By Gary Thomas
Watsonville, CA – August 24, 2010…After weeks of anticipation the 50th running of the Johnny Key Classic is finally here and will be on tap this Saturday night August 28 for the Ocean Sprint Car Series presented by Taco Bravo at the Ocean Speedway.
Please note an earlier start time is also scheduled for Saturday’s $5,000-to-win Johnny Key Classic with the front grandstand gate opening up at 3:30pm. The pit board meeting will be held at 3:45 with track packing at 4, qualifying around 5:15 and racing scheduled to follow. This is the same time frame used during all Saturday shows at the Ocean Speedway.
The Key Classic originally started out at the paved San Jose Speedway following the passing of driver Johnny Key during a racing crash in 1954, before moving to the fairgrounds dirt track in 1978 and had been a staple at the speedway until the closing of the dirt oval in 1999.
After a number of years sitting idle the Ocean Speedway decided to bring the event back in 2007 and this year will mark the fourth consecutive season that it will be held at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds facility.
The Johnny Key Classic also starts a big three-week stretch in Northern California sprint car racing with the Louie Vermeil Classic at Calistoga Speedway coming up on Labor Day weekend, which will be followed by the 56th annual Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway the following week.
Going into the event on Saturday a total of six drivers are already pre-qualified for the race and will make up the first three rows of the 50-lap main event, which will be broken up into a pair of 25-lap segments.
The drivers already locked in include Easton’s Tommy Tarlton, Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson, San Jose’s Tim Kaeding, Salinas’ Ronnie Day, Campbell’s Brent Kaeding and Clovis’ Peter Murphy. Prior to the feature a six-lap dash for cash will also be held with those six drivers battling it out to decide how they will start the first three rows of the main event.
Tarlton, the current Ocean Sprint Cars presented by Taco Bravo point leader, locked himself into the Key by way of his victory on July 30 and comes into Saturday following a runner up finish last Friday at the track. The driver of the Corporate America Lending, Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino No. 21 is also the defending winner of the Johnny Key Classic, after withstanding a strong late-race challenge from Campbell’s Bud Kaeding. The defending Ocean Sprints champ possesses a 20-point lead with just four events remaining in the year.
Larson, the newly crowned Golden State Challenge King of California, guaranteed himself a starting position in the Key Classic by way of his victory in the first qualifying event on June 25 and comes into the weekend sitting second in the standings at the helm of his Stadelhofer Construction, Peppermill Casino No. 99x. Last year the 18-year-old had a strong run at the Johnny Key Classic, scoring a third place finish in the feature and had actually taken the lead twice from Tarlton, only to have yellows negate his advancements.
Last Friday night’s winner T. Kaeding will look to make it back to back wins after leading all 30-laps in the main event to record his first victory of the year at Ocean Speedway behind the wheel of his Roth Motorsports, DTR Transport Inc. No. 83jr sprinter. The former King of California has also won his last four Ocean Sprint Car Series presented by Taco Bravo starts and will be trying hard to pick up his first career Johnny Key Classic triumph on Saturday.
Getting into the Johnny Key Classic due to his runner up finish on July 16 Day will be in search of his first Ocean Speedway win of the year on Saturday. The wheel-man of the Keith Day Trucking, El Camino Machine & Welding No. 22 sprinter brought home a fifth place finish last Friday and has been very quick in recent weeks with the Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo. Day was the winner of the Key Classic in 1998 and will be search of number two this weekend.
Getting into the Johnny Key Classic by being the two highest drivers in the Ocean Sprints standings not locked in through the qualifying races are Brent Kaeding and Murphy.
“BK” currently sits third in the points and is still in search of that elusive first victory of the season aboard his Al’s Roofing Supply, High Five Pizza No. 69. The 13-time King of California captured the Key Classic in 1980 and again in 2008. Murphy currently rounds out the top-five in the Ocean Sprints standings in his first year driving the Buster & Ziggy Enterprise, Kiwi Transport No. 11 and will look for his first Key Classic win on Saturday.
Other drivers expected in action at the 50th Johnny Key Classic include Campbell’s Bud Kaeding, Visalia’s Cory Eliason, Chico’s Stephen Allard, Grass Valley’s Jason Statler, Stockton’s Brad Furr, Scotts Valley’s Evan Suggs, Prunedale’s Justin Sanders, Placerville’s Andy Gregg, Morgan Hill’s Devon Ostheimer, San Jose’s Matt Sargent, San Martin’s Craig Smith, Corralitos’ Jerry Bonnema, Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson and more.
Those drivers not locked into the Key race will hot lap and take two timed qualifying laps at the start of the night. They will then run a B-Main for the next 16 starting spots in the Key race. The B-Main format will be the multiple B format with the number of B-Mains being determined by the number of entrants the night of the Key race, with no more than 12 cars per B-Main.
B-Main line-up will be the same as the nightly heat race line ups, we will invert the top 4, regardless of how many B’s are held that night. The B-mains will be 20 laps. We will take a total of 16 cars from the B-Mains to complete the 22 car starting field. The drivers that qualified thru the B-Mains will get their times back and start behind the pre-qualified drivers for the Key.
Drivers that have pre-qualified will be allowed an opportunity to hot lap during the night before the Key race. There will be a six-lap dash consisting of the six drivers that have pre-qualified. The starting order of dash will be determined by pill draw and the finishing order of the dash will determine their starting spots for the Key. The B-main cars will follow in the line-up as stated previously.
Purse for the Johnny Key Classic A-main will be $5,000-to-win, with a guaranteed $300-to-start. In addition to the stated purse, we will also be having lap money in the main event with $25 going to 1st, $15 to 2nd and $10 to 3rd during the sponsored laps.
The Key race will consist of a total of 50-laps. There will be two 25-lap segments. At the conclusion of the first segment the cars will be stopped on the front straight in front of the grandstands. There will be a 12-15 minute intermission in which cars can refuel, change tires, and make whatever adjustments the crews can do on the front straight before teams are signaled to leave the track and cars are pushed off. Cars will be lined up to resume the race in the order in which they finished the first segment. For the final five-laps, if we have a yellow flag, the lapped cars will be put the rear of the field.
The front gate at the Ocean Speedway will open at 3:30 pm this Saturday at the Johnny Key Classic with adult tickets costing $17, children 6-12 $11 and kids five and under free. A family pack featuring two adults and two kids is available for $45 and seniors 65 and older with id will be $15. The Ocean Speedway is located on the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, California.
For more information on the Ocean Sprint Cars presented by Taco Bravo log onto http://www.oceansprints.com and for more on the Ocean Speedway visit http://www.oceanspeedway.com