by Lance Jennings
SANTA MARIA, CA – MAY 1, 2012… After rain washed away the last two events, the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series will travel to Chris Kearns’ Santa Maria Speedway this Saturday, May 5th. Joining the action packed card will be the West Coast Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Toste Construction Mini Stocks, Okie Bowl Hardtops, and Kids Bike Races (1-12 years old). The Front Gates will open at 4:00pm, Time Trials will start at 5:00pm, with Racing at “The West Coast’s Best Short Track” to begin at 6:00pm.
Heading into Saturday’s point race, Ryan Bernal of Hollister leads the way. The driver of Keith Ford’s #73 King Racing Products / A&A Precision Machine Spike claimed the Hanford victory on April 7th. The young driver is off to a great start in 2012, also scoring victories with the USAC Western Midgets and Western Classic Sprint Cars. The defending Santa Maria track champion has three top-3 finishes in as many races, one Ringers Gloves Hard Charger Award, and leads the series with thirty-nine feature laps led. Bernal won two main events at Santa Maria last year and will be one of the favorites on Saturday.
Markus Niemela of Rauma, Finland is second in championship points. Piloting Steve Watt’s #81 Lost Reality / SWE Maxim, Niemela scored third in the Hanford feature after starting fifth. Primarily racing the last few seasons at Ventura, Markus is adjusting well to the larger race tracks of Central California with one heat race victory and two top-five finishes to his credit. This Saturday, Niemela will have his sights set on his first career victory at Santa Maria.
Campbell’s Bud Kaeding sits third in the point standings. Driving Junior Bowman’s #29 Buster & Ziggy Enterprises / Kaeding Performance Bullet, Kaeding flipped during Hanford time trials, but rebounded to earn the Ringers Gloves “Hard Charger / Best Passing Job” honors with a twentieth to fifth place run. The 3-time USAC Silver Crown Champion scored victories at Las Vegas and Bakersfield, but has yet to claim a series feature at Santa Maria. Could this be the night that Kaeding passes Peter Murphy as the leader in main event wins?
“Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton is fourth in the championship chase. Piloting his #17V Johnston Calf Pens / Buster & Ziggy Enterprises Bullet, the veteran driver scored fourth at Hanford after starting eighth. “Hollywood” leads the series in career fast time awards and has two top-ten finishes on the season. Faria will be looking to start his championship bid on Saturday with a 30-lap feature victory.
Yorba Linda’s Matt Mitchell is currently fifth in points. Driving Steve Watt’s #18 Christian Stover Foundation / SWE Maxim, Mitchell earned his first Sander Engineering / Rod End Supply Fast Time Award and won his second heat race at Hanford. The USAC/CRA standout was running up front in the feature before a flat tire ended his night, resulting in a twentieth place finish. Mitchell will be looking to rebound this Saturday at Santa Maria.
Among the other top contenders expected to be in action are Chris Ennis, “Showtime” Danny Sheridan, Steve Conrad, “The Bakersfield Bullet” Rusty Carlile, Josh Ford, 2009 Champion Justyne Hamblin, 2011 Champion Richard Vander Weerd, Jonathan Logan, Jace Vander Weerd, and many more.
Santa Maria Speedway is located 1/4-mile north of the 101/166 interchange at 1900 Hutton Road in Nipomo, California. Adult tickets are $16, Senior, Military, and Student tickets (13-17) are $14, Kids tickets (6-12) are $6, and Children’s tickets (5 and under) are FREE. For more event information, visit the track’s website at www.racesantamariaspeedway.com or call (805) 922-2232.
The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series would like to thank Southwest Contractors, Hoosier Tire, Amsoil, ButlerBuilt, Competition Suspension Inc., Cory Kruseman’s Sprint Car & Midget Driving School, Crow Enterprizes, DJ Safety, Diversified Machine Inc., Extreme Mufflers, Hilborn Fuel Injection, Hinchman-Indy Racing Uniforms, Integra Shocks, Kaeding Performance, Keizer Wheels, LRB Inc. Race Products, ParkerStore of Phoenix, Ringers Gloves, Rod End Supply, SBI Fuel Systems, Saferacer.com, Saldana Racing Products, and Sander Engineering for their support.
For more information on the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series, visit westcoastsprintcars.com, usacracing.com, racesantamariaspeedway.com, or follow the series on facebook.
USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT POINTS:
1. Ryan Bernal 131; 2. Markus Niemela 122; 3. Bud Kaeding 116; 4. Danny Faria Jr. 108; 5. Matt Mitchell 95; 6. Kevin Barnes 74; 7. Chris Ennis 69; 8. Danny Sheridan 66; 9. Steve Conrad 65; 10. Rusty Carlile 59; 11. Josh Ford 55; 12. Justyne Hamblin 55; 13. Peter Murphy 52; 14. Richard Vander Weerd 50; 15. Jonathan Logan 48; 16. Matt Day 46; 17. Don Gansen 42; 18. Marty Hawkins 42; 19. Austin Liggett 38; 20. Chris Gansen 37.
2012 USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT CAR SERIES SCHEDULE
DATE – TRACK – LOCATION
May 5: Santa Maria Speedway – Santa Maria, CA
May 11: Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway – Tulare, CA (Chris & Brian Faria Memorial)
May 12: Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway – Tulare, CA (Chris & Brian Faria Memorial)
June 9: Kings Speedway – Hanford, CA
June 23: Santa Maria Speedway – Santa Maria, CA (Bud Stanfield Memorial)
July 7: *Santa Maria Speedway – Santa Maria, CA (War At The Shore / Doug Fort Memorial)
July 14: Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway – Tulare, CA (John Anthony Sharp Memorial)
August 4: Kings Speedway – Hanford, CA (Jim Evett Memorial)
September 8: Kings Speedway – Hanford, CA (Jim Turner Memorial)
September 22: *Canyon Speedway Park – Peoria, AZ (Brawl For It All / Non-Points)
September 29: Santa Maria Speedway – Santa Maria, CA (Billet Cup / John Jewett Memorial / Non-Points)
October 13: Kings Speedway – Hanford, CA (Cotton Classic)
* = Co-Sanctioned Event With ASCS Canyon Region Sprints.
This schedule is subject to change.