NARC NEWSLINE, July 7, 2018, By Jim Allen, Auburn, CA … Another three races are officially in the books in the quest to crown the 2018 King of the West-NARC Fujitsu Sprint Car Series champion.  And everywhere we turn, there is another twist or turn that makes this campaign unique, entertaining, or just plain scratching your head.  This includes anything from the invasion of the Australians, to more drivers pulling double-duty on combo nights, or drivers suddenly interested in their resting heart rate while driving a sprint car.

So let’s start at the top, with our fine friends from down under.  It was almost like experiencing a flashback to the 1990’s when Jamie Cobby won the Sunnyvalley Bacon trophy dash at Ocean Speedway on June 22nd.  Yes, that Jamie Cobby!  Most of us hadn’t seen Mr. Cobby for a couple of decades and he suddenly appears in Ted Finkenbinders 3F – looking just like the Jamie Cobby we knew 20-years ago.  Let’s put this rarified air event in perspective.  This is the same driver who last won a Northern Auto Racing Club feature event at Quincy Speedway in 1992.  That was the same year gas cost $1.05 per gallon and some guy became President who later became famous for staining a blue dress.  Cobby led the first 14-laps of the main before getting spun out in undiplomatic fashion.

Of course we also have Matt and Marcus Dumesny in California.  Matt scored a KWS-NARC career best third at Calistoga driving Rod Tiner’s 83SA.  Marcus has the hammerdown also, earning the Swift Metal Finishing Hardcharger award at Placerville.

On the topic of double-duty, mastering the handling characteristics of one car is hard enough – much less two.  But in the new era of co-sanctioned 410/360 events, a lot of teams have decided to double-down.  Twice the work, twice the fun, and definitely twice the money.  Among those racing in this category are Tanner Thorson, Willie Croft, DJ Netto, Colby Copeland, Bud Kaeding, Kyle Hirst, Shane Golobic, Justin Sanders, Buddy Kofoid, Andy Forsberg, Jarrett Soares, and Sean Becker.  They’re easy to pick off at the end of a racing program.  They’re the ones who look like they need a good shower and an even better night’s sleep – especially on those hot race nights.

And finally, technology continues to force sanctioning bodies to rewrite the rule books.  Who would have guessed that an Apple Watch could possibly become a competitive advantage?  Allegedly, it’s used to tell time and monitor heart rates, but it’s also extremely convenient for receiving a text during a caution period advising you which line to run on the track.  Either way, it’s still outlawed at KWS-NARC events, but is strictly enforced.  Not to mention, who wants to be wearing a rubber-banded wrist-watch in the case of a fire?  So, to reiterate, all of the usual communication devices are outlawed.  No cell phones, watches, lap tops, desk tops, iPad’s, signal flares, fax machines, Morse code machines, pagers, US Navy signal flags, radios, mirrors, mental telepathy, or anything along those lines is allowed in the cars.  Officials will now randomly check drivers upon exiting their cars.  This includes SCCT and Civil War events.  Get caught wearing a watch, or having a cell phone in your pocket at a King of the West-NARC event? Immediate DQ with loss of all points and purse money not for just that night, but the whole season up to that point.   This same penalty also applies to any team getting caught using a traction control device – which is a whole different topic.  Spark boxes are now being pulled at random and sent in for testing.  Just think about the reputation of a driver and/or team if they get picked off doing that?  Can you say “TractionGate?”  Where is Bill Belichick at?

OCEAN SPEEDWAY NOTES (6/22/18):  Let’s start off by mentioning a nice ocean breeze and 76 degrees.  It creates visions of a tropical Hawaii .., until you get smacked in the face with a piece of dirt. … Jim Paniagua and rookie driver Jenna Frazier have had their fair share of motor issues this season.  They’ve changed more of them than I’ve changed the oil on my car this year.  At Ocean, they sported a motor purchased from Mason Moore and finished 16th in the feature. … There was some controversy after qualifying, when fast timer Brad Furr’s ride did not make minimum weight.  Furr’s time vanished and he had the option to take one lap at the end, but his team opted to load up instead.  Kurt Nelson was also light, but worked his way to the feature the roundabout way, where he scored 14th.  By the way, that officially handed the ARP quick time award to Kyle Hirst for the sixth time this season.  …  Mathew Moles was impressive in his “Raisin Hell” number 10, scoring a season best sixth. … Also need to acknowledge Jeremy Chisum who pocketed eighth place money. … 26 cars … Jason Statler was a no show after hurting his motor at Petaluma two weeks prior. … Justin Sanders scored his second career King of the West-NARC win aboard Joe Von Schriltz sprinter.  He will now have his name perpetually printed on the annual Pombo-Sargent t-shirt. … Colby Copeland was all over Sanders in this one before he got tangled in traffic with less than four laps remaining. …

CALISTOGA SPEEDWAY NOTES (6/23/18):  Yes, just 24 hours later, it’s 106 degrees in the shade, with no breeze.  Stifling would be a good word to use here!  It creates double-vision until you get hit in your sweaty face with a piece of dirt.  …  Jarrett Soares took a hard tumble exiting turn two in hot laps when the hub sheared out of the right front wheel.  Soares got his bell rung and was struggling to breathe without pain.  Medical crews thought he had a punctured lung and sent the Soares family off to the hospital.  He was diagnosed with a concussion, severely bruised ribs and chest and a leg injury.  As bad as that sounds, it was a relief because it looked even worse.  …  2011 King of the West champion and NASCAR superstar Kyle Larson was the pace car driver for both features, driving a brand new Jimmy Vasser Corvette.  He was joined by race fan John Zonneveld, who was the high bidder on the NARC Benevolent Fund auction for the opportunity to hang with Mr. Larson.  John was a happy camper!  …  Also got a chance to interview the one and only Jeff Gordon.  I interviewed him a few times about 20-years ago and he hasn’t changed much.  He’s a stellar ambassador for motorsports.  … Kyle Hirst win was worth $5,000.  This included a $1,000 kicker from Hydrochem PSC and another grand from Williams Roofing.  A fan pulled a six in the Williams Roofing pill draw and yes, Hirst started sixth.  Cha-Ching! … The crowd was a little on the light side.  Along those lines, it’s estimated that about 50% of the attendance at Calistoga comes from the Santa Rosa side of the hill.  This is the same Santa Rosa and surrounding areas that wild fires terrorized last October, taking out more than 6,500 homes.  I wonder if that played a factor? … Fast time goes to Willie Croft! … Bud Kaeding and the Williams Motorsports team burned up a motor in their heat race.  They were back in business 20-minutes later.  They finished fifth and earned the Swift Metal Finishing Hardcharger award.  …  The Shane Golobic/Kyle Hirst battle for the lead is a reminder of why we need more events at Calistoga.  It was a battle of pure unfiltered  testosterone. …  Congrats to Colby Copeland who outdueled Willie Croft to claim the Civil War winner’s check.  That was a good race also! …Thanks once again to 11-year old Branden Valentine who donated $300 to the NARC Benevolent Fund.  Class act.  …

PLACERVILLE SPEEDWAY NOTES (6/30/18):  This race represented the first of three King of the West-NARC/Sprint Car Challenge Tour combo events scheduled this season! … 24-410’s, 37-360’s … DJ Netto found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting reeled into someone’s else’s mess in his heat.  On the hook, and done for the night. … Damn, I don’t even need to type this out anymore, just a cut and paste:  Kyle Hirst – FAST TIME! … Do you realize that Kyle Hirst has earned 36 points in qualifying this season?  His current point lead is 39 points over Shane Golobic. … Hirst feature event victory was the 28th of his KWS-NARC career and moved him into a fourth place tie on the win list with Steve Kent.  He only needs 56 more to tie all-time winner Brent Kaeding. … Great, enthusiastic crowd and full pit area! … Compliments to Scott Russell for working the track a few times during the program.  It was racy as all heck! …  Bobby McMahan was sporting a variety of numbers on his car.  With Jarrett Soares still a little wobbly, McMahan helped car owner Steven Soares stay in the top ten in owner’s points.  So while the tail tank sported a 25, it was the 12 on the wing that racked up the points. … Nice to see CJ Humphries still racing. … Buddy Kofoid was piloting the 1M Maxim for Mark Moore of Lincoln, CA.  This is not a full-time gig, just a Placerville-gig as they plan to team up again for the King of the West-NARC July 28th show and the September WoO race.  Together, they won the dash and led the first 16 laps until Mr. Hirst blew past and won his fifth.  Kofoid finished fifth.  Will somebody please give this kid a full-time ride?  …  Justin Sanders put on a clinic in the SCCT main, running 35 perfect laps, including about 30 up high on the cushion.  There was no catching him. … Hirst had the best night overall, with his KWS-NARC win and his runner-up to Sanders.

July is a huge month for the King of the West-NARC Fujitsu sprint cars.  We have three races on tap before we go on what amounts to be a two-month recess.  Petaluma (July 14th), Ocean Speedway (July 21st) and Placerville (July 28th), representing Round 11-13 of the series.

The Ocean Speedway show is the second day of the two-day Howard Kaeding Classic.  The first night is a Civil War show.  The KWS-NARC Fujitsu headliner on Saturday pays $5000 to win and $700 to start (so far!).  There is a ton of other perks for racing teams at this show.  And … don’t miss the annual HKC luncheon at the fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon, catered up by the one and only Myles McAtte.  Funds raised go to the NARC Benevolent Fund!  After round 13 at Placerville’s Fujitsu Summer Nationals, the series is dark in August, allowing teams to travel to Knoxville and around the country and September to support the WoO.  And don’t blink on that one, because there are only five WoO dates to choose from in California.  How have things changed!

And finally, I always like to finish on a high note, but with the passing of Jason Johnson, that’s kind of hard to do.  What it really does is serve up a serious reality check to what we do.  Open wheel fans adore our sprint car warriors because we get to hang out, rub elbows, party and watch their families grow up on an up close and personal basis.  It’s why open wheel fans are so hooked on the sport – the basic lack of walls and barriers.  But during that process it’s easy to lose track of the fact that what they do is dangerous and when we lose one of our sprint car heroes, it’s almost impossible to comprehend.  It hurts to the core of our heart and soul.  The loss of Jason Johnson hurts us to that core.  We offer our sincere condolences, prayers and thoughts to all of the family, friends, and fans of Jason Johnson.  RIP to the Rajun Cajon!

And while we’re at it, go tell a sprint car driver (and their team) that you appreciate what they do and the entertainment they provide!  Coming to you live from Auburn, CA, see ya!