Friday, February 2, 2007

2006 Thunder Roadster Season: A Look Back

2006 Thunder Roadster Season: A Look Back

By Matthew J. Sullivan

The 2006 season marked the beginning of a new division at Redwood Acres Raceway; the thunder roadsters. These new cars were highly anticipated because of their open-wheel look, the number of cars and drivers and the various experience levels of every driver. Suffice to say, the new class did not disappoint. The roadsters provided some of the most memorable races of the season.

David Henderson won the 2006 thunder roadster championship by 120 points, but it never appeared as if he was running away with the title. Henderson only had one win, however he was almost always among the top three finishers when the checkered flag fell. Henderson’s lone win proved to be in the very first race of the season where he held off a number of drivers to take a hard fought victory.

Paul Peeples, Jr. proved to be Henderson’s toughest points competitor. Peeples notched four wins, three in a row at one point. Peeples four victories proved to be the most in the division, but he was not able to maintain the consistency that Henderson was able to. Troy Combs proved to be one of the drivers to beat on a weekly basis despite the 2006 season being his first at the Acres. Combs took two main event victories and third in the points.

Another Acres newcomer was Chris Sarvinski. Sarvinski was always among the quicker cars, and was able to be among the top finishers on a regular basis. Acres veteran Bill O’Neill returned to racing after several years away from the oval. O’Neill was able to dial in his car during the season, scoring several strong runs and finishing fifth in points.

Leroy Marsh missed the first few races of the season, but took to the track in his roadster like a duck to water. Marsh came close to winning several races but wasn’t able to take the checkered flag in first. Despite missing a few races, Marsh placed sixth in points. Randy Olson returned to racing after not driving for a few years. Olson won three main events, set the track record of 16.885 and finished seventh in points despite not racing the full schedule. Acres rookie Ray Elliott drove his colorful 31 car to a number of good runs to finish in eight place in the standings.

Bruce Ziemer had the wildest wreck of all the roadster drivers flipping in a race at Ukiah Speedway. Fortunately Ziemer was okay and was able to continue racing at the Acres finishing ninth in the points. Mark Arroyo looked to be one of the faster competitors as the season concluded, and his steady finishes made him the tenth place points finisher. Over thirty different drivers participated in the thunder roadster class during the 2006 season. During the Fall Spectacular weekend drivers from Nevada and Texas made the trek to race against what is the highest number of roadster cars and drivers in the nation.

The 2007 season should have more of the same kind of action that the 2006 season provided. David Henderson will return to defend his championship, but it won’t be an easy road going against the likes of Peeples, Combs, Olson and Marsh. With more experience, drivers like Sarvinski, Elliott, Ziemer, Arroyo, Donn Cole, Mike Ward, Jay Bahner and Chris Banfill should be strong competition too. Veterans including O’Neill, Dave McMurray and Rusty Olson will be tough to beat along with Mark Baldwin who missed the last half of the 2006 season due to an injury. A variety of drivers can win on any given night, and with that kind of group excitement is sure to be found.