American Sprint Car Series -- Tuesday's Top Ten TULSA, Okla. (May 10, 2005) -- Barreling through the month of May with this week's rendition of Tuesday's Top Ten, featuring ten items of varying degrees of interest and/or ...
American Sprint Car Series -- Tuesday's Top Ten
TULSA, Okla. (May 10, 2005) -- Barreling through the month of May with this week's rendition of Tuesday's Top Ten, featuring ten items of varying degrees of interest and/or irrelevance from the weekend's American Sprint Car Series racing action. As always, Tuesday's Top Ten is assembled in no discernible order at all.
And we're off...
1. The Thrill of Victory... Almost -- There's nothing like capturing that first checkered flag in sprint car competition, whether it's in a heat race, semi-feature or whatever. That first one is a memorable moment for most racers.
ASCS Gulf South Region competitor Richard Holt held off the trio of Ernie Ainsworth, Jimmy Taylor and Lane Whittington to top Saturday night's third heat race at Champion Park Speedway in Haughton, LA, his first ever triumph in O'Reilly ASCS National Tour competition.
There was virtually no time to savor that coveted heat race win however, as a gleeful Holt simply drove right past the scales and directly to his trailer instead, also bypassing competition director Tommie Estes, Jr., who tried to flag him down, in the process. Glee quickly turned to anguish as Holt realized his mistake even before Estes could deliver news of the disqualification.
A costly mistake it was. Rather than a front row outside starting position in the main event, Holt found himself seven rows deep in the "B" Main and could only advance to sixth, two spots short of the main event.
The company isn't all bad though, even Gary Wright made the mistake of not rolling to the scales a couple of years ago.
2. Oddity of the Weekend -- Sam Hafertepe, Jr., and Jan Howard earned front row starting positions for Friday night's main event at Fast Trax Speedway. In a strange twist, they found themselves side-by-side once again Saturday night at Champion Park Speedway when they drew into the front row of the evening's first heat race.Adding to the random strangeness, Gary Wright started third behind Hafertepe and Howard in both Friday's feature and Saturday's first heat race.
3. Personal Best -- Several drivers turned in career-best ASCS National Tour feature finishes over the course of the weekend.
Piloting the Mike Hammers-owned No. 94 previously driven on a sporadic basis by Wayne Johnson, Ernie Ainsworth posted his first career ASCS National Tour top-five finish by taking the checkered fifth in Chatham.Ainsworth topped himself the next night by posting a runner-up finish at Champion Park. It looked at times like Ainsworth may be able to make a run at Wright for the win, but a late caution gave Wright all the open track he needed. Ainsworth climbed to tenth in points with the strong weekend.
Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Jake Martens posted his fourth top-ten finish of the season with an eighth-place run on Friday night, then cracked the top-five for the first time by taking the show position on Saturday.
With a pair of top-ten runs in 2003 to his credit, 18-year-old Little Rock, AR, traveler Justin Sturch scored his best career ASCS National Tour finish by crossing the stripe sixth at Champion Park.
4. Hall of Famer -- Gulf South Region competitor Darryl Wills may not be ready for the Hall of Fame just yet, but he does have a connection. Wills' mount is one that the Sprint Car Hall of Fame raffled off a couple of years ago. Apparently, the winner drove some sort of fendered monstrosity and opted for the cash payout instead.After trying to sell off the prize for a while, Wills eventually purchased the Gaerte-powered Avenger from the Hall.
After a pair of Gulf South starts in 2004, Wills has climbed into a tie for second in Gulf South Region points with Scottie McDonald behind Greg Rilat. Making his first career ASCS National Tour feature start on Friday night, Wills was best in class when he crossed the stripe twelfth, tops amongst the Gulf South contenders.
5. That Japanese Driver -- After earning the pole position for Friday night's Fast Trax feature, Sunnyvale, TX, shoe Sam Hafertepe, Jr., quipped, "It sure would be nice if I could win one of these, my dad keeps threatening to replace me with that Japanese driver."
Those within earshot all shared the same look of confusion, not quite comprehending the meaning of Sam's comment. Son of Sam Sr. clarified with, "My dad keeps mentioning something about this Wynn Wun Soon guy."
Up to sixth in National points after solid sixth and seventh place runs to monopolize the weekend's COMP Cams contingency money, the 19-year-old Hafertepe makes his second ARCA start of the season this Saturday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY.
6. Start Your Engines -- Why must the Rocky Mountain Region start its season so late you might ask? Those that live up there will be happy to send you pictures of snow they've had, as recently as a week or so ago for many.
But it's finally time to brush away the last of the snowdrifts and fire off the Sprint Cars in the Rockies as the ASCS Rocky Mountain Region kicks off its season this Saturday night at Sweetwater Speedway in Rock Springs, WY. The field of entries will battle to join the list of previous 2005 ASCS opening night winners that includes Danny Jennings (National), Sean McClelland (Sooner), Ray Allen Kulhanek (Gulf South), Terry McCarl (Midwest) and Mike Brecht (Southern).
7. Rookie Battle -- These guys don't exactly look like seasoned veterans off the track, but they sure don't look like rookie drivers on the track. Having two of them ranked among the top five in National points is evidence enough of that.
Nineteen-year-old Jake Martens of Fairview, OK, has finished outside the top ten just once through the season's opening six events, climbing to fourth in points in the process.
Liberal, KS, racer Tony Bruce, Jr., the elder statesman of the Rookie trio at the ripe ol' age of 20, fought an ill-handling car to a tenth place finish at Chatham then posted a seventh place run at Champion Park, moving to fifth in points.
With just 45 markers separating the pair, Martens and Bruce will likely fight it out until the final checkered flag of the season to see who cops Brodix Rookie of the Year honors.
The third rookie candidate, 19-year-old Lee Sowell of Nesbit, MS, hasn't been able to catch a break. Sowell was an innocent victim in an early Friday feature incident. The damage was enough that Lee was essentially done for the weekend, losing more valuable points in the Rookie chase.
8. Coming of Age -- Seems everybody is noticing a much-improved racer in Jan Howard this year. Kind of a kinder, gentler Howard on the track, so to speak. And the results are obvious thus far.
The Byhalia, MS, driver, a former ASCS National Tour Rookie of the Year, earned front row starting berths for both nights of Louisiana racing action. Jan settled for finishes of fourth and fifth and extended his string of top-ten finishes to six, the only driver to finish among the top ten in all six National Tour features thus far in 2005.
The smoother, harnessed-aggression style of racing is putting Howard in the thick of the championship points race as well, as he trails Gary Wright by just 20 points.
9. Double Up -- It most definitely isn't his style, but Gary Wright could get away with carrying a wallet with the initials BMF engraved upon it, a la tough guy Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.
Wright needed ten laps to come from third on Friday night, and then raced from seventh into the lead in just four laps on Saturday night to double up for the weekend. The double runs his career ASCS National Tour victory total to 93. It's a pretty safe bet that he'll be the first to reach the "100" victory mark sometime over the course of 2005.
The weekend sweep also ran Wright's victory string to three in a row, marking just the seventh time in ASCS history that a driver has claimed three wins in a row. It's the fifth time "The Texan" has reeled off three straight, with Tim Crawley (2001) and Travis Rilat (2004) also going back-to-back-to-back.
Through 419 ASCS National Tour feature events contested since 1993, no driver has ever won four consecutive features. Wright will have the opportunity to change that next Friday night, May 20, at Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway.
10. Hard Charging Lady -- Fargo, North Dakota's Natalie Sather continues to make strides. After beating Lee Sowell and Toby Brown to the line in Friday night's 12-lap "B" Main at Fast Trax Speedway, Natalie began working toward the front in the "A" Main. Natalie battled past some tough competitors along the way, ultimately advancing from 17th to claim ninth, earning her first career KSE Hard Charger award in the process.
Natalie narrowly missed the show Saturday night, but was fortunate that Kenny Woodruff was able to load the machine intact after a wild opening lap skirmish that saw the young lady racer do a full 360 down the front straightaway, all the while at varying degrees of altitude and angles.Natalie somehow landed on all four tires and pointed the right direction, keeping up the chase. Natalie battled for a transfer spot but fell short at the line.
Quote of the Week - "I don't even care where I finish, I'd just like to finish a race, it seems like its been forever," Jimmy Taylor commented prior to Saturday's event at Champion Park Speedway. After several calls to fellow Oklahoma City native and former Sooner Region racer James Shoun, Taylor finally solved magneto problems and took the checkered flag eleventh in the "A" Main.
Enough for this week. Putting the wraps on weekly installment Number Five of Tuesday's Top Ten, comments, questions, suggestions, critiques and more are always welcome at email@example.com.
Until next week, any information you may desire regarding the American Sprint Car Series is available at www.ascsracing.com.