Sunday, September 7, 2008

Barnwell and Combs return to victory lane

Barnwell and Combs return to victory lane

By Matthew J. Sullivan

Saturday night at Redwood Acres Raceway was a special event in many ways. Besides it being the Judy Fox Memorial, it was Back-To-School night as well. Added to that was a fairwell to track chaplain, Pastor Tom Galovich. Pastor Tom had led pre-race prayers and sang the National Anthem at the Acres since 1991, but was leaving after this race to pursue new opportunities in the Sacramento area while also being closer to his family. To top it all off, the weather at the Acres was fantastic. It was all just the beginning of a somewhat crazy evening of racing.

Prior to the races, all of the drivers came on the track in honor, thought and remembrance of loved ones. Drivers took a few ceremonial laps, while names of family and friends they were making the laps for were read to the fans. With only Fergy Ferguson and Kenny Demello showing up for the limited street stock division, there were no races held. Craig Baker continued his dominance in the mini stock division winning the trophy dash over brother Scott Baker, Denzil Barrett and Brian Murrell. Baker came back in the heat to win again over Scott Baker, Barrett, Murrell and Brian Murrell, Jr. Lap one of the 20-lap main event saw contact take Brian McIntosh into the turn one wall and out of the event. On the restart, Murrell took the lead over a hard charging Craig Baker. On lap four, Scott Baker moved by Barrett for the fourth position. On lap 8, Craig Baker moved outside and past Murrell for the lead.

The field spread out and it looked to be a runaway for Baker in the lead when Murrell’s engine blew coming off turn four in a fiery display. Murrell drove his car in the infield and was fine but was of course out of the event. Murrell’s blown engine allowed Ryan Ahrens to move into the fifth position, however while the cars were parked to clean up the oil on the front stretch, Ahrens car began to leak fluid and he drove his car in the infield to avoid putting more fluid on the track. The last five laps for Craig Baker proved to be fairly easy as he pulled away from Scott to take the win. Barrett finished fourth while Brian Murrell, Jr. continued his improvement in the division with a fourth place effort.

The trophy dash in the real stock division was taken by Trevor Miller over Shawn Craig, Jim Redd and Ryan Robinson. Nick Green narrowly won the heat race over Miller, Craig, Redd and Casey Mitchell. Bill Middleton took the lead on the first lap of the main event ahead of Redd and Miller. Bob Lima who was the pole-sitter pulled his car into the pits on the second lap, never to return. On lap four, Craig’s engine went going into the first turn. Craig quickly pulled his car off the track, but the yellow was thrown.

Middleton led Redd, Miller, Robinson and Mitchell to the green flag. Miller made a move outside of Redd on the sixth lap and took the position away in the first turn. Going down the back straight stretch, Miller moved outside of Middleton for the top spot. The two dueled for the lead until lap 8 when Redd, Middleton and Miller went into the third turn three-wide. Contact resulted in the fourth turn which sent both Middleton and Miller head-on into the concrete. Mitchell slammed into the wall trying to avoid the two cars. The race was delayed for several minutes to move the damaged cars and clean the fluid on the track. With only three cars left, the race was shortened from 25 to 12 laps. Redd was moved to the rear while Ryan Robinson led over Ray Robinson. Redd moved by Ray Robinson for second but couldn’t move by Ryan Robinson as he took the checkered flag first. However, Robinson’s car did not pass post-race tech and the win was awarded to Redd.

Tommy Payne took his first trophy at the Acres by winning the trophy dash over Paul Peeples, Jr., Mike Ward and David Henderson who was wheeling Chris Banfill’s car. Bruce Ziemer held off Ward in the first heat to win followed by Henderson, Donn Cole and Chris Lawrence. Troy Combs took the second heat over Peeples, Payne, Robert Miller and Jim Rich. Miller was the early leader of the 30-lap main event over Combs. On lap three, Combs moved under and past Miller for the lead. Just after that, Cole spun off the fourth turn bringing out the only yellow flag for this race.

Combs led Miller, Payne, Henderson and Lawrence to the green flag restart. Peeples quickly moved by Lawrence for fifth when the green dropped, while Henderson moved outside and by Payne. On lap five, Peeples moved to fourth by Payne for the position. The next lap, Henderson, Miller and Peeples went three-deep with Peeples getting the best of it by taking both positions and moving to second with Miller and Henderson still fighting for third. On lap eight, Henderson finally moved by Miller. By lap 13, Henderson was right on top of Peeples for second.

The dominance that has normally been displayed by Peeples in the division was being shown by Combs in this race as he led by nearly a full straightaway. With the laps clicking off, the best battle of the race was between Peeples and Henderson who were having their own race for the second spot. On lap 24, Mike Ward moved by Payne for fourth. With two laps left, Henderson finally found the inside line on Peeples and moved by. Going into turn one on the final lap, Peeples made contact with Henderson’s bumper sending Henderson spinning. In the mix up, Ward made nose-to-nose contact with Henderson. In the end it was Combs with the victory. Peeples was moved to the rear of the lead lap moving Miller into second in the lineup with Payne third, Ziemer fourth and Lawrence fifth.

Lakeport Speedway racer Noel McCormack, Jr. made the two to the Acres and quickly took a liking to the speedway in the sportsman division winning the trophy dash over Tim McCracken, Dennis Delbiaggio and Jerry Peterson. McCormack followed up with a last lap pass and the win in the first heat race over Delbiaggio, Rick Fox, Lissa Uselton and Ken Hallis. McCracken won the second heat followed by Brandon Barnwell, Peterson, Larry Pries and Angelo Marcelli. Uselton and Marcelli led the field to the green flag in the 30-lap main event. The two raced doorhandle to doorhandle the first lap before Uselton took the upper hand on lap two over Hallis and Barnwell. A few laps later, Hallis made contact with Uselton sending her spinning. Behind that the field bunched up and drivers stacked up on one another, resulting in damage for many, most noteable of those being Delbiaggio, McCracken, McCormack and Peterson. Just after the red flag was dropped, McCracken drove his car in the pits. Unfortunately, pitting under the red isn’t permitted and McCracken was disqualified. McCormack was able to continue while Peterson had to pull his car into the pits just before the restart to fix an overheating situation.

Barnwell was now the leader ahead of Marcelli, Fox, Pries and Keith Dias. On the restart, McCormack moved by Dias for fifth. On lap 10, McCormack was by Pries for fourth. A lap later Fox had to relinquish third to McCormack. Fox appeared to be struggling with his car as he was passed by Pries and Hallis on lap 13. McCormack moved by Marcelli for the second position on lap 15. A lap later, Pries tried to move by Marcelli. Going into the third turn, the two made contact and spun. Hallis spun in avoidance of the incident while Uselton was unable to squeeze between the wall and Marcelli severely damaging her car and ending her night prematurely.

Under the caution period, McCormack’s car began to show steam, and it appeared unclear as to whether he would have a chance of winning the race, much less finishing. Barnwell took the field to the restart. The final 15 laps were ran without incident with the main race being between Barnwell and McCormack. Try as he did, McCormack just did not have enough to put serious pressure on Barnwell for the lead. At the checkered flag it was Barnwell winning over McCormack, Fox, Hallis and Craig Huffman a solid and surprising fifth in his first race in the sportsman division.

Racing at the Acres goes on a three-week break before returning Saturday September 27th for the Fall Spectacular. All five local classes will be racing along with an open for the IMCA modifieds and the return of the North State Challenge Series late models.