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RACING SCENE - Oval Nationals

RACING SCENE - Oval Nationals
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LOS ANGELES – The Perris Auto Speedway 25th Oval Nationals non-wing sprint car classic had its own unique point scoring. Qualifying awarded the fastest qualifier ten points with a one point dropoff to the next nine fastest qualifiers. Four 10-lap heat races awarded the top four finishers in each heat 16, 14, 12 and 10 points. The 12-lap B-main Thursday and Friday gave the first four finishers nine, eight, seven and six points respectively; they all advanced to the A-main. Fifth place earned 60 points, with one point per position drop-offs (59, 58, etc.) for all other starters to P. 24. Thursday and Friday A-mains awarded 125, 122, 119, 116, 113, 110, 107, 104, 101, 98, 96 and two point decreases for positions 11 to 24. Saturday's B-main gave the first four finishers (transferees to the A-main) nine, eight, seven, six and five points. Non-transfer positions awarded 59, 58, etc. with one point drop-offs to P. 24.

Points were totaled after the two preliminary nights of racing. The top ten drivers after Thursday, November 4 racing were: Jake Swanson (21AZ)- 148; Brady Bacon (69) 140; Kevin Thomas, Jr (9K) 140; C. J. Leary (77m) 127; Tanner Thorson (19AZ) 132; Justin Grant (4) 129; Austin Williams (92) 121; Max Adams (73) 115; R. J. Johnson (51) 115, and Chris Windom (19) 113. The top ten after Friday, November 5 were: Swanson 285; Thomas, Jr. 284; Bacon 284; Thorson 276; Leary 270; Grant 252; Windom (233; A. Williams (232); Shane Cottle (74x) 227, and Carson Short (17) 212.

 

The top six drivers in points became the “Super Six” Dash drivers. They had a separate hot lap session and started the six-lap “Super Six Dash” in reverse point order. The dash finishing positions set P 1-6 in the 40-lap A-main. Dash winner Leary started second and led all six laps. He was able to pick the inside or outside front row starting spot for the A and he opted for the inside position.

Personable Jake Swanson relocated from Anaheim, Calif., to Indiana last year with his wife Jessica (nee Clark) to race full-time and bought a home in Danville (Highway 36 just west of Speedway). He set up a shop and maintains the sprint car owned by Arizonans John Drau & Mike Burkhart. The 34AZ 2019 DRC was renumbered 21AZ for 2021. Jake and Jessica drove the team rig from Indiana to Perris. He was able to visit his Orange County family members who watched each night from the grandstand.

Jake won the Thursday 30-lap feature for his initial USAC National Sprint victory in his 84th start. His winning pass at the finish line was sensational. He won by 0.010 with sparks flying from contact by his RF and RR rims against the concrete crash-wall. He had eight runner-up finishes this season and was not content to settle for another. His left side tires rubbed against K. Thomas' right side tires according to Brady Bacon who was one length behind the two leaders in a three-way duel. The team said they were using the same rims Friday night.

Jake entered the PAS triple-header seventh in USAC National point standings. He said “I was going to win it or flip it down the front straight trying for my first national win.” He thanked Thomas for leaving him just enough room on the outside to pass. Thomas said Jake has been running hard and up front all year (he led 85 laps in 2021) so it's good he got his first win close to his home. It was probably the closest race I've ever been in. I'll try to win tomorrow.”

Jake said the owner of the USAC Ford Focus midget (Schankeman No 88) which he raced at Irwindale in 2011 had passed away. Jake said his paternal grandfather died in March, 2020 and dedicated his popular triumph to him. “He's looking down smiling.” He also thanked his two car owners and his dad. Asked if his wife Jessica, a USAC FF (No. 44) midget and Ventura Raceway midget veteran, is still racing, Jake told me she races sprint cars at local tracks in Indiana.

Jake raced in five of ten USAC Silver Crown 2021 races (all on dirt) in the DMW No. 10. He qualified near the front frequently and had finishes on half-mile ovals of 11th and 7th at Eldora (Ohio) and third at Selinsgrove (Penn.). His Illinois mile track finishes were 6th (he led 15 mid-race laps) at Springfield and 3rd at DuQuoin in a 29-car field. He scored 286 SC points and placed 11th overall of 69 drivers with points. Jake was second in SC rookie points to championship runner-up Logan Seavey, a two-time SC winner at Selinsgrove and Eldora. Seavey ran all ten races, including four on paved tracks, scored 540 points, and earned his Rice Motorsports team the entrant championship.

Nine USAC National Sprint drivers present at PAS showed how racing sprint cars more than 40 times a year at different speedways is a major advantage. They race for a living. USAC-CRA drivers race about 20 times a season and did not place in the top five in any of the three Oval Nationals A-mains on their home track. Top local finishers were: Austin Williams (P.7 and P.9 Thursday and Friday) and Charles Davis, Jr. (P.9 and first car down a lap) Saturday. It was noticeable that local drivers such as Swanson and Max Adams, plus Brody Roa and Eddie Tafoya, Jr. who have raced at Indiana Sprint Weeks, have enhanced their racing skills.

Saturday's A-main started 25 cars including one provisional and eight finished on the lead lap. Friday's feature started 26 cars including two provisionals and 23 finished with 22 completing all 30 laps. Thursday's A started 25 with two provisionals in the back row; 23 finished with 16 on the lead lap. The track changed each night with the fast groove low Thursday and high Friday. Drivers were ready to race anywhere Saturday. ... Feature lap leaders: Thursday--K. Thomas L 1-24 & 26-29; Swanson L 25 & L 30; Friday--Bacon L 1-3, 17-27 & L 30. He inherited the lead when leader Justin Grant slowed in turn two with a broken fuel line nozzle and crossed the finish line slowly in P. 7. Thorson led L 4-16. Saturday-- Grant L 1-30 & 32-36; Thomas L 31 & 37-40.

Prior to November 4 USAC-CRA perennial champion Damion Gardner led P. 2 Brody Roa in 2021 points by 75. Damion had his worst Oval Nationals ever with A-main finishes of 14th, 13th and 22nd (a DNF because of damage done in a lap 2 multi-car crash). Roa had finishes of 13th 10th and 12th. Following the Oval Nationals Damion lost 19 points and led Roa by 56 points. Only two races remained in Arizona on November 12-13 in a 21 race campaign. Damion won his ninth championship in the series (eight in a row) by 38 points.

The final transfer to Saturday's A-main from the B slipped from Austin Williams (Sertich No.92) because of a worsening engine problem. He started first, fell to P. 4 on lap 1, was P. 5 on lap 5, and P. 6 on lap 10. Dennis Gile (No. 13) passed him on the outside just before the finish line on lap 12 of 12. Tom Sertich said the problem was loss of compression. Even if it made the A the team would not have started or used a provisional to avoid damaging the engine. It's a shame the Sertich 92, which supports the entire USAC-CRA series every season, was not in the biggest and most lucrative local race of the year. Asked why he uses 92 on his sprinters, Tom said because he bought his first sprint car in 1992.

Danny (Hollywood) Faria, Jr., from Tipton (near Tulare) raced his own BZE No. 17v in the Oval Nationals. He said Saturday, “This is my final race. It's time.” He made Friday's A-main from his heat race and was sidelined on lap 5 in a multi-car crash. Danny ran 9th in Saturday's B-main after being involved in a first lap two-car crash. He placed 9th and missed a top six transfer to the A. Danny told me he will keep his two sprinters (a Maxim and A.R.T backup) for his son Dawson, a 17-year old high school student in Tulare. Dawson helps his dad in the pits and is a veteran 600cc mini sprint racer at Merced, Visalia and Lemoore. He might race a 600cc in Tulsa at the annual pre-Chili Bowl event in January.

Danny, 49, told me his best PAS finish was P. 2 during 2006. He drove John Vermeer's No. 87 Chevy to second behind Tony Jones. Danny said he appreciated fellow driver Brody Roa after Saturday's A main coming over to his pit and saying he enjoyed racing with him and wishing him well. He said he really appreciated Brody's kindness. Brody's 13-month old daughter Addison was in his pit.

AWARDS: The Tony Jones Hard Charger Award Saturday went to Chris Windom (P. 19 to P. 8). He advanced Thursday from 18th to P. 8. Roa gained 15 positions Friday from 25th to tenth. Hard luck could have gone to Arizonan Sterling Cling (No. 34). His team crashed (including a flip Friday) and heavily damaged two cars during the Oval Nationals. ... Sprint cars displaying feature victory stickers atop the tails included Thomas' No. 9K with eight (and he earned one more at PAS), Grant's No. 4 had six stickers, Leary's 77M and Thorson's No. 19AZ had five. Bacon earned his fifth P1 sticker of the season for No. 69 at PAS. ... The Mike McCarthy team had both its 5w and 28m cars flip.

Super Six Dash winner C. J. Leary started second and led all six laps over pole starter Grant. He was interviewed at the finish line and immediately took the inside front row for the feature. Leary stated, “This is one of my favorite tracks to come to. It's pretty bad-ass. I'll pick the inside row for the main. That's the place to be. Thursday the bottom was best and Friday the top was best.” ... PAS chief announcer Scott Daloisio wrapped up his mic duties Saturday after the final awards were presented. He said, “Thanks to all my helpers in the booth (including USAC media ace Richie Murray) and to Don Kazarian, the best promoter in all of racing. Thanks to the USAC officials for running the smoothest Oval Nationals there has ever been.” Fans agreed.

The No. 2 of Jack Yeley (NASCAR driver J.J's dad) had versatile Chase Johnson, 26, driving. Chase, from NorCal, is a personable, talented driver who is making huge strides in his racing career in California and the Midwest. He raced midgets, wing and non-wing sprint cars and even a USAC Silver Crown car for Matt Goodnight this season at Eldora Sept. 25. He qualified seventh fastest in a 32-car field and finished 17th in a 28-car, 50-lap feature. He hopes to race in all 2022 USAC S/C events. Chase told me he will race at Ventura Thanksgiving weekend in both a midget (No. 7NZ for Bill Buckley) and the No. 8M 360 sprinter for Jason May. He and Brody Roa will be 8M teammates at Ventura.

CARS: The No. 38 of owner/builder Glenn Crossno is a 2010 Viper he built at his ITI firm a decade ago. Arizonan Tye Mihocko raced it at PAS. Crosssno, the son of 1960s-70s USAC midget and CRA sprint car driver Dale Crossno, from San Bernardino, has not raced much in recent years. Glenn retired and moved from SoCal to Chino Valley, Arizona near Prescott. The team also entered the season finale near Gilbert and Apache Junction Ariz. November 12-13. That race is slated to be the final event there because a north/south freeway east of Phoenix will be built through the property.... The No. 17 raced by Carson Short, from Marion, Ill., is a 2021 Triple X (China) chassis. Clayton Snow, from Sacramento, owns it and met Short at Knoxville where they agreed to compete together in November.

Duplicate sprint car numbers were prevalent again this year. There were four No. 5, and two each Nos. 17, 19, 21, 51, 73 and 74. That's 16 (38%) of the 42 cars. Andy Reinbold, a 6' 7” ex-driver who co-owns No. 19AZ with Todd Underwood, had Tanner Thorson driving. He said he uses 19 on his cars because it was his car number when he drove. Brody Haywood owns the 19 raced by C. Windom. The four No. 5 cars were a special problem for fans--two were black with white numbers from different teams and two were orange with white numbers from the same team. Back in the day, CRA had a rule prohibiting duplicate CRA car numbers. Arizona cars used an A after the number and NorCal cars used N (for NARC) following the car number.

Long-time PAS solo starter Kevin Winters had an assistant starter in the stand during the 2021 Oval Nationals because he is retiring after the 2021 season. The new PAS starter in 2022 will be Steve Russell and he was getting his feet wet so to speak during the Oval Nationals. Kevin and his wife may be moving out of state in 2022 (possibly to chilly Minnesota). He will be missed at the PAS.