By Steven Blakesley
WATSONVILLE, CALIFORNIA (August 25, 2012) – Tommy Tarlton won his second career Johnny Key Classic and sixth Ocean Sprints feature of 2012 on Saturday night, leading all 50 laps to win the $10,000 DDNi 52nd Johnny Key Classic. The perfect drive by Tarlton came before a nearly sold-out crowd that saw 36 360 Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo entries in the pits.
Tarlton won three of the four Johnny Key Classic qualifying races in the build up to Saturday’s race and was an early favorite for many observers in the pits. Tarlton lived up to the expectations in the #21 Tarlton & Son entry for one of the biggest victories of his career, fending off Rico Abreu in a three lap shootout for the finish.
“You guys got your money’s worth tonight,” Tarlton said. “I can’t thank my crew enough and Paul Baines. This is definitely a highlight. I won a little more money when I won Trophy Cup here but this is awfully close to the top for me!”
“I have to thank DDNi as well for putting up the big money and it brought out a lot of amazing cars!”
The dash for the five qualified cars was won by Stockton’s Brad Furr ahead of Tarlton which set the front row for the 50 lap feature. Sacramento’s Mike Henry shattered the track record with an 11.274 in qualifying while the three B mains went to Clovis’ Peter Murphy, Campbell’s Bud Kaeding and Tim Kaeding.
Furr led the field to green but Tarlton took the lead from the outside pole. The first 25 lap segment of the feature was a fast paced affair with the lone caution coming out on lap four when Craig Stidham of Fresno stopped on the backstretch with a flat left rear tire.
Tarlton encountered lapped traffic for the first time on lap ten but was able to navigate through traffic smoothly. Points leader Shane Golobic of Fremont passed Fresno’s Dominic Scelzi and Furr in the closing laps of the first segment to move into second.
After a ten minute break, the action intensified with a caution and red-flag laden second half of the event. All told, there were nearly a dozen stoppages as drivers jockeyed for position in the richest race of the year.
On the restart, Scelzi and Furr made contact battling for third in turn four sending Furr on a hard barrel roll. Furr ended up getting hit by Henry and Watsonville’s Justin Sanders. 51st Johnny Key winner Ronnie Day was also involved but he continued on.
San Jose’s Ryan Rusconi and 1997 Key winner “Cowboy” Craig Smith spun to bring out the next caution. Through the series of cautions, St. Helena’s Rico Abreu started his move from ninth starting position and moved past Golobic for second on lap 29.
After a lap 30 caution for Evan Suggs spinning, Abreu seized the opportunity to dive underneath Tarlton and they raced side-by-side down the backstretch briefly. Tarlton maintained the lead and Golobic went after Abreu. Golobic jumped the cushion briefly in turn one and surrendered third to Tim Kaeding.
On lap 34 Day stopped with a flat left rear and the ensuing restart saw a large crash. Tim Kaeding, who started 17th, went over the turn one cushion and flipped wildly. Brent Kaeding also went upside down in the melee while tangled up with Stidham. All three drivers walked away from heavily damaged machines. Golobic suffered some damage on his top wing when Kaeding clipped him while flipping down the banking as well.
With each restart, Abreu tried to go inside Tarlton and complete a slide job but Tarlton proved to be too strong. A back-and-forth battle raged on between 16th starting Bud Kaeding and Golobic for third, with Bud finally breaking through to take the position for good on lap 41.
Hanford’s DJ Netto spun on lap 47 to set up a three lap shootout but Tarlton again pulled away when Abreu poked his nose inside. At the finish, Tarlton claimed the victory over Abreu, Bud Kaeding, Golobic, and Murphy. Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson flipped in turn one at the conclusion of the event but was uninjured.
“We just got free there at the end and on the cushion it was tough to not make too many mistakes,” Abreu said. “I tried getting him there on restarts but he’s good on restarts so it just made us better racing with him.”
For more information on the Ocean Sprint Cars presented by Taco Bravo log onto http://www.oceansprints.com and for more on the Ocean Speedway visit http://www.oceanspeedway.com
Ocean Speedway would like to thank Taco Bravo, Digital Delivery Networks, Get Som Sports, Ray Scheidt’s Electric, Hoosier Tires West, and Kaeding Performance for their support of the 2012 Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo.
August 25, 2012 Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo – Watsonville, California
52nd Johnny Key Classic presented by DDNi
RAY SCHEIDT’S ELECTRIC QUALIFYING: 21m Mike Henry 11.274
B MAIN 1: 11m Peter Murphy
B MAIN 2: 20 Bud Kaeding
B MAIN 3: 83jr Tim Kaeding
50 LAP FEATURE: 1) 21 Tommy Tarlton $10,000, 2) 89 Rico Abreu, 3) 20 Bud Kaeding, 4) 9j Shane Golobic, 5) 11m Peter Murphy, 6) 41 Dominic Scelzi, 7) 33e Evan Suggs, 8) 72w Kurt Nelson, 9) 6m Jon Maiwald, 10) 88n DJ Netto, 11) 21x Carson Macedo, 12) 98 Ryan Rusconi, 13) 83jr Tim Kaeding, 14) 69 Brent Kaeding, 15) 39 Craig Smith, 16) 3 Craig Stidham, 17) 22 Ronnie Day, 18) 37x Steven Tiner, 19) 2 Brad Furr, 20) 21m Mike Henry, 21) OB1 Justin Sanders, 22) 4j Andy Ferris DNS: 14 Nick Green
LAP LEADERS: 21 Tommy Tarlton 1-50