EL CAJON, CA (09/06/03). A.J. Russell got even with Cajon Speedway's 3/8-mile paved oval Saturday night when Sid's Auto Body brought the Supermodified Racing League for its annual visit. A year ago Russell ended up buried in the third turn...
EL CAJON, CA (09/06/03). A.J. Russell got even with Cajon Speedway's 3/8-mile paved oval Saturday night when Sid's Auto Body brought the Supermodified Racing League for its annual visit. A year ago Russell ended up buried in the third turn crashwall after a shunt. That car, a 360, was destroyed. This time around the 21 year old led all 40-laps of the main event to take home his first SRL victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
"This is quite a change from last year," Russell noted. "Last year we ended up in the wall and this year we end up winning it. The track owed us one. We 're now even. This is a different car (this year). That car ended up in the graveyard."
Russell, driving the RPM Motorsports Hyder Hawk powered by a 410 Rodeck by Tom Reitz, outlasted four-time champ Troy Regier in his S&S Motorsports Silsby in the 40-lap contest. Only five of the 11 starters were around for the finish. Only four of those were on the lead lap. Jim Birges picked the wrong gear for his car but came home third in his Birges Hyder Hawk ahead of Bob Bigiogni, who is destined to finish second in the season long points chase. Bigiogni wheeled the C&M Motorsports Silsby. Lonnie Adamson, in the Western Speed Racing Shefchek, sewed up his second consecutive title by placing fifth despite losing about ten laps to replace a broken shock.
In the companion Grand American modified main events, Mike Jackson and Doug Catania paced the field in the twin 30-lap affairs. Jimmy Dickerson ran second in both contests and assumed the point lead in the division. Jackson is now second in the overall hunt. Doug Carpenter, Pat Garity, and Catania were chasing the leaders in the first main. Jackson, Lou Tompkins, and Carpenter took third through fifth respectively in the nightcap.
With a seven car invert, Russell had the pole for the SRL feature. Immediately he bolted to the front over fellow rookie Bobby Dalton, Birges, Adamson, fast timer Michael Lewis, and Regier. On lap 6, Rob Carlotto coasted to a stop in turn three. When the race resumed, Russell pulled away again. By lap 12, the youngster was 15 lengths out front. There was a torrid battle on the track among the second through sixth positions. Regier picked them off one-by-one. He went around Lewis on the high side into fifth on lap 7 and overhauled Adamson for fourth on lap 13.
On the 16th circuit, Regier dove underneath Birges to take third. There was contact in the pack. Birges ended up losing part of his front wing. Lewis had to pit for a flat tire. The debris resulted in the second caution. While the cleanup was occurring, Adamson lost a shock and a spring rolled onto the track's surface. Russell ran over the spring, but no damage resulted.
The race ran non-stop until the 28th round. On lap 21, Regier stormed to the outside of Dalton, who was suffering from a touch of the flu all day, to claim second. With Russell now ten lengths in front, Regier quickly ate into the margin. Just as Regier got to within a couple of car lengths however, it almost looked like Russell turned up the wick just a bit. Dalton's fine ride came to an end when he ran out of fuel on the 25th round and pulled into the infield. The lap 28 incident in turn two involved Lewis and Jeff Russell (no-relation to the winner).
The final 12 circuits saw the rookie AJ Russell stay just a couple of lengths ahead of his veteran Regier. Regier could get through the corners better, but Russell outran him down the straights.
Obviously Russell was elated with his initial victory. He took a Polish victory lap before stopping at the starting line where he was saluted by the fans and returned the salutation in a joyous celebration. "My car was working good on the high side all night," the tired but exuberant victor told the fans. "I can't believe it. This is my first victory, my first year in the supers. Thank you guys. You are great."
Russell was only seventh fastest in qualifying. But he ran away with the opening heat race. "I had a great car all night long," he explained. "It got tight for a little while. I took some wedge out of her and loosened her back up (and off she went)."
Russell was concerned with Regier from green to checkered in the feature. "I looked at the scoreboard and didn't even see him up there (early on)," he noted. "I was like all right, he's the fastest one here, we'll have some time, maybe it will take him awhile to get to me. When we had a yellow (lap 16), I looked up there and saw it was me, another guy (Dalton), and the 98 (Regier). I thought there's no way, the scoreboard is wrong."
In the closing laps with Regier stalking him, Russell never faltered. He maintained his groove on the high side of the turns, giving Regier room to pass down low. But Regier's car had picked up a slight push and he was unable to make a run down low.
In the Grand American modifieds, Jackson (seeking his first title) and Dickerson (the 1998 champ) started the night third and fourth in points behind 2000 champ Mike Salm and defending titlest Scott Brown. But Salm and Brown seemed to have magnets for each other. They ended up crashing together in each event. Brown got the worst of both incidents. He ended up in the pits out of the race both times and was scored last each time. Salm pitted for repairs both times, returned to the fray, and ended up 13th and eighth. The standings now show Dickerson just nine points ahead of Jackson, 525 to 516. Salm is still in the thick of things in third with 510. Catania moved up to fourth and has 477 markers. Brown, who has had nothing but frustration in the last four races, is fifth with 450.
Jackson's triumph came after a hard crash in a Thursday practice session at the track. He lost a radiator hose and backed it hard into the turn three crashwall. He was briefly knocked unconscious and the rear of the car was flattened. He started sixth in the opening main event Saturday night. Dave Wade led until he looped it in turn three on lap 4. This put Carpenter in front. Carpenter, who for a couple of years had the ride in the Walt Cole car now driven by Jackson, gave his rival lots of room and Jackson was able to scoot underneath on lap 8. He pulled away steadily and was some 20 lengths in front when the checkered fell. Not only did Dickerson take the point lead with his showing in this race, but he also picked up the $200 Sid 's Auto Body Hard Charger check for earning the most passing points.
"We lost a radiator hose and it watered down our back tires," Jackson said of the wall banging just two days earlier. "I don't think I was (knocked out). But if I was, it was just a matter of seconds. The crew thrashed like you wouldn't believe (to get the car fixed). Those guys have all the credit for this win. They thrashed and thrashed and thrashed. They got it right. We had to put in an all new chassis in from the back wheels back. The car was flattened from the rear wheels back. It was a mess. It didn't like the adjustment I made to it."
"It was a good race for us in the points," Jackson, whose victory was his second of the year and of his career, continued. "I wish we could have qualified a little better (he was 6th quick out of 16)."
The second race saw Catania go wire-to-wire though he had Dickerson right on his bumper nearly the entire 30-laps. Dickerson's car started smoking in mid-race. During a lap 16 yellow, the officials checked the car, but found no leak.
"We've had a really crummy season," Catania sighed after his initial win of the year. "In the off-season, we took the whole car apart. It never got back together right. I think we finally got it now. The best I ever qualified was in the high 80's or 90's and we got in the 50's today. So that's leaps and bounds better."
PIT NOTES: It was a tough night for Rick Cameron in the SRL. In the opening heat, his car veered into the crashwall just past the starting line, climbed the wall, and looked like it would get over that barrier before it rebounded back onto the track. The right side was badly damaged. ... Michael Lewis' fast time of :13.85 was the quickest qualifying lap at Cajon since Jeff Helton turned a :13.82 back in 1995. Lewis, the current USAC Western States sprint car point leader, was making only his second start in a supermodified Saturday night and it was his first look at Cajon Speedway.
SUPERMODIFIED RACING LEAGUE
Fast Time - Michael Lewis, Noblesville, IN; Time - :13.850.
1st Heat (8 laps) - 1. A.J. Russell, Clovis; 2. Lonnie Adamson, Salt Lake City, UT; 3. Jim Birges, Fresno; 4. Michael Lewis, Noblesville, IN; 5. Jeff Russell, Boise, ID; 6. Rick Cameron, Santa Cruz; Time - 1:52.03.
2nd Heat (8 laps) - 1. Troy Regier, Dinuba; 2. Bob Bigiogni, Salinas; 3. Bobby Dalton, San Martin; 4. Mike Baisch, West Valley City; 5. Rob Carlotto, Burney; 6. Kirk Wartman, Meridian, ID; Time - 2:38.19.
Main event (40 laps) - 1. A.J. Russell, Clovis; 2. Troy Regier, Dinuba; 3. Jim Birges, Fresno; 4. Bob Bigiogni, Salinas; 5. Lonnie Adamson, Salt Lake City, UT; 6. Michael Lewis, Noblesville, IN; 7. Jeff Russell, Boise, ID; 8. Bobby Dalton, San Martin; 9. Mike Baisch, West Valley City; 10. Rob Carlotto, Burney; 11. Kirk Wartman, Meridian, ID; Time - 37:37.67.
GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIED
Fast Time - Doug Catania, El Cajon; Time - :16.595.
Main event (30 laps) - 1. Mike Jackson, Bonita; 2. Jimmy Dickerson, El Cajon; 3. Douglas Carpenter, La Mesa; 4. Pat Garity, El Cajon; 5. Doug Catania, El Cajon; 6. Lou Tompkins, San Diego; 7. Brian Pusey, Lemon Grove; 8. Andy Papp, La Mesa; 9. Dave Wade, Lakeside; 10. Ivan Harrison, Santee; 11. Hector Leon, Santee; 12. Bobby Roland, Jamul; 13. Mike Salm, Fallbrook; 14. Steve Dickerson, El Cajon; 15. Matt Pate, San Diego; 16. Scott Brown, Spring Valley; Time - 19:21.10.
Main event (30 laps) - 1. Doug Catania, El Cajon; 2. Jimmy Dickerson, El Cajon; 3. Mike Jackson, Bonita; 4. Lou Tompkins, San Diego; 5. Douglas Carpenter, La Mesa; 6. Matt Pate, San Diego; 7. Andy Papp, La Mesa; 8. Mike Salm, Fallbrook; 9. Hector Leon, Santee; 10. Dave Wade, Lakeside; 11. Bobby Roland, Jamul; 12. Ivan Harrison, Santee; 13. Pat Garity, El Cajon; 14. Brian Pusey, Lemon Grove; 15. Scott Brown, Spring Valley; Time -- 22:26.65.