TULSA, Okla. (March 24, 2004) -- The opportunity to watch history in the making comes rarely over the course of a lifetime. That chance presented itself this past weekend at Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX, as the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits ...
TULSA, Okla. (March 24, 2004) -- The opportunity to watch history in the making comes rarely over the course of a lifetime. That chance presented itself this past weekend at Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX, as the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits made its much-awaited series debut.
The fans that braved iffy weather on both nights were treated to two tremendous nights of 410-ci Sprint Car racing, as 26 drivers from nine different states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, put on quite a memorable show.
Dignitaries turned out in droves to catch the opening weekend of Emmett Hahn's latest creation, including National Speed Sport News Senior Editor Mike Kerchner and Sprint Car & Midget editor Doug Auld among others.
Oklahoma City and Lawton Speedway announcer Randy Ward and Chili Bowl P.A. man Mike Sweeton called the action to the live crowd, while Knoxville announcer Tony Bokhoven made the call to subsequent rave reviews to a worldwide audience over the internet on SCN, the Sprint Car Network.
With the ultimate verdict on the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits not yet set in stone, the parity of engine combinations running near the front provides strong evidence that the goal of more affordable 410-ci Sprint Car racing can be reached, while also verifying recent dyno tests that indicated neither the series head or the sleeved-down open engines possessed any significant advantage.
While Sammy Swindell's winning Beaver Drill & Tool Company machine was equipped with a Brodix series-head engine, the Dash-12 powered cars of Zach Chappell, Wayne Johnson and Danny Jennings, along with the sleeved-down open powerplants utilized by Shane Stewart and Daryn Pittman, proved to be equally competitive on the high-speed Devil's Bowl oval.
With an abundance of Dash-12 head engines available at bargain-bin prices, look for more teams to invest a relatively small sum of money in the coming months to once again be competitive in the 410-ci ranks.
And dispel the ill-conceived notion that the new engine rules will result in perceivably slower racing. In the World of Outlaws last visit to Devil's Bowl Speedway in March of 2003, Steve Kinser set a fast time of 14.418 seconds. Swindell's fastest lap in Saturday night's feature was 14.209 seconds. Myth shattered!
Swindell, the only driver on hand to also compete in the World of Outlaws initial event at Devil's Bowl Speedway 26 years ago, appropriately captured the weekend's headlines by topping both nights of action.
Swindell overtook a fleet Jerrod Hull on the ninth round of Friday night's 25-lap feature, then survived a late bid by Aaron Berryhill to secure the first ever Sprint Bandits win. Swindell wrapped up the weekend by holding off the fast-closing duo of Shane Stewart and Zach Chappell on Saturday night. Less than four-tenths of a second separated the lead trio on Saturday night, 0.39 seconds to be exact, with Stewart literally edging Chappell by .002-seconds at the line for the runner-up slot.
As exciting as Saturday night's 30-lap finale was, the excitement didn't end with the checkered flag, as Swindell and Chappell tangled in turn four on the cool down lap, with Swindell getting on his lid.
There were no injuries and Swindell laughed the incident off, his mood presumably enhanced after collecting $8,500 over two nights of racing.
While Swindell abused his tires trying to check out on the field in Saturday's finale, the checkered flag barely came soon enough for the Tennessee veteran. Chappell and Stewart had the crowd on its feet as they reeled Swindell in, falling just short at the line.
Chappell, the 2001 ASCS National champion, locked the Carbone-powered Champco Concrete Construction Maxim into Saturday night's feature after a fourth place run in Friday's prelim, then moved to the front row outside when Aaron Berryhill, who finished second on Friday night in the Snyder-powered Fast Forward Motorsports Eagle, was unable to get his machine running on all cylinders and started scratch before exiting to the pit area soon after the green.
After lackluster finishes in heat and qualifying races on Friday, Stewart charged from 15th to fifth, one spot shy of a lock-in position in the Wesmar-powered Ol' Glory Maxim. Stewart fared better in heat and qualifying action on Saturday, making his dramatic runner-up charge from the eighth starting slot.
2002 ASCS Sooner Region champion Danny Jennings battled past Chappell for third late in Friday's feature and appeared to be destined for a second row starting slot in Saturday's main before last lap contact from Chappell nearly turned the Norman, OK, driver around in turn two. Jennings held on for sixth in the prelim, then raced from 14th to eighth Saturday night with his Dash-12 equipped engine.
After a tough opening night, Oklahoma City's Wayne Johnson elbowed up and hustled the Harvill Industries machine to a solid fifth place finish in Saturday's finale, with power from a "Mexico" Joe Bustillos loaner Dash-12 engine under the hood.
Owasso, OK, ace Daryn Pittman must be commended for sticking to his principles. Pressured by WoO brass to find other weekend plans, Pittman held firm to his convictions and competed in the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits opener. The same threats, which included the withholding of future tow money, sent the other WoO regulars scurrying for cover. Past Chili Bowl sponsorship however, which helped fund his early WoO efforts, compelled Pittman to help Lanny Edwards and Emmett Hahn launch the Sprint Bandits.
After fuel problems in his heat race on Friday night, Pittman put on a dazzling show for the fans. Pittman had charged from 18th to fifth when the white flag flew, then took advantage of the Chappell-Jennings turn two tango to snare third at the stripe. Pittman ran fourth throughout Saturday's main but was unable to make a bid for the win.
Mark Dobmeier, the first official member of the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits, earned the unofficial Longest Tow award by hauling all the way from Grand Forks, ND. After a shaky start that included a meeting with the frontstretch wall exiting turn four, the 2003 NOSA champion showed steady improvement throughout the weekend, posting 14th and 13th place finishes.
Two-time NCRA 360 champ Steven King of Jetmore, KS, was racy all weekend, notching a pair of seventh place finishes.
Lady Luck wasn't terribly kind to the host Lone Star state drivers, with 15th and 14th place runs from Travis Rilat the best of the quintet.
Hooks, TX, hotshoe Gary Wright appeared at times to have the fastest car in the joint, pulling away from the field on Friday night before a blown oil filter gasket sent him pitside after three rounds. Gridding sixth on Saturday night, Wright's run would end after just six rounds with a flat tire and undetermined engine ailments.
Multi-time Devil's Bowl champion Kevin Ramey was a DNF on both nights, while front end damage on Friday and engine woes on Saturday derailed young Matt Clevenger's efforts. After a DNF on Friday night, Jeff Day piloted Lanny Row's machine to a 15th place finish on Saturday with side panel damage on the top wing.
Seemingly perennial Knoxville Raceway champion Terry McCarl, instrumental in the development of the Brodix series head over the past several years, rebounded from a qualifying race incident on Friday to claim ninth, then crossed the stripe sixth in Saturday's finale.
Indiana's Danny Smith charged from 20th to round out the top ten on Friday night. After an errant wheel sent Smith towards parking lot in heat race action, Smith won his qualifying race to gain a few positions in the main event starting grid. Unable to capitalize, any disappoint was overshadowed when mechanic Jim Bennett succumbed to a heart attack soon after the evening's action.
Fellow Hoosier veteran Kelly Kinser, who plans on competing on much of the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits trail, scored an eighth on Friday before finishing twelfth on Saturday.
Coming off a strong 2003 season, Sprint Bandits championship contender Jerrod Hull of Sikeston, MO, led five laps of Friday's feature before surrendering the point to Swindell. Hull's left rear tire would explode several rounds later. Hull returned to finish twelfth, then claimed ninth in Saturday's finale.
Little Rock's Ricky Logan fought a tight racecar on Friday night, then missed a top ten finish by one spot on Saturday.
ASCS Sooner Region shoe Foster Landon of Collinsville, OK, shook off a Friday night DNF to round out the top ten in Saturday night's main event.
Tony Bruce, Jr., entered the 2004 season with an eye on the ASCS National Tour. However, a taste of Florida 410-ci action and the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits opener has the young Liberal, KS, shoe leaning toward a full season of Sprint Bandits action. Bruce raced from 19th to eleventh in Friday's feature.
Also from Liberal, KS, Jason Martin earned a second row starting position in Friday's feature through heat and qualifying race action, then junked his machine with a hard flip in turn three. The team prepped a second car for Saturday's finale, but Martin was sidelined after a lap six tangle.
Nick Smith, an up-and-coming talent from Broken Arrow, OK, with plans of chasing the full Sprint Bandits tour, struggled with his machine all weekend, with a 13th place showing on Friday his best.
Cedar Rapids, IA, driver Colin Northway was unable to make the call for Friday night's feature, then went the distance in Saturday's main to finish 16th.
Jesse Hockett had a rough weekend. A broken rear-end sidelined "The Rocket from Friday's feature, then an ill-handling machine sent him pitside in the early going on Saturday.
Bentonville, AR, driver Sean Walden, with plans of running the full Sprint Bandits tour, also was unable to start Friday's feature, then slid off turn one on the opening round of Saturday's feature.
With a successful opening weekend in the history books, the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits have several weeks off before taking on the non-wing USAC Valvoline National Sprint Car Series stars at Memphis Motorsports Park on May 7 in a non-point event. An extra $5k is up for grabs for any Sprint Bandits shoe that takes the victory.
The MMP show kicks off a busy month of May for the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits, with the next stop on Wednesday night, May 12, at Auto Tire and Parts Race Park in Benton, MO. After a day off, Little Rock's I-30 Speedway hosts the series on May 14-15. The next Saturday, the O'Reilly Sprint Bandits take to Tulsa Speedway. Memorial Day weekend kicks off at US 36 Raceway in Cameron, MO, on Friday, May 28, before moving on to the famed Knoxville Raceway on Saturday night, then wrapping up the month at Butler County Speedway in Rising City, NE, on Sunday night, May 30.