Chase Johnson and Sparky Howard Prevail on Championship NightRick Faeth
With a fall crispness in the air and another smooth and blazingly fast adobe track served up it was apparent from the evenings start that Nor Cal Sand & Off Road Championship Night was going to be epic. Coming into the last Pit Stop USA.com Winged 360 points race Sebastopol’s Bradley Terrell held a scant 6 point lead over Penngrove’s Chase Johnson. Qualifying saw 17-year old Johnson rip off a blazingly fast 108 mph lap at 12.431 and just a couple tenth’s off the all-time track record. That quick lap garnered fast time for Johnson over Billy Butler. With every point important the heat races turned out to be pivotal. Visiting Elk Grove’s Bobby McMahon won the first heat over Kenny Drew with Johnson picking up one point for third place. In the second heat Terrell was gunning for the lead when he couldn’t avoid the flipping Trevor Schmidt in turn two. Veteran Art McCarthy picked up the win over Butler and Chase Wood with Terrell clawing his way back to fifth. The main event saw another visitor Shawn Wright charge to the early lead over McMahon, McCarthy, and Drew. The first 11 laps went non-stop with until Wright got tangled with a lapped car and overturned in turn two. The restart saw Johnson pick up two spots and emerge in second behind McMahon. Meanwhile, with the point’s title on the line, Terrell commenced to slice through the field like a surgeon. Butler’s night ended with a quick snap roll in turn two necessitating another red flag. When racing resumed for the final handful of laps it looked like Johnson would have to settle for the runner-up spot. With two laps remaining however McMahon caught a lapped car at the wrong moment allowing Johnson the opportunity he needed to slide by and win the main event. Chasing Johnson and McMahon to the line were McCarthy, Terrell, and Drew. When the points were quickly tabulated it became apparent that the pass for the lead on lap 23 was not only for the race win but the championship title with Johnson winning his first Petaluma Speedway Sprint Car Championship by one point over Terrell.
The Pit Stop USA.com Spec Sprints Crown was captured the week before by young Joe Stornetta, so tonight it was like open season for many of the ‘topless’ pilots. Group qualifying yielded fast time honors for Benicia’s Billy Aton at a blistering 14.461. Heats were netted by runner-up points finisher Zack Lynskey, and wily veteran Sparky Howard. In the 25-lap finale it was Howard wresting initial control over a swarm consisting of Aton, Lynskey, Stornetta, and Clint Simpson. Exiting turn two the close-quarters racing got the best of Lynskey and Aton who tangled. Both were able to continue restarting from the back. Next it was Billy Cornwell testing the integrity of his roll cage with a high side tip-over in turn one. A quick trip the pits for a flat saw him rejoin the field as well. Back to racing on lap 15 saw Howard continue to pace Simpson, Dupont, and Stornetta. At the checkered flag the popular Santa Rosan picked up his first victory of the year over vastly improving Simpson and Stornetta. Scott Dupont having his best night of the season was fourth over Lynskey.
The Lumberjack Restaurant Super Stocks saw champion Mike Learn capture heat one and steady Anthony Matthias copping heat two. Main event action saw former track champion Steve Studebaker jump to the point and look to have the car to beat. David Spriggs, Matthias, and Learn were spaced single file and looking for the fastest groove. Learn displaced Matthias and got Spriggs in a drag race down the back straightaway. Coming to lapped traffic mid-way saw Studebaker and Learn have to make split decisions entering turn one. This led to them ‘splitting a pair of lapped cars with some contact and Terry Vande Hoven looping. On the restart Studebaker tried valiantly to hold on but ultimately had to yield to the same back stretch drag race maneuver employed by Learn. Studebaker and Spriggs banged doors in a wild five car skirmish exiting the fourth turn. At the 25-lap twin checkers it was Learn with his tenth win over ‘Iron Man’ Sean McCoy competing in his 745th consecutive race. Spriggs, Studebaker, and Matthias completed the top five.
In the BPT Carburetor Mini Stock & Hornet Divisions a decent nine car field saw John Veeninga and Keith Benson victorious in their respective heat races. The 20-lap season finale had 15-year old outlaw kart graduate John Clark step out to the green flag lead over Josh Wiliams, Veeninga, and Benson. Benson passed Williams and then forged a tantalizing door-to-door battle with Veeninga for several circuits. Benson got the better of Veeninga and attempted an all-or-nothing pass entering turn three on Clark. Clark closed the door and held on for a popular first time Petaluma Speedway triumph. Following the youngster to the finish was Benson, Veeninga, Williams, and Kimberly Ramirez. Veteran Veeninga wrested track championship honors over buddy and arch-rival Benson.
Petaluma Speedway hosts the 1st Annual Johnny Soares Classic 101-lap Dirt Midget race sponsored by the 101 Casino and Western Performance Parts next Saturday Night, October 3rd.