Tuesday's Top Ten -- It's Back... TULSA, Okla. (February 7, 2006) -- It's the dawn of a new racing season, and with that comes the initial installment of Tuesday's Top Ten for 2006. And in bonus fashion, this first edition of...
Tuesday's Top Ten -- It's Back...
TULSA, Okla. (February 7, 2006) -- It's the dawn of a new racing season, and with that comes the initial installment of Tuesday's Top Ten for 2006. And in bonus fashion, this first edition of TTT includes not only ten random items of varying degrees of interest from the ASCS opener at East Bay, but ten other items from the Sprint Bandits Tour 'N Topless triple.
The Doors have opened upon the 2006 season, walk on in.
1. Tell All the People -- The O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour (ASCoT) kicked off the season with East Bay Raceway Park's "King of the 360's" Winter Nationals. And, promoters take note, a record 83 entries from 22 different states as well as Canada took part in the $10,000 to win affair.
A drastic increase in entries after just 46 took part in the same event in 2005 could be largely attributed to an ASCS sanction, then only tangible change from last year's version.
2. Back Door Man -- Floridian Greg Leonard found a back way into the Saturday night, January 28, feature, sneaking into the second and final transfer position from the second heat race when snake bitten Chuck Swenson flipped just short of the checkered flag after something broke on his mount. The night before, a speedy Swenson was high point man after heat race action but was collected in defending Sooner Region champion Sean McClelland's wild flip at the start of the first qualifying race.
3. Changeling -- There was a new face behind the wheel of the Gateway Chevrolet No. 94s at East Bay Raceway Park as former ASCS National champ Wayne Johnson took the seat in place of Natalie Sather. Sather gave up the seat for the week for filming of an MTV show featuring an all-girl race team that also includes fellow ASCS campaigner Stephanie Chappell and a handful of other lady racers.
Johnson hustled the turquoise machine to an eighth place finish in the Thursday opener before a Friday "B" Feature tangle with Tyler Godwin. After an 11th place showing in the "King of the 360's" finale, a Tuesday afternoon Sprint Bandits TNT feature flip had Wayne explaining to wrench Kenny Woodruff that, "I've torn up more stuff the last couple of days than I did all last year."
4. Light My Fire -- Broken Arrow, Oklahoma racer Nick Smith just needed to get riled up. And it happened when he was put back a row after jumping successive heat race starts on Friday night. A spin on the ensuing restart that sent him to the tail just sealed the deal though.
Smith proceeded to turn in among the finest drives of the week, charging from the tail to make a last lap pass of Johnny Gilbertson to snare the heat race win. Smith wrapped up the night with a fourth place feature finish, good enough to put him sixth in points over the two preliminary nights, thus locking himself into the Saturday finale in which he finished a strong fifth.
Smith's strong performance earned him a ride for the winged 410-ci portion of East Bay's Winter Nationals. After a strong qualifying effort during the February 4 finale, heat race engine woes brought a premature end to his Winter Nationals experience.
5. Queens of the Highway -- Delaware's Becca Anderson and New York's Jessica Zemken were the only ladies among the "King of the 360's" 83 entries. Mean 15 member Anderson missed Saturday's cut by just one position, while the affable Zemken made her first ASCS National Tour feature start during Friday's action. With just a few Sprint Car starts under her belt prior to East Bay, Zemken bears watching.
6. Wild Child -- Local shoe Tyler Godwin had among the wildest of weekends, kicking it off with the season's first flip during Wednesday night, January 25, practice. After Friday's "B" Feature tangle with Wayne Johnson, Godwin took it to another level during the Saturday finale. Godwin was climbing through the field in Saturday "B" action in search of a feature starting berth until a spin sent him to the tail. Godwin jumped a car on the restart, but the inevitable two-car penalty proved null and void when he climbed Brad Best's right rear entering turn three and flipped in spectacular fashion, destroying his mount in the process.
7. Tightrope Ride -- Travis Rilat was on the tightrope and through two nights of qualifying action, looked to be the one guy that could stop Terry McCarl from taking the January 28 $10,000 prize. Rilat topped McCarl in Thursday's prelim, then led the way before McCarl took advantage of lapped traffic on Friday. "I just messed around for too long behind that lapped car," Rilat later explained.
Rilat's luck took a turn for the worse on Saturday night though, as he tripped over the berm in the early stages of the feature and slipped off the tightrope in dramatic fashion. The resulting flip left his Maxim in a twisted heap.
8. We Could be So Good Together -- The 2006 ASCS National Tour is shaping up as a Jim Dandy, with at least 20 teams expressing intent to chase the crown. Among those planning to pursue the full schedule are (in alphabetical order) Cody Branchcomb, Tony Bruce, Jr., Mike Chadd, Zach Chappell, Dustin Daggett, Sam Hafertepe, Jr., Jesse Hockett, Jan Howard, Jerrod Hull, Sean McClelland, Joey Montgomery, Tim Montgomery, James Mosher, Jake Peters, Travis Rilat, Trey Robb, Abe Sherwood, Andy Shouse, Doc Sloan, Darren Stewart, Chuck Swenson and two-time and defending series champion Gary Wright.
9. Variety is the Spice of Life -- Just ask Terry McCarl, Jason Sides, Zach Chappell, Steven King, Roger Rager, Travis Rilat, Wayne Johnson, Danny Smith, Tim Shaffer, Mark Broughman and John Sauermilch (who probably isn't really from Ethereal Plains, WY). Each of these drivers took in all three Sprint Car portions of East Bay's Winter Nationals, including the ASCS National Tour's "King of the 360's", Sprint Bandits TNT 410-ci non-wingers and the open comp 410-ci winged sprint cars. McCarl obviously fared the best by topping both winged portions and raking in more than $30,000 over the course of eight events.
10. The End -- Iowa's Terry McCarl proved to be too tough to tame in the $10,000 to win East Bay finale, fighting off Greg Wilson to take the victory after scoring a win in Friday's prelim as well. Seven nights later, McCarl scored another $10,000 win in the 410-ci portion, running his total to four feature wins in five winged events at East Bay. Promoters Al Varnadore and Todd Hutto tossed McCarl into the newly formed Lake East Bay, which was created after 15 inches of Friday rain. Giving the good fight as always, McCarl dragged Varnadore and Hutto in for a swim as well.
Did You Know: A certain ASCS National Tour contender places magazines under his seat cushion to provide some added height, with Mariah Carey gracing the cover of the top periodical. Something pleasant to sit upon I suppose. Who could that driver be?
Typically, this ends TTT for another week, but this is far from your typical week. Three nights of ASCS action were followed by three nights of the always explosive O'Reilly Sprint Bandits Tour 'N Topless (TNT) competition. As such, ten TNT items are required at this juncture.
1. Day in the Sun -- Three nights of scheduled Sprint Bandits TNT racing action turned into one day and two nights when rain washed out the Monday night, January 30, opener. You know life isn't all bad when you find yourself at a dirt track on a Tuesday afternoon watching wingless sprint cars battle it out.
And Indiana's Brady Short, last year's National Non-Wing Rookie of the Year, obviously found it to his liking. After battling past Zach Chappell to win his heat from fifth, Short climbed to third in his qualifier to earn the pole position for the feature, where he wired the field to notch his biggest win to date.
2. Hot Hot Heat -- Go ahead and chalk up Tuesday afternoon's fourth heat race as perhaps the best that will happen all year, as Terry McCarl and Cory Kruseman swapped the lead at least a dozen times in the 8-lapper before McCarl finally took the win in just his second career wingless start.
3. More Hot Heats -- Tuesday night's heats and qualifying races offered more thrilling finishes, leaving fans little opportunity to actually sit in the seats they paid for. Among the barnburners was Bryan Clauson's last lap pass of Greg Leonard to win the second heat race, Cory Kruseman's last corner charge around Casey Shuman to take the fourth heat, Bud Kaeding edging Jon Stanbrough to take the third qualifier after a handful of lead changes and Brandon Petty's last lap steal of qualifier number four from Zach Chappell.
4. Look at that 360 Go -- After three consecutive third place finishes in the ASCS portion of East Bay's Winter Nationals, Jason Sides decided it was time to make his wingless debut. "This just seems like as good a place as any to do it," the Memphis-area racer commented. And he did it with his 360-ci powerplant in place.
After missing the Tuesday afternoon feature, Sides decimated the competition in Tuesday night's fifth qualifying race to earn a fifth-row starting position. Sides quickly moved forward and ran third much of the way before settling for fourth at the stripe. Sides finished up the wingless portion with an impressive sixth place run in the Wednesday finale.
5. Radar & The Modern Cowboy -- Chicken strips at East Bay Raceway Park -- Cost: $4.50; Tampa Motel Rooms - Cost: More than they should be; Witnessing a pair of improbable, fearless, rim-riding charges from eleven and ten rows deep all the way up to second on successive nights by 57-year-old Roger Rager and 22-year-old Daron Clayton -- Priceless, Simply Priceless.
6. Aches & Pains -- A pair of drivers took nasty tumbles during the set of TNT races, with local shoe Joe Melnick and Arizona's Charles Davis, Jr., each exiting East Bay Raceway Park by way of ambulance.
Melnick slapped the backstretch wall during Tuesday night's qualifying race action and flipped violently into the third turn. Melnick is now recuperating at home after being treated for a broken collarbone and broken vertebrae.
Davis took a horrific ride into the turn one fencing after hopping the wheel of a lapped car entering turn one while running second in a Wednesday night "B" Main. Shaken and sore, Davis was otherwise uninjured but still skipped Saturday's USAC/CRA event in California.
7. Nomadic Ways -- The Saturday event in Perris, CA, couldn't keep Cory Kruseman and the Crossno No. 38 team from taking in the TNT triple. After proving that passing is quite possible on a daytime surface by charging from 16th to fifth in the Tuesday afternoon opener, Kruseman found himself in victory lane a few hours later.
Kruseman doubled up by taking Wednesday night's $10,000 winner's share, surviving a rush from Clayton in the process. The Crossno team made the 40-plus hour trek back to Southern California, where "The Kruser" finished fourth on Saturday night.
8. Back in Time -- It had been 25 years since the upper echelon of wingless Sprint Cars had kicked up the clay in Florida. While Doug Wolfgang won that last feature on February 10, 1981, it was Indiana's Danny Smith that chased him to the line that night. Smith was back in action as the Sprint Bandits brought "tradition" back to Florida, posting finishes of second, seventh and eighth.
9. Little Guys -- Perhaps "Little Guys" isn't the correct terminology, but with household names such as Kruseman, Darland, Kaeding, McCarl, Gaines, Stanbrough, Sides, etc., lesser-known guys including Ed Hassler and Jake Scott each enjoyed shining moments during the TNT set.
A Tuesday afternoon heat race winner, Hassler scored a strong third place finish in the afternoon feature behind Brady Short and Danny Smith. Hassler was checking out on his Tuesday night qualifying race field when the driveline snapped. Hassler limped away, done for the night, but was enjoying strawberries by feature time as he was fortunate to escape with little more than a throbbing ankle. Hassler rebounded for a solid top ten finish in the Wednesday night finale.
Jake Scott made a surprising surge past both Travis Rilat and Dave Darland to win Tuesday afternoon's third heat race, opening some eyes along the way. After making the cut for both Tuesday main events, a late spin while dicing for the final transfer position while in "B" Feature lapped traffic cost him a starting berth in the finale.
10. Wrong Place, Wrong Time -- After 16-year-old Bryan Clauson was nipped at the line for second by veteran Roger Rager on Tuesday night, the recently-signed Chip Ganassi Racing development driver held a strong second in Wednesday night's finale and had eventual winner Cory Kruseman in his sights. That is, until he was haplessly collected by the flipping mount of lapper Kyle Nicholas, with Brandon Petty caught up in the melee as well. Clauson restarted at the tail and salvaged a 14th-place finish.
Putting the wraps Volume II, No. I, TTT is done for the week. As always, notes, comments, questions and suggestions 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, while Sprint Bandits TNT-related info can be found at www.sprintbandits.com.