ASCS -- TTT Bonus Pack... TULSA, Okla. (March 27, 2007) -- After a week's absence, TTT is back in expanded fashion. This week's version of Tuesday's Top Ten is in fact Twenty, taking a gander at some of the relevant and sometime...
ASCS -- TTT Bonus Pack...
TULSA, Okla. (March 27, 2007) -- After a week's absence, TTT is back in expanded fashion. This week's version of Tuesday's Top Ten is in fact Twenty, taking a gander at some of the relevant and sometime irrelevant aspects from the past couple of weeks of American Sprint Car Series racing action.
1. Spring Fever -- The past two weekends featured Spring Nationals events for the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour at both the Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX, and Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway. A total of 67 different drivers from 15 states and Canada took part in at least one of the weekend doubles.
Chuck Swenson represented South Dakota quite well on both weekends with three top-four feature finishes, with Jake Peters winning the Devil's Bowl finale before shying away from Oklahoma City due to gloomy weather forecasts. Ryan Bickett and Dusty Ballenger didn't fall for the meteorologists' tricks and made the trek to Oklahoma.
Natalie Sather led the way for North Dakota on both weekends, with Mike Sitzmann, Jr., joining in at Oklahoma City.
Minnesota's Scott Winters and Neil Stevens took in Devil's Bowl action, with Winters leading the first ASCS National Tour feature laps of his career before ultimately finishing tenth (his third career ASCS National Tour top ten finish).
The Lincoln, Nebraska area quartet of Toby Chapman, Jack Dover, Mike Chadd and Mark Pace each made it to Da' Bowl. Chapman was the only one to make both features in Texas, finishing 13th on both nights.
Devil's Bowl also had Georgia shoe Matt Linder and Montana traveler Mason Hill, while Oklahoma City drew the Colorado team of Keith Rauch and Bob Schaeffer along with Glendale, AZ, surprise visitor Ben Gregg.
2. The Real Jake -- There has seemingly been two different Jake Peters in recent years. The northern version piles up wins throughout Iowa, South Dakota and the rest of the northern plains area, while the southern version has typically struggled. At the Devil's Bowl Spring Nationals, Texas fans finally got to witness what the northern fans have been watching Jake Peters do for the last several years.
Last year, Peters started the season with the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour, but after missing the feature cut on consecutive weekends at Devil's Bowl and Oklahoma City, the Sioux Falls racer said "No Mas". "It's frustrating, it's no fun getting your tail kicked every night," Peters commented at the time. Jake went back to Knoxville, a place where he has historically been the kicker much more often than the kickee, and won another championship.
Perhaps without the pressure of chasing points, a relaxed Jake Peters showed up this year at Devil's Bowl. And aside from a turn two bobble that briefly knocked him out of a lock-in spot in Friday's feature (he recovered to finish third that night), Jake was flawless the rest of the weekend and raked in more than $5,400 when a couple of his sponsors, Folkens Brothers Trucking and S&G Trucking, upped the ante.
"We were good through three and four, but I never could figure out one and two," Peters explained afterward. He had the uphill corner figured out just good enough to hold off a charging Jason Johnson though.
Jake "The Snake" will try to add another ASCS win or two or three, etc., when the series makes a swing through the Northern Plains in June.
3. Chargin' -- Jason Johnson has struggled in heat race action the past couple of weekends, which has benefited race fans come feature time.
Over the course of three feature events, the "Ragin' Cajun" picked off a total of 40 positions (21st to seventh in Devil's Bowl opener, 16th to second in Devil's Bowl final and 21st to ninth in Oklahoma City opener). After losing a right rear early on Saturday at Oklahoma City, Johnson was on the move again before the nerf bar finally rubbed through another right rear.
Still looking for his first win of 2007 after topping 17 ASCS features last year, Johnson will likely give it a go in this Saturday night's Josh Lofton Memorial, the season opening event for the ASCS Gulf South Region at Champion Park Speedway in Haughton, LA.
4. Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes -- Just five days after his wife had a baby girl, Ronny Howard made the trip to Long Beach's South Mississippi Speedway, where he won a heat race and then posted a top ten finish in the ASCS Coastal Region feature.
5. Ridin' Dirty -- It's Sprint Car racing on dirt tracks, so I suppose they all are riding somewhat on the dirty side. But former ASCS Sooner Region champ Danny Jennings comes clean much to the pleasure of Chamillionaire.
6. Canadian Cross Up -- French Canadians Alain Bergeron and Daniel Lampron were expected at Devil's Bowl Speedway. But a last minute change of plans prevented their Devil's Bowl debut. Now, the racing duo hailing from Quebec are reportedly planning on an unspecified ASCS weekend in Texas sometime during the month of April. Maybe.
7. Truckin' Pain -- An errant fan blade nearly left Tommie Estes, Jr., with no officiating assistance in Oklahoma City on Friday night. The Sooner Region crew of Dennis Crow, Will Hale and Tommy Long (the latter of which was victimized last summer not once, but twice, by a Nebraska motel room recliner that upended him) got stranded on the Turner Turnpike between Tulsa and Oklahoma City when a fan blade broke and went through the radiator of Hale's truck.
Joe Landon (father of Rookie of the Year contender Foster Landon) came to the rescue, picking up Sooner head Crow and the Raceceivers, with a later truck picking up Long. Hale limped home but returned in time to flag Saturday's action.
They weren't the only ones to have problems though.
Wichita veteran racer Mike Peters had tow truck problems Friday on the way to Oklahoma City as well. Peters made it back to Kansas and was able to make it in time for Saturday's card.
8. First Lady -- Fargo, North Dakota's Natalie Sather continues to open some eyes, and in more ways than one. A determined move to get around J.D. Johnson for the final transfer position during a green-white-checkered run in the Devil's Bowl finale was waved off for a caution. While she wasn't able to repeat the move on the ensuing restart, Sather was awarded the third and final transfer position when Aaron Berryhill was disqualified for losing a muffler (earlier in the night, something had smashed through the right side of Berryhill's hood and torn through a valve cover). The announcement of Sather's transfer brought cheers.
Sather continued to win over fans in Oklahoma City, leading 23 laps on Friday night before Gary Wright muscled by. Still, the runner-up finish was the top finish for a female racer in ASCS National Tour history. The previous best was a third-place showing by Christi Passmore during an ASCS Speedweek stop at the Salina, OK, High Banks on July 17, 2001.
Saturday's run was deterred when her face shield came off in her hand when she went for a tearoff. Natalie spent the rest of the race trying to reattach the shield while keeping her Kenny Woodruff-wrenched machine on track.
9. Souvenir -- When Shane Stewart got sideways early in Oklahoma City's Friday feature, Kevin Ramey had nowhere to go and got upside down. The crumpled #7m wing was spotted riding in the bed of someone's pickup truck on Saturday night and is presumably mounted in some fan's garage or dining room by now.
Ramey pointed out that it was the first wing that he'd torn up since flipping during the Salina Speedweek event in 2001, a remarkable stretch considering Ramey keeps a pretty busy schedule each year.
A week earlier, Ramey was on the march in Saturday's Devil's Bowl main event when a torsion stop fell off under a caution. "That was the best ASCS car I've ever had at Devil's Bowl, when I came off of turn two on that first lap we just started flying by cars and I knew we were fast." A strong statement considering Ramey has won three ASCS National Tour events at Devil's Bowl and three Sooner vs. Gulf South Shootouts. Without the torsion stop, Ramey wrestled an ill-handling machine to sixth.
10. Sweeper -- Michael Dupuy hasn't forgotten the fast way around the track. And the 2002 ASCS National Tour runner-up showed that on Saturday night by sweeping the ASCS Coastal Region card at South Mississippi Speedway. It was the first sweep of the year for the new Region, but it would be a safe bet that Dupuy will go Coastal on 'em again at least a time or two more this year.
11. The Provisional Carrot -- A night after his right rear tire came off its bead and sent his car into the wall while holding a top-four feature position at Devil's Bowl, Darren Stewart found himself in a tough spot after losing power in his Saturday heat race. "The fuel pump backed off and it just shut down," Stewart explained of the heat misfortune.
Stewart now found himself deep in a "B" Feature grid. In years past, top-ten ranked drivers in such a position would often opt to just take their provisional without even trying the "B". But, with this year's rule that doesn't award any extra points earned by the provisional starting position, Stewart and car owner Bobby Sparks decided they needed to try to race their way in and get credit for their feature points.
And that's exactly what Stewart did, charging up to fourth and then making a last-lap pass of Jack Dover in the caution-free "B" Main to take the final transfer. Stewart then charged from 22nd to finish eighth. That eighth place finish was worth 134 points, 59 points better than if he had chosen to take the provisional. By racing his way into the "A' Main and getting those 59 extra points, Stewart is ranked fourth instead of sixth.
12. Stopped Short -- Brian Brown showed up at Devil's Bowl with new colors, perhaps diminishing his "Blackjack" tag. But after winning his Friday night heat race, Brown's weekend was cut short with a burnt piston.
With a new Ostrich in place, Brown was back in action at Oklahoma City. After missing the cut on Friday night, Brown won his Saturday heat race then climbed from eleventh to fourth in the feature.
13. Desert Storm -- Phoenix, AZ, gets all of about six inches of rain in a year's time. But enough of the wet stuff fell last week to wash out Saturday's scheduled 50-lap feature on the 1/3-mile Manzanita Speedway oval. No worries though, as the ASCS Canyon Region wingless troops go at it on Manzy's half-mile this Saturday.
14. Red Hot Texan -- Some speculated that Gary Wright might come out of the gates quickly in 2007. And he hasn't disappointed, posting top-five runs in all seven O'Reilly ASCoT National feature events thus far, including three wins, one second-place run, two thirds and a fifth. In the process, he's built a 43-point cushion over Wayne Johnson as he chases down a fourth consecutive series championship.
With seven consecutive top-five finishes, Wright is nearly half way to his series record of 16 straight top-fives that he established in 2005.
15. Both Sides of the Story -- Photographers will dig this and those that like to look at pictures will probably find it interesting as well. Those flashes last what, like a billionth of a second (okay, I'm no expert). So, what are the odds two shooters will catch each other's flash?
16. Rookie Watch -- A pair of drivers are vying for Brodix Rookie of the Year honors with the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour National series in 2007, with Collinsville, OK, shoe Foster Landon holding the early advantage over Canada's Chris Schemlzle.
Opting to chase the entire tour after some strong Florida runs, Landon posted his best-career ASCS National Tour finish by running third in Friday's feature at Oklahoma City. Landon backed it up with a fifth-place run the next night, climbing to seventh in points.
Schmelzle made his first career ASCS National Tour feature start in the Friday night Devil's Bowl prelim. But when the steering pump broke on Nick Smith's car (his first night in the Wade Wiseley No. 21), contact was made and Schmelzle went flipping in the feature.
After taking in Six Flags over Texas during the week, Schemelzle posted his first career ASCS heat race win in convincing fashion on Saturday night at Oklahoma City. But a badly-blown engine just three laps into the feature cut his run short.
Last year's Rookie of the Year, Nick Smith, has a new look in Wiseley's black No. 21 and the pair are set to do the full National slate.
17. First Time -- After Schmelzle's first feature start on Friday night at Devil's Bowl, Alamogordo, New Mexico's Lorne Wofford became the 900th driver in ASCS National Tour history to start an "A" Main event when he cracked the Pole Dash on St. Patrick's Day at the Devil's Bowl. Wofford, who made his ASCS debut during last October's Devil's Bowl Winter Nationals, ended up 16th in the Devil's Bowl Spring Nationals finale.
18. Good Stuff -- Most on hand proclaimed this year's edition of the Devil's Bowl Spring Nationals as the best racing action atop the famed Mesquite, TX, clay in several years.
19. Brother Act -- It's not every day that brothers compete against one another on the race track. And it's been a while since Darren Stewart and older brother Shane Stewart have squared off. They got to do that this past weekend, as Shane took the seat of a second Lubbock Wrecker Service entry, teaming with past ASCS National champ Garry Lee Maier.
The Stewart siblings started side-by-side in the second row of Saturday's second "B" Main at Oklahoma City. Darren got the upper hand in this one, using the high side to take the win with Shane finishing second.
20. Milestones -- The American Sprint Car Series is quickly closing in on a pair of major milestones.
With the Devil's Bowl and State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals both in the books, the American Sprint Car Series has now completed 483 National Tour feature events since the series inception in 1992. The series should have its 500th event sometime in June or early July.
The series has also completed 93 ASCS Speedweek feature events since the first edition of Speedweek in 1993. If Mother Nature cooperates in July, the final leg of the 15th Annual ASCS Sizzlin' Summer Speedweek at Lawton Speedway will be the 100th feature in ASCS Speedweek history.