By Matthew J. Sullivan
Racing returned to Redwood Acres Raceway this past Saturday night after a two week layoff. Joining the four local divisions of real stocks, roadrunners, thunder roadsters and sportsman cars was the Airport Auto Brokers Late Model series for their second and final points visit to the 3/8-mile paved oval. After rear end issues in practice prevented him from qualifying, Randy Houston came from the rear of the field to handily win the 75-lap AABLM feature. Other main event victors on the night included Larry Pries in the sportsman division, Paul Peeples, Jr. in the thunder roadsters, Ryan Ahrens in the roadrunners and Donnie Hyman in the real stocks.
The real stock trophy dash went to Hyman over Ryan Robinson. Hyman then took the victory in the heat race beating out Wyatt Roach, Robinson, Bob Lima and Doug Way. Roach took the lead in the early going of the main event before falling victim to Hyman and Dustin Walters who was making his first start of the season driving the car normally piloted by his brother, Ryan. Walters looked as if he would be a serious contender to Hyman but misfortune struck. Coming off the fourth turn, it appeared as though something broke as Walters’ car went into the wall hard. Roach was collected in the process taking both drivers out of action. Hyman was able to take the win without serious threat over Robinson, Lima, Chris Naughton and Dax Kinsey.
The roadrunner division had its biggest turnout of cars ever with 16 total. Brett Murrell took his first ever victory in the trophy dash over Ryan Ahrens who was making his first start of the season after racing in the mini stock class last year. Dylan Cook won the faster heat race while Ken Barrett won the slower heat. The main event proved to be an example of 25 laps of controlled chaos. Rick Crawley held the lead early before giving way to Kolby Jackson. Jackson’s time didn’t last long as Dylan Cook took the top position. After a lap 13 caution, racing resumed with Cook still in the lead however going into the first turn he and the other three cars behind him got loose all at the same time. Several cars spun resulting in a yellow flag. Ahrens inherited the lead and was able to take the victory followed by Brian Murrell, Jr., Greg Mattox, Barrett and Cook.
Bruce Ziemer held off Paul Peeples, Jr. to win the thunder roadster trophy dash. Peeples beat Rob Nelson to the line by inches in the main event followed by Thomas Payne, Allen Olson and Chris Sarvinski. Nelson led the early laps of the feature from pole position before Ray Elliott took over the top spot. It didn’t take long for the fast cars of Peeples, Ziemer and Olson to move up to second, third and fourth behind Elliott. The only major incident of the race occurred when Sarvinski spun off the fourth turn collecting Payne. Fortunately both drivers were able to continue without damage. After the restart, Elliott did all he could to hold off Peeples, but eventually Peeples was able to get by for the lead. Elliott’s good night went bad when his engine soured, forcing him out of the race. Peeples cruised to the victory over Payne, Ziemer, Olson and Nelson.
The trophy dash in the sportsman division went to Brandon Barnwell followed by Larry Pries. Barnwell then took the heat race win followed by Kenny Demello, Angelo Marcelli, Dennis DelBiaggio and Pries. Demello led from pole early but was overtaken by Pries and DelBiaggio for position. After a spin on lap 12 by Joe Bonomini, the field tightened up and racing resumed. DelBiaggio did all he could to find a way by Pries for the lead but Pries was able to withstand DelBiaggio’s challenges to win. Marcelli took third with Demello fourth and Barnwell fifth.
Junior Roddy won the six-lap trophy dash for the AABLM series beating Northern California racing legend, Jim Walker who was racing for the first time in a year. The first 20 or so laps of the 75-lap main event proved to be late model short track racing at its best. With a full field invert, Allen Gibney started from pole and used it to his advantage as he led from the start. However, outside pole sitter, Mike Neilson kept fighting and was able to take the lead. Neilson built his lead to nearly a straightaway as Gibney did all he could to hold off the rest of the pack in second.
The eyes of the partisan crowd were firmly fixed on the blue 48 of Walker and he proved to still have some of the same magic that’s made him a fan favorite all along the west coast. After starting from seventh, Walker methodically picked his way through the field. Walker used the high line and was able to pick off Donahoo for third and then Gibney for second. Following in Walker’s tracks was Howard Ford who had set fast time earlier in the day.
The lone caution flag of the race on lap 15 took away Neilson’s large lead and gave Walker a chance to really get the local crowd on their feet. Neilson and Walker fought a hard but clean battle side-by-side until Neilson was able to take control. Walker’s car slowed dramatically and he fell back through the pack and eventually pulled into the pits for the rest of the night. At the same time, Randy Houston began to make his move for the lead. He quickly passed Ford on the high side, then did the same to Neilson off turn two. From that point on, Houston was absolutely dominant as he built up a substantial lead and was able to more or less cruise to the victory. Ford took second while AABLM points leader, Trevor Cristiani took third, the last car on the lead lap. Mike Doss and Neilson rounded out the top five finishers.
Racing returns to Redwood Acres Raceway this week with Fan Appreciation night. Fans who’ve saved ticket stubs from any five races this season can enter the event free. Those who haven’t will only have to pay $5 to get in. Prior to the races, drivers in all divisions will pull their cars onto the front stretch and fans will be allowed on the track for a meet and greet.
AABLM Race Results
Fast Time: Howard Ford 15.724, 87.811 MPH
Trophy Dash: Junior Roddy, Jim Walker, Mike Doss, Corey James, Trevor Cristiani, Howard Ford
Main Event: Randy Houston, Ford, Cristiani, Doss, Mike Neilson, Jeremy Donahoo, Allen Gibney, Roddy, Jim Stillman, Jr., Walker, James.