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Racing Scene - PAS Sprints

Racing Scene - PAS Sprints

 The 30-lap USAC-/CRA 410 sprint main event July22 started 23 cars, including provisional starter Bruce St. James, from Arizona. He dropped out on lap 16. Greg Alexander started 22nd and was lapped on lap 14. He dropped out on lap 17 with dual problems—overheating engine and no brakes. Greg said his engine temperature was 240 degrees and 210 is normal. When he drove his No. 23 into his pit stall near the first turn his LR brake caliper was on fire. Matt Mitchell was 14th on lap 20 when he exited to the pits in the Ford No. 73. Nineteen drivers finished with 15 on the lead lap.
On June 24 at PAS, R. J. Johnson started from pole position and led all 30 laps. On June 24 he won by 35-yards. On July 22 he again started first and led every lap. He had a straightaway lead on lap 20. When the only race caution flag appeared on lap 21, R. J. had three lapped cars separating his car from second place Jake Swanson's No. 92. At the green R. J. quickly opened a straightaway by lap 27. He put the No. 98v down a second lap on lap 29 while winning easily.
Rip Williams, 2004 USAC/CRA driving champion and a NSCHoF inductee, has three racing sons. Number two son Austin started eighth and finished sixth in the feature. However, the other two John Jory team cars had problems. Youngest son Logan was the first main event retiree and placed 23rd. Number one son Cody, 27, started on pole and led the first half of the third 10-lap heat race. At mid-race Cody pitted with an engine problem and his No. 44 was out for the night. The problem? Rip told me it was a broken retainer on a valve. “We didn't have a spare and no one in the pits had one either. He added.” It is an unheard of problem these days.”
Car owner Dwight Cheney brought in Indianan Chad Boespflug, a California native from Hanford, to drive his No. 42 Maxim July 22. The USAC National Sprint Series had an open weekend. It's interesting to compare Boespflug's results to most recent Cheney Chevy 42 driver Max Adams, from Loomis. Max won the last USAC/CRA main event at Santa Maria Speedway on July 1.
In time trials, Chad qualified at 17.284 (14th fastest) and Max qualified his No. 5m Scott Adams 2016 Maxim at 16.914 (7th quickest). In the third heat, Chad started the 42 third with Max right behind him in the inside row. Chad finished third and Max fourth, right in back of the car he drove to the series last feature triumph. Max told me later he had no special thoughts or flashbacks about driving the 42 car as he chased it during the third heat.
In the main event, Chad, 29, started and finished 14th in No. 42. Max, 21, started his No. 5m seventh and ran fourth from lap 3 to the checkered flag. On lap 26, high-running Max tried to gain ground on P. 3 Damion Gardner. Max exited turn two, bounced off the backstretch wall, and continued at speed. The 2014 USAC/CRA rookie of the year finished an impressive fourth. He is an obvious candidate for the series 2017 most improved driver award.
YOUNG GUNS: The 360 cu. in. sprint car series is for drivers ages 14-25 without prior sprint car driving experience. It had six cars present and five raced in a 6-lap heat and 15-lap YG feature. There have been four different YG champions in the series. Year five definitely will have a fifth different champion because all of the past champions have moved on in their racing careers.
Current point leader Hannah Mayhew, a 21-year old college student and graduate of dwarf car racing at Ventura Raceway, led the heat all six laps. The YG series had a new entrant (Dalton Hebner) and car No. 4, a light blue sprinter reputed to be a past J. J. Yeley ride. It could be the No. 76 light blue car in which J.J raced at The PAS before moving his racing career to NASCAR stock cars.
The YG 15-lap main event leader for three laps was pole starter Blade Hildebrand, 18, the Yucca Valley High starting quarterback last year on a 6-3 team. His Triple X sprinter uses No. 5, his football jersey number. Third starter Mayhew made an inside pass for the lead in the second turn on lap 4 and extended her lead to 50-yards by lap 13. Then car No. 4 slapped the third turn wall and stalled near turn four, causing a yellow flag. Mayhew ran the final three laps and won by 20-yards over Hildebrand for her second victory in a row. Joel Rayborne was third after losing a brake caliper and dragging a brake line in the closing laps.
Chris Holt interviewed the top three finishers via the pit mic. Mayhew revealed, “Our car 43 engine is in for repairs at RC Performance after we had water in the number five cylinder in the last race. I contacted Steve Watt and he let me drive one of his cars tonight. I like it a lot better than mine. On a restart I saw Blade (Hildebrand) pull up next to me. I just gassed it.” She thanked her dad “for spending all this money on me and my siblings for being here.”
Second time YG feature runner-up Hildebrand told Holt, “Yeah, it's the first time I've been beaten by a girl. I have to drive faster and not let it happen again. We just freshened up the same motor that we thought we blew in the last race. Asked about moving up to USAC/CRA competition, Blade replied, “We have to win here first.” He thanked his mom and dad, who were with him in the pits, his crew and sponsor Empire Construction. P. 3 Rayborne was just happy he did not have a flip or blown engine/fire this week.
The top three drivers July22 all experienced engine woes recently. Rayborne's No. 08 in the most recent YG evenings experienced a nasty flip in the third turn. In the last main event the engine blew and erupted into flames leaving turn four. The West Covina High student stopped quickly across from the starters' stand and leaped to safety near a K-rail. He was uninjured.
Mayhew, unwilling to miss a YG race, contacted car owner Steve Watt in Ventura Country and asked to drive one of his numerous Maxwell Industries No. 81 CS9 sprint cars. Courtney Crone drove a Watt No. 81 to her 2016 PAS Young Gun championship and beat runner-up Mayhew by 87-points. Chris Wakim won the 2015 PAS Senior Sprints championship driving a Watt No. 81 as well. Hannah used a borrowed Watt 81 to increase her YG point lead. Watt had five No. 81 360 USAC West Coast sprinters in action with five drivers in the November 2016 Turkey Night GP support sprint class.
SENIOR SPRINTS: Senior sprints (for drivers 45 and older) point leader Richard McCormick, 59, from Agua Dulce, won the six-car, 8-lap heat race over John Aden. Wheel-to-Wheel Racing leader Aden started fourth and led all 20-laps of their main event in the six car field. The senior main followed the USAC/CRA semi-main. McCormick is trying to become the sixth different PAS Senior Sprint champion in year seven for the series.
On lap 14, Will Perkins (P. 6 in No. 50) slid up turn one, hit the wall and flipped onto his cage without injury. Retired dentist Jim Giardina, has been known as “the “Tooth Doc” since he raced CRA sprint cars at Ascot. The octogenarian completed all 20 laps for fifth place in his own No. 58.
The top three senior main drivers stopped at the finish line for PA interviews. Winner Aden said, “This is just for fun. When you get serious is when it becomes no fun. I tried to look back for second place. I'm not tired, just hot.” Aden will be running his fourth annual W-to-W 600cc motorcycle engine speedway sprints and outlaw karts in The Grand Arena at the Industry Hills Expo Center Saturday, August 5 starting at 2:30 pm.
Runner-up McCormick, who traded P. 2 with Rick Hendrix on lap 2 and on the lap 14 restart, trailed Aden by 30-yards at the checkers. “I ran out of time. We missed on the set-up,” he added. He then thanked his car owner and sponsors. P. 3 Hendrix said, “It's good to run third. These guys are really fast. Without my wife (his crew chief) I wouldn't be here.”
It was 102 degrees at PAS during the afternoon and 97 at 5:30 pm. The temp was still 79 degrees at 10:30 pm. A steady wind kept the flags above turn two straight out most of the night and made the track surface hard to manage. The racing groove was low, not up near the wall as usual to the chagrin of some drivers. The large crowd did not seem to mind and enjoyed the competitive all-sprint cars night.
PIT NOTES: Nettie Fort, widow of Doug Fort, the Santa Maria Speedway builder and promoter from its opening with a CRA sprint car race on May 31, 1964 until his death, has died at age 94. Nettie passed away peacefully at home in Paso Robles on May 31. She was active with Doug in SMS racing promotions and after his death in 1999 ran the speedway with one of her sons until they leased it to other operators. Doug and Nettie were among the most respected racing promoters in the business. They did a lot for racers and are missed greatly by the racing community.
Richard VanderWeerd, of Visalia, announced two weeks ago his engagement to be married. Best man would have to be his twin brother Jace right? ... A. J. (Alex) Bender (No. 21) chased Matt Mitchell's No. 73 for all 12 laps of the B-main July 22 before passing Matt on the inside at turn four on the final lap. It was an impressive victory for the young driver. He started 16th and finished 13th in the 30-lap A-main.
Ken Hillberg, the 86-year old owner/driver of WRA vintage midgets, is using a cane to walk. Asked at PAS why, Ken said he was driving one of his vintage midgets at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino when it was a clay track in 2012. He said his car slid on a wet spot and hit the crash-wall. He damaged the sciatic nerve in his back and has suffered sciatic pain ever since the accident. Ken's sons Dan and Darren are active in California Lightning Sprints (CLS) as owners/drivers of the motorcycle-engine powered winged cars.
Attendees in the PAS grandstand July 22 included Mickey Dale, the Imperial Country Fairgrounds (near El Centro) racing promoter for decades. He drove north from his El Centro home to see some real sprint car racing at PAS. He sat with former USAC Western States Midget Series champion Robby Flock, now 53, and one of Robby's midget car owners, Dan McAllister (No. 32 Edmunds). Mickey said 1980s USAC midget driver Tommy White, a former Anaheim resident, now resides in Oklahoma.