Monday, June 29, 2015

Redwood Acres Raceway set for spectacular Firecracker 100

Dylan Ford has been a dominant force in the roadrunner division

By Matthew J. Sullivan

Five races are down in Redwood Acres Raceway’s 2015 schedule and as the season has progressed, the action on the track has heated up. While the battle for the track championships are mixed in terms of competitiveness in each of the five divisions, every driver still has a lot to race for and the next few races are sure to be among the highlights of the entire year.

The Humboldt Hydroponics roadrunner track championship is basically in the hands of Dylan Ford. The gap between him and second place, Steve Paiment is an astounding 66 markers. Ford has won the past four races in a row while finishing second in the season opener while Paiment is the only other driver who has won a main event this season. Daniel Buell, R.C. Brown and Shawn Malloy round out the top five in the standings.

With Dustin Walters unable to race in the most recent event on June 20th, James Moore took advantage winning all three races on the night and taking the point lead. Moore’s advantage over Walters is 33 points. Barring any unforeseen issues for Moore or Walters, it looks as if one or the other will be this year’s track champion. The team of Lance Martins and Joseph Phares is third in points, 57 behind Moore while Michael Knight and Ryan Walters complete the top five.

The battle for the mini stock title is a tight one between Chris Champagne and Eugene Palmer. Champagne leads Palmer by three points while Rick Estes is third, 14 behind Champagne. Estes was unable to start the June 20th main event due to a wreck in the heat race which destroyed his mini truck. It will be interesting to see if he will be able to return for this weekend’s event. Brian Murrell, Jr. is fourth in line, 30 behind Champagne while Dylan Ford is fifth another 17 points behind Murrell, Jr.

Paul Peeples, Jr. has taken control of the Bear River Hotel and Casino Thunder Roadster division. Peeples has won three of the four races this year and leads second place Robbie Nelson by 18 points. Nelson is the only other main event winner in the division. Thomas Payne sits third and 36 points behind Peeples while fourth is a tie between Mike Ward and Chris Lawrence.

This weekend’s Firecracker 100 is the second leg of the First Annual Tri-Holiday Classic for the Mid City Motor World late models. The standings for the track championship changed dramatically after the caution-filled June 20th race. Thanks to a second place finish in the most recent race, Ryun Leazer holds the lead in the standings. Richard Knight is second but only four points behind Leazer. Jedd Ambrosini is third and only two more points behind Knight. David Henderson is fourth, 11 behind Leazer and Tyler Avelar is fifth, two points behind Henderson.

This weekend’s event promises to be a fantastic night at the Acres. In addition to the 100-lap late model race, roadrunners, bombers and mini stocks will be in action as well as the Thunder Roadsters which have been added to the show. Following the 100-lap race will be a fantastic fireworks show in the track’s infield. Last year’s display was a big hit with fans and this year’s promises to be bigger and better.

The upcoming races at the Acres should be just as exciting. The July 18th race will feature the boat races which was a very popular event with fans. The following race on August 1st will mark the return of the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series to Redwood Acres Raceway for the second time ever, the first since 2013. The Spears SRL Southwest Tour is the premiere super late model touring series in the west and features some of the top talent from the region. More information about this weekend’s Independence Day event as well as future events can be found at Redwood Acres Raceway’s official website, .

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The history of late model racing at Redwood Acres Raceway (1988 - today)

#16 Rusty Olson, #1 Billy Clarkson and #48 Jim Walker at Redwood Acres Raceway, 1995

I am very anxious and excited for a couple races that are coming up at Redwood Acres Raceway. July 4th will feature the Firecracker 100, the second Tri-Holiday Classic late model event which is in its first year at RAR. On the first of August, the premiere super late model touring series on the west coast, the Spears SRL Southwest Tour will be racing for the second time at RAR and the first since 2013.

Late model racing has been a staple of Redwood Acres Raceway ever since the track was repaved before the 1988 season. RAR's late model division at the time was the super stock class. The super stocks were basically like the NASCAR Southwest and Northwest Tour cars at the time. The idea was to have the cars be able to race on the local level while also being able to race the touring series without having to make a number of adjustments to the car or even having a completely different car. The super stocks lasted at RAR only three seasons from 1988 to 1990 and the track was dominated between Jim Walker and Randy Olson. RAR also hosted the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series which several local drivers raced in but never won. The closest any RAR driver came was in the 1990 Olympia 100 when Randy Olson finished second (unfortunately I don't have video of that race.)

1990 also marked the first year that RAR hosted a large open competition race. From the 70s and on through the 80s, open competition events were the biggest races held at tracks all over the west coast. Northern California's top two open comp races through those years were at Shasta Speedway every spring and fall. The spring race was the Laura Robinson Nor-Cal 150 while the fall race was the Western 150. Both races were shortened in the late 80s to 100 laps while the fall event was renamed in honor of Toby Elder. Officials at Shasta, RAR and Silver State Raceway in Carson City, Nevada partnered together to create a three-race open competition championship series at the end of the year, the Tri-Western 300 with each track hosting a 100-lap race. The series proved to be a huge success with Randy Olson winning the races Silver State and RAR races and taking the championship. Robert Sprague was the winner of the Shasta event.

In 1991, the super stock class merged with the street stock cars and turned into the sportsman division. It benefited both divisions as more cars were able to race but the rules for the division were different enough that several super stock drivers, namely Walker didn't race weekly. It was also during that year that Frank Roman's Nor-Cal Late Model touring series made its first visit to RAR. The Nor-Cal Series had rules that were more aligned closer to the rules of the Tri-Western 300 open competition races. Nor-Cal wasn't a competitor to NASCAR's Southwest Tour but served as an option for late model touring racing for Northern California drivers who couldn't afford the budget it took to be competitive in in the SWT.

RAR continued to host the NASCAR SWT, Nor-Cal Series and Tri-Western 100 events through the early 90s. In 1995, RAR hosted its final NASCAR SWT event, the Hamm's 100. At this point, the cost of being associated with NASCAR and hosting a SWT event was not worth the benefit. It was a sad but necessary loss.

The Nor-Cal Series became more prominent at RAR and continued to host races at the track until the end of 1998 when Frank Roman stopped promoting the series. RAR promoters Rich and Linda Olson took over the helm and formed the Tri-State Challenge Series which picked up where Nor-Cal left off and lasted until the end of 2000. (Sadly I have no video of any of the Nor-Cal or Tri-State races from RAR through the late 90s.) In 2001 the series was renamed to the North State Challenge Series.

#80 Derek Thorn and #20 Howard Ford at RAR during a 2006 NSCS race

The NSCS struggled in 2002 and 2003 but by 2004 it was the top late model touring series on the west coast (in my opinion.) The series came to a demise in 2008 but at that same time the Airport Auto Brokers Late Models series gained steam and raced at the Acres several times between 2009-2012. In 2013 the AABLM became the Pacific Challenge Series and RAR hosted two races that year. 2013 also featured the first race at RAR for the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series.

Rich and Linda Olson stepped away from promoting RAR following the 2013 season while Blair Aiken and his daughter stepped in to fill the void. The sportsman division was renamed to the late models and the rules for the division changed to reflect those of other tracks in the region.

You can find results of many of the events I mentioned by visiting the following page:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Walsh survives, wins first race of 2015

Marty Walsh took his first win of 2015 on Saturday night

By Matthew J. Sullivan

It was a night of hard times for many this past Saturday night at Redwood Acres Raceway. On what coincidentally was O’Reilly Night at the Acres, numerous drivers throughout each of the Acres’ five local divisions fell victim to issues either due to accidents or mechanical failures.

With Kid's Month at Redwood Acres Raceway continuing through the month of June at the Acres, children had the opportunity to be junior trophy presenters to the winners of the trophy dash and main events. In addition, prior to the start of the main events children were given rides around the track by drivers in the roadrunner and bomber divisions.

Ken Barrett returned to the Humboldt Hydroponics roadrunner division with a new car and the victory in the trophy dash. Barrett was able to put together his new ride in less than two weeks. Steve Paiment took the win in the first heat race which saw rookie Troy Lee crash in turn four on the final lap. Dylan Ford was victorious in the second heat which also had an incident that took Shawn Malloy and Daniel Buell out of commission.

As he has done for virtually the entire 2015 season in the roadrunners, Ford dominated the 20-lap feature event. Rookies Chris Appleton and Dylan Hagman exchanged the lead the first two laps before Ford took over. Hagman did a fantastic job of hanging with Ford through most of the event but Ford’s experience proved through when it came to maneuvering through slower traffic. Ford was able to pull his lead out in the final few laps and took his fourth straight main event victory. Hagman took second followed by R.C. Brown, Chris Appleton and Paiment.

It was a rough night for the bomber division. James Moore won the trophy dash which saw Chris Naughton hit the wall and knock his car out of action. The heat race saw Moore win but featured another unfortunate incident in turn three when Michael Knight hit the wall hard. Fortunately he was okay but out for the night. The main event featured a rough incident between Lance Martins and Ryan Walters that resulted in a cut tire on Walters’ car, forcing him to the pits and out of the race. Martins ended up falling out in the final few laps which left Moore the only car on the track and the race winner.

Brian Murrell, Jr. was the winner of the mini stock trophy dash. Tim Abeyta won the first heat race while the second heat race featured a violent hit in turns three and four for Rick Estes. It appeared as though the throttle hung on Estes’ mini truck going into the third turn. Thankfully Estes was unharmed though his truck was severely damaged. Murrell, Jr. ended up with the second heat victory.

Gary Klinetobe took the lead at the start of the 25-lap mini stock feature but by lap three, Murrell, Jr. moved under and past into the lead. Chris Champagne and Eugene Palmer moved into second and third just before a spin by Abeyta brought the caution flag out. Champagne and Palmer battled for the second spot for several laps after the restart with Palmer prevailing. This set up a race for the lead between Murrell, Jr. and Palmer which saw some “friendly” contact between the two. On lap 13, Palmer was able to get around Murrell, Jr. for the lead.

The race was halted briefly for a spin by Brett Murrell off turn four. The restart gave Champagne the advantage he needed to get by Murrell, Jr. for second. Nobody had anything for Palmer on the night as his mini trick was dialed in. At the finish it was Palmer winning his first career mini stock win. Champagne came home second, Murrell, Jr. third, Klinetobe fourth and Abeyta fifth.

The Bear River Hotel and Casino Thunder Roadster trophy dash victory was claimed by Thomas Payne while Paul Peeples, Jr. was the winner of the heat race. The 30-lap feature was a clean race from start to finish. Belinda Ward led the first lap before succumbing to the faster car of Chris Sarvinski on lap two. Sarvinski tried to put a gap on the rest of the pack while the always fast car of Peeples worked his way through the field. Peeples got to second on lap eight and by lap sixteen he had passed Sarvinski for the lead. Peeples was able to pull out to a comfortable margin over Sarvinski and claim the victory. Robbie Nelson was third over Payne and Ward.

It didn’t take Marty Walsh long to get acclimated to his new car as he took the trophy dash win for the Mid City Motor World late models. Ryun Leazer claimed the win in the first heat race while J.D. Frey took the second. Frey was driving Mic Moulton’s car for the night and is the car chief for Michael Waltrip Racing driver, Clint Bowyer.

The 35-lap main event proved to be a caution-filled event. Ryun Leazer took the lead from pole position but spun out of turn two bringing out the first caution. Tyler Avelar and Richard Knight duked it out for the lead on the restart with Avelar gaining the advantage. David Henderson looked to be the strongest car in the field and by lap seven he took over the top spot from Avelar. The race was halted on lap 12 when Jedd Ambrosini spun in turn three. Henderson pulled out to a large gap over the field after the restart. Meanwhile Knight, Walsh and Frey were able to get around Avelar and tried to regain ground on the leader.

Frey was able to get into third and was working on Knight for second when the two came into contact in turn three. Knight hit the wall rear-end first while Frey pulled into the pits and didn’t return. The race became a start/stop affair from that point on as several incidents halted the racing. Henderson appeared to have trouble on a lap 31 restart which allowed Marty Walsh to get to the lead. Another caution slowed the field with two laps remaining giving Henderson the chance to potentially regain the lead from Walsh.

On the restart, Henderson’s troubles came to fruition in the form of a flat tire. Henderson tried to maneuver out of the way of the rest of the pack but unfortunately Avelar and Kenny Demello got together while trying to get by. All three cars wrecked down the front stretch bringing out the red flag but everyone was okay. With the 11:00 curfew closing in and the race nearly being complete, officials felt ending the race before the scheduled distance was the prudent option. Marty Walsh took his first main event win of the season over Ryun Leazer, Jedd Ambrosini and George Young while Henderson was credited with fifth in spite of the race-ending accident.

The next event at Redwood Acres Raceway on July 4th is one of the can’t miss events of the 2015 schedule. It’s the second leg of the Tri-Holiday series featuring the Firecracker 100 for the late models. In addition, roadrunners, bombers and mini stocks will be racing. Following the races, there will be a fireworks show in the infield. Last year’s fireworks event proved popular with fans and this year’s promises to be bigger and better. To accommodate the full Independence Day schedule, the grandstands will open at 4:30 PM while racing will begin at 6:00 PM. For more information on the upcoming races at the Acres, please visit the track’s official website .

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Top 100+ NASCAR Southwest Tour Drivers Of All-Time (Coming Soon)

Several years ago, I put together a list on this blog of the top 25 drivers in the history of NASCAR's now long gone Southwest Tour series. Here are the rankings for 21-16, 15-6 and 5-1. I based my opinion purely on statistical information, at least what was available at the time. Since then, more information for the series has become available to the point where with the exception of two races (I believe) full stats of every single NASCAR Southwest Tour race between 1986 and 2006 are now on the Internet.

Because of that, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and sort though the more complete stats and see if the conclusion I came to before is different or similar. I also decided to expand the list this time to include more drivers. It would be a long task to go through and rank every single driver who started a race in the Southwest Tour and frankly that wouldn't be any fun for me. I limited the drivers I would rank to anyone who ran or attempted to run the series full-time for at least one season (minimum 10 races) and/or drivers who raced in at least 20 races.

The criteria I set regarding the rankings will be similar to what I used in the original rankings. Drivers will be ranked based on series championships, wins and winning percentage, top 5 and top 5 percentage, top 10 and top 10 percentage and average race finish. As with last time, there won't be any bias on my part and I will determine the rankings based on what the numbers say.

I have compiled the list of drivers who will be ranked which you can view in the Excel file below. It will take me a while to sort through the rankings and determine where everyone places in each category so this is something that will take weeks and possibly months. But I'm looking forward to going through and remembering the drivers and the races in NASCAR Southwest Tour history. I hope you will enjoy it too.

Click here to view the Excel file.