Oval Nationals - Perris Auto Speedway - Oct. 31, Nov. 1&2
One of the greatest sprint car races of the year took place earlier this month at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, Calif. The Oval Nationals is the final sprint car race of the year for both the National tour and the western division - USAC/CRA. It kicks off with Wednesday practice. Thursday is the 360 portion of ovals, then Friday and Saturday are two nights for 410 racing.
The #41 Henry/Jones Special, which is the car I had driven at last years ovals, was sitting at home since our last outing with it hurt the motor at Santa Maria Speedway months ago. The cost of repairing or replacing the motor are too much to swing for any of us without enough sponsorship dollars. My hope was to find a car to jump in for this race but I struck out. I was set to pit for the #91r of Brody Roa for the weekend.
On Thursday, Brody did a great job keeping his nose clean and finishing 4th from starting deep in the field. We prepped the #91r 410 car for Friday's show. My cousin Cody was also entered to run this weekend teamed up with JSR in the #14J. His teammate JJ Ercse was set to run the teams #14 360 car all weekend. However just after Friday hot laps JJ became very ill. He told John Springstead, the car owner, to grab me and let me take his place for the rest of the night. I was scraping mud off the 91r car when I got the news that I needed to qualify a car in 15 minutes. I had my girlfriend Jess run and grab my gear from the parking lot while I fitted the belts. Jess got stuck outside the track so I threw on Springstead's helmet and suit and headed up for Q.
I had no idea what this car was like but I had better get it figured out in a couple corners. The bottom was too free so I put it on the fence for the 2 laps. I ran a 17.1 which was good enough for 27th quick out of 53 cars. Before the heat I was able to check out the car and see what I was working with. John and I made our decisions on the adjustments for the heat. I started pole and they transfer only 4 of the 9 who start. Unfortunately though, I got to lead all of 3 corners before I got fed a RR that almost turned the car over. I finished 8th.
This put me starting 8th in the B, 4 transfer. Cody was starting in the same B a few rows back. The track was very slick and dusty at this point with a big curb at the fence. Cody moved forward over the course of the race and I had a good battle going with Cody Williams and RJ Johnson. Cody had a little contact with the front end that ended his night and after much shuffling around I ended up 8th.
For Saturday, JJ was still far too sick to race again so I still had a car to drive. I made a few changes to the car and my dad came up with Henry's shocks on from the #41 car so I was able to use our ARS/Bubby Jones shock package. Hot laps went smooth and qualifying went awesome. I ran a 16.9 which put me 16th out of 51 cars. Not bad for a 360 car against the National boys! This put me on pole again for the heat race. This time, only 2 transfer. I passed for the lead on about lap 2 around the top. I got passed a few laps later but was able to regain the lead soon after. I took the white but then the red came out. I had to hang on for one more lap from a bunch of hard charging 410's to put it in the show. Brody restarted behind me and we both held off everybody to put us both in the show. It felt great to not only put a 360 car in the show at Oval Nationals, but to also win a heat race doing it.
For the feature I lined up 14th out of the 22 cars starting. I was unable to complete the first lap though due to some engine trouble which ended our night. That was disappointing, but we were still all in good spirits from the successes earlier in the night.
I'm so thankful to JJ Ercse for wanting me to fill his seat for the event and John Springstead for giving the OK, I would have been watching the 2013 Ovals if it wasn't for these guys! Also John Franklin, the rest of the JSR crew, my dad, and Kirk&Cody for everything they did to help make this deal happen. It was an absolute blast!
Western World - Canyon Raceway - Nov 14, 15, 16
Canyon Raceway is located in Peoria Arizona, literally in the middle of nowhere. It's a tacky and racey little joint that hosted a fantastic weekend of racing. The Western World was a 3 day sprint and midget show which is a National race for the midgets. We were hoping to have our new racecar we had been building with the Van Dyne's to debut for this race. Push rods held us up though and we were forced to put the old F Honda engine in the red 05 car to go race.
My dad and I knew that we were going to a gun fight with a knife, but we had to make an appearance. I was just hoping the track would go dry enough for us over the course of the weekend.
All 3 nights stayed very wet for far too long for us. The car was stable and felt great but we struggled the first night. The second night was a little better for us. We had a tough time keeping up until the track began to get pretty dry for the B. I started deep in the field and worked my way up to a transfer. I was running in transfer with a few laps to go when a driver behind me had either the throttle, or the brain get stuck open. I got turned around backwards, but thankfully he still had the throttle open to hit me again. This turned me back around straight so I got on the gas despite the fact that he was stuck on the rear bumper of my car. After we got untangled, both of us were no longer in a transfer spot and that was the end of our night.
Night 3 went the best for us. Again it was a waiting game for the track to start making dust, but it finally did for the feature and we made it count. I started in the 25th position. Of course starting way back there, there was bound to me carnage. I was involved in one of the first incidents when a car spun in front of me. My right side nerf took the hit and pushed in into the RR tire. We missed the initial start, but thanks to help from the McQueen team we got it pulled from the tire. Luckily we caught another yellow right away and I got back out on the track. I stuck like glue to the low side of the track where there was still some moisture. I raced my way up through 11 cars to finish 14th. Racing through the field like that was a ton of fun and made it all worth it. We earned the hard charger money from the "fans in the stands pool."
I'd like to thank all of my sponsors for such tremendous support from them all year long; Goodwine Glass, Ram-Bull Racing, Alex Frazin, Lucas Oil, DC Cams, Eibach Springs, K&N Filters, Oakley, Simpson, Swanson Inspections, and One Day Signs. Just one race remains; the 73rd Running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Perris Auto
Speedway. I've been looking forward to this race since we ran in last year in the red Honda car. This year I will be in the blue #5 Swanson/Van Dyne owned Spike Chevy. The car had a flawless and comfortable test session a few days ago, I can't wait to roll it out of the trailer on Wednesday. It is a very beautiful racecar, and I have a lot of faith that it will run even better than it looks! See you at Tnight.