Monday, April 30, 2007

Peeples dominates roadster main event

Peeples dominates roadster main event

By Matthew J. Sullivan

The 2007 Redwood Acres Raceway season opener Saturday night felt more like it was January than it was April. Nevertheless, the cold temperatures did not prevent a packed house from enjoying the many thrills that the local classes always provide. Adrien Betournay held off the challenges of Orion Mosher to win the limited street stock main event. Coming off his rookie campaign in the mini stock division, Byron McIntosh was able to nab his first ever main event win. Bill Middleton won perhaps the biggest race in his career taking the real stock division main event. Brandon Barnwell was able to run away from the competition and score the sportsman main event, while Paul Peeples, Jr. did his best imitation of Barnwell, doing the same in the thunder roadster feature.

Eight cars attempted to qualify for the limited street stock division. Unfortunately that number dropped to seven when Romeo Venza spun off the fourth turn and hit the wall during qualifications sidelining him for the rest of the evening. Orion Mosher timed in quickest with a 17.590 time. Mosher was able to make some moves in the trophy dash, winning the four lap race over Kenny Demello, Robert Miller behind the wheel of the car normally driven by brother Trevor and Adrien Betournay. The heat race featured a close battle between Betournay and Mosher with Betournay winning over Mosher, Demello, Miller and Stan Young. Unfortunately after taking the checkered flag, Demello blew up ending his evening.

With the field decimated to six cars and time constraints the main event was cut to a six lap affair. On the initial start, the front row of Duane Mayo and Miller made contact sending Miller spinning. Both cars were sent to the rear making the new front row that of Young and Betournay. Off the start the two raced side-by-side until the third turn when Betournay was able to take the lead while Mosher jumped into the second position. Mosher tried to make every conceivable move to get by Betournay but much to his chagrin, Betournay never faltered and held a tight enough line to where Mosher could not make the move he needed. At the drop of the checkered flag it was Betournay fending off Mosher followed by Young, Mayo and Scott Lyons.

Jason Shaha returned to racing his mini stock truck at the Acres after an absence of a few years. Shaha took fast time with a 19.254 lap time. The trophy dash win went to Brian Murrell who was followed by Scott Baker and Stacy Minnick, while Shaha did not start the four lap event. The heat race featured an unfortunate accident when Brian McIntosh spun off the fourth turn. With McIntosh in the middle of the track and little time to react, Denzel Barrett hit McIntosh ending his night. Fortunately for McIntosh the damage was fixable and he was able to start the main event. Murrell won the heat over Shaha, Glenn Bernald, Max Capps and Nick Karanopoulos.

Nine cars started the 15 lap mini stock main event. The McIntosh brothers of Brian and Byron led the field to the green flag with Byron getting the advantage going into the first turn to take the top spot. By the end of the first lap, Baker and Murrell were also able to get by Brian McIntosh relegating him to the fourth spot. On lap two, Shaha used the high line to get by McIntosh for the fourth position. Meanwhile Byron McIntosh was stretching his lead over Baker and Murrell as the two dueled for second. On lap four, Shaha caught Murrell and moved outside of him for third. Going into the third turn with Baker beginning to sputter, Shaha moved high and Murrell moved low to make it three wide. Shaha and Murrell continued their side-by-side battle while Baker began to sputter more and more.

On the eighth lap, Capps was able to maneuver his way by Minnick for the fourth position. At the front of the field, Murrell and Shaha began to close in on Byron McIntosh. On the eleventh lap, McIntosh, Murrell and Shaha were nose-to-tail. On lap 13, Karanopoulos spun in turn two but was able to keep going. Coming to take the white flag, Murrell attempted to make his move for the lead, but unfortunately the lapped car of Brian McIntosh was running the low line in attempt to give the leaders room to race. This was enough to break Murrell’s momentum and give Byron McIntosh the room he needed to take the victory. Murrell was able to hold onto second while Shaha finished third. Bernald took fourth after Capps spun off the second turn on the last lap. Minnick rounded out the top five finishers.

The real stock trophy dash went to Troy Wood over Bill Middleton, Jim Bailey and Ryan Robinson. Barry Barnwell won the first heat race over Cecil Arispe, Robinson, Jim Redd and Ryan Peeples who was making his first ever start at the Acres. Steve Kimberling won the second heat followed by Wood, Chad Grammer, Marvin Savage and Nick Green. An unfortunate casualty of the second heat was Bailey who lost the drive line in his car ending the rest of his night.

14 cars lined up for the 25 lap real stock main event. Redd and Savage lead the field to the green flag. Redd took the early lead over Peeples and Arispe. On the third lap, Doug Way slowed and pulled into the infield. Around the same time, Chuck Essex spun off the fourth turn. In the confusion coming to the yellow, Barnwell hit the wall. Despite the early chaos, Redd was still the leader over Peeples, Arispe, Kimberling and Middleton. On the restart, Peeples was able to get by Redd to take the lead off the second turn. The next lap, Arispe maneuvered his way by Redd to take second. Redd was then hung out to dry on the high line as Kimberling and Middleton both followed Arispe by.

On lap seven, Arispe looked to Peeples’ inside for the lead but did not have the line to get by. The next lap, Middleton moved outside of Kimberling to take the third position. Middleton then moved to Arispe’s outside for second. On lap nine going into the first corner, Arispe made contact with Peeples sending him spinning. Fortunately no other cars were involved. Arispe pulled into the pits under the yellow and the top five had a new look to it with Middleton leading Kimberling, Bob Lima, Wood and Redd.

On the restart, Middleton was able to pull away from Kimberling by one or two car lengths. On lap 15, the front four tightened up and the tension began to build. On lap 18, Green spun off turn four but the caution flag was not thrown. On lap 19, Lima moved to Kimberling’s outside but got loose. Grammer moved himself into fifth on lap 21 going into the third turn. With three laps left, Wood got by Lima for third. At the front, Middleton continued to withstand the pressure from Kimberling. The two raced cleanly, and at the checkered flag it was Middleton winning, Kimberling second, Wood third, Lima fourth and Grammer fifth. The win had to be particularly emotional for Middleton and his family after the tragic loss of his nephew Raymond, Jr. in a car accident. Raymond had planned to begin his racing career in the real stock division this season.

Larry Pries had the quickest lap in qualifying for the sportsman division setting a lap of 16.819. Pries took the trophy dash victory over Rick Fox, Aaron Byers and Angelo Marcelli. The heat race victory went to Marcelli followed by Fox, Brandon Barnwell, Byers and Lissa Uselton. Nine cars started the 25 lap main event with Marcelli and Barnwell comprising the front row. After taking the green flag, going into the first turn mayhem ensued with several cars spinning and wrecking. Those involved included Donnie Brown, Byers, Joe Bonomini, Jason Belt and Uselton. Brown, Byers and Uselton were able to get back on track while Bonomini and Belt were unable to repair their cars. With the long cleanup and the time constraints, the main was cut to 15 laps.

The field doubled up for the restart and took the green flag again. Marcelli took the top spot coming off the second turn and lead the first lap clean. Barnwell moved back to Marcelli’s outside and the two dueled doorhandle-to-doorhandle for the lead. On lap three, Barnwell gained the advantage and set sail while Marcelli battled Fox for second. On lap nine, Fox moved to Marcelli’s outside and was able to make the pass the next lap with Pries following him to take third. On lap 11 Brown and Byers made contact sending Byers spinning and bringing out the yellow flag.

On the restart, Brown moved outside and completed the pass on Marcelli for fourth on lap 13. Uselton maneuvered her way by Marcelli for fifth on the last lap. Meanwhile at the front, Fox was not able to make a good charge on Barnwell. At the finish line it was Barnwell over Fox, Pries, Brown and Uselton.

Paul Peeples, Jr. set quick time in the thunder roadster division with a 17.056 lap. David Henderson held off Peeples in the dash to win with LeRoy Marsh, Jr. third and Mark Arroyo fourth. Jay Bahner won the first heat followed by Waylon Hentz, Bruce Ziemer, Rob Nelson and Mike Ward. The second heat featured a multi-car wreck which eliminated Marsh from the rest of the night’s racing action. Peeples was able to score the heat win over Bill O’Neill, Arroyo, Gary Foster and Donn Cole.

20 cars started the 30 lap main event with Ward and Chris Lawrence leading the field to the green. Ward was able to get the initial lead while Cole moved by Lawrence for the second slot. On lap two, Cole moved to Ward’s inside completing the pass on the next lap. Meanwhile, Peeples was quickly coming through the field. On lap five, Peeples moved by Nelson and Ron Borges forfourth and third. The next lap, Peeples was by Ward for second. A lap later, Peeples challenged Cole for the lead, taking it on lap seven. Coming off the fourth turn on the same lap, Ray Elliott and Rob Nelson spun but got going again avoiding a yellow flag.

On lap 10 the top five was Peeples, Cole, Chris Banfill who quietly moved to third, Ward and O’Neill. On lap 11, there was a major jam up from sixth on back. Fortunately nobody spun or was damaged, but the incident did allow the front five room to race amongst themselves. On lap 13, O’Neill made his way by Ward. In the meantime, Peeples maintained a sizeable lead over Cole. On lap 14, Ziemer spun in the fourth turn bringing out the yellow flag.

After the green flag came back out, Ward got loose giving Arroyo the room he needed to take over the fifth position. At the front, Peeples began to pull away again as the front three spread out. On lap 18, Arroyo moved on O’Neill’s bumper for fourth. On lap 20, Henderson moved inside Arroyo for fifth while Banfill moved outside of Cole to take second but could not muster the strength to get by. On lap 26, Banfill found the inside line to his liking getting by Cole to take second. The same lap, Henderson moved to O’Neill’s outside for fourth, however O’Neill was able to use lapped traffic to box Henderson in and maintained fourth while Arroyo and Borges used the same tactic to get by Henderson. Up at the front though Peeples was comfortably alone and took the win handily over Banfill, Cole, O’Neill and Arroyo.

The next race at the Acres takes place May 12th. The Best Appearing Car Contest which was originally scheduled for April 21st will take place before the night’s racing action.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rain wipes out opening night at the Acres

Rain wipes out opening night at the Acres

By Matthew J. Sullivan

With stormy skies and the wind blowing furiously, Redwood Acres Raceway officials cancelled the 2007 April 21 season opener early Saturday. Unfortunately, that meant that there wouldn’t be any racing action, but fortunately it only meant that there would be a week’s delay until the next scheduled event which is set this Saturday night, April 28 at 6:00 PM.

The weather is looking very good for what will now be an even bigger season opener at the 3/8 mile paved oval. Joining the local classes of limited street stocks, mini stocks, real stocks, thunder roadsters and sportsman cars will be the North State Challenge Series late models. Ironically, the NSCS also had their season opener at Anderson, California’s Shasta Raceway Park washed out, so they too will be holding their first race this weekend. Among the drivers expected to show are Howard Ford from Crescent City, CA, Mike Doss from Lakeport, CA, Luke Hall from Fortuna, CA, Randy Houston from Portland, OR and C.J. Bawden from Carson City, NV. These drivers are just a few of the ones that are capable of bringing home the trophy at the end of the 100 lap feature event.

One of the unfortunate casualties of the April 21 rain-out was the much anticipated Best Appearning Car Contest, as voted on by the fans. That event has been moved to May 12th. Perhaps it will give drivers a bit of incentive to keep their cars clean going into their next race.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Expect 2007 to be another exciting season at the Acres

Expect 2007 to be another exciting season at the Acres

By Matthew J. Sullivan

If the 2007 season at Redwood Acres Raceway in Eureka, CA is anything like the 2006 season was, race fans should be in for a real treat. The 2006 season proved to be one of the most memorable in the track’s 50 year history. Along with the regular schedule of sportsmans, mini stocks, real stocks and limited street stocks was the addition of the thunder roadsters. Throughout the season, all five divisions provided some great side-by-side racing, narrow finishes and unfortunately many incidents.

Although the limited street stock division struggled with its car count throughout 2006, there should be more drivers racing in 2007. The 2006 champion was young rookie Adrien Betournay, however Betournay won’t be back to defend his title. The two drivers who will be the ones to beat are division veteran Orion Mosher and youngster Trevor Miller. Both drivers raced against each other several times in 2006 with neither having a real clear speed advantage over the other.

The real stock class was the most wide open division at the Acres in 2006 and 2007 should be no different. On any given night, ten drivers could easily find themself leading the field to the checkered flag. Bill Bradbury was able to win the championship, but it will not be of any advantage to him in the coming season with the competition he has to face. The closest points battle at the Acres in 2006 occurred in the mini stock division between Chad Grammer and Brian Murrell. Grammer was able to take the title by a mere eight points over Murrell, but with Grammer moving on the 2007 championship is completely up for grabs.

The car count for the thunder roadster division at Redwood Acres Raceway is the highest in the nation. Throughout 2006, the division averaged 20 cars per race and 2007 shouldn’t be any different. David Henderson won the track championship over a number of great drivers by maintaining a top five consistency. The roadsters feature what is the most diverse lineup of drivers ranging from young to old, completely inexperienced to many years of experience.

Marty Walsh was the 2006 champion in the sportsman division, but will not be back to defend the title in 2007. That leaves the door open for a number of drivers such as veterans Larry Pries, Angelo Marcelli, and less experienced drivers like Brandon Barnwell and Rick Fox. It is definitely hard to say who will be the favorite in 2007.

Along with the regular schedule of cars, the North State Challenge Series and the BCRA Midgets will be visiting the 3/8-mile paved oval. The BCRA Midgets will make their annual stop at the Acres on May 19, while the North State Challenge Series late model tour cars will be making their stops April 28, June 23 and September 28. Among the special events this season are the Best Appearing Car Contest on opening night April 21, the Redwood Acres Fair Classic June 22 and 23, Fan Appreciation Night August 4, Back-To-School Night August 25 and the Fall Spectacular September 28 and 29. There will also be two Powderpuff races June 9 and August 25.

2006 Sportsman season: a look back

2006 Sportsman season: a look back

By Matthew J. Sullivan

The 2006 season for the Sportsman division was one of the most competitive in recent memory with seven different winners in 13 races. Although the points margin wasn’t as tight as some of the other local divisions, the racing proved to be as exciting. Marty Walsh was able to keep his car clean from the start of the season to its finish winning four main events, the most in the sportsman class, and taking the 2006 championship. Every Saturday night, Walsh proved to be the driver that every other driver knew they absolutely had to beat.

In only his second full season of racing, Brandon Barnwell was able to finish second in points and won one main event. Barnwell was constantly at or near the front in every race, and it wasn’t surprising to see he and Walsh battling for a top three position on any given night. Rick Fox was able to finish third in the standings scoring one main event win. While Fox was one of the fast drivers, many times he was the victim of circumstance, getting involved in incidents that weren’t of his own doing.

Fourth place in the standings went to Acres veteran Angelo Marcelli. As has been the norm for many years, Marcelli was a consistent top five finisher, taking two main event wins in 2006. Perhaps the driver with the hardest luck at the Acres in 2006 was veteran Larry Pries. He won three main events and was consistently one of the fastest cars, yet too often he was the victim of misfortune. Another Acres veteran Al Acuna finished sixth in points. Although Acuna surprisingly wasn’t able to take a main event victory, he made it a habit to finish every race. At one point in the season, Rick Fox kindly loaned his backup race car to Acuna when his car wasn’t able to race.

The rookie of the year in the sportsman division was seventh place points finisher Lissa Uselton. Although 2006 was her first year behind the wheel of a sportsman car, Uselton used her past experience as a real stock driver to help guide her around the track, and she was able to notch some impressive finishes as the season progressed. One driver that should be a real threat in 2007 is Donnie Brown who took the eighth spot in the standings. At the end of the 2006 season, Brown looked to have a good handle on his car and nearly won several main events.

Although Aaron Byers missed several races in 2006 due to accidents, he was able to get back on the track and finished ninth place in points. Byers notched one main event victory, and hopes to have better luck in 2007. Rounding out the top ten points finishers was Jerry Peterson. Much of the early part of 2006 for Peterson involved getting everything squared away so he could be among the fast cars. In 2007 he should do that.

One driver who took home a victory was multi-time champion, Glen Shewry. Shewry didn’t make it out to the Acres until the late stages of the season, but proved that the time off hadn’t hindered his ability behind the wheel. Other drivers of note who competed in the sportsman division in 2006 were former mini stock champion Joe Bonomini, Ken Hallis, Mike Bourbon, rookie Keith Dias and J.D. Frey who raced on one occasion.

The car count for the 2007 season looks to be quiet promising. Along with most of the drivers previously mentioned will be the addition of now former real stock driver Jason Belt and now former limited street driver Kavin Conn. With Marty Walsh moving on from the division there will be a new champion crowned in 2007. Whether it will be a past champion like Pries or Marcelli, or an uncrowned driver such as Barnwell or Fox is hard to say. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens at the Acres this season.