Thursday, March 23, 2006

2006 brings excitement and expectation

2006 brings excitement and expectation

By Matthew J. Sullivan

Every race track the world over will tell race fans that the 2006 season will be the most exciting ever. While the saying may be cliche, for Redwood Acres Raceway fans, drivers, crew members and officials, it happens to be true. The 2006 season at the 3/8 mile paved oval may just be the most exciting season in recent memory. Along with the stalwart classes, sportsman, mini stock, real stock and limited street stock, there will be a new division that will be competing at the Acres for most of the season; the thunder roadsters.

The affordable roadster division will perhaps the biggest mix of drivers ranging from long-time veterans of racing, to rookie drivers eager to prove themselves. Among the list of drivers is former Acres dirt track driver, Ken Wallan, multi-time track champion Randy Olson, west coast open comp ace Mark Baldwin, 1994 NASCAR Regional champion Paul Peeples, Jr. as well as local business owner Dave McMurray. There will also be a rent-a-racer car for fans to rent for a race night. The roadsters will race at the Acres six times, April 22, May 13, June 3, June 24 & 24 and September 16. Drivers and teams will have a three-race stretch at Ukiah Speedway in Ukiah, California July 15, Lakeport Speedway in Lakeport, California July 29 and Shasta Raceway Park in Anderson, California August 19.

The limited street stock division should boast a stronger field of cars opposed to last season. Duane Mayo will return to defend his title against rivals J.D. Frey and Kenny Demello along with Adrien Betourney, Kavin Conn, Terry Vallee and Mike Adams. Two real stock drivers will be making the move up to the limited street division, 2005 champion Trevor Miller and George Young.

With Miller out of the picture, the 2006 real stock championship looks to be wide open. Multi-time 2005 main event winner Jason Belt looks to be the favorite, but it won’t be an easy road. Other top contenders will be Doug Way, Bill Middleton, Cecil Arispe, Bob Lima and Troy Wood. However on any given night any driver can win in the real stock division, so don’t be surprised to see drivers such as Ryan Walters, Barrett Barnwell or Jim Redd in victory lane.

The mini stock division may be the most wide open of all the classes at the Acres. With 2005 champ Jaison Chand cutting back on his racing schedule, the 2006 mini stock title will also be up for grabs. Among the returning drivers are Glen Bernald, Brian McIntosh Craig and Scott Baker, Stacy Minnick and Denzell Barrett. Along with Nick Karanopoulos, Chad Grammer and division newcomer, Craig Huffman, it is unclear as to who, if any driver will be the favorite going into the season.

The featured division at Redwood Acres Raceway, the sportsman division promises to boast another strong field of cars. As with the real stock and mini stock classes, the sportsman division will not have the 2005 champion in the field, Geoff Brandon who sold his car to driver Rick Fox at the end of last season. The driver to beat most likely will be Acres veteran and former champion Glen Shewry. He will have a full field of strong competitors to contend with, notably Larry Pries, Al Acuna, Phil Wood and Marty Walsh. Do not discount any of the drivers in this division because there are many good drivers with strong equipment. There are three drivers who will be stepping up in to the sportsman class, mini stock runner-up Joe Bonomini, Jerry Peterson who started a handful of sportsman races at the end of 2005 and Lissa Usselton who is moving up from the real stock class.

Along with the local field of cars, the North State Challenge Series will be making four stops at the Acres, April 29, June 23 & 24 and July 29. The BCRA midgets will make their annual trek to the Acres May 20. Among the special events will be the fair night races on June 23 & 24, Fan Appreciation Night August 5 and the annual Fall Spectacular which has moved to Friday September 22 and Saturday 23 to better accommodate traveling drivers and fans.

The 2006 racing season at Redwood Acres Raceway is less than one month away from starting. In between the first race on Saturday April 22 is the annual open practice on April 8. There will be excitement aplenty at the Acres. Be sure not to miss all of the fun and exhilaration that the 2006 season promises at the Acres!