Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two races left at Redwood Acres Raceway

Although I am far from being a professional writer, I try to write my race reports for Redwood Acres as though I were/am a professional. That means that I can never put my personal opinion on matters on the race track. Sometimes I have to "gloss" over an incident where one driver clearly runs over another driver. It's not hard to pull back and not have an opinion about matters of that nature, but it has been fairly difficult for me to continue to keep the "juice" going when this season at the track has been dominated by a few drivers who continue to win every week. There have been several races this season that have quite frankly been dull, and I've had to figure out how to add more excitement to those races through my writing. Hopefully, I've been able to do that.

In case you don't know, there are five divisions that Redwood Acres Raceway has at every race; the limited street stocks, mini stocks, real stocks, thunder roadsters and the sportsman division. The limited street stocks are kind of like old Winston Cup cars from the 1970s. I'm not savvy when it comes to what's on cars, but that's kind of the idea of that class. The mini stocks are a four cylinder engine division comprised of smaller cars like Pintos. The real stocks are probably the closest to cars that are on the street. They have to have a roll cage in them, and they have adjustable suspension and a race tire. The thunder roadsters are a spec class where all the cars are the same, the only difference is the drivers. The sportsman division is the local late model class which is similar to divisions all over the United States.

The limited street stocks have had a real down season. Only six cars have raced the division the entire season, and they have had a real main event type race in a long time. It looks as though Fergy Ferguson is going to win the title based on showing up every weekend and earning points for doing. It's not as though he's not deserving of the track championship, it's a shame though that there aren't enough cars to force the championship to be decided on the race track.

The mini stock class has been dominated by Craig Baker this year. Of all the drivers in the division, he by far has the most experience. He's able to get the absolute maximum out of his car, and were it not for issues early in the season, he probably would have clinched the championship by now. One great thing about the mini stock class is that there have been a few drivers who've brought cars out. Three rookies Norm Carmichael, Brian Murrell, Jr. and Ryan Ahrens started their seasons off at the halfway point and although all three have had to learn what it takes to go fast, they've all done a great job of being smart on the track and giving room to faster drivers.

My personal opinion is that the best driver at the Acres is real stock racer, Trevor Miller. I've watched him race for several years and have been impressed with his ability to get everything out of his race car without getting out of shape. Besides that, he's a clean and respectable racer. He definitely deserves a shot to drive in the sportsman division, because I think once he gets that chance, he'll be able to move to a touring division very quickly. Shawn Craig is another guy who's a good racer and gets a lot out of his car. He and Miller have raced head-to-head several times this season, and it's been fun to watch. Jim Redd is the points leader at the moment, but he's definitely going to have a hard time holding off Miller. In reality, Miller could have been leading the points right now had his car been able to pass inspection the first race of the season. He's been playing catchup ever since.

The thunder roadster class has been the most predictable this year. Paul Peeples, Jr. has won all but three main events this year. There just isn't anyone that's capable of giving him a hard time. I don't mean to disrespect any of the roadster drivers, but it's the truth. Peeples has so much more experience than the others that they will always be a step behind him. It's also a shame that the car count for the division has been so low this season, because that would be a big challenge for him as well.

Brandon Barnwell and Dennis Delbiaggio have been going back and forth for the points lead in the sportsman division all season. Until the Fair Night races in June, it was hard to predict who would win a main event in the division. That changed with the team of Mic Moulton and Tim McCracken came back. From the Fair Night races on, I believe they've won all but two races. Hopefully the competition will step it up and at least give the 1 car a challenge in the final two races.

More than anything though, the biggest disappointments for this season has involved the cancellation of the BCRA/WMRA midgets on Fair Nights as well as the August 9th cancellation of the North State Challenge Series late models. From what I understand, there was going to be a good field of midgets on Fair Nights, but both series had to cancel because the drivers couldn't get to Eureka because of the wildfires that were going on at the time. I know the North State series has struggled with the car count for various reasons of which I'm not qualified to comment on, and the reason why that race was cancelled was because there weren't a lot of cars signed up for pre-entry. It seems like so long ago when they did race here in April.

Hopefully the final two races will be exciting. I'm looking forward especially to the Fall Spectacular at the end of September, because the IMCA modifieds will be here and they always have a strong field of good cars, and the North State series will be back. Hopefully the lack of races during the season and it being the end of the year will entice drivers to show up for that race.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

McCracken, Peeples, Baker and Miller big winners on Fan Appreciation night

McCracken, Peeples, Baker and Miller big winners on Fan Appreciation night

By Matthew J. Sullivan

A near capacity crowd filled the grandstands and bleacher section at Redwood Acres Raceway this past Saturday night for Fan Appreciation night. All race fans were able to get into the races for free provided they picked up tickets at any of the number of local businesses in the area. Bear River Casino sponsored the events for the night, while promoters Rich and Linda Olson were the ones who thoughtfully put the event together for the evening.

Prior to the races, fans were allowed to visit the drivers on the front straightaway to shake hands, get autographs and receive goodies of all kinds. The limited street stock division had three cars turnout for the night, and they ran a six lap trophy dash. Orion Mosher took the victory over Fergy Ferguson and Kenny Demello.

The faster drivers in the mini stock class made a very kind gesture by moving aside and allowing the new rookie drivers in the division to race in the trophy dash. This enabled Brian Murrell, Jr. to win his first race ever at the Acres over Norm Carmichael and Ryan Ahrens while Craig Baker rode around behind the drivers drove unscored in the event. Scott Baker won the first heat race ahead of Brian McIntosh, Denzil Barrett, Murrell, Jr. and Carmichael, while Craig Baker won the second heat over Brian Murrell, Nick Karanopoulos, Max Capps and Ahrens.

Karanopoulos took the lead early in the main event. On the first lap, Scott Baker spun in between turns three and four, but got his car going again. On lap two, all three rookies Carmichael, Murrell, Jr. and Ahrens got together in the second turn necessitating the caution flag. Murrell, Jr. was able to continue while Carmichael and Ahrens were towed to the pits. Just after the restart, going down the back straightaway it was three-wide for the lead between Karanopoulos, Barrett and McIntosh with McIntosh able to take the lead over Barrett. The three-wide move cost Karanopoulos his momentum allowing Craig Baker to move into third. Baker moved by Barrett the next lap, and he set his sights on leader McIntosh.

On lap seven, Baker took the lead away from McIntosh. It appeared as though McIntosh’s car began to lose power as he quickly faded to the end of the top five. Within a two lap period, Murrell, Scott Baker and Barrett all easily passed McIntosh for position. Meanwhile, it was smooth sailing for Craig Baker up front as he handily took the main event victory over Murrell, Scott Baker, Barrett and McIntosh.

The trophy dash for the real stock division was won by Jim Redd over Trevor Miller, Shawn Craig and Bob Lima. Miller won the first heat in rather dramatic fashion over Casey Mitchell, Lima, Ryan Robinson and Doug Way. Craig won the second heat race over Redd, Donnie Hyman, Nick Green and Dana DeVane. Green took the lead in the early stages of the main event over Miller and Robinson. Miller wanted the race lead early and he got it on the fourth lap going into the first turn, getting by Green. Miller began to pull away while the rest of the field battled for position.

On lap nine, Robinson moved inside of Green for second allowing Redd to follow into third. Craig was trying to make his way to the front, but was battling Mitchell for position. Craig took the position on lap 12 and tried to get by Green for fourth until the two made contact. The end result was Craig with a flat tire. He pulled into the infield to avoid bringing out a yellow flag. Meanwhile, Miller held more than a full straightaway lead over second place Robinson. With two laps left, Green and Lima spun in turn four. At the same time, Redd maneuvered by Robinson for second. At the checkered flag, it was Miller half a track ahead of Redd. Robinson took third, Mitchell fourth and Lima fifth.

After not attending the previous race earlier this month at the Acres, Paul Peeples, Jr. returned to the Acres and reminded everyone that he is the driver to beat by breaking the track record in the thunder roadster division. Peeples won the dash over David Henderson who was filling in for Dave McMurray, Chris Banfill and Mike Ward. The heat race was hotly contested but Ward was able to take the victory over Thomas Payne, Peeples, Chris Sarvinski and Banfill. Payne took the lead at the beginning of the main event. Bruce Ziemer spun in the second turn on lap two but got his car going.

Peeples wasted little time maneuvering his way to the front, getting by Ward for second on lap five. On lap seven Banfill and Miller briefly locked rear and front bumpers, but were able to get untangled and continued in the battle. Peeples was able to grab the lead from Payne on lap eight. The only other major change for position occurred on lap 16 when Sarvinski and Ward made contact down the front straightaway, however both drivers continued. At the checkered flag it was Peeples over Payne, Sarvinski, Ward and Banfill.

Tim McCracken made his third start of the season in the sportsman division, winning the trophy dash over Marty Walsh, Larry Pries and Brandon Barnwell. Walsh was victorious in the first heat race winning over Dennis Delbiaggio, Jerry Peterson, Romeo Venza and Lissa Uselton. Barnwell won heat race two over McCracken, Angelo Marcelli and Kavin Conn. Uselton took the lead at the start of the main event over Pries. On lap two, Pries moved under and around Uselton for the lead, while Walsh moved by Uselton the next lap. McCracken moved to fourth on lap four by passing Marcelli for the position. The next lap McCracken and Uselton touched in the second turn with Uselton spinning and McCracken sent to the back of the field.

On the restart Pries led Walsh, Barnwell, Peterson and Delbiaggio. Things were settled up front while McCracken was making a furious charge from the rear of the field. On lap 11, McCracken moved into fifth, taking the spot away from Delbiaggio. On lap 12, Barnwell and Walsh made heavy contact while battling for second. The incident peeled away Barnwell’s fender while Walsh’s car appeared to handle differently from that point on. Both drivers lost a few positions but the incident did not result in a caution flag. The red flag came out on the fourteenth lap when Uselton’s car spun and was facing the wrong direction on the back straightaway.

The green flag came out again with Pries still leading Peterson, McCracken, Delbiaggio and Barnwell. McCracken quickly passed Peterson for second, then on lap 15 he took the lead away from Pries. Barnwell moved into fourth on lap 23, passing Delbiaggio. With only a few laps left, Barnwell and Peterson made contact in the first turn sending both drivers spinning. Meanwhile, Pries who was ahead of the incident spun on his own in turn two. The yellow flag was brought out and the field was shuffled with lap cars in between lead lap cars. This was a good thing for McCracken as he was able to get a good launch on the restart and went to the checkered flag unchallenged, taking the main event win. Delbiaggio brought his car home second, a major victory for he and his team after hitting the wall earlier in the day. Marcelli took third with Ken Hallis fourth and Conn fifth.

Racing at the Acres take a break for a weekend but returns Saturday September 6th for The Judy Fox Memorial race and Back-To-School night. This race will see the crowning of the limited street stock and mini stock division champions, while the three other divisions will have another race to decide their 2008 champions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Miller wins main #1 in thunder roadsters, #1 Moulton two in a row in sportsman division

Miller wins main #1 in thunder roadsters, #1 Moulton two in a row in sportsman division

By Matthew J. Sullivan

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening Saturday night at Redwood Acres Raceway, perhaps the best weather that there has been on a race night all season. Although the limited street stocks were absent from the racing schedule once again, the mini stocks, real stocks, thunder roadsters and sportsman cars treated the fans to yet another thrilling night of close and intense racing action.

Craig Baker continued his dominance on this night in the mini stock division winning the four lap trophy dash over Brian Murrell, Max Capps and Scott Baker. The heat was no different as Craig Baker took the victory in that race ahead of Denzil Barrett, Capps, Brian McIntosh and brother Scott. McIntosh took the early lead in the 20 lap main event ahead of Capps, Scott Baker and Craig Baker. Capps made a daring pass by McIntosh on lap four in the first and second turns to take the lead. It wasn’t long though before Craig Baker began to make his presence felt. On lap four he moved by Scott. A lap later Craig moved into second getting by McIntosh. While Craig was closing the gap on Capps, McIntosh spun in the fourth turn on lap seven. On lap nine Craig Baker took the lead away from Capps and never looked back. The rest of the race was run cleanly with nobody able to put any pressure on the driver ahead of them. At the line it was Scott Baker, Capps, Craig Baker, Murrell and Barrett.

Trevor Miller won the real stock trophy dash over Ryan Walters subbing for Shaun Craig, Ryan Robinson and Bill Middleton. Jim Redd took the 10 lap heat race win over Bob Lima, Middleton, Walters and Casey Mitchell. Redd started from the outside pole in the main and took advantage of it by taking the lead and pulling out to a sizeable gap over the field. The faster cars of Ryan Walters and Miller weren’t able to move near the front until lap seven when Ryan passed brother Dustin for third bringing Miller with him. On lap 10 Ryan moved under Mitchell for second position with Miller following again.

Miller used the outside line to get by Ryan Walters for second on lap 12 and began to chase down the leader Redd who had a straightaway lead over him. On lap 14, Robinson spun in between turns three and four but got going again. Five laps later, Nick Green spun in the fourth turn but he was also able to return to racing. Meanwhile, Miller was rapidly catching Redd. On lap 20, Redd got loose in turns three and four allowing Miller to close right up on him. The final few laps saw close but clean racing between the two with Redd using up as much race track as possible to hold off Miller, and Miller trying to get by Redd as cleanly as possible. Coming to the line, Miller got under Redd coming off the fourth turn but unfortunately for his case Redd was able to win the drag race to the line. Ryan Walters took third with Mitchell fourth and Middleton fifth.

With Paul Peeples, Jr. not at the track on this night, it was wide-open as to who would win any of the races in the thunder roadster class. Robert Miller won the trophy dash over Mike Ward, Tommy Payne and Chris Banfill. The heat race belonged to Banfill as he held of Payne, Ward, Bruce Ziemer and Miller for the victory. Dave McMurray took the early lead in the main event while Miller and Ward raced wheel-to-wheel for the second position. Ward took the position on lap three and set his sights on McMurray for the lead. On lap four the two cars touched in turn four bringing out the yellow flag. Ward was forced to the rear on the restart while McMurray was done for the evening.

Miller inherited the lead over Payne, Banfill, Ziemer and Rick Crawley. Banfill moved by Payne for second on lap six. On lap 10, Ward moved into the fourth position getting by Ziemer. Banfill had his hands full as he was trying to get by Miller the leader, but he also had to worry about Payne making a pass on him too. Many times Banfill looked to possibly have a run on Miller but he couldn’t quite find the grip he needed to get by. At the checkered flag it was Miller holding off Banfill, Payne, Ward and Ziemer.

Veteran Dennis Delbiaggio won the sportsman trophy dash over Brandon Barnwell, Mic Moulton and Marty Walsh. Jerry Peterson won the first heat race ahead of Moulton, Angelo Marcelli, Romeo Venza and Barnwell. Larry Pries took the second heat over Delbiaggio, Lissa Uselton, Keith Dias and Marty Walsh. Unfortunately while warming up for the 30 lap main event, Dias lost control and spun his car into the wall in turns three and four prematurely ending his night. Uselton was able to take the early lead followed by Pries and Delbiaggio. On lap four, Walsh tried to move by Delbiaggio but got loose and made contact. Peterson had nowhere to go and hit Delbiaggio’s car. Fortunately all three drivers were able to make it back out.

Uselton took the green on the restart leading Pries, Barnwell, Moulton and Kavin Conn who was making his first start in the sportsman division. Pries moved under and past Uselton on lap five allowing Barnwell and Moulton to follow. On lap nine, Barnwell moved high to get by Pries but couldn’t do it allowing Moulton to move under and by to take the spot. The yellow flag dropped on lap 12 when Conn spun his car in turns three and four. Moulton tried to use the restart to get by Pries but was unsuccessful. The yellow flag came once again when Walsh and Uselton made contact on the seventeenth lap.

Pries led Moulton, Barnwell, Delbiaggio and Marcelli to the restart. On lap 19, Marcelli went into the infield and then into the pits a victim of a flat tire. Moulton was finally able to move by Pries on lap 22 after several laps of close racing. The yellow flag dropped once again bunching the field. Under the caution period, Delbiaggio pulled his car into the pits. Moulton now lead Pries and Barnwell to the restart. With three laps remaining, Pries and Barnwell made contact in turn two bringing out the caution flag again. The final few laps were fairly chaotic. Pries and Barnwell continued their duel to the last lap when the two made contact again. Pries’ car hit a patch of pavement going into turn three briefly getting airborne before getting on the track. In any case it was all behind Moulton who took the victory ahead of Walsh, Uselton, Pries and Barnwell.

There are only three events left on the 2008 schedule for Redwood Acres Raceway. The next race is Fan Appreciation Night on August 23rd.