From Lonnie Wheatley
TULSA, Okla. (April 27, 2010) – Mother Nature continues to wreak her fair share of havoc but resilient racers keep on racing, providing more fodder for the latest of edition of Tuesday’s Top Ten, chronicling ten random items revolving about the latest American Sprint Car Series happenings.
And away we go, it’s TTT…
1. Flying J’s – Saturday night’s set of ASCS Regional action featured the attack of the Flying J’s, with Joe, Jason and John (Wood, Jr., Johnson and Gaston) each breaking into victory lane on a night that included a total of 96 competitors (37 Sooner, 31 Gulf South and 28 Southwest).
After driving to the 2009 American Bank of Oklahoma title minus any victory lane appearances along the way, Wood, Jr., represented the west side (of Oklahoma) with his first Sooner score since a Kennedale Speedway Park triumph in July of 2008 by fending off east-sider Nick Smith at Creek County Speedway. Flat track highlights are available at http://www.mudslingervideo.com/. It was Wood’s fourth career ASCS Sooner win in 33 career feature starts.
After a Gulf South Battleground washout on Friday night, Jason Johnson drove to his second ASCS Gulf South win of the season in as many starts in the series debut at Lufkin, Texas’ Speedarama Raceway by beating Gary Wright to the stripe after a spirited mid-race duel with Ray Allen Kulhanek, who slipped to third with no brakes. “The Ragin’ Cajun” is typically a pretty good bet in his selected Gulf South outings with 24 wins in 40 tries since 2002 (60%), including 21 of 35 since 2006.
After J.T. Imperial surrendered the ASCS Southwest feature lead in the late stages with a wounded tire at USA Raceway, John Gaston posted his second career series win in 22 feature starts to leapfrog past Rick Ziehl, Calvin Landis and R.J. Johnson (all DNF’s) to the top position on the point charts.
2. Scattered – When increasingly ominous weather forecasts forced the postponement of the weekend’s scheduled Rock ‘N Roll 50 for the Lucas Oil ASCS National Series presented by K&N Filters at West Memphis’ Riverside Speedway, several teams scattered in search of some racing action.
The Sooner tilt at Creek County picked up five, including Rock ‘N Roll 50 promoter Tony Bruce, Jr., Kenneth Walker, Jesse Hockett, Matt Covington and Brady Bacon, plus another pair of Missouri racers (Nixa’s Kyle Bellm and California’s Tyler Blank) in search of less-saturated ground. Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Hirst, hailing from the state of California rather than the Missouri metropolis of California, rode along with the Hockett contingent as a spectator for the night.
Gulf South gained Jason Johnson, Gary Wright and Channin Tankersley in addition to West Texas escapee Preston Peebles II, while the Southwest Region added Johnny Herrera, Joshua Hodges and Justyn Cox to the field.
3. Ender – One of the more impressive streaks in Sprint Car racing came to an end Saturday night when Johnny Herrera cut a tire and settled for an eleventh-place ASCS Southwest finish at Tucson’s USA Raceway.
It ended a streak of 18 wins in an equal number of stand-alone winged ASCS Regional events contested in New Mexico and Arizona dating back to 2005 for the Albuquerque racer.
4. Doh! – The Homer Simpson “Doh!” Moment of the Week goes to Brian McClelland, who checked up on the final lap of his Creek County heat race and lost a critical pair of positions. “I thought the checkered came out the lap before, I just messed up,” the two-time ASCS Sooner champ explained. Mired deep in a “B” Main as a result, McClelland worked his way up to fourth but ran out of time to dispose of Michelle Decker for the third and final transfer. “That shuffled us too far back in the “B”, there just wasn’t enough time to get there.”
The primary benefactor of McClelland’s miscue was Bud Johnson, who advanced from fifth to fourth at the stripe and put the second Andy Shouse entry 14th in passing points, just good enough for the last transfer from heat race action. Shouse summed it up, “You lucky …….”
Honorary “Doh!” mention goes to Wes Miller, who flipped in Gulf South hot laps at Lufkin and scratched for the night, a damaging points blow after good outings in the first three events of the season.
5. 100 – Scottie McDonald made the most of his 100th career ASCS Gulf South start by charging from 17th to sixth in the non-stop Speedarama feature behind Jason Johnson, Gary Wright, Ray Allen Kulhanek, Travis Elliott and Wayne Johnson (in the newly renumbered Zierolf No. 3x).
In 100 Gulf South events, McDonald has posted two wins, 25 top-fives and 53 top-tens in 89 feature starts.
McDonald is the fifth driver to reach the 100 ASCS Gulf South events competed-in plateau, joining Greg Rilat (143), Chris Sweeney (110), Brandon Berryman (107) and Ray Allen Kulhanek (103). Jimmy Brooks (96) and Gary Watson (92) should reach the 100 mark soon.
6. Reset – Much like the early portion of the 2009 season, the Lucas Oil ASCS National series has been plagued by Mother Nature early in 2010 after escaping 2008 without a single rainout.
With Riverside’s Rock ‘N Roll 50 reset for October 1-2, the series has three events in the books going into the Second Annual Boothill Casino Steve King Memorial at the Jetmore (KS) Motorplex on May 29-30. Last year, all but both nights of the Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals were rained out prior to Jetmore’s Memorial Day weekend event. This year, one night of Devil’s Bowl action along with a Kilgore-Little Rock weekend have been completed.
With Riverside now on the back half of the Lucas Oil Sprint Car slate, 26 of 37 scheduled nights of competition (70%) are in the last half of the calendar year.
7. A Pair of Deuces – Four-time ASCS National champ Gary Wright and son-in-law Nick Smith raced 380 miles apart on Saturday night with identical results.
Wright chased Jason Johnson to the Gulf South stripe in Lufkin, while Smith’s first time out in a Silva prepped Maxim fell one position shy of victory lane as well at Creek County Speedway near Tulsa.
“I don’t know what this car is gonna do yet, so I’m actually kind of nervous,” Smith commented prior to the Sooner main. After leading early, Smith chased Wood and was in position to make a move when a late caution came out.
Head games were at a fever pitch on the final restart, or two as it turned out, with Wood getting the upper hand this time around. Easily among the top Sooner title contenders, they’ve not seen the last of each other.
8. Tipster No More – “I’m cutting him off, he’s on his own now,” Tony Bruce, Jr., proclaimed after set-up tips led to recent Matt Covington wins at Lone Star Speedway (Lucas Oil ASCS National on April 9) and Riverside (weekly show on April 17).
Looking for a third win in as many weekends, Covington was a close third behind Wood, Jr., and Smith and just ahead of Bruce, Jr., when that pivotal caution came out just a couple of laps shy of the checkered flag at Creek County.
When Smith stumbled on the start, Covington looked high and then tried to duck back to the bottom getting into turn one. Bruce was already there though and raced across Covington’s front end, sending the 20-year-old into a spin that collected Sean McClelland, Jesse Hockett, Sherman Davis and Michelle Decker, with Rafe Essary getting upside down.
After some frontstretch discussion under red flag, Covington was done with minor damage while Bruce went on to finish third for his tenth top-ten feature finish in as many overall ASCS feature starts thus far in 2010.
9. Openers – Saturday’s Creek County card was the eighth of a dozen ASCS season openers. Season opener winners thus far have included Tim Shaffer (Rebel at East Bay on February 25), Gary Wright (Gulf South at Golden Triangle on March 5), Dave Darland (Canyon at USA Raceway on March 13), Sammy Swindell (Lucas Oil National at Devil’s Bowl on March 19), Rick Ziehl (Southwest at USA Raceway on March 20), Matt Covington (Lone Star with National at Lone Star Speedway on April 9), Dustin Morgan (Midwest at I-80 Speedway on April 16) and Joe Wood, Jr. (Sooner at Creek County on April 24).
Another pair of openers are on tap for this weekend with the ASCS Patriots at Black Rock Speedway in Dundee, NY, on Friday night and then the ASCS Sprints on Dirt at Michigan’s Crystal Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
The ASCS Rocky Mountain Region kicks off the 2010 season with the Lucas Oil National Sprint Cars at the Jetmore Motorplex on May 29-30, with the ASCS Northwest opening up on the same nights at Elma, Washington’s Grays Harbor Raceway.
10. Tops – A Sooner heat race winner after a run-in with Jesse Hockett, past Midget champion Jonathan Beason posted a career best Sooner feature finish of sixth in just his second series feature start. Tagging the tail of a heat race after rolling in late, Missouri’s Tyler Blank made the feature in his Sooner debut but exited the 25-lapper early.
Travis Elliott’s fourth-place Speedarama showing on Saturday was his top Gulf South finish since the 2008 season finale at Houston Raceway Park, while Wayne Johnson finished among Gulf South top five for the first time.
A wingless regular with the ASCS Canyon Region, Thomas Ogle added wings on Saturday and snared a third-place finish in his ASCS Southwest debut. Ogle’s only previous winged laps were to snare guaranteed Outlaw start money amongst a slim Manzanita field in early 2009.
Ohio native Rick Boughan also posted a career-best ASCS Southwest finish by taking the checkered flag fourth on Saturday night.
A Midwest double in Missouri accompanies this weekend’s Patriot and SOD openers while some opt to go topless along the Gulf Coast, thus prompting a close to 2010 TTT Edition IX.
Until next time, find what you need in terms of ASCS info at www.ascsracing.com.