By Lance Jennings
SANTA MARIA, CA – OCTOBER 4, 2011… This Saturday night, October 4th, the championship for the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series will be settled at Steve Faria’s Groppetti Automotive Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare. Also featured on the action packed showcase will be the winged ASCS Southern California Sprints, IMCA Stock Cars, and Vintage Super Modifieds. The Pit Gates are open all day, Spectator Gates will open at 5:00pm, with Time Trials at 6:00pm, and Racing scheduled for 7:00pm.
Heading into Saturday’s event, Visalia’s Richard VanderWeerd holds a fifty-five point lead over Ryan Bernal of Hollister. While that lead is substantial for VanderWeerd, Bernal still has a shot at the title and anything can happen in Sprint Car Racing.
Piloting the family owned #10 VanderWeerd Construction / Battery Worx Maxim, Richard VanderWeerd has maintained the point lead since the July 16th doubleheader at Hanford. The last time out, VanderWeerd scored fourth at Hanford’s 30-lap feature on September 24th. In 2011, Richard leads the series with three Sander Engineering Fast Time Awards and thirteen top-10 finishes. In addition, the young driver has one feature win, three heat race victories, one Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Award, and seventeen main event laps led. Richard will be looking to win the title with a main event victory on Saturday.
Driving Danny Olmstead’s #11D S&S Automotive / Dorso’s Automotive Maxim, Ryan Bernal is second in the championship points. The newly crowned Santa Maria track champion claimed his series leading (tied) fourth main event win of the season at Hanford on September 24th. Bernal also has one Sander Engineering Fast Time Award, three heat race victories, eleven top-10 finishes, and 143 feature laps led in 2011. The former Wingless Spec Sprint Champion will be looking for the win and earning as many points as possible to take the crown away from VanderWeerd.
“Wide Open” Wes Gutierrez of San Martin is third in the point chase. Piloting the WG Motorsports’ #007 ButlerBuilt / Competition Suspension Inc. DRC, Gutierrez raced to fifth from his ninth starting spot at Hanford on September 24th. The Jim Turner Memorial winner leads the series with five heat race victories and has eleven top-10 finishes and forty-two feature laps led on the season. Wes will have his sights set on adding a Tulare main event victory to his resume.
Visalia’s Jace VanderWeerd is fourth in the standings. On September 24th, the driver of the family owned #88 VanderWeerd Construction / Battery Worx Maxim scored a nineteenth place finish. Last year’s USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year has one feature win, one Sander Engineering Fast Time Award, one heat race victory, eleven top-10 finishes, one Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Award, and fourteen main event laps led to his credit. VanderWeerd will be looking to rebound with a 30-lap feature victory at Tulare.
Dennis Howell of Rancho Palos Verdes sits fifth in the point standings. Piloting the family owned #62 San Pedro Auto Body / Howell-Meyer Racing Maxim, Dennis had one of his best finishes of the year with a second place run. The USAC Western Midget Series graduate has one Sander Engineering Fast Time Award, three heat race victories, two Keizer Wheels Hard Charger Awards, and eleven top-10 finishes on the year. This Saturday, Howell have his eyes set on his first feature victory of the year.
Campbell’s Bud Kaeding, Peter Murphy of Clovis, Tipton’s “Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr., and “Showtime” Danny Sheridan of Santa Maria have also claimed feature wins in 2011. Kaeding is tied with Bernal for the series lead with four victories and Murphy won Tulare’s 30-lap main event on April 30th. Faria won the “Jim Evett Memorial” at Hanford on July 16th and Sheridan claimed the “Bud Stanfield Memorial” at Santa Maria on September 17th. After the Tulare event, the USAC West Coast 360s will return to action the following Saturday, October 15th, at Hanford’s Cotton Classic in a special non-point event.
Among the other top contenders expected to be in action are Gardena’s Greg Alexander, Hanford’s Justyne Hamblin, T.J. Smith of Fresno, and Kerman’s Davey Pombo. In addition, Hanford’s Jonathan Logan, Ricky Kirkbride of Bakersfield, and more should be on hand to battle for the victory.
The Groppetti Automotive Thunderbowl Raceway is located at the Tulare County Fairgrounds at the corner of Bardsley and K Streets in Tulare, California. Reserved Grandstand Tickets are $16 and Bleacher Tickets are $13. Advance tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling the track office at (559) 688-0909. For more event information, visit the track’s website at www.tularethunderbowl.com.
The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series would like to thank Southwest Contractors, Hoosier Tire, Amsoil, BR Motorsports, ButlerBuilt, Competition Suspension Inc., Cory Kruseman’s Sprint Car & Midget Driving School, Crow Enterprizes, DJ Safety, Extreme Mufflers, Hilborn Fuel Injection, Hinchman-Indy Racing Uniforms, Integra Shocks, Kaeding Performance, Keizer Wheels, King Racing Products, Port City Racing, Rod End Supply, Saferacer.com, Saldana Racing Products, and Sander Engineering for their support.
For more information on the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series, visit www.westcoastsprintcars.com, www.usacracing.com, www.racesantamariaspeedway.com, or follow the series on facebook.
USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT POINTS:
1. Richard VanderWeerd 810; 2. Ryan Bernal 755; 3. Wes Gutierrez 701; 4. Jace VanderWeerd 662; 5. Dennis Howell 623; 6. Danny Faria Jr. 600; 7. Greg Alexander 538; 8. Justyne Hamblin 515; 9. T.J. Smith 502; 10. Bud Keading 439; 11. Davey Pombo 413; 12. Rusty Carlile 395; 13. Ricky Kirkbride 384; 14. Johnathon Logan 371; 15. Peter Murphy 362; 16. Danny Sheridan 316; 17. Marty Hawkins 281; 18. Nico Russo 277; 19. Jared Little 202; 20. Matt Day 149.
USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT SCHEDULE:
October 8: Groppetti Automotive Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway – Tulare, CA
October 15: *Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway – Hanford, CA