Justin Sanders Paul Trevino Photo

By Steven Blakesley
WATSONVILLE, CALIF. (July 16, 2022) – Multi-time Ocean Sprints champion Justin Sanders of Aromas knocked another big victory off the checklist, winning the $6900-to-win 12th Annual Howard Kaeding Classic at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville on Saturday night. Sanders topped Lincoln’s Blake Carrick in a tight duel in the NARC Fujitsu General USA Sprint Car Series action.

Sanders had to lead the way through ferocious lapped traffic, leaning on his veteran experience at the quarter-mile at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds to defeat his younger challengers.

“Yeah you know it’s so hard to not get worked up and start doing dumb stuff. I was trying to watch (the traffic) and they were running kind of the same speed,” Sanders said. “I saw Blake (Carrick) stick his nose in off of turn two and I was like ‘Man, I know I didn’t lap him so he’s got to be in second.’ I know he’s really good on the bottom. It was a long race and I got some arm pump from running as hard I could!”

Sanders kicked off the race-winning effort by taking the six-lap Sunnyvalley/Martin Motorsports dash worth $400. Both 2021 HK winner Sean Becker of Roseville and fifth-starting Dominic Scelzi of Fresno, the NARC points leader, suffered flat right rear tires during an opening lap caution.

Sanders grabbed the lead with Tim Kaeding taking a quick look inside of him. Traffic was already presenting itself in front of Sanders by the fifth lap. Joel Myers, Jr. of Sebastopol dove inside Sanders in turn three on lap nine but could not complete the pass. Sanders got a reprieve when his teammate Max Mittry of Redding stopped in turn four on the same lap with a flat right rear of his own.

Fremont’s Shane Golobic drove into third on the restart while ARP/Martin Motorsports Fast-Time qualifier Willie Croft drifted back to sixth. Carrick charged from 12th, passing Tim Kaeding for fourth in turn four on lap 15. He quickly took third as well on lap 17. He used lapped traffic to advance past Myers in turn two on lap 20, then set his sights on Sanders.

Carrick made several bids on the inside of Sanders over the final 10 laps in a thrilling conclusion to the weekend. Sanders drove through lapped traffic, at times splitting side-by-side lapped cars up the middle, to keep the lead from Carrick. Sanders used an additional lapped car on the final lap to gain a .856 second advantage over at the finish. Myers finished third while Tim Kaeding rounded out the top-four. An impressive 22nd to fifth run for DJ Netto of Hanford netted him an $800 Hard Charger from Martin Motorsports and Swift Metal Finishing as well.

“I didn’t actually know I was in second and I was catching (Sanders) and I looked at the leaderboard with nine to go,” Carrick said. “It was just tough in lapped traffic. I just can’t thank my guys enough. We’ve been super good the last five races.”

DJ Keldsen of Newman and his team decided on Friday to join the Watsonville action this weekend. The decision paid off by taking Saturday’s 20-lap Hobby Stock feature.

Watsonville’s Steve Remde led the way, including through a restart on lap three. Keldsen started fifth but was up to second on the restart. Keldsen looked inside of Remde on a few occasions but never completed the pass. Friday night winner and points leader Joe Gallaher moved from 12th starting position up to fourth by lap eight.

Bobby Gallaher, Adriane Frost of Watsonville, and Norm Ayers of Corralitos crashed in turn four to bring out a caution on lap eight. Gallaher was unable to rejoin the race. Keldsen took the lead on the restart. Joe Gallaher’s bid to drive to the front ended with contact from Sam Kennedy on lap 15. Kennedy was relegated to the pits, while Gallaher was able to come back from the pits to stay on the lead lap.

Keldsen topped Remde, Brady Muller of Santa Cruz, Frost, and rookie Jay Gardner of Santa Cruz at the finish.

Ocean Speedway continues this Friday night with the next round of the Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Police-In-Pursuit, Four Bangers, and South Bay Dwarf Cars in action!

NARC Fujitsu General USA Sprint Car Series – 12th Annual Howard Kaeding Classic (30 Laps)

1. 2X-Justin Sanders[1]; 2. 38B-Blake Carrick[12]; 3. 46JR-Joel Myers Jr[4]; 4. 42X-Tim Kaeding[3]; 5. 88N-DJ Netto[22]; 6. 17W-Shane Golobic[8]; 7. 29-Willie Croft[2]; 8. 01-Colby Copeland[10]; 9. 69-Bud Kaeding[18]; 10. 5V-Landon Brooks[9]; 11. 21-Mitchell Faccinto[14]; 12. 22-Ryan Bernal[24]; 13. 83V-Sean Becker[23]; 14. 36-Craig Stidham[20]; 15. 24-Chase Johnson[21]; 16. 73-Kevin Thomas Jr[15]; 17. 121-Caeden Steele[11]; 18. 41-Dominic Scelzi[5]; 19. 17K-Kalib Henry[16]; 20. 3-Kaleb Montgomery[17]; 21. 115-Nick Parker[13]; 22. 72W-Kurt Nelson[6]; 23. 2XM-Max Mittry[7]; 24. 2K-JJ Ringo[19]