American Sprint Car Series -- Tuesday's Top Ten TULSA, Okla. (September 20, 2005) -- Conveniently falling one day before Wednesday, it is once again time for Tuesday's Top Ten. As always, TTT is comprised of ten random items of ...
American Sprint Car Series -- Tuesday's Top Ten
TULSA, Okla. (September 20, 2005) -- Conveniently falling one day before Wednesday, it is once again time for Tuesday's Top Ten. As always, TTT is comprised of ten random items of varying degrees of irrelevance from the past weekend's American Sprint Car Series Racing action. Also, somewhat per the norm, TTT is arranged in a relatively random order for your reading ease.
The push trucks are rolling, time to fire off...
1. All Apologies -- Apologies are due the race fans in attendance at West Plains Motor Speedway for Saturday night's National Tour event.
By and large, the drivers of the American Sprint Car Series rank among the most fan-friendly in the business. It would be difficult to recognize that however, if based simply upon Gary Wright's blatant disregard for the paying fans at West Plains.
The simplest means of extending goodwill to the fans is a simple trip to victory lane in the event you're fortunate enough to win the night's "A" Feature.
Has Gary Wright won so many features (more than 600 over the course of his career, by his own count), that he no longer feels it necessary to give the crowd a wave, smile for the cameras, answer a question or two from the announcer? Or was he steamed that a driver 31 years his junior essentially schooled him much of the way before a trademark "Texan" move through traffic in the final rounds salvaged yet another Wright win?
The fans were very nearly treated to what would have surely been a jubilant victory lane celebration had 15-year-old Hunter Schuerenberg held on for his first career ASCS National Tour win. And there were 28 other drivers in competition that would have been more than happy to be "forced" into a victory lane interview had circumstances dictated.
Instead, there was nothing. Victory lane was left barren.
Fans waited patiently along with officials and photographers as Wright rolled to the scales in the pit area. As Wright rolled off the scales, Tommie Estes, Jr., directed Wright to the front straightaway. Instead, Wright went to his trailer, leaving the front straightaway empty and leaving the fans wondering what had happened to the winner. And less than 15 minutes later, Wright's rig was making its way out of West Plains Motor Speedway. So much for autograph seekers. And so much for the opportunity to generate new fans. New fans for Gary Wright, and new fans for Sprint Car racing in general.
What could have possessed Gary Wright to skip victory lane ceremonies? That's an answer I don't have.
But the solution is a simple one.
Forfeit the win and prize money when victory lane ceremonies are shirked. Put that ordinance in place, and it's a safe bet that Gary Wright will take the time to stop for victory lane ceremonies.
2. Jan Howard Expressway -- It was only fitting that Byhalia, MS, racer Jan Howard finally made his West Plains Motor Speedway debut. After all, the main portion of US 63 running through the town of West Plains, MO, is dubbed the "Jan Howard Expressway."
Piloting the familiar blue #46 family sprint car, Jan posted a strong sixth place finish, his 14th top-ten run in 18 ASCS National starts this year.
And, believe it or not, the "Jan Howard Expressway" was not named in honor of racer Jan, but instead for one of the "Grand Ladies" of the Grand Ole' Opry that called West Plains home.
3. Comeback Kid -- A year after winning the Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association championship, Gary Taylor shifted his focus to the ASCS Rocky Mountain Region. And it paid off, as the 25-year-old captured the ASCS Rocky Mountain Region championship by sweeping this past weekend's action at Rapid City, SD, and Gillette, WY, aboard the familiar Conklin-owned No 5d.
A native of Snohomish, WA, Taylor entered this past weekend 28 points behind Eric Miller. While Taylor stepped up his game at the right time by scoring both feature wins, Miller struggled to finishes of 13th and 11th. End result: Taylor takes the crown by 20 points.
On the other hand, Eric Miller finished second in Rocky Mountain Region points for the third year in a row. And for the second year in a row, Miller let a point lead entering the final weekend slip away. Last year, Miller held a six-point advantage over Keith Rauch entering what turned out to be the final weekend. Rauch escaped that weekend with a four-point advantage then took the title when the scheduled finale got washed out.
4. Tuning Up? -- Fort Worth's Kevin Ramey picked up his fourth ASCS victory of the season by winning Saturday night's American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region feature at Lawton Speedway.
Previous wins this year included a combined National/Sooner go at Oklahoma City in May to halt a four-race Gary Wright win streak, a Gulf South show in Vivian, LA, and the Sooner vs. Gulf South Region Shootout at Devil's Bowl Speedway.
Atop both the Sooner Region and Gulf South Region all-time win charts (12 Sooner wins and 10 Gulf South wins), Ramey has a shot to exceed the half dozen ASCS wins he accumulated in both 2003 and 2004. And he could match or exceed that total this weekend, competing at a pair of his favorite tracks.
Ramey starts near the front of Friday's night's makeup feature at Heart O' Texas Speedway in Waco, where he won two of three Gulf South events in 2004. Add a chance to double up on Friday to a hometown Cowtown Sooner run on Saturday, the possibility of a big weekend for Ramey could be in the cards.
5. "You Drive Like My Little Sister" - ...Chided former ASCS National champ Zach Chappell as he affixed a rookie flag to Tony Bruce, Jr.'s roll cage prior to Saturday night's West Plains main. Just another example of some of the ritualistic rookie "hazing" that takes place along the way.
Starting on the front row, Chappell posted a third-place showing to extend his string of top-five finishes to five. Leading Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Bruce posted another top ten finish by advancing from 12th to finish ninth.
6. Half a Hundred -- West Memphis, AR, racer Marshall Skinner is now half way to 100 career ASCS National Tour feature starts following Saturday's event at West Plains. Skinner's 50th feature resulted in a strong fourth place finish, his 25th time among the top-ten and the sixth time among the top five.
Along the same vein, the next time Tony Bruce, Jr., grids an ASCS National Tour feature, it will mark his 50th career National Tour feature start. Next chance for a National start is at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway on October 1.
7. Ladies -- Add another pair of ladies to the 2005 ASCS roster.
Guthrie, Oklahoma's Michelle Decker competed in Saturday night's Sooner Region card at Lawton Speedway, making it into the feature event. And at Wyoming's Gillette Thunder Speedway, Terri Snedigar of Billings, MT, made her first ASCS start in the Rocky Mountain Region season finale.
Decker and Snedigar bring the count of lady racers to eight. This among the 511 drivers that have competed in at least one ASCS event this year.
Other ladies include North Dakota's Natalie Sather, Oklahoma's Dara Morrow, Colorado's Paige Lee, Virginia's Mary Anne Williams and Texans Tina Creswell and Brandi Miller.
With Creswell expecting a child, Eric Payne is slated to take over Creswell's No. 02 entry for this weekend's ASCS Gulf South action. Payne has vacated the No. 21 David Miller entry in which he made a dozen ASCS starts (ten in Gulf South competition) this season.
8. The Why -- It's one of the beauties of Sprint Car racing. Sometimes a great race can break out when least expected.
Saturday night at West Plains, it looked like another sure Gary Wright runaway after he decimated a stout heat race field. But you never can tell.
Making just his ninth career ASCS National Tour feature start, 15-year-old Hunter Schuerenberg chased "The Texan" down for the early lead. Wright battled back soon after, but the youngster kept his composure and returned the favor two laps later.
Only lapped traffic, that included four-time ASCS National champion Terry Gray in his '05 ASCS debut, prevented Schuerenberg's first ASCS win, with Wright making a classic move in traffic on the 21st lap.
What were these guys doing a few years ago you ask?
In 1998, an 8-year-old Schuerenberg won the Rookie Class and Yard Kart championships at SEMO Raceway in his hometown of Sikeston, MO. That same year, Gary Wright won his third NCRA 410 Outlaw Sprint title, with WoO, ASCS and All-Star wins also among his 23 triumphs that season.
9. Look out for Lee -- Nineteen-year-old Lee Sowell's rookie campaign with the O'Reilly ASCS National Tour hasn't been what he had hoped for at the season's outset. Sowell sits third in rookie points behind 21-year-old Tony Bruce, Jr., (ranked third in National points) and recently turned 20-year-old Jake Martens (ranked sixth).
Still, Sowell is clinging to tenth in points despite missing several events.Weathering some rough early-season luck, Sowell now seems to be coming into form as the season begins to wind down. Saturday night at West Plains, Sowell collected his first career ASCS checkered flag by winning the third heat race. Sowell then earned his first-career ASCS top-ten feature finish by holding steady in the feature to claim eighth.
10. Point Battles -- With Billy Alley (Midwest) and Gary Taylor (Rocky Mountain) already crowned ASCS champions, there are still four more to be determined.
Barring a disastrous finish, Gary Wright is well on his way to his second consecutive ASCS National Tour championship. The remaining Regions are all in question though.
Sean McClelland's ASCS Sooner Region point lead dwindled to 40 markers over Danny Jennings when he lost seven positions on the final lap of Saturday's feature at Lawton Speedway due to a broken rear end. Ray Allen Kulhanek has a 104-point cushion in the ASCS Gulf South chase.JHowever, with a half dozen feature events remaining, Stephen Chevallier, Lane Whittington and Greg Rilat all remain in strong contention.
Scott Young leads teammate Coby Adams by just 24 points entering Saturday's Southern Tour event at New 311 Speedway in Madison, NC. With Mary Anne Williams and Doug Gold also within striking distance, the Southern Tour will wrap up the 2005 campaign at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 28 and 29.
Time to put the wraps on Volume I, No. XX, of Tuesday's Top Ten. As always, notes, comments, questions, suggestions and random requests are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week, any information you may desire regarding the American Sprint Car Series is available at www.ascsracing.com.