By Gary Thomas, L & J Photography
Watsonville, CA – May 16, 2010…Over the past year and a half few sprint car drivers have been stronger at the Ocean Speedway than Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson and on Friday night the youngster continued his recent trend of success at the quarter-mile bullring by racing to his first Ocean Sprint Car Series presented by Taco Bravo victory of the season.
Larson last year captured wins at the track during a Golden State Challenge 410 Series race in May, a Civil War Series vs. Ocean Sprints event in July and also tallied a third place finish at the prestigious Johnny Key Classic in August. With the triumph on Friday he has also moved to within just seven-points of the top-spot in the Ocean Sprints standings.
“It feels really good to get another win here at Ocean Speedway and it’s even better to do it with my sponsor Rich Stadelhofer in attendance tonight,” said the 17-year-old driver of the Stadelhofer Construction, Peppermill Casino-Reno No. 99 sprinter. “I knew Bud Kaeding was coming because each lap I could see him getting closer on the scoreboard and he’s always tough here, so thankfully we were able to hold him off there late in the race.”
With the number six pill being drawn for the A-main inversion it put Larson and Fremont’s Shane Golobic on the front row, two drivers who also happened to be teammates at this year’s Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When the green lights came on Larson jumped into the lead with Golobic and Grass Valley’s Jason Statler falling in behind. Over the early laps Statler would find the high-side to his liking as he gave it a hard run after Golobic in the battle for the runner-up position.
Following a few stoppages lapped traffic then came into play around lap 10 and when it did Statler charged to the top of the raceway aboard his DF Rios Construction, YAK Graphics No. 00, but just as soon as he looked to take the second spot a lapped car had started spinning, which forced him to take evasive action. It resulted in the former King of California sliding off the track and tipping over after contact with a mound of dirt off turn two. Statler pitted and was able to restart, but it was definitely a tough break for the “Big Guy” who was very strong and looked capable of winning the race until the unfortunate incident.
With Statler at the rear of the field it moved current Ocean Sprint Car Series presented by Taco Bravo point leader and defending champ Tommy Tarlton up to third, but shortly after that a flat tire forced the Easton driver to come to a stop on lap 11 and head for the pits to get it changed. On the restart Larson continued to maintain a steady advantage out front with the rest of the pack starting to trade spots with regularity as the high-side of the track began to come in nicely. At this point the man on the move was 12th starter Bud Kaeding and following a yellow flag period on lap 16 the Campbell driver would charge his way around Golobic to grab second.
The hot and heavy action would come to a stop on lap 18 when last Friday’s winner Justin Sanders of Prunedale flipped in turns three and four while battling in the top-five. At the time of the accident the 17-year-old was looking to make an exciting charge to the top of the track, when he got a bit loose and tried to stay in the throttle, but unfortunately the right rear dug in and sent him upside down, which put a tough end to his night.
With the race winding down Larson had to deal with Kaeding on his rear bumper and the three-time USAC Silver Crown titlist proceeded to put his Sala/Matherly Racing, M&M Powder Coaters No. 19 on the tip-top of the track trying everything to make something happen with the youngster. As Larson stayed committed to the bottom Kaeding was able to get a great run down the backstretch and get alongside him with about five laps remaining, but the Elk Grove racer didn’t give up and got a better run off the bottom in turn four to maintain his advantage.
After that Larson impressively checked out from the rest of the field and easily crossed under the checkered flag to score his third career Ocean Speedway win. Crossing the stripe in second and holding off a closing laps challenge from Golobic was Kaeding, who tallied his third podium finish of the Ocean Sprints season. “We certainly wanted to win tonight, but to finish second after starting 12th is pretty good so we’ll take it,” said Kaeding. “I have to thank this whole team for giving me a great car every week and want to give a big thanks to all the fans for coming out to support us tonight.”
Finishing third and having a great run in the main event was Golobic, who dropped a couple spots at one point in the race, but came back strong over the final laps to earn his first podium of the year with the Ocean Sprint Car Series aboard the Joe Vonschriltz, Country Builders Construction No. 121. “It’s nice to get up here on the podium tonight and I have to thank my team and everyone that helps us out,” commented the 18-year-old driver. “We’re running over at Placerville every week for John Taylor and Bullet Motorsports as well, so it’s good to be racing with the wing more and I definitely think we’ll be getting some wins this year if we keep running like this.”
Also having a fine run in the main event was Visalia’s Cory Eliason, who started in the second row, but dropped well back in the field early on, before charging his way forward to get up to third at one point, before scoring fourth at the finish behind the wheel of the Advance Auto & Smog, MC Customs No. 00x. Rebounding strong from the flat tire on lap 11 Tartlon was able to carve his way through the pack over the final 19-circuits and rounded out the top-five at the finish in his Corporate America Lending, Tarlton & Son Inc. No. 21 mount. By doing so Tarlton also maintained his Ocean Sprint Car Series presented by Taco Bravo point lead by just one-digit over Bud Kaeding.
Completing the top-10 in the main event were Clovis, CA’s Peter Murphy, Morgan Hill’s Ricky Wright Jr., Campbell’s Brent Kaeding, Gilroy’s Eric Rossi and Salinas’ Ronnie Day. Winning the two b-mains during the night were Sanders and Clarksburg’s Justin Cox, with the four 10-lap heat races being captured by Golobic, Larson, Rossi and Day. Setting his first fast-time of the Ocean Sprints season was Tarlton, whose lap of 11.645 topped the solid 31-car field to begin the evening.
Full results from the night and the updated point standings can be found at http://www.oceansprints.com and http://www.oceanspeedway.com
The Ocean Sprint Car Series presented by Taco Bravo will now head next for its inaugural appearance at the Groppetti Automotive Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare next Saturday night May 22.