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2014 PAS Oval Nationals-Part I

2014 PAS Oval Nationals-Part I
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The 19th annual USAC AMSOIL National and CRA Sprint Car Series Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction at Perris Auto Speedway ran November 6-8. Mike Grosswendt (All Coast Construction) augmented the purse by thousands of dollars. He also picked up the tab for all food and beverages at the infield concession stand for everyone in the pits Saturday. That unprecedented news, delivered by track promoter Don Kazarian at the 4:00 pm drivers meeting, drew a well deserved round of applause from appreciative racers.

The Oval Nationals purse in 2013 was $73,000+ with $15,000 going to the 40-lap A-main winner and $700 to start. This year the three night purse was $102,000+ (Friday and Saturday paid $91.000+). Saturday's feature winner received $20,000 and it paid $1,000 to start. The increased purse was credited to the generosity of sprint car fan “Big” Mike. He backs up his support of PAS and Ventura Raceway with billboards and program ads and cash infusions to the racing purse for racers. He clearly deserves national recognition for his generosity.

Thursday was the second annual 360 Oval Nationals. It attracted drivers from USAC West Coast and USAC Southwest circuits. The 2014 field increased from 35 cars last year to 46 this year. Drivers by states were: Calif.-34, Ariz.- five, Ind.-four, and one each from Alabama, Oklahoma and Finland. The 410 sprint car counts were 55 Friday and 53 Saturday, topping the Oval Nationals car counts of 53 and 51 on those nights last year. Temperatures at the track were in the 80s each day and in the 60s when racing concluded.

The USAC 360 one-lap track record was 16.739 by Charles Davis, Jr. last year. This year 32nd qualifier C. J. Leary, 18, became the fourth driver to lower the 360 record. He ran a 16.416. Eleven drivers qualified faster than the year old track record. Mike Spencer won heat three in a time of 2:56.44 and topped Jon Stanbrough's year old ten-lap track record of 2:56.95. Spencer (P. 5 in the main) became the “grudge series” champion after point leader Austin Liggett,18, flipped while third on lap 2 of the feature.

PAS announcer Scott Daloisio announced that Matt Mitchell won the 2014 USAC Western 360 Sprint Series championship for his first USAC crown. It is well deserved especially after his comeback from a nasty flip in Indiana several years ago that caused him to miss many races. Markus Niemela had a broken rear axle that launched his high first turn flip on his second qualifying lap. His first lap was 27th fastest in a 46 car field. That mishap ended his bid for the championship won by Matt. Markus finished second to Matt in final points.

Friday's 410 field included several 360 entries from Thursday. The 55 drivers represented six states as follows: Calif.-40, Ind.-six, Ariz.-five, Okla.-two, and one each from Alabama and No. Carolina. Qualifying 55 cars took 51 minutes from6:11-7:02 pm. Eight of the top ten in USAC National Sprint car points and nine of the top ten in USAC-CRA points competed.

Twenty different chassis makes competed in the 2014 Oval Nationals. They were: A.R.T, Beast, BRC, Bullet, DRC, Eagle, Ellis, John Boy, KPC (Steve Kent), Maxim, Okie, Racecrafters, RSS, Sherman, Sled, Spike, Stinger, Todd Boy, Triple 7, and Victory. The 26 car feature field Saturday had eight chassis manufacturers: Maxim-9, DRC and Spike-five each, Eagle and Triple X-two each, and one each for A.R.T, Beast, and KPC. The first five finishers (in order) were: Maxim (P1-2), Beast, DRC and ART.

Third ranked CRA driver Brody Roa flipped during Wednesday night open practice and was hospitalized for several days. He had two rides for the Oval Nationals. The No. 48 Lee Leonard 360 was to be his Thursday ride and his own No. 91R was his 410 ride for Friday-Saturday. He practiced Wednesday in both cars. Brody returned to the pits Saturday and said he did not remember anything from Wednesday to Friday. He added that doctors advised him not to race even at the CRA season finale November 14-15 in Peoria, AZ. He would slip from third to sixth in final points with Matt Mitchell, plus brothers Cody and Austin Williams close to him in points.

Support racing classes participated again this year. California Lightning Sprint (CLS) winged sprints powered by motorcycle engines had 19 teams for their season finale Friday. Bobby Michnowicz, 50, won his second CLS championship with his No. 12M Henchcraft/Kawasaki. The four-year old PAS 360 Senior Sprint Series (for drivers age 45+) had 17 cars and raced a pair of heats and 20-lap mains Friday and Saturday. PAS 2013 seniors champ Rick Hendrix, 61, won theFriday 20-lap main and Steve Brown won his first main Saturday. Bill Badger became a two-time seniors champion (2011 and 2014). It appears Anaheim-based CLS drivers Dale Gamer and Guy Maresch will be racing with the PAS senior sprinters in 2015.

 

Winners of 30-lap features Thursday and Friday were Indianan C. J. Leary ($2,500) and Robert Ballou, ($5,000). Both were first-time feature winners at the half-mile clay PAS. Ballou, a current Hoosier from Rocklin, Calif., repeated his feature victory Saturday. The $20,000 paycheck made his two-day take $25,000. He also received an Oval Nationals unique white winged eagle trophy. Ballou's pair of Maxim chassis were several years old; he praised his Don Ott-built engines. Ballou was elated that his father was present to see his career-best racing weekend.

Grand marshal this year was the late Bruce Bromme, Jr., who accepted the honor weeks before he died in his sleep three months ago. A special presentation at the starting line honored his memory. Fast qualifying time $500 checks Fridayand Saturday in memory of two-time CRA champion Billy Wilkerson were presented to C. J. Leary and Damion Gardner by the Wilkerson family and Dick Woodland.

Flips were more plentiful than usual this year. Thursday started with a flip by Markus Niemela (Keith Ford No. 73) during qualifying. He rode to a hospital for a precautionary medical evaluation and returned to the track. Four other flips followed in the A-main. Friday had five flips from qualifying through the B-main. The 30-lap A-main with 26 cars was green all the way and took only 9: 24.75. Eighteen of 22 finishers were on the lead lap. Saturday had six flips, including four in the 40-lap feature.

The top “super six” in Oval National points advanced directly to the 40-lap A-main Saturday and a dash Saturday to set starting positions one through six. Brady Bacon won the Oval Nationals Dean Thompson Award as Friday's high point driver with 143. Ballou, Stansbrough, Leary, Darland and Spencer completed the “super six” field.

Bacon entered Perris as the USAC National Sprint point leader by 53 points over Bryan Clauson and 78 over Dave Darland. The Broken Arrow, OK. driver went to the Canyon Raceway Park, Peoria, AZ November 14-15 races seeking his first USAC national driving title and tenth for the No. 69 Hoffman racing team that started three generations ago. After the Oval Nationals Bacon had a 51-point lead over Clauson and 79 over Darland. In USAC-CRA points 2014 champ D. Gardner led by 253 points over Spencer and 399 over Roa. Damion departed Perris with a 210 point advantage over Spencer and 465 over idled Roa. Oval Nationals Friday-Saturday events were USAC National Sprint completed events 31-32 of 34. They also were USAC-CRA events 19-20 of 22. TV TIP: The MAVTV Network will show Oval Nationals taped highlights within a month on the half-hour Dirty 30 program.

The $5.00 PAS Oval Nationals 56-page color program had about 30 pages in color. It sold out before the first race Saturday. PAS management announced that the November 27 USAC Midgets Turkey Night Grand Prix will have Parnelli Jones as grand marshal on the 50th anniversary of his first of two TNGP victories at Ascot. Current NASCAR star Kyle Larson, the PAS 2012 TNGP winner, has entered in a Keith Kunz team Bullet/Speedway Toyota. The white/black No. 71K Larson ride will be sponsored by Cartwheel/Target. The PAS 2015 schedule has the USAC-CRA opener March 7. The second annual USAC-CRA companion event with the World of Outlaws will be April 18.