Chico, CA — (April 7, 2012) — Sean Becker is still not sure what his sprint car racing schedule will look like in 2012. It’s a shame a driver with his talents does not have a full-time ride solidified for the Friday night Wells Fargo point championship races. Luckily for him, Dan Menne had an idea. Menne is trying to sell his spare car. It’s 2008 Maxim with a Gaerte motor. His thought was to let Sean Becker drive it and showcase it to the fans and any potential buyers how good this car could be. Menne’s decision turned out to be a good one when he shook Becker’s hand in victory lane. Becker started on the pole position, drifted back to the third spot before charging back to the front to win the 25-lap super heavy and hooked up Chico clay quarter-mile. “That was a wild race,” said Becker in victory lane. “Luckily I race go karts all winter to help me stay in shape.” A total of 20 winged sprint cars all attended the opening night race at the speedway.
Three other divisions joined the 410 winged sprint cars including the dirt modifieds, street stocks and mini stocks. Oreste Gonella won the dirt modified main event, Mitch Machado dominated the street stocks and Shaun Merritt got the win in the mini stocks.
Becker and Rico Abreu started on the front row of the main event for the winged sprint car 25-lap race. The first start was halted when Bud Walberg came to a stop in turn one. On the second attempt the field got bottled up coming to receive the green flag. Jason York and Tyler Wolf each spun into the infield. York hit the white k-rail barrier that resulted in damage to his car. Wolf was able to continue on and salvaged an eighth place finish. During the Wolf and York altercation, Kevin Sharrah bicycled going through turn one and ended up on his lid. Sharrah’s car also had too much damage to continue on.
On the third attempt to start the race, Becker was able to pull ahead of Abreu going into turn one. Kyle Larson made a rare Friday night appearance in Paul Silva’s #57 and charged around Abreu to secure the second spot on lap one. Abreu passed Larson on lap seven to take back the second spot. Two laps later, Abreu passed Becker to lead the race. On lap 11, Larson passed Becker for second. With the old school heavy track surface in place tonight, not only did the leaders have to battle slower cars but battle their own racecars because the surface continued to change over the 25-lap race. Soon the early race set-up went away and the driver had to find a way to slide the car through the turns. Most of the drivers began to develop an awful push through the turns. While most drivers began to struggle, Becker figured out he had to set the car earlier in entering the turns.
On lap 16, Abreu drifted up the track and Larson moved under him for the lead. Becker passed Abreu on lap 19 for second. On lap 21 both Mason Moore and Abreu stopped. Moore had put up a solid effort all night. Moore ran in the fourth spot for most of the night. Each driver was not able to return. Up front Larson led the field to the restart. Two laps later Becker slipped under Larson to take the lead. The final laps saw the two former Outlaw go-kart starts battle for the win. Larson gave Becker one last look for the lead but was not able to make it happen. Becker led the final lap to secure the win. Andy Forsberg was kind of under the radar the whole race but finished a solid third. Robbie Whitchurch also ran a superb race and finished fourth. The star of the night might have been Jim Richardson. The 60-something year old finished in the fifth spot.
Jeff Olschowka led the first part of the 20-lap dirt modified main event. Olschowka was piloting the Ira Compton owned #81. Chasing him the majority of the race was Randy McDaniel. There was no doubt that McDaniel was quicker but he was not able to get the preferred line to make the pass. Eventual winner Oreste Gonella shadowed the top two for most of the race. McDaniel officially took the lead on lap 12 but Olschowka took back the top spot. On lap 13 McDaniel suffered a big set back when he was black flagged for being too loud. All state fairgrounds require cars to be under 95 decimals at 100 feet. At this time McDaniel was fiercely battling with Olschowka for the lead and never pulled off the track. The bad part for Olschowka happened when the two made contact on lap 17 resulting in Olschowka’s car stopping in turn three. He was unable to continue on. McDaniel acknowledged the black flag under the yellow and went to the pits.
This put Gonella in the lead. Heavy smoke was seen coming out of Gonella’s car under the yellow flag. Somehow he was able to finish the final few laps and hold on for the win. In victory lane Gonella said, “With three to go I knew the motor was lying down,” said Gonella. “But I knew we only had three laps to go so I just went for it and hoped for the best.” Raymond Benekowski did a great job and finished in the second spot. Robert Mull finished in the third spot. Folsom driver Jay Bryant came home in the fourth spot.
Shaun Merritt led all 15-laps to win the first Mini Stock main event at Chico. Merritt was able to hold off fifth place starting Howard Law. Law finished in the second spot. Law had his hands full trying to hold off Sean Perry and Jason Clayton. Merritt was smooth in his ability to driver through the congested traffic on the speedway. “I have to thank my sugar momma,” said Merritt in victory lane. “I’ve got a good bunch of people behind me and I appreciate their help.” Law passed Perry on lap eight for the second spot. By then Merritt was too far ahead for Law to try and catch. James Foster finished in the fifth spot. Misty Castleberry had mechanical problems in her heat race and was never able to make a charge in the main event. She finished in the sixth spot.
Mitch Machado dominated the 15-lap street stock main event. “We’ve had some motor problems this year and it was good to get to Chico and be able to figure it out,” said Machado. “I have to thank my crew because they make it possible for me to win.” Machado took the lead on lap one. Gary Newman fell into the second spot. On lap two, Shawn Smith moved into the second spot. Jake Vantol was able to stay in the third spot for most of the event. On lap 12, Vantol passed Smith for the second position. Back up front Machado was untouchable. Machado crossed the finish line with a big lead. Vantol came across the line in second and Smith was third. Vantol’s second place finish was event more impressive when you consider he started in the eighth spot.
Next point race is April 20th. The winged sprint cars will race for $2500 to win in memory of Bill Brownell.
1 Sean Becker
2 Kyle Larson
3 Andy Forsberg
4 Robbie Whitchurch
5 Jim Richardson
6 Kenny Allen
7 Brad Bumgarer
8 Tyler Wolf
9 Jeff Griffin
10 John Michael Bunch
11 B.J. Martin
12 Gary Paulson
13 David Tarter
14 Rico Abreu
15 Mason Moore
16 Jason York
17 Craig Swim
18 Branden Mansfield
19 Bud Walburg
20 Kevin Sharrah