd , Wayne Johnson , Josh Pelkey , Chris Tarrant , Jason Johnson , Sean McClelland