Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pettit holds off late charge to win

Jim Pettit, II and his team celebrate after winning the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series 125
Presented By Bear River Hotel And Casino at Redwood Acres Raceway

By Matthew J. Sullivan

One of the most anticipated events on the 2015 schedule at Redwood Acres Raceway took place this past Saturday night. The Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series raced on the 3/8-mile paved oval for a 125-lap event presented by Bear River Hotel And Casino. The SRL tour cars joined the local classes of roadrunners, bombers, mini stocks and Thunder Roadsters in what proved to be an exciting and memorable night of action.

In a bit of a surprise, the night in the Humboldt Hydroponics roadrunner division belonged to Daniel Buell. Buell took the win in the trophy dash and heat races. The 20-lap feature proved to be another highly competitive race as it seemed the lead changed every lap. The race was slowed once when Bethany Rapp was turned off turn four and hit the wall, damaging her radiator. The race came down to a duel between Buell and Dylan Ford. Ford got shuffled in the final two laps which gave Buell the advantage he needed to win his first ever feature event. Buell’s win also broke Ford’s six-race stranglehold on main event wins in the division.

Tony Ramizzotti made his first trip to the Acres count in the bomber division with a trophy dash win. The heat race and main event proved to be another showcase for Dustin Walters as he was able to take the win in the heat and got the lead right off the jump of the 25-lap main. Walters dominated the event, pulling out to an insurmountable lead and taking the race win. Ramizzotti placed second followed by Rick Jelton and James Moore.

The mini stock division was down on cars for the night but still provided excellent racing. The trophy dash and heat races featured a father/son battle between Brian Murrell, Sr. and Junior. Murrell, Jr. was the victor in the trophy dash while Murrell, Sr. took heat race honors. The 25-lap main saw the two battle yet again in a thrilling four-car race that also included Eugene Palmer and Chris Champagne. The tight racing up front led to eventual contact between Champagne and Murrell, Sr. that sent Murrell spinning into Palmer and knocking his front nose off. Champagne restarted at the rear while Palmer continued and Murrell was forced to the pits for the rest of the night.

After the restart, Murrell, Jr. and Palmer raced hard for the top spot. On lap 17, Palmer and Murrell, Jr. made contact going into the first turn. Murrell was able to make the save but the incident broke both he and Palmer’s momentum which allowed Champagne to maneuver to the lead. Champagne was able to withstand a late race restart to take the win followed by Murrell, Jr., Eugene Palmer, Ted Henry and Kevin Palmer who was making his first ever start driving Rick Estes’ mini truck.

The Bear River Hotel And Casino Thunder Roadster division saw an influx of cars on the night with 10 partaking in the action. In spite of the increase in competition, Paul Peeples, Jr. proved once again to be the dominant factor. Peeples won both the trophy dash and heat races. Chris Lawrence took the lead at the start of the 35-lap main before giving way to Thomas Payne. By lap five, Peeples was in second and got by Payne for the lead. The race was slowed near the halfway point when Donnie Brown had trouble and drove into the wall in turn one. Fortunately he was okay. After the restart, the best race on the track was for second between Payne, Robbie Nelson and Chris Sarvinski. At the front, it was all Peeples as he was able to win another main event. Nelson was able to get by Payne and hold him off for the second spot. Sarvinski placed fourth.

15 cars took time for the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series 125 Presented By Bear River Hotel And Casino. One driver who did not partake in Saturday night’s action was Jim Walker who appeared at the Friday afternoon practice session but did not show on race day. Local favorite, Brandon White set quick time with a 15.574. The invert for the race was six which gave pole position to veteran driver, Craig Raudman.

Raudman used his starting position to his advantage as he took the lead over Jim Pettit, III at the start. The only incident of the race occurred on lap nine when White and Tracy Bolin got together coming off turn two. Bolin got sideways and tried to save his car down the back stretch to no avail. Bolin’s car clipped White’s as he was trying to get by on the high side sending White in the wall. Behind them the top two in points, Greg Voigt and Ryan Cansdale were collected. White’s car stopped in turn four and caught fire. White climbed out of his car and rolled on the track as safety officials were on the scene immediately to tend to him. Thankfully none of the drivers were injured and though White was taken to the local hospital due to inhaling smoke and fumes from his in-car fire extinguisher.

Pettit used the restart to his advantage as he was able to take the lead from Raudman. Pettit slowly pulled away from Raudman while two NTS Motorsports drivers, Blaine Rocha and Parker Stephens were making moves to the front. Raudman appeared to be struggling with his car’s handling and was forced to give way to Bobby Hodges, Rocha and Stephens. It looked as though Hodges might have a chance of closing in on Pettit as the leader hit slower traffic but his gain proved to be minimal.

Just after the halfway point, Stephens was able to get by Rocha for third and began showing some strength. On lap 105, Stephens moved by Hodges for second after the two dueled for several laps. Stephens closed quickly on Pettit in the final 10 laps of the event and with five to go, the winner of the event was heavily in doubt. Stephens was right on Pettit until two laps remaining when he got loose between turns one and two. That was all Pettit needed to take the victory, his second at the Acres having been the 2013 winner. Stephens took second with Rocha third and Hodges fourth the last car on the lead lap. Raudman rounded out the top five.

Racing at Redwood Acres Raceway takes three week break before returning August 22nd for Driver Appreciation Night. Roadrunners, bombers, mini stocks, Thunder Roadsters will be in action as well as the late models who had this past weekend’s event off. Grandstands open at 5:00PM while races begin at 6:30PM. For more information on the rest of the 2015 schedule please visit the track’s official website, www.racingtheacres.com .

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