(5/27/2022 – Alex Nieten) Lebanon, OR… A NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Car win has been a long time coming for Willie Croft.
Since winning the 2018 Dave Bradway Jr. Memorial, the Colfax, CA native had made 48 series starts and earned 10 top-three finishes over that span, but none of them were atop the podium. He’d led laps, just not the final one.
In start number 49 since that 2018 triumph, the narrative changed course. Croft delivered a masterful drive and dominated NARC’s first ever appearance at Willamette Speedway, leading all 30 laps on Friday night to claim the second race of the Fastest Four Days in Motorsports.
“I can’t believe it’s been four years,” a jubilant Croft said of ending the NARC winless drought.
The win marked his ninth career with the series and also his third consecutive podium after a second-place effort at Petaluma last weekend and a third-place result Thursday night at Southern Oregon Speedway.
Croft led the field to green of the 30-lap Fujitsu Feature with Colby Copeland alongside. Croft kept his car glued to the tacky bottom groove as Copeland ripped the topside looking for a run in the early laps.
Copeland built enough momentum on a couple of occasions where it appeared he may pull alongside Croft, but the bottom proved too dominant, and Copeland eventually settled in behind Croft after a few circuits. The race’s first yellow flew on lap six for a slowing Brian Boswell just as the leaders were entering traffic.
On the restart Croft pulled strongly ahead, and behind he and Copeland, Justin Sanders and Dominic Scelzi traded the third-place position before Scelzi finally claimed it. Another yellow flew with 22 laps to go for debris on the front stretch.
The restart provided more of the same story as Croft powered ahead and Copeland looked to keep pace while Scelzi and Sanders resumed their tussle for a podium position.
“It feels really good to be able to run with Scelzi, Sanders, and Copeland, just all the guys who are so fast on a week in, week out basis,” Croft said of his performance throughout the race.
The leaders entered thick traffic inside of 15 laps to go, and on a track where the bottom was the preferred line, making the correct moves was vital. And that’s exactly what Croft did as he made a key move to sneak around Billy Aton, giving him a comfortable lead and a clearer path toward the checkered flag.
“I didn’t really want to go high,” Croft said of handling traffic. “I went high around one guy, and I spun the tires really bad, skated out of the groove. And I figured if I did that, the next guy is going to do that trying to get by me, so I was just going to roll the bottom and let them get in there, get tight, slide up a little bit, and let me poke under them because I could rotate really nice.
So, that’s what I did with Aton. He gave just a little bit of an opening, and I put two wheels in the grass and passed him.”
That move ultimately proved to be the winning one as Croft drove away in his Holey Smokes BBQ/Amerikote Powdercoating No. 29 and won by more than three seconds to erase the four year NARC winless drought.
“This feels good,” Croft said. “I’m super happy to win up here in Oregon. I’ve won Medford. I’ve won here, and I’ve won Elma (Grays Harbor Raceway), which we’re at tomorrow, so I’ve got a lot off confidence… I’m a small team. We’re trying hard. We’ve got a little momentum going, and it feels good.”
Dominic Scelzi claimed the runner-up spot in his Red Rose Transportation/Whipple Superchargers No. 41 after Copeland got severely out of shape on the final lap, dropping to 10th at the finish. While Scelzi’s four-race win streak may have concluded, he kept his podium streak to begin the NARC campaign going. Scelzi has been in the top-three in all of the first seven NARC races.
“I’m just happy to be up here in the Pacific Northwest,” Scelzi said. “It’s fun what the NARC series is doing here.”
And completing the podium was Justin Sanders in the Farmers Brewing Co./Mittry Construction No. 2X. It marked his second straight night of earning a podium in his debut at a track after a second-place effort Thursday at Southern Oregon Speedway. The Aromas, CA native continues to hope for a little more luck in his dash positioning.
“It was good, but it’s a product of the dash draws,” Sanders said of his finish. “That’s like seven dashes in a row of starting sixth, and tonight was big for track position.”
Completing the top-10 was Shane Golobic, Bud Kaeding, Tanner Holmes, Max Mittry, Tyler Thompson, Mitchell Faccinto, and Colby Copeland.
FUJITSU GENERAL USA FEATURE (30 laps): 1. Willie Croft 29 2. Dominic Scelzi 41 3. Justin Sanders 2X 4. Shane Golobic 17W 5. Bud Kaeding 69 6. Tanner Holmes 18T 7. Max Mittry 2XM 8. Tyler Thompson 7 9. Mitchell Faccinto 21 10. Colby Copeland 16A 11. Joel Myers Jr. 83V 12. Sean Becker 22X 13. Billy Aton 26 14. Shane Forte 26F 15. Logan Forler 2L 16. Brian Boswell 35
HOOSIER TIRE LAP LEADERS: Willie Croft 1-30
SWIFT METAL FINISHING HARDCHARGER: Shane Golobic 9th to 4th
ARP FAST QUALIFIER (16 Cars): Justin Sanders 11.284 (New Track Record)
BROWN AND MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS HEAT ONE (8 laps): Myers Jr., Sanders, Croft, Golobic, Mittry, Becker, Faccinto, Forte
KIMO’s TROPICAL CAR WASH HEAT TWO (8 laps): Kaeding, Scelzi, Copeland, Thompson, Holmes, Forler, Aton, Boswell
SUNNYVALLEY “POWERED BY BACON” TROPHY DASH (6 laps): Croft, Copeland, Scelzi, Sanders, Myers Jr., Kaeding