By Steven Blakesley
WATSONVILLE, CALIF. (July 15, 2022) – With nearly half a dozen challengers for the top position, the Friday night Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo portion of the 12th Howard Kaeding Classic in Watsonville did not disappoint, as current NARC points leader Dominic Scelzi of Fresno earned his first career HK Classic win. The victory opens the weekend at the Ocean Speedway at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds with Saturday’s conclusion to feature the NARC Fujitsu 410 Sprint Cars battling for $6900 to win.
Bud Kaeding spearheads the efforts to honor his grandfather, Hall of Famer Howard Kaeding. Bud’s night began with winning the $300 Martin Motorsports fast-time then winning the $800 Western Metal/Martin Motorsports dash. Those performances set him up from the pole position for the 30-lap feature presented by CVC Concrete.
Kaeding leapt into the lead while Justin Sanders and 2021 Friday winner Kaleb Montgomery drag raced for second. Action slowed for Gilroy’s Kurt Nelson stopped in turn two. Sanders looked inside Kaeding for the lead before a caution on lap five involving Lemoore’s Gauge Garcia. Scelzi had started 11th and drove to fifth by that stage. Meanwhile Mitchell Faccinto found something on the bottom of turns three and four to nearly grab the lead from Kaeding. Faccinto slid up in front of Kaeding to lead lap nine.
DJ Netto staged a furious battle with Sanders for third before Sanders spun in turn three on lap 12. Tim Kaeding had overcome a 19th place starting position to drive into fifth on the restart. Bud Kaeding threw the kitchen sink at Faccinto for the lead on the restart, but Faccinto held the position. Three-wide action developed for second that was halted by Concord’s Joey Ancona in turn two on lap 14.
The three-wide excitement continued during the restart before Bud Kaeding clipped the backstretch wall which collected Penngrove’s Chase Johnson, ending both of their evenings. Netto tried to slide Faccinto on the restart for the lead but the caution flew yet again, this time involving Hollister’s Ryan Bernal in the second corner on lap 16.
Scelzi then took his turn at attempting the bottom to drive past Faccinto but couldn’t complete the pass. Two-by-two action among the top-four was stopped by a lap 19 caution for Bryce Eames of Santa Maria. Scelzi finally clicked on the bottom to lead lap 20 by a nose and he completed a slider to lead lap 21. Tim Kaeding’s presence was felt as he drove into third, then drove past Faccinto for second with three to go. Scelzi held on for the win followed by Kaeding, Faccinto, Netto and 17th starting Blake Carrick of Lincoln. Kaeding won the $400 Hard Charger for his efforts while Chase Johnson was awarded the Beer Optics Hard Luck.
“For the racing we ran I wanted to celebrate and do some donuts, but I didn’t win the race. TK (Tim Kaeding) won the race. I’m a little bit of a slow learner. The first couple of times he got me I was like ‘oh that’s weird’ then I figured it out,” Scelzi said. “In all honesty you can’t really ask for a whole lot more (with the track). There was a lot of passing and at the end of the day I was extremely happy with the track conditions.”
Oakley’s Jacob Mallet, Jr. won his fourth IMCA Sport Modified feature of the 2022 season, charging from tenth on the grid to pick up the triumph. Atascadero’s Cody Hample led the first eight laps while Mallet was on the move from the outside of row five.
Mallet was up to second by lap seven and then drove into the lead on lap nine. The caution flew a lap later when Austin McMillian from Atascadero spun in turn two and clipped Markus Frazier of Santa Maria. McMillian restarted at the rear.
Points leader Jonathan Hagio of Prunedale suffered race ending damage in a three-wide battle with Hample and Adriane Frost of Watsonville for third on lap 11. On the restart, Hample was shuffled back further before suffering a race ending crash of his own on lap 17 in turn three with Prunedale’s Max Baggett.
Mallet led the final three laps, topping Frazier, Frost, Watsonville’s Billy Robertson, and Chuck Golden of Pittsburg under the yellow checkered flag.
Brentwood’s Blake Bower won his 13th career Western Midget Racing presented by Masters Design and Construction feature. The 20-lap contest saw Las Vegas’ Kyle Hawse jump out to lead the first lap. Hawse spun into turn one on the second lap, however, sparking a multi-car melee. Arizona’s Cameron LaRose, French Camp’s Sage Bordenave, Lodi’s Nate Wait, and Prunedale’s Caleb Debem. Hawse, Debem, and Bordenave were unable to continue.
On the restart, Cory Brown of Peoria, Ariz. assumed the lead but Bower quickly drove past him to lead lap two. Bower never relinquished the lead, topping Brown by an outstanding 6.821 second advantage. Logan Mitchell of Santa Cruz made a big maneuver into third on the restart but was called for jumping and scored fifth in the final rundown. Bower, Brown, Oakley’s Bryant Bell, Wait, and Mitchell were the top-five finishers. Brown and Bower split the eight-lap heat races.
Hobby Stocks points leader Joe Gallaher drove from the 12th starting position to win his eighth race of the year. Sam Kennedy of Watsonville led the first five laps before being passed by Watsonville’s Steve Remde on lap six. Gallaher challenged for the lead before a caution involving Adriane Frost and Shane Freeman in turn two on lap eight. Gallaher seized the lead on the restart.
Cautions flew on lap 14 for Brady Muller getting T-Boned by Norm Ayers, and again on lap 17 for a right front flat tire for Wally Kennedy. Gallaher held the lead over both restarts for the win, followed by Merced’s Chad Ragsdale, Remde, Sam Kennedy, and Frost.
The 12th Howard Kaeding Classic concludes Saturday night with the NARC 410 Sprint Cars battling for $6900 to win. The activities begin this afternoon with the luncheon which benefits the NARC Benevolent Fund. Hobby Stocks will also be in action tonight. Tickets are available at the gate at 4:30 p.m.
Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo – July 15, 2022 (30 Laps)
1. 41-Dominic Scelzi; 2. 42X-Tim Kaeding; 3. 21-Mitchell Faccinto; 4. 88N-DJ Netto; 5. 38B-Blake Carrick; 6. 2X-Justin Sanders; 7. 2XM-Max Mittry; 8. 3-Kaleb Montgomery; 9. 46JR-Joel Myers; 10. 121-Caeden Steele; 11. 83V-Sean Becker; 12. 7P-Jake Andreotti; 13. 72W-Kurt Nelson; 14. 21X-Gauge Garcia; 15. 88A-Joey Ancona; 16. 98-Michael Pombo; 17. 37-Steven Kent; 18. 72S-Bradley Dillard; 19. 17-Rickey Sanders; 20. 50-Bryce Eames; 21. 22-Ryan Bernal; 22. 69-Bud Kaeding; 23. 28-Chase Johnson; 24. 2K-JJ Ringo