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2014 PAS Oval Nationals - Part II

2014 PAS Oval Nationals - Part II
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The Thursday, November 6 360 cu. in. Oval Nationals had 46 cars and six ten-lap heat races. Winners came from starting positions 3-2-4-6-6-6. A pair of 12-lap B-mains had winners come from starting spots 2 and 1. The 30-lap A-main had three leaders (Kevin Thomas, Jr. L 1, Bryan Clauson L 2-19, and sixth starter C. J. Leary L 20-30). The race concluded at 10:10 pm. The Friday, November 7 55-car program began with a 14-car, ten-lap C-main that transferred the first four finishers to the back of the B-main. The heat race procedure had five ten-lap heat races with six car inverted lineups based upon time trials. The first four in each heat race advanced to the 30-lap A-main. Heat winners started from positions 2-2-2-5 and 1. A 24-car 12-lap B-main transferred positions 1-4 to the A-main. Robert Ballou led laps 1-4 and 14-30 with Dave Darland the laps 5-13 leader.

Damion Gardner's wild 4-5 times flip across turns three-four in Friday's second heat left his Alexander Racing No. 4 hanging on the wire fence above the embankment with the tail wedged into the turn four dirt embankment. Damion was unhurt and climbed out before rescuers arrived. The PAS skip loader with bucket attached to the front had difficulty removing the sprint car from the fence. So Damion grabbed a wrench and climbed the back of the billboard and freed the RF torsion arm and kicked the car free of the fence. It dropped to the embankment for removal to the pits.

Damion used a backup No. 4 Friday and Saturday. He finished the features 13th Friday and sixth Saturday. Damion told me Saturday night that his shoulder was sore from the shoulder straps, but the whites of his eyes were normal. He had no “red-eye” from burst blood vessels “because I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see what was coming,” he added.

The top six drivers in Oval National points Friday became the “Super Six” for Saturday's trophy dash. The results of that dash set the first three rows lineup for Saturday's 40-lap A-main. The six top point earners were: B. Bacon 143, Ballou 143, Jon Stanbrough 142, Leary 132, Darland 129 and Mike Spencer 127. Super six drivers did not have to re-qualify Saturday. Winner Darland was allowed to pick the inside or outside in row one. He decided to wait until he saw how the track was prepared for the A-main. He chose the inside lane. He bicycled between turns one and two on the first lap and dropped to fourth place.

Saturday, November 8 (for 410s) had four 10-lap heats with an inversion of four cars and winners started from positions 4-1-3-3. Two 12-lap B-main winners started third. The 40-lap A-main winner Ballou started fourth. Leaders were Mike Spencer L 1-5, 7, and 20-30, C. J. Leary L 6, 8-19, and Ballou L 31-40. The 40-lap feature paid the winner $20,000 this year, up from $15,000 last year thanks to a cash infusion from Mike Grosswendt of All Coast Construction. Two of the 2014 podium drivers repeated their 2013 Oval Nationals podium finishes. Spencer (P. 2) and Bryan Clauson (P. 3) were those consistent, money drivers. Oval Nationals 2013 winner Darland placed fourth this year.

Tony Jones Hard Charger Award winner Chad Boespflug, from Hanford originally and now an Indianan, started 22nd in the 26-car field. He passed 12 cars and finished tenth. The race had four red flags for flips by Nic Faas, Geoff Ensign, Garrett Hansen and Kevin Thomas, Jr.. Hansen blamed the No. 32 car (Chase Stockon) for coming down on him as they left turn four and causing his front straight flip. The race started at 10:59 and concluded at 11:54 pm. All 18 finishers completed 40 laps. Attendance Saturday appeared to be about 5,000.

Saturday night Chris Holt interviewed Brody Roa who returned to PAS to spectate after flipping wildly during the open practice session Wednesday night. Brody had returned days earlier to California from his honeymoon in Hawaii following his late October wedding. He said he didn't remember being in a hospital and was advised by doctors not to race any time soon. He dropped from third to sixth in USAC-CRA final point standings by not racing in Perris and Arizona.

Open-wheel drivers present at the 2014 Oval Nationals included Jimmy Sills, the first winner of the event in 1996. Past event winners in the pits were Rip Williams, Cory Kruseman, and Tony Jones. Other local sprint car veterans in the pits were: Jimmy Oskie, David Cardey, Mike English, Danny Lewis, Stan Atherton, Mike Kirby, Rick Goudy and John Redican. Also spotted were midget racer Jerome Rodela, 2014 NMRA TQ-midget champion Anthony Lopiccolo and his car owner dad Paul. Speedway bike racers Travis Burmeister, Ricky Wells and sidecar driver Joe Jones also spectated.

FIRST-TIME PAS DRIVERS: Newcomers included: Jarett Andretti, 21-year old son of driver John Andretti (Aldo's son and nephew of Mario), David Taylor, 19-year old Michael Curtis, from Cottonwood,, Arizona, Tristan Guardino, 18, Terry Schrank, of Santa Rosa, Cody Majors, Max Adams, 19, from Loomis, and Austin Liggett, 18, from Tracy. Austin is a Cal State University Stanislaus student majoring in business. Adams, Andretti, Guardino and Liggett told me they really liked racing at PAS.

CARS: Spencer had a brand new No. 50 Ron Chaffin Maxim chassis for the Oval Nationals. He scored feature finishes of P. 7 Friday and P. 2 Saturday at Kevin Winters checkered flags. The new car performed admirably despite the absence of the late crew chief Bruce Bromme, Jr.. Robert Ballou's years old Oval Nationals winning Maxim is the same chassis in which he won all four of his 2014 USAC features. The No. 12B is an Okie chassis (copy of Clark Drake chassis) that Tobey Sampson built several years ago. It carries “Blair” on the hood in tribute to the late car owner Don Blair, who died shortly before his 90th birthday several years ago. The No. 82 is a 2000 John Boy chassis built in Sacramento.

Tracy Hines DRC sprinter had “The Carolina Nut Co.” as his sponsor. Chris Gansen said his No. 4g Spike Friday was not the car Darland raced for his team Thursday. Bob East was in the pits helping on the Tony Stewart Racing Beast No. 20 car driven by Clauson. Jeremy Ellertson said his No. 98x is a BRC chassis for Bear Racing Components. “Bear” is his nickname. The Steve Watt No. 81 and 81M cars are Maxims. Danny Faria's No. 2F is a 2013 Spike. Verne Sweeney's No. 98 is a 2010 DRC (built by Mike Devin). The Mitchell No. 37 cars are Maxims—Matt's 37 a 2014 model and Nic Faas' 37F a 2010 model. The No. 11c Maxim driven by M. Curtis is owned by Kevin Turner, of Cottonwood, AZ. and Greg Wheeler, of Peoria, AZ..

DRIVERS: Brady Bacon told me his wife Xia Xianna was due to give birth to their first child, a daughter, on December 29 (the same date Kyle Larson' son is due). However, after Brady won his first USAC National Sprint Car championship in Peoria, AZ a week later his baby girl decided to join the celebration and arrived prematurely on November 18. Levaney Judith Bacon checked in at 5 lbs., 1 oz and 17.5” long and is healthy. The Hoffman Racing No. 69 Triple X car he drove at the Oval Nationals is the same car in which he won two of his five 2014 USAC features. Those wins came at Terre Haute on September 18 and at Eldora on September 20. It was USAC championship number ten for the Hoffman team that dates back to August Hoffman in the 1930s.

Christopher Bell, 19 (DOB 12/16/94) raced in his first PAS sprint car event during the 2014 Oval Nationals. He raced in the 2013 Turkey Night GP for the Keith Kunz team. He said he is not a big fan of racing at the PAS “because it is too hit or miss on set-ups.” Bell, from Norman, OK., as of November 15 has raced 98 times this year and has 23 wins, 51 top fives and 65 top tens according to his website. He has been called the next Kyle Larson and his 2014 season seems to support that contention. He is already on the radar of NASCAR car owners.

Versatile Bell on October 18 won a 150-lap stock car race in the No. 52 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota at three-eighths mile Orange County Speedway in Durham, No. Carolina. It was only his third asphalt race. John Hunter Nemechek, son of Joe, finished second to Bell in a 26-car field. On November 5 Bell finished second in the Busch No. 52 Toyota in another stock car feature. On October 29 Bell won the ASCS 360 winged sprint car Dirt Track National at quarter-mile clay I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark. He earned the largest payday of his career--$15,000--in the No. 31B Brandon Berryman JR1 chassis. The 22-car field had nationally known Brian Brown,Wayne Johnson and Kevin Swindell finish in P. 3-4-5.

At the PAS Oval Nationals November 6-8 Bell drove the No. 51T owned by Dennis and Teresa Roth, of Fresno. They have owned winning No. 83 Beef Packer sprint cars for decades on the WoO circuit. The 51T number comes from team partner Jeff Gardner, of Fresno, who raced USAC 360 sprints with that number for years. On Thursday in the 360 feature Bell pitted on lap 2 with a broken push rod and placed last (24th). The team installed a 410 for Friday and Saturday in the same KPC (Steve Kent-built chassis) and finished tenth Friday and twelfth Saturday. Bell won the August 30 USAC-CRA 30-lap main this year at the Calistoga, CA half-mile aboard the Roth No. 51T.

Driver C. J. Leary, who turned 18 in April, is the son of USAC driver Chuck A. Leary, of Greenfield, IN, 20-miles east of Indianapolis. C.J (for Charles Justin) set fastest qualifying time and won the 360 feature Thursday in a dominating performance. He got involved in the Danny Faria incident and rolled his No. 30 DRC in turn two during his heat. Only damage was a sheared RF shock bolt. C. J.'s dad Chuck, 49, won one USAC feature—the prestigious Silver Crown Hoosier 100—in 1997. C. J. was the 2013 Lawrenceburg, IN track champion and won five main events. He was voted the 2013 national sprint car rookie of the year. Leary Construction was on the hoods of both No. 30 Maxim cars—the white 360 and black 410. The family firm, founded in 1946 by C.J's grandfather, maintains and paints water towers in the Midwest.

Chase Stockon, of Elizabethtown, IN., made his second trip to PAS for the Oval Nationals. He drove his own 18-wheeler from Indiana to Perris Monday-Tuesday November 3-4. He parked his No. 32 DRC trailer and sprint car next to his friend Tracy Hines' No. 4 DRC at the infield scoreboard. Hines and his team towed their 18-wheeler with his midget and sprint cars and departed Indiana on Saturday, November 1. They enjoyed the California and Arizona temperatures for their business trip of several weeks.

George Morris, Jr., 54, of Holtville (Imperial County), is the father of PAS young gun series driver George E, 20. George (the dad) is a farmer and grows oats and alfalfa. The Oval Nationals was only his third race and he did not practice before going racing. He found he really liked driving with the senior division. He drove the No. 3K Kruseman 360 cu. in. Bullet. His son (George E.) is going to school currently in San Diego to become an aviation mechanic.

Jarett Andretti, 21, of Mooresville, N.C., is the son of Indy 500 and NASCAR Cup veteran John Andretti. John is the son of Aldo, Mario's twin brother. He used No. 18 on his 2014 Maxim and carried the sponsor name Window World on the hood. That firm also sponsored John in the Indy 500 years ago. Darland's 2013 DRC PAS Oval Nationals 40-lap winning ride was the same No. 71P he used this year. Hoosiers Steve and Carla Phillips own it.

Verne Sweeney (No. 98) said he and Rickie Gaunt (No. 66) are the only Ascot Park sprint car drivers still active at PAS now that Rip Williams “has retired” to help his three sons. All three sons are doing well in the three car John Jory Spike team. National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Rip has not formally announced his retirement although he did not race in 2014.

Bryan Clauson, a 2013 Indy 500 veteran in the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Racing second car, said he likes PAS even though it hasn't been kind to him. He said his 2015 Indy 500 ride will be for the Jonathan Byrd Indiana-based team. His car will be the ex-No. 11 Sebastian Bourdais 2014 ride that Byrd bought from the KVSH team. He said his 2013 Indy 500 Dallara car was raced later by J. R. Hildebrand and this year as No. 67 by Josef Newgarden.

Jon Stanbrough towed out from Indiana to Perris with the replica No. 1 JFK Co. sprint car that he built (including engine) as a copy of the 1979 Stanton chassis raced for Jack Kindoll by five-time CRA champion Jimmy Oskie. Jon matched the light blue paint exactly. The frame could be a Stanton or Maxwell. Jon has the car for sale if the price is right. The original JFK car is in the Justice Brothers Museum on Huntington Drive in Duarte. Oskie used the JFK replica to pace the Oval Nationals main events Friday and Saturday. PAS A-main parade laps Friday and Saturday had six rows of four perfectly aligned and two taggers Saturday were positioned perfectly as spectators saluted drivers.

Mike Dutcher, 41, of Cicero, IL, owns two Maxims that raced at PAS this year. He is the son of long-time Ascot Park CRA fan Glen “Dutch” Dutcher, now 80 and living in a convalescent home in Riverside. Mike had Riverside's Darren Hagen, now living in Irvine, make his first start for the team at PAS in the No. 17RW. Stanbrough drove the No. 37RW. The RW stands for sponsors Rotolo and Weirich. Terry Riggs' Indiana Underground sponsors both Dutcher cars. Jon finished ninth and Darren 13th in the PAS 40-lap feature Saturday.