WS: FF: El Cajon race report 2002-03-30

Aaby conquers Cajon in USAC Western States Sprints EL CAJON, CA (03/30/02). Mike Aaby Jr., a protege of Davey Hamilton, made his initial visit to Cajon Speedway a winning one by taking first place in the 50-lap USAC Western States Sprint Car ...

Aaby conquers Cajon in USAC Western States Sprints

EL CAJON, CA (03/30/02). Mike Aaby Jr., a protege of Davey Hamilton, made his initial visit to Cajon Speedway a winning one by taking first place in the 50-lap USAC Western States Sprint Car feature on the 3/8-mile paved oval Saturday night.

But the victory was not without its controversy. The 22-year-old turned pacesetting Jeff Gardner around on the front stretch just 13 rounds from the checkered flag to take the lead. Gardner had paced the 17-car field from the green flag and was doing his best to guard the low groove lap after lap. Aaby, who started along side, clearly had a faster car than Gardner. He bumped the leader more than once before the race deciding incident that sent Gardner to the back of the pack and eliminated third running Bobby McMahan.

Rick Hendrix ultimately ended up second place while Scott Hansen took third. Rounding out the top five were Tim Barber and Tony Hunt. Todd Hunsaker won the companion USAC Ford Focus midget 15-lap finale over J.J. Ercse and Tim Barber.

Nineteen cars signed in for the sprint car's season opener. Shauna Hogg and Greg Giardina were eliminated during qualifying when each smacked the crashwall. With a six car invert, Gardner started on the pole of the main event with Aaby alongside. The field quickly got into single file with fast qualifier McMahan the only driver able to move up from his starting position. McMahan was fifth on the opening round, took fourth when Kevin Kierce looped it on lap 18, and then dropped Hansen a spot on lap 21.

Meanwhile Gardner had his hands full with Aaby, who was making only his eighth sprint car start. But he couldn't or wouldn't use the high groove to make his bid. Finally on lap 37 as they powered off the fourth turn, Gardner appeared to break loose just a tad and was rear-ended by Aaby. Gardner spun into the infield just past the starting line. McMahan, just behind the duo, rode over the right rear of Aaby's mount, and climbed the crashwall. Fortunately he stayed in the park but ended up in the turn one wall.

"Jeff is a really clean racer and I hate to win it this way," an emotional Aaby said after the race. "But it was not intentional."

For the final 13 circuits, Aaby had a Hendrix and Hansen, a pair of seasoned veterans, behind him. But he drove flawlessly and was five lengths ahead at the stripe. "My tires were getting pretty warm and I started buzzing them too much," the winner explained. "Rick is a good racer and so is Scott. I'm glad to win it."

Aaby got his start in racing when he was eight-years-old in quarter midgets. He graduated to go karts and motorcycles before stepping into 360 dirt cars. In 2000 he raced Super Late Models at Tucson and ran seven USAC Western States sprint cars a year ago.

"Now we're going hard for the championship," Aaby smiled.

-cs-

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Series USAC
Drivers Davey Hamilton , Tim Barber , Tony Hunt , Rick Hendrix , Bobby McMahan , Scott Hansen