By Gary Thomas
Petaluma, CA – May 10, 2014…When it has come to raw speed in this early season with the King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series Sacramento’s Willie Croft has definitely been right up there with the best of them. On Saturday night at the Petaluma Speedway the veteran driver continued that pace and earned his first victory of the 2014 campaign during an exciting 30-lap main event.
For Croft it was his second consecutive King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series win at the Petaluma Speedway, after also winning last year’s event at the track. It also marked his sixth career series victory, placing him into a tie for 20th on the all-time win list with Randy Tiner, Paul McMahan and Bobby McMahan.
“First off I want to apologize to Shane Golobic, I didn’t mean to get into him on that restart and I feel bad because I don’t drive like that,” Croft said on the front stretch. “But I’m really happy to get the win tonight for all my guys. I have pretty much an all new team this year and we’ve been really fast every night. It also means a lot to win in my own car and that makes it a special feeling. It was definitely an exciting main event tonight and the track was great in the feature. We’ll hope to continue this momentum heading into Tulare next week.”
Croft started on the pole by way of his win in the six-lap Dash, but actually dropped to fourth on the opening lap, as Fremont’s Shane Golobic used the outside of the front row to jump into the lead ahead of Campbell’s Brent Kaeding. Croft would battle with his brother-in-law Kyle Hirst on the opening lap and eventually got the third spot after a couple circuits. The surface for the main event lent itself to some tremendous action throughout the 30-lapper, with the first 23-laps clicked off non-stop.
Golobic looked large and in charge out front aboard the Joe VonSchriltz Racing No. 121, as he worked traffic like a magician and held a comfortable lead over the first half of the race. The driver everyone kept an eye on though was Croft, who hounded Kaeding for the runner up spot over a number of laps, before making a thrilling move up high to grab the position on lap 13. He then quickly closed in on Golobic, who was in the midst of a gaggle of lapped cars. After cutting down the lead Croft took advantage of Golobic getting slowed up just enough, to charge around the outside of the fourth corner for the top-spot as the leaders completed lap 22.
A yellow flag on lap 23 then set up a double file restart in which Croft bicycled in turns one and two that allowed Golobic the chance to get underneath for the lead. Croft kept his composure though and diamonded the exit of turn two and shot back under to grab the top-spot right back. After that Croft looked to check out, but a red flag for DJ Netto on lap 27 brought things to a halt. Netto was okay but done for the night. The upcoming double file restart saw all heck break loose, as contact between the front row cars Croft & Golobic resulted in Golobic getting upside down in turn four. He was okay, but visibly not happy.
The next restart was single file and despite Kaeding taking a peak to the inside a couple times, Croft hit his marks and took the checkered flag by 1.644 seconds to claim victory aboard his Holey Smokes BBQ/ Amerikote No. 29 machine. It was also his third top-five finish in the four King of the West Sprint Car Series events held so far in 2014.
Kaeding continued his strong start to the season by bringing the Al’s Roofing Supply/ High Five Pizza No. 69 Sprinter home in second. For “BK” it capped a great weekend, which also saw him drive to victory the previous night at Watsonville’s Ocean Speedway. “It sure feels nice to be up here on the podium again and I couldn’t be happier. We were a little tight in the feature and that hurt us, but it was a great race overall. I want to congratulate Willie on getting the win tonight, because he’s been fast all year. We’re looking forward to Tulare next week and will see what we can do there.”
Campbell’s Bud Kaeding was a show in himself over the closing laps and charged up to round out the podium aboard the Williams Motorsports/ BZE No. 0 mount. Kaeding aggressively attacked the hooked up 3/8 mile clay oval as the laps went on to earn his second podium of the season. “The way we were rolling there at the end I wish this race would have been about 100-laps,” he joked. “We had a great night and I’m having so much fun out here with KWS. Morrie & Katie Williams gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to drive this car and I’m really confident where are right now.”
King of the West point leader Kyle Hirst scored fourth at the finish in the Roth Motorsports No. 83jr for his fourth top-five in four starts, while Fresno’s Dominic Scelzi thrilled the crowd over the closing laps to earn fifth after starting 13th on the grid. The 17-year-old was also the KSE hard charger in the main event at the helm of the Scelzi Enterprises No. 41 machine. Oroville’s Sean Becker ran up front during the majority of the feature and came home sixth, with Grass Valley’s Jason Statler having a great run in the main event to charge from 14th to seventh, Elk Grove’s Bobby McMahan was eighth, Princeton’s Mason Moore tallied ninth and Chico’s Jonathan Allard rounded out the top-10 after starting 17th.
The 12-lap Last Chance Showdown was captured by DJ Netto, while Willie Croft won the six-lap Dash. The three 10-lap heat races were picked off by Bud Kaeding, Bobby McMahan and Croft. Bud Kaeding opened the night by setting fast time by clocking a 12.723 around the Petaluma Speedway. Full results are available at http://www.kwssprints.com/
The King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series will be right back in action next Saturday May 17 at the Merle Stone Chevrolet Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare. It will be the final visit of the season to Steve Faria’s one-third mile clay oval and also marks the annual “Chris & Brian Faria Memorial.” Tickets are on sale and can be acquired by contacting (559) 688-0909.