In arguably his toughest race weekend of the year, Richard Vander Weerd shined as he finished third during the 2016 Oval Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway.
“Our weekend went way better than I thought it would,’ Vander Weerd admitted. “We knew we had car that was certainly capable of finishing in the Top-10, and knew it was going to be tough to get a Top-Five, but we were really on our game all weekend.”
Getting things opened up on Thursday night at the Southern California facility, Vander Weerd would time his machine in 16th fastest in qualifying time trials before racing to a fourth place finish during his heat race.
Lining up 15th in the opening night feature event, Vander Weerd would pick up some valuable Oval Nationals points, as he was able to get his machine moving forward. Working his way inside the Top-10, Vander Weerd would take the checkered flag with a ninth place finish.
Timing in 10th fastest on Friday night, the Visalia, CA wheelman would finish third in his heat race and punch his ticket into the Friday night ‘A’ Main.
Gridding the field from the ninth starting spot, Vander Weerd would take a liking to the bottom of the speedway, as he wasted no time working his way to the front.
Up to fifth by lap six, Vander Weerd would continue to work the bottom to perfection as he soon found himself in the third spot and chasing after Dave Darland and Chad Boespflug.
With second running Boespflug getting over with six to go, the restart would set up a dramatic six-lap shootout. With Darland committed to the top, Vander Weerd showed he was good enough to run either line as he continued to pressure Darland for the race win.
On the final lap, Vander Weerd would run the bottom in turns three and four, and a slight bobble with allow Darland the breathing room he needed as Vander Weerd finished in the second spot.
Sitting fifth in points after two nights of action, Vander Weerd would be one of just six entrants locked into the Saturday night 40-lap Oval Nationals feature event. Finishing fourth in the “Super-6” Dash, Vander Weerd would line up in the second row for the final ‘A’ Main of his 2016 season.
Quickly working his way into the second spot, Vander Weerd would begin chasing after fellow USAC/CRA competitor, Damion Gardner, who led the way out front.
Giving Gardner all he could handle, Vander Weerd would actually grab the lead on lap 28, but Gardner was able to get back by and remain out front. A couple of late cautions would play to Damion Gardner’s favor as it would give the leader open track in the closing laps.
In the race’s final green-flag run, Garder would get away from Vander Weerd, and Chris Windom would sneak by Vander Weerd at the finish line giving Vander Weerd a third place finish at the Oval Nationals.
“We had a shot there, but those late cautions hurt us I feel,” Vander Weerd said “To come out here and get two podium finishes is really specials. To lock into the feature, and then finish third is awesome. It was a great year for us, and we will look to do even better next year. Thanks to my family, and everyone that continues to support this race team.”
Richard and his Vander Weerd Racing team would like to thank Vander Weerd Construction, Stonegate Development, Battery Worx, Mid-Valley Pipe, Basic Industries, Factory Kahne Shocks, Steve Watt Enterprises, FK Rod Ends, PXP Racewear and K&N for their support in 2016.