By Gary Thomas
Watsonville, CA – July 30, 2010…After being plagued by bad luck the last couple races defending Ocean Speedway 360 champion Tommy Tarlton of Easton, California came back in a big way on Friday night and raced to his third main event victory of the season with the Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo.
The win for Tarlton was good enough to stretch his current series point lead to 13-markers with five-events remaining in the season and also made him the third driver to lock in a starting spot for the 50th running of the Johnny Key Classic.
“It’s been a great season for us, but the last couple weeks hadn’t gone too well so it feels great to get back up here in victory lane tonight,” said Tarlton. “I have a great team around me and a lot of awesome sponsors so I have to give a big thanks to them for making it possible to be standing here.”
At the waving of the green flag in the 30-lap feature former King of California Ronnie Day of Salinas jumped into the lead of the race, as he was in search of his first win of the 2010 season. The veteran driver set a quick pace out front aboard the Keith Day Trucking No. 22, but his hopes at getting into victory lane were dashed when multiple cars became piled up in turn two on lap-three, which forced him to take evasive action resulting in him spinning to a stop.
With Day having to go to the rear it moved pole sitter Jerry Bonnema of Corralitos up to the lead, but on the restart Campbell’s Brent Kaeding blasted around the No. 58 sprinter to claim the top-spot that he would hold until a yellow flag on lap-six brought things back to a stop. On the ensuing restart things turned even stranger when Kaeding, who was in search of his first win of the year, slowed to a crawl and eventually brought on another caution as issues had developed on the Al’s Roofing Supply No. 69. “BK” went to the work area, but was unable to make it back out before the lights turned off on the speedway.
Once again inheriting the lead was Bonnema, who led the field back down to green and would lead lap-seven, before Tarlton was able to charge to the high-side and put the Corporate America Lending No. 21 into the top-spot. Following Tarlton into second a lap later was Grass Valley’s Jason Statler, who looked very racy in the main event at the helm of his DF Rios Construction No. 00 mount. A number of green flag laps were then clicked off and the well prepared Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds quarter-mile lent to some fantastic racing, as multiple grooves were seen.
With Statler all over Tarlton for the lead of the race sixth row starters Bud Kaeding of Campbell and Kyle Larson of Elk Grove began marching their way through the pack, with Kaeding up to fourth by lap 11 and then third on lap 19, as he made the move by Scotts Valley’s Evan Suggs in lapped traffic. With heavy duty traffic causing the top-five cars to bunch up things began to heat up with the laps winding down, but a caution with 20-circuits complete brought the party to a stop. During the yellow flag period the top-five cars on the speedway were Tarlton, Statler, Bud Kaeding, Larson and Suggs.
When things went back green the action continued to be fierce with track conditions still conducive to side-by-side racing, but the top-five would remain the same by the time a red flag occurred for San Jose’s Matt Sargent with just five-laps left. After getting Sargent on the hook and being towed back to the pits the race looked to take another turn as Tarlton went to the bottom on the restart and Statler charged to the high-side to make a beautiful pass for the lead. As the “Big Guy” looked to check out from the field things turned sour for sixth running Brad Furr from Pleasanton, who had hooked a rough spot in turn four and got upside down to bring out another red.
Unfortunately for Statler a lap hadn’t been completed yet and he was forced to go back behind Tarlton for the restart. When the green came out for the final time Tarlton on this occasion went to the top of the speedway in turns one and two, which allowed him to extend his advantage out front heading down the back stretch. During the restart third place also changed hands with Larson getting by Kaeding, before the youngster set his sights on second and he would make the pass when Statler got out of shape and dropped to fourth on lap 27. Out front it was all Tarlton and the current Ocean Sprints point leader drove off to take the Ryan Riley checkered for his seventh career Ocean Speedway victory.
Larson crossed the stripe in second aboard the Stadelhofer Construction No. 99x with Bud Kaeding rounding out the podium in the Sala/Matherly Racing No. 19. Statler came across the line in fourth and 13th starter Cory Eliason of Visalia rounded out the top-five at the helm of the Advance Auto and Smog No. 00x. Finishing sixth through 10th were Clovis, CA’s Peter Murphy, Suggs, Day, Bonnema and Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson.
Suggs captured the evening’s 12-lap b-main with San Jose’s Ryan Rusconi, Fresno’s Anthony Simone, Tarlton and Brad Furr claiming the four eight-lap heat races. Evan Suggs began the night by cutting a blazing fast lap of 11.517 to set a new 360 sprint car track record at the Ocean Speedway and beat out the 28-car field for fast time.
A-main finish: Tommy Tarlton, Kyle Larson, Bud Kaeding, Jason Statler, Cory Eliason, Peter Murphy, Evan Suggs, Ronnie Day, Jerry Bonnema, Kurt Nelson, Nick Rescino Jr., Devon Ostheimer, Wayne Katen, Ken Fredenburg, Ryan Rusconi, Nick Ringo Jr., Anthony Simone, Brad Furr, Matt Sargent, Justin Sanders, Brent Kaeding, Mark Chaves
Full results can be found at http://www.oceanspeedway.com
Next up for the Ocean Sprint Car Series presented Taco Bravo will be the final qualifying race for the Johnny Key Classic on Friday August 20. Also don’t forget next Saturday night August 7 the Golden State Challenge 410 Sprint Car Series will be on hand at the Ocean Speedway with Kyle Larson holding a six-point lead over Brent Kaeding at the top of the standings, in what will be the penultimate race of the season for GSC.