By Lonnie Wheatley
TULSA, Okla. (June 8, 2010) – After a week off to recover from an overdose of Memorial Day racing action and, more importantly, to pay respects to one of the true legends of this racing era last Tuesday, Tuesday’s Top Ten returns with assorted items concerning the past couple of weekends of American Sprint Car Series festivities.
As Jesse would say, “Let’s go racin’ boys…”
1. The Show Goes On – As anticipation mounted for the Memorial Day weekend of racing throughout the country, the racing world was shaken on late Wednesday afternoon, May 26, with the news of Jesse Hockett’s passing.
With heavy hearts, friends and competitors soldiered on over the past couple of weekends, hitting dirt tracks wherever they may be, just as “The Rocket” would have wished.
Out of touch in the physical sense, Hockett was never out of mind, as evidenced by countless message board memos and Facebook postings including this from Brady Bacon in the moments before Saturday night’s Lucas Oil ASCS feature event at Little Rock’s I-30 Speedway; “Would usually go give Jesse a hard time about this point in the night…. Hope you are on the hammer upstairs Rocket.”
2. 221 – Is the number of different drivers that competed in at least one of the 13 ASCS events completed over the Memorial Day weekend of May 27-30.
Forty-eight took part in the Lucas Oil ASCS National Steve King Memorial at Jetmore, 32 took in at least one of the Midwest events at I-80 and McCool Junction (including eight that went on to Jetmore for two nights), 49 took in the SOD/NRA triple in Ohio, 42 competed in at least one of the Gulf South triple header, 38 battled it out in the Northwest opener at Elma and 20 took part in the Patriot double at Sharon and Erie.
Following this past weekend’s action, a total of 504 different drivers have competed in at least one of the 47 overall ASCS events contested thus far in 2010.
3. Road Warriors – Eight different drivers took in four consecutive nights of Memorial Day ASCS competition beginning with Thursday and Friday (May 27-28) Midwest cards at Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway and Junction Motor Speedway and then two Lucas Oil ASCS National nights (May 29-30) at the Jetmore Motorplex in Kansas.
Six were Lucas Oil ASCS National contenders including Shane Stewart, Jack Dover, Travis Rilat and rookie contenders Kyle Hirst, Channin Tankersley and Justyn Cox, with Midwest contenders Doug Lovegrove (Waverly, NE) and Dylan Peterson (Sioux Falls, SD) making the four-night swing as well.
Reigning Lucas Oil champ Shane Stewart kicked off the weekend with an I-80 win before running second to Ryan Roberts at McCool and then losing the Lucas Oil points lead to Brady Bacon at Jetmore.
Dover carried a No. 77 on the tailtank of both the Swenson No. 24a Midwest entry and the family-owned No. 53 machine in National action, reeling off four top-tens (9th, 6th, 7th and 4th), while Midwest finishes of eighth and seventh for Rilat forbade National struggles that included Jetmore finishes of 24th and 23rd followed up by a 12th at Little Rock after burning a second consecutive provisional.
Working out of Hockett’s shop, Hirst strung together his best four nights of the year with Nebraska runs of third and fourth followed by a third in the Steve King prelim and then seventh in the finale.
Tankersley rounded out the weekend with a start in the King finale, while Cox made his first two National feature starts of the year at Jetmore before celebrating his 16th birthday on Monday (May 31) with a fifth consecutive night of competition versus NCRA foes in Wichita along with Dover.
4. Winger – A noted wingless racer at just 20 years old, it may be time that the defending Sprint Bandits TNT champion be considered a winged racer. After all, there are only five other drivers in ASCS history that have reeled off three National wins in a row.
In just his 14th career ASCS National start, Brady Bacon bagged his first win in the Steve King Memorial prelim feature at Jetmore on May 29. Brady backed it up with a $6,000 score in the King finale the next night and then pulled off a rare Lucas Oil ASCS National three-peat with a Saturday night, June 5, win at Little Rock’s I-30 Speedway.
The five drivers that have pulled off the previous three-peats, you ask? How about Gary Wright (who has done it seven times, including a record streak of five in a row in 2005), Tim Crawley (2001), Travis Rilat (2004), Jason Johnson (2006) and Sammy Swindell (2009-2010) for some solid company.
Perhaps it’s that appetite for June Bugs that gives Brady his wings? Bacon added another $50 to Saturday’s I-30 earnings of $6,000 for chowing down on more of nature’s six-legged protein, a stunt the Broken Arrow Bandit introduced after a TNT rainout at Beaumont just a few weeks back. Now, they just call him “June Bug.”
5. 36 – With another 17 events completed over the past two weekends, the number of winners in 47 overall ASCS feature events thus far in 2010 has climbed to 36.
Fourteen drivers have added their names to this winner’s list over the past two weeks, including Bacon (who couldn’t stop at just one) along with Bubba Broderick, Tommy Bryant, Luke Hall, Randy Hannagan, Joshua Hodges, Bryan Howland, Kent Lewis, Jr., Chris Morgan, Ryan Roberts, Robert Sellers, Jason Solwold, J.R. Stewart and Shane Stewart.
Shane Stewart picked off his first ASCS win of the year in the Thursday night Memorial Day kickoff at I-80, while Ryan Roberts added his first career series score the following night at Junction Motor Speedway, the track he and his family helped build several years ago.
J.R. Stewart, Luke Hall and Randy Hannagan each added first career wins under the ASCS banner in SOD vs. NRA competition in Ohio.
Topeka’s Chris Morgan added a last corner Gulf South score at Beaumont to a 2006 Midwest win at U.S. 36, Kent Lewis, Jr., carried a 23-year-old chassis with homebuilt motor to a first career Gulf South score the next night at Gator and Tommy Bryant picked off his fifth career Gulf South win in the Memorial Day triple finale at Lufkin.
After three-time ASCS Patriot champ Bryan Howland notched career win number 15 at Sharon on May 29, 20-year-old Bubba Broderick added his second career Patriot score the next night in Erie, PA.
Jason Solwold bested 38 (or maybe 41, who really knows for sure) in the ASCS Northwest opener for his fourth career series win on May 29 before the May 30 card was washed out.
On Saturday night, June 5, Robert Sellers fought off Andy Shouse for his third career ASCS Sooner win (all have taken place at Lawton Speedway), while 15-year-old Joshua Hodges became the youngest winner of the year by topping the Rocky Mountain vs. Southwest card at Aztec, NM. Last year, Hodges became the youngest winner in ASCS history with a Rocky Mountain win at Wyoming’s Sweetwater Speedway at just 14 years, four months and 23 days of age.
The only driver to win over the past two weekends that had a previous win this year was Rick Ziehl, who added Friday’s prelim Rocky Mountain vs. Southwest score at Aztec to a March 20 Southwest victory at Tucson’s USA Raceway.
6. On the Lam – Most likely the most thrilling laps of the past pair of weekends were turned in by 19-year-old Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Channin Tankersley in “B” Main action during the May 28 ASCS Midwest card at I-80 Speedway.
Running fourth in the early stages of that “B”, the Gulf South grad turned Lucas Oil National contender showed no fear of that big I-80 wall, comfortably putting Hoosier rubber right up against it and then diving to the bottom off of turn four to an eventual “B” Main win.
The drive was so spectacular that Brian Brown ran down to ask the young gun immediately afterward with the question, “Are you runnin’ from the law or something?”
7. Cracking the Lineup – While Brady Bacon broke into Lucas Oil ASCS National victory lane for the first time, three driver have cracked a Lucas Oil National feature lineup for the first time over the past two weekends including Dean Drake, Patrick Stasa and Jordon Mallett.
Making his first career ASCS start of any variety, National, Regional or otherwise, Tulsa’s Dean Drake raced into the redraw on the opening night of the Steve King Memorial and started on the front row before finishing 20th.
The next night, Patrick Stasa of Kingman, KS, raced into his first Lucas Oil ASCS National feature and finished 19th in the King finale at Jetmore.
Then, on Saturday night at I-30 Speedway, Jordon Mallett of Greenbrier, AR, made the feature cut in just his second series start and finished the night out in 20th.
8. Landmarks – Three Lucas Oil ASCS National contenders have reached significant landmarks over the past two weekends, including Tim Crawley, Jason Johnson and Tony Bruce, Jr.
Cracking the top five in Lucas Oil ASCS National points on the strength of three top-fives in a row, including second and third at Jetmore, Crawley made his 300th career ASCS National feature on Saturday night. Crawley matched his April finish of fourth at I-30 Speedway for a fourth top-five in a row, although this time he worked forward from 11th after slipping from the front row in April. Crawley became just the fourth driver in series history to reach the 300 mark along with Gary Wright (stuck at 391 after missing the I-30 cut with no provisionals remaining), Travis Rilat (312) and Garry Lee Maier (308).
Jason Johnson became just the ninth driver in series history to reach the 200 mark when he made his 200th feature start on the opening night at Jetmore. Others to surpass the 200 mark include Zach Chappell (287), Terry Gray (273), Wayne Johnson (255) and Toby Brown (210). Jason Johnson was sixth in his 200th start before finishing a close second to Bacon in the Jetmore finale and then fifth at I-30.
Tony Bruce, Jr., became the 24th driver in series history to make 100 National feature starts with his third-place showing at I-30 Speedway on Saturday. Others in the century club include Jason Sides (187), Darren Stewart (168), Danny Wood (165), Danny Jennings (153), Jan Howard (148), Kevin Ramey (147), Mike Ward (147), Michael Dupuy (130), Dale Howard (128), Larry Neighbors (115), Nick Smith (114), Cody Branchcomb (112), A.R. Rains (who led 12 laps from the pole in his 110th career feature start on Saturday) and Pete Butler (108). Bruce’s string of top-tens was cut short on the opening night at Jetmore when he rallied from a provisional starting position of 23rd to finish eleventh. With an eighth in the Jetmore finale, Bruce, Jr., carries a total of 14 top-tens in 15 overall 2010 ASCS feature starts into this weekend’s TBJ Promotions Eagle Nationals.
9. Rookies – The Brodix Rookie of the Year crop on the Lucas Oil ASCS National trail is a stout one to be sure, with 22-year-old Kyle Hirst of Loomis, CA, holding a slight edge over 20-year-old Glenpool, OK, shoe Matt Covington entering this weekend’s Eagle Nationals.
After three top-tens in the previous four features, Hirst had to work for it at Little Rock on Saturday night. Mired deep in a “B”, an errant Hirst right rear sent fellow rookie contender Austen Wheatley endo-ing into the ladies room off turn four. The 17-year-old Washington racer explained that, “I thought it was kind of a dirty slider, but I guess that’s just a part of short track racing.”
Hirst rallied to a make last-lap pass of Ernie Ainsworth for the final transfer, then made a late surge in the main event to claim eighth after starting 21st.
Meanwhile, Lone Star Speedway winner Matt Covington claimed tenth at I-30 after his fourth heat race win of the season, staying within 23 points of Hirst.
Dustin Morgan, Channin Tankersley and Justyn Cox all made the feature cut as well to stay in contention, while a provisional fell to Andrew Marshala. Josh Hodges, ineligible to run at Knoxville’s ASCS Nationals due to his age, passed on the weekend in favor of Aztec, while Don Young had to attend a family member’s graduation.
10. The Tributes – Tributes to Jesse Hockett have been the common theme over the past two weekends, with the single cars of Brian Brown and then Billy Alley leading three-wide Midwest salutes in Nebraska and then double missing-man formations in honor of both Hockett and Steve King at Jetmore.
Helmets have been passed, collecting some tidy sums for the Hockett family at this difficult time, words have been penned and videos compiled to honor a legendary career, albeit it much too short.
Perhaps the most moving of videos is this piece assembled by Buckley of Jack Slash fame, set to “Rocket Man”. Played at Hockett’s services, a dry eye was not to be found…
Also, these words penned by Lori Dover are worth a look at…
Jesse, you left us so suddenly in late May,
None of us were expecting the news we received that day.
You were born; Jesse Lester Hockett,
But to many you were known simply as the “Rockett”.
Son, Brother, Husband, Cousin, Friend, you fit them all,
The Good Lord sent you a message and you took the call.
As a Racer, you could wheel them all; wing, non-wing,
Dirt, pavement, 360, 410, silver crown, midget, anything.
You were a “racer’s Racer”; never ever afraid,
The last true “Outlaw” and the best in the trade.
Fearless, aggressive, crazy and happy, those are just a few,
Of the words that would describe the “Rockett” we all knew.
Loved, respected and admired by many near and far,
Because of the great person you are.
You leave us now, all with very heavy hearts,
But we all know you and Daniel are no longer apart.
Rockett, you are in our hearts and minds and you will leave us never,
For Jesse, we will love and miss you for ever and ever.
By: Lori Dover
The wheels keep turning and the mud keeps flyin’, the Lucas Oil ASCS National debut at Eagle Raceway for this weekend’s Eagle Nationals highlights another action-packed weekend of ASCS action.
Putting the wraps on 2010 TTT Edition XIV, until next time, find what you need in terms of ASCS info at www.ascsracing.com.