From Richie Murray
PERRIS, Calif. (November 8, 2016) — When you look beyond the visor and into the eyes of a racer, you can see the hopes, the dreams, the fears, the hunger and the anticipation of the fortunes that lie ahead.
Throughout a season, these eyes have seen dirt tracks big and small, from the east to the west, triumph and heartbreak, jubilation and despair.
Eyes blinded by long, hot summer days underneath the sun’s rays and infinite visions of painted divider lines and mile markers on deserted stretches of highway traveling from one race to the next.
It’s been a long season that’s seen its ups and downs; a season that’s seen its share of surprises and the emergence of new heroes; a season that sees one more opportunity for man and machine to shine.
These eyes are now affixed on the largest prize of any USAC race this season – this weekend’s $25,000-to-win Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction at southern California’s Perris Auto Speedway!
With a total three-day purse in excess of $130,000 dollars and a finale that pays $1000 to start, the highest-paying dirt track event in the entire state of California features three-straight nights of glorious USAC Sprint Car racing on Thursday-Friday-Saturday, November 10th, 11th and 12th, 2016.
The “Ovals” have hosted six different Saturday night finale winners in each of the last six years! Among the drivers pre-entered for this year’s edition of the event are five former race champions. They include the only three-time winners: Campbell, California’s Bud Kaeding, who will pilot a car for owner Alan Kaiser and Lincoln, Indiana’s Dave Darland, who looks to extend his record 58 USAC National Sprint Car feature wins in the Jeff Walker/Curb-Agajanian Racing machine.
Additionally, the USAC/CRA series’ two most accomplished drivers in terms of feature wins and championships have filed their entries. Five-time series champ Mike Spencer of Temecula, California will wheel the Gansen Engineering 4s at Perris as he seeks his first victory since Canyon’s “Hall of Fame Classic” over a year ago.
Four-time USAC/CRA champion and current series point leader Damion Gardner is well on his way to a fourth consecutive series title with a 158-point lead in the standings. The Concord, California native leads all drivers with four wins this season, including a pair at Perris, where he owns 39 career USAC/CRA wins.
Chris Windom and the Baldwin Brothers Racing team come into this year’s “Oval Nationals” as arguably the hottest tandem in the United States of America. Windom, the 2010 “Ovals” winner out of Canton, Illinois, has won three straight USAC National Sprint Car features – Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in October as well as a complete sweep of last weekend’s two National & CRA features in the 49th “Western World Championships” at Arizona Speedway in Queen Creek.
Rip Williams, the 1997 “Ovals” winner, will have three sons competing in this year’s event – Austin, Cody and Logan Williams – who will pilot of a trio of Jory-owned cars. Austin has won twice at Perris this season in USAC/CRA competition – May’s “Salute to Indy” and September’s “Glenn Howard Classic.”
Brady Bacon, who aims to capture his first “Oval Nationals” victory this weekend, brings a 257-point lead into the “Oval Nationals” and is a virtual lock to claim his second USAC National Sprint Car driving title, while also supplying the Hoffman Auto Racing team its series-record 11th USAC National Sprint Car Owner’s championship and its first “Ovals” win as well!
1999 “Oval Nationals” winner Rickie Gaunt has been tabbed as this year’s grand marshal for the event. Additional past victors of the “Oval Nationals” include inaugural race winner Jimmy Sills in 1996, Rodney Argo in 1998, Tony Jones in 2000, Cory Kruseman in 2003 and 2004, Jesse Hockett in 2008 and the late Bryan Clauson, who just one year ago recorded an improbable victory after blowing the engine one night before.
After traveling all-night and much of Saturday driving to Arizona to pick up a new bullet to install under the hood of the Dooling/Hayward Racing number 63, Bryan Clauson got progressively quicker throughout the night, qualifying fourth fastest and finishing second in his heat.
After starting eighth, by the 23rd lap, Clauson was battling for second when leader Kevin Thomas, Jr. hit the turn the turn three wall, collecting second-running Thomas Meseraull. With both out of action, Clauson became the new race leader where he would go relatively unchallenged for the final 18 laps to win the 2015 “Oval Nationals!”
The 21st running of the event begins with an open practice for competitors on Wednesday, November 9th that precedes three straight nights of racing at “The PAS” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 10th, 11th and 12th.
All three nights of the 2016 “Oval Nationals” from Perris will be streamed LIVE on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/!
Twenty-one years of tradition. Twenty-one years of excitement. Twenty-one years of thrills. Twenty-one years of the “Oval Nationals” – an event you cannot miss!