By Steven Blakesley
WATSONVILLE, CALIFORNIA (August 25, 2023) – The 2023 championship season concluded at Ocean Speedway on Friday night with five champions crowned. Bud Kaeding earned his second win of the season in the curtain call for the Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo. Watsonville’s Rickey Sanders added to the legacy of the Sanders family in Watsonville by claiming the 2023 360 Sprint Car championship as well.
Jake Haulot of Cotati led time trials on a challenging track surface before the Gizdich Ranch Dash was claimed by Kaeding, earning him the pole for the 30-lap feature.
Kaeding and Caeden Steele of Fresno banged wheels into turn one on the opening lap, and both were briefly off the ground with all four wheels up. Kaeding kept control of the No. 69 entry to lead lap one. Kaeding then bounced through the first corner again, allowing Steele to soar underneath and lead lap two.
Glenn Bryan of Capitola then flipped wildly in the same set of corners for a red flag. He was uninjured. Steele led Kaeding and Sanders into lapped traffic. A bobble by Steele on the cushion in turn four allowed Kaeding to jump into the lead on lap 14. Both Steele and Sanders collided with the lapped car of Richard Fajardo of Hollister. Sanders slowed with damage to bring out a caution flag on that lap. Sanders was unable to rejoin the race because of the incident but clinched the championship.
Steele could not challenge Kaeding for the lead on the restart and fell into a battle with Grant Duinkerken of Riverdale. Duinkerken moved underneath Steele to take second on lap 21.
Kaeding enjoyed a 2.178 second advantage at the checkered flag for both the race and for the 2023 season of 360 Sprint Car racing. Duinkerken, Steele, Haulot, and Jeremy Chisum of Salinas were the top-five finishers. The Beer Optics Hard Luck Award was given to Richard Fajardo.
The IMCA Modifieds came into Saturday’s 20-lapper with just one point separating the top three drivers of Bobby Hogge of Salinas, Hall of Famer Jim Pettit II of Prunedale, and Hollister’s Andy Obertello. Hogge’s hopes seemingly went up in smoke in his heat race with mechanical woes. Hogge was able to take over the controls of Austin Burke’s No. 25 for the championship deciding feature, however.
Prunedale’s Fred Lind was the pacesetter of the main event from the pole position. Obertello went airborne over the edge of turn two for a caution on lap one. He was able to rejoin the title fight at the rear of the field.
The top-four of Lind, former champion Cody Burke of Salinas, Pettit, and Hogge ran on top of each other for the first half of the race. Both Lind and Burke went up the hill in turn two, with Pettit and Hogge charging past them. Pettit was credited with the lead on lap 12 bringing Hogge with him in second.
Pettit held off challenges from Hogge over the final eight laps for the feature win, resulting in a tie in the championship in both points and with two wins each. They also equaled each other on seconds and thirds, with the tie breaker making its way all the way to Pettit’s fourth place finish on June 9 breaking the tie in his favor for the championship. Pettit won the race and the title followed by Hogge, Lind, Burke, and Obertello.
IMCA Sport Modifieds also included a close championship duel between Pittsburg’s Chuck Golden and Oakley’s Trevor Clymens. Golden led Clymens by just two points entering the 20-lap race. Teammates Austin McMillin and Aaron Farrell battled hard for the race lead throughout the event. On lap five, Golden was comfortably into the championship lead while running third. Clymens found himself mired in tenth.
The caution flew on lap 17 for heat race winner Jeremy Hoff of Copperopolis stopping in turn four. A three-lap shootout followed with Golden and Farrell colliding hard into turn one for second place. Golden never stopped rolling while Farrell came to a halt with damage.
McMillin led Watsonville’s Steven Allee over the final two laps for the win. Golden restarted third, maintained it to the checkered flag, and clinched the coveted championship. Past champions Jonathan Hagio and Adriane Frost rounded out the top-five finishers.
Joe Gallaher wrapped up his fourth Hobby Stocks championship in a 20-lap feature with a photo finish over his grandson Bobby. Gallaher described the championship moment as the best of his career.
A big crash halted the 20-lap feature when Dan Fassler of San Jose and Watsonville’s Dakota Keldsen collided on the backstretch. Fassler emerged unscathed from his damaged vehicle with assistance from officials.
Wayne Reeder of Watsonville assumed the top spot but slowed and collected Bobby Gallaher for a caution on lap two. Eighth-starting rookie Rosalee Ramer of Watsonville inherited the lead. Joe Gallaher nabbed it from her on lap three. Ramer then struggled with handling issues before retiring the car to the infield.
A caution on lap 13 set the stage for a seven lap shootout between Joe Gallaher and Bobby Gallaher. Bobby hounded Grandpa Joe, diving underneath him in turn four coming to the checkered flag. Joe prevailed by just .006 seconds for his seventh win of the year and his fourth career championship.
Moss Landing’s Jason Lazzerini came into Saturday night with the Four Banger championship already in hand but he capitalized on the energy of championship night, winning his heat race and the busy 20-lap main event.
Amaya Flower of Prunedale led the way from the pole position over a 21-car field. Gene Glover of Visalia closed in through lapped traffic, nabbing the top spot on lap five. The caution flew a lap later for Sara Ayers stopped in turn four. Lazzerini advanced to second from his 12th starting position on lap 11. He then worked to the outside of Glover to lead lap 15.
Lazzerini’s father Kenny suffered a mechanical failure to set up a two-lap sprint to the finish. Jason Lazzerini scored the victory followed by Glover, Jeff Durant of Clovis, Dillon Summers of Santa Cruz, and Flower.
The Ocean Speedway concludes its 2023 season with the 13th annual Pat and Jim Pettit Memorial Shootout on September 29 and 30. The annual event features IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, and Hobby Stocks competing. Stay tuned to Ocean Speedway or the Pettit Shootout on Facebook for more details.
Ocean Speedway August 25, 2023 Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo RESULTS
A Feature 1 (30 Laps): 1. 69-Bud Kaeding; 2. 67G-Grant Duinkerken; 3. 121X-Caeden Steele; 4. 7H-Jake Haulot; 5. 8-Jeremy Chisum; 6. 88N-DJ Netto; 7. 72W-Kurt Nelson; 8. 3D-Caleb Debem; 9. 72JR-Chris Nelson; 10. 72S-Bradley Dillard; 11. 121-Rickey Sanders; 12. 46J-Burt Foland Jr; 13. 07-Richard Fajardo; 14. 34B-Glenn Bryan; 15. (DNS) 98-Vince Giannotta