TULSA, Okla. (April 19, 2005) -- The second weekly installment featuring ten topics of varying degrees of relevance have been compiled from this past weekend's American Sprint Car Series racing action and are now assembled in no particular order...
TULSA, Okla. (April 19, 2005) -- The second weekly installment featuring ten topics of varying degrees of relevance have been compiled from this past weekend's American Sprint Car Series racing action and are now assembled in no particular order for review.
Away we go.
1. Midwest Mania -- The ASCS Midwest Region debuted at Nebraska Raceway Park's I-80 Speedway and the rigs kept pulling in, one after another, and another, and another, until there were 46 entries from seven different states filling the pit area. Exactly half the entries (23) hailed from Nebraska, with a half dozen from South Dakota, a handful from Kansas, four from both Iowa and Colorado, three from Missouri and one from North Dakota.
After Dean Chadd and Bruce Divis tangled while battling for the lead down the backstretch in the first heat race, Jason Martin of Liberal, KS, out dueled Jeff Lowery to take the first checkered flag in ASCS Midwest Region competition.
Terry McCarl struggled in the fifth heat then chased down early leader Don Droud, Jr., to win the second "B" Main. "We chased it all night, we were terrible early," commented car owner Mark Burch after McCarl turned in a spectacular drive before a good crowd to win the feature after starting 16th.
2. Head Games -- Missouri's Brian Brown threatened to stink up the Midwest Region opener when he came from eighth to win the fourth heat race, then checked out early in the feature after starting from the pole position. When Brock Dump's mount lost power in turn three with six laps to go, triggering the race's final caution, it proved to be Brown's ultimate undoing.
Up to second just before the yellow flag flew, McCarl took advantage of the caution period by giving Brown some things to think about. McCarl pulled alongside, then pulled ahead of Brown several times, presumably planting the seed in Brown's mind that the No. 1m machine would lead the way. Whether McCarl's tactics prompted what followed can be left to debate, but when Brown missed his entry in turn three on the 16th round McCarl charged by on the high side and that was all she wrote.
McCarl was gone, Billy Alley took advantage as well to take over second, with Mike Chadd, Jason Martin and Tony Bruce, Jr., finishing in that order behind the lead trio after sliding past one another repeatedly in an entertaining battle for position.
3. What, you talking about Willis? m That's right, the thriving metropolis of Willis, TX, had never hosted an American Sprint Car Series event. Until Saturday night that is, as the Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores ASCS Gulf South Region invaded the Gator Motorplex.
Scottie McDonald, who resides about 30 miles away in New Caney, wired the field to become a first time ASCS winner in the series' first visit to Willis.
One night earlier, 2003 ASCS National champion Travis Rilat snapped a slump of sorts as he scored his first feature victory on American soil since July 10 of last year by topping the Gulf South foes at Motorama Speedway in Beaumont, TX. With three Australian wins over the winter, Rilat's last stateside win came during COMP Cams ASCS Speedweek action at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway.
4. Lucky Beaver and the Scales of Justice -- Well, sort of.
After rear end trouble while chasing the leaders in the opening heat race sent Knoxville's Joe Beaver pitside, he raced from twelfth in the first "B" Main to fourth at the checkered flag, one position shy of a transfer.
Beaver's luck turned for the better when apparent winner Johnn Cressman of Hartford, SD, forgot to go directly to the scales and was disqualified, putting Beaver in the main event. Beaver would advance to 15th, while Cressman's spirits had to sink further when McCarl came from the eighth row to take the win. Had he reported to the scales, Cressman would have started alongside McCarl in the eighth row.
Earlier in the night, fellow South Dakotan Chuck Swenson turned some sizzling laps en route to winning the fifth heat. He then weighed in just five pounds too light with an empty fuel tank. Rather than a third row starting slot in the "A" Main, Swenson started scratch in the second "B" Main and made it all the way up to fourth before he ran out of laps.
5. Family Car -- With his current ride sitting idle for the night, Lincoln's Billy Alley broke out the familiar yellow No. 22 family-owned sprinter for the Midwest Region opener. Alley drew a high number for himself and an even higher one for Colorado's Bryan Gossel. The local hero raced from eighth to third in his heat then settled for the runner-up slot in the feature after starting sixth.
Gossel couldn't recover from Alley's draw, as he was unable to make it out of "B" Feature action.
6. Deja vu All Over Again? -- Flash back to the good old days of 2004, when gas cost under two bucks a gallon and Ray Allen Kulhanek drove David Miller's No. 21t machine in ASCS Gulf South action. You remember Kulhanek driving to a fourth place finish in points in his rookie season with the Gulf South Region, just 130 points out of the lead. And, if not for the team's June 12 absence at Champion Park Speedway in Haughton, LA, the Gulf South Region may have crowned a different champion at its post-season banquet. A top-ten finish at that Champion Park event could have been the difference.
Enough of this living in the past however, let's get back to 2005.
With Kulhanek now in Marvin Pearson's mount, Dallas shoe Eric Payne has taken over the reins of Miller's No. 21t. Payne was the Gulf South Region's top point earner in this past weekend's double at Beaumont and Willis with finishes of third (after winning a "B" Main) and fifth. But he's mired at 14th in current points after missing the opener at none other than Champion Park Speedway.
7. He's Everywhere -- At least it must seem that way. Pull up some ASCS results and the name "Tony Bruce, Jr." is probably going to be on there. If not, check another ASCS race from that night, and there you will find it.
After 14 "tune-up" nights in Florida, the 20-year-old Liberal, KS, shoe has already made a half dozen ASCS starts in 2005 with three top-fives and five top-tens (his only finish outside the top ten was an eleventh place Sooner run at Cowtown). Among those starts have been four openers, including National, Gulf South, Sooner and Midwest, making Bruce the only driver to compete in all four season-opening events. Ranked second in National points entering this weekend's double at Memphis Motorsports Park, Saturday's Southern Tour opener is out of Bruce's sight. But the ASCS Rocky Mountain Region opener at Rock Springs, WY, on May 14 is "only" 750 miles away from Liberal.
The team made the 650-mile trip to Haughton, LA, for a one-nighter, so a 750-mile jaunt to Wyoming on an off weekend for the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour wouldn't necessarily be a shocker.
Nineteen-year-old Sam Hafertepe, Jr., has one-upped Bruce on the ASCS race total thus far in 2005, however. While Bruce took in the Midwest Region opener this past weekend, Hafertepe got a pair of Gulf South events in to run the early total to seven. Occasional ARCA-star and astrology expert Hafertepe finished second to Travis Rilat at Motorama on Friday before being collected in an early incident at Gator on Saturday.
8. Win Streaks on the Line -- A pair of two-race win streaks are on the line entering this weekend's racing action. Danny Jennings kicked off the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour by sweeping both nights of the Devil's Bowl Spring Nationals, while Sean McClelland has scored wins in the opening two American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region events.
McClelland will try for three in a row Saturday night at Ada's Oklahoma Sports Park, but Jennings won't extend his National streak to three. Reason? Most likely, he'll be in Ada doing his part to put a stop to McClelland's streak as he chases the Sooner Region crown.
9. Penthouse to the Outhouse -- Bo Alexander posted a career-best ASCS Gulf South region finish of fourth place on Friday night at Motorama. The celebration couldn't have lasted too long as he failed to make it out of the "B" Main the following night at Gator. As a result, Alexander plummeted from third to eleventh in a tightly bunched Gulf South points race, with only 28 markers separating the top nine.
10. Miracles -- An overused phrase to be sure, but Terry Ledger is living proof that miracles can happen from time to time. A chunk of guardrail made its way through Ledger's cockpit at NRP's I-80 Speedway after Gene Ackland jumped a wheel and flipped through the rail and into the infield. Ledger is indeed lucky to have escaped with little more than facial injuries, which did require some plastic surgery.
Ledger is already out of the hospital and recovering nicely.
Quote of the Week -- "I bet he needs a damn cigarette!" At a random track on the way home after Nebraska's Friday event, a female fan was overheard cheering on one of her favorites in a heat race. When he slid off the track and lost the lead with just three laps to go, the lady shouted "I bet he needs a damn cigarette!" as she admonished his lapse of attention with other colorful phrases. To his credit, he fought off the craving for nicotine long enough to reel in the new leader and made a last lap pass to salvage the heat race win, and once again all was right with the world.