NARC NEWSLINE – June 19, 2019, By Jim Allen … If you ever needed a reminder that sprint car racing is unpredictable and always worth the price of admission, all you had to do was attend either of the first two King of the West-NARC Fujitsu events in June. They were off the chain unpredictable! How good? To quote Bob Gerould directly at the Peter Murphy Classic, he called it “unpredictable mayhem.” I’d say that is an accurate description which makes the drive home a lot quicker with adrenaline still pumping through the veins.
Let’s rewind to our June 1st race at Petaluma Speedway; a triple overtime slug-fest between Colby Copeland and Chase Johnson. What? Triple-overtime? Is that even possible in a non-Stanley Cup event? Yes, for Colby Copeland, it was like a racing version of the movie Ground Hog Day (Millennials: Google it!) Copeland had to endure a trifecta of green-white-checkered restarts to finally score this hard-fought win. It was like a race that would never end. And it wasn’t easy, because Chase Johnson was more aggressive than a pack of crazed pit bulls chasing down a three-legged cat. He tried the low-side, the high-side and just about everywhere in between but to no avail. And the fans loved it! It was a sweet win for car owner Larry Antaya and the boys on the Fire Protection Management number 16 Maxim.
Now fast forward a week to the rain-delayed Peter Murphy Classic at the Thunderbowl! The obvious question here is what could possibly beat the previous week’s edge of your seat triple overtime special? How about five lead changes and possibly one of the most unpredictable finishes in sprint car history. In fact, this show was loaded with great story lines. Let’s start out with Tim Kaeding taking a shot at the Pole Shuffle Challenge and instead of starting on the pole, deciding to give it a go from the 11th spot in hopes of pocketing an extra $10,000. Heck, the Pole Shuffle Challenge is typically worth the price of admission. Or how about a flashback to about 1998 with the return of Weldon Offill’s famed Country Builders number 88 car – this time with the one and only Jonathan Allard behind the wheel. Or King of the West-NARC championship point leader DJ Netto getting in a nasty accident in the Kings of Thunder feature that was close to sidelining him for the King of the West-NARC feature. … And then there was Bud Kaeding, who took control of the race on lap 18 and had all but cashed the $11,000 winners check until he got 100 yards from the checkered. So where do I start?
Let’s start backwards. Yes, Kaeding pretty much had this one in the bag, but the Thunderbowl Raceway fence had other plans on the white flag lap. First Kaeding banged it hard in turn two, then again in turn four as his car sputtered for fuel with the checkered flag in Ed Entz hand. Next thing you know, Kaeding rides the fourth turn fence like a video game highlight and turns over. Mr. Entz quickly changes hands to the red flag and the crowd is absolutely stunned and buzzing in disbelief! Kaeding’s night is over with major damage, and just like that, the leading digit in the $11,000 check was gone! On the all too familiar green-white-checkered restart, sixth starter Rico Abreu slaps his car in cruise control and scores the win. Once again, “unpredictable mayhem!” If you told us that you predicted this finish, we’d all start laughing because you’re a terrible liar.
Not to take anything away from crowd favorite Rico, but the story of the night may have belonged to three-time King of the West champ Jonathan Allard. The last time he was in a sprint car was about a year ago in New Zealand. Yet, he piloted the 88 car like he was a weekly points chaser. Said Allard, after finishing an impressive second, “Maybe somebody will give me a ride now.”
Then there was DJ Netto, who tightened up his belts in the 410 version of the Netto Ag KPC and fought and clawed his way to a very impressive third! A lesser man would have taken some aspirin and headed home. And Tim Kaeding … well, he thrilled the crowd with what could have been, but it didn’t work out. He got up to seventh in the feature until mechanical issues took him out of contention. He ended up 12th.
PETALUMA SPEEDWAY NOTES: DJ Netto took over where Chase Johnson left off in the final OT and finished second. … Willie Croft continued his dominance of the ARP Quick Time honors this season, with his third in a row. … Geoff Ensign scored his first podium finish of the season aboard the familiar white and gold Snow Racing XXX sprinter. Notice how I said first podium finish? There are more coming soon – I guarantee it. Their “Tiny Tim” racing engine West Coast Race Parts team is firing on all eight cylinders. … It was a short night for Jenna Frazier and Jim Paniagua. Fried a valve in hot laps and were loaded up and heading home by the end of qualifying. … North Dakota driver Tim Estenson was also battle engine issues in the DJ Netto Racing 88E.
PETER MURPHY CLASSIC NOTES: They say the racing teams copy each other, especially when winning or continued success is involved. Should we point out that winner Rico Abreu was sporting a new corn-row “do” in victory lane? The million-dollar question is – what driver is going to step up and duplicate that? On a different note, I don’t think there is anybody better than Rico at running on the wall at Tulare. Duplicate that! … So far this season, DJ Netto has scored a second, a third, a fourth, and fifth place finish. That earns him the King of the West-NARC championship point lead over Ryan Bernal by a 12-point margin. … Colby Copeland had the first 12-laps of the main under control until he pulled in the infield with a broken left rear shock. … Jason Statler earned $500 from Peter Murphy and another $150 from Swift Metal Finishing for charging from 15th to 6th. Nathan Rolfe also passed nine cars from his 23rd starting spot. … In fact, Tim Kaeding would have pocketed $22,000 if he had won the 30-lapper. The regular $11,000 payday, plus the $10,000 Tarlton-bonus, and another $1000 from Williams Roofing in Fremont, CA. The number “11” was pulled in the lucky fan pill draw. …
… Cole Macedo somehow managed to get upside down after the cars were pushed off for the feature. Repairs in the Harley Van Dyke machine couldn’t be made in time and Macedo was done for the night. Fortunately, the team earned the $500 hard luck award. … A limited supply of “Peter Murphy for President” decals were sold to benefit the NARC Benevolent Fund. Every car in the King of the West-NARC sported one! Thanks to the Shawn Thomas-sponsored promotion, we raised $520. … Chelsea Blevins had a profitable night finishing 15th, driving the Blevin’s Family 360. That was worth a PMC $500 bonus for the highest finishing, you got it … 360. Plus another $500 for the Long Tow Award, which the team earned after driving nine hours from their home on the hill. … The track surface at Tulare was one of the best ever. No rubber down in this affair! … And as always, a special thank you goes out to Peter Murphy, who once again took his namesake show to another promotional level. Lining up the cars on the front straightaway, and individual driver introductions are the best. Not to sound cheesy or anything but being part of this event just makes you feel good inside!
NARC NOTES: My compliments to Jim Gardner of Bullet Impressions. His shirts this year really ROCK! The 60th Anniversary KWS-NARC shirt is awesome. The Peter Murphy Classic shirt also garnered rave reviews. His Pombo-Sargent Classic shirt for this weekend’s event at Ocean Speedway is a … pardon the pun … a classic also. For those of you who can’t make it to the races to buy your own, you can always go to onefasttee.com and get ‘em online. … Tickets for the Louis Vermeil Classic are now available. It’s a great place to spend your Labor Day weekend. … I also need to thank photographer and scribe Joe Shivak for his assistance in posting some King of the West-NARC race stories lately. In a lot of cases, he has it posted before I event make it home at 3:00 a.m.
What’s on the docket? It’s a double shot weekend with the aforementioned Pombo-Sargent Classic on Friday (June 21st) and the Salute to First Responders at the Stockton Dirt Track on Saturday (June 22nd.) Finish off your month with the Marcel Cassulo Classic at Placerville Speedway on June 29th. This is a collective show with the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360’s that also promises to dish up its fair share of “unpredictable mayhem.” Don’t miss any of them!
Coming to you live from Auburn, CA. See ya!