ASCS Tuesday's Top Ten
Lonnie Wheatley, TULSA, Okla. (March 23, 2010) – March Madness ensues as snow storms usher in the opening days of Spring, proffering up further evidence that internet inventor Al Gore is truly off his rocker in the continued spinning of mythical global warming.
At least there is still Tuesday's Top Ten, chronicling the latest Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series happenings of relevance of varying degrees, presented in no particular order as per the norm.
1. Snow Days – As last weekend's 37th Annual Devil's Bowl Spring Nationals in Mesquite, TX, approached, one thing was clear; at least a portion of the season-opening weekend for the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Series presented by K&N Filters was in severe weather-related trouble.
With Saturday obviously doomed, track promoter Lanny Edwards and series officials opted to make the event a Friday-only show with the standard $6,000-to-win, $500-to-start one-day purse in place.
The decision was a wise one.
Friday temperatures in the 70's succumbed to early Saturday rain, dipping temperatures and ultimately four to five inches of snow on the opening night of Spring in Mesquite, TX, as a variety of opening night competitors at Devil's Bowl including the likes of Jesse Hockett, Danny Jennings and Tony Bruce, Jr., among others took in some indoor Supercross action at Jerry's Palace in Arlington.
2. Sixteen – Equals the number of states represented at Devil's Bowl Speedway as 62 competitors took in Friday's Lucas Oil ASCS National season opener, with drivers from Washington to Pennsylvania and points in between. Sixty-two gets the 2010 campaign off to another rousing start, a tick or two above the 2009 average of 55.3 cars per night in Lucas Oil ASCS National competition.
Drivers from just across the Red River outnumbered the host state, with 21 competitors from Oklahoma compared to the Lone Star State's 16. The Sooner State also landed nine in the feature, tops over Texas' five.
Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Tennessee each offered up three entries with two each from California, Kansas and Louisiana. Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington each presented one entry.
3. Three-Peat – Combining Swindell Motorsports with J&D Motorsports and the Rolfe No. 10 Maxim, Sammy Swindell swept past Sean McClelland on the sixth round of the feature and proved to be the class of the opening night field with Parker power under the bonnet.
After winning both his prelim and then the $15,000 finale at USA Raceway's Western World Championships last November, it marked Swindell's third series win in a row and just the eleventh time in Lucas Oil ASCS National history that a driver has won three features in a row.
Gary Wright holds the all-time mark with five consecutive wins, a feat accomplished in 2005. Three wins in a row last occurred in July of 2007, just one of six three-peats by "The Texan" from 1998 to 2007 with other triples pulled off by Tim Crawley (2001), Travis Rilat (2004) and Jason Johnson (2006).
4. Lights, Camera… – Friday's Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car action was filmed under the lights of the VERSUS and MavTV cameras, with the event currently scheduled to air on VERSUS on Sunday, June 6, at 6:00 p.m. EDT, with a rebroadcast on Thursday, June 10, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
The full slate of televised Lucas Oil ASCS events, which also includes the Riverside's Rock 'N Roll 50 (April 23-24), the Eagle Nationals (June 11-12), Lucas Oil Speedway (September 25) and I-30 Speedway's Short Track Nationals), is available at www.motorsportshour.com
. Tentative and subject to change of course, check back from time to time…
5. Unmuffled – Open headers may be met with approval at some venues, but not at the Devil's Bowl Speedway. And when Channin Tankersley lost a muffler in the main event, it proved costly as the 19-year-old Rookie of the Year contender from Highlands, TX, held down the third position and appeared to have a top-five car at worst. The lost muffler resulted in an early trip to the pit area for the ASCS Gulf South grad and a 21st-place finish.
However, unless Austen Wheatley elects to vie for Brodix Rookie of the Year status, Tankersley still escaped the opener with the early lead in the Rookie chase as the other Rookie contenders all missed the show.
California's Justyn Cox and Oklahoma's Dustin Morgan (with new crew chief Kenny Woodruff) ran third and fourth in a "B" Main that took two, with other Rookie shoes including Joe Ramaker (Choteau, ID), Matt Covington (Glenpool, OK), Kyle Hirst (Loomis, CA), Joshua Hodges (Tijeras, NM) and Aaron Reutzel (Clute, TX).
6. We Are the Champions – Not that the past means anything in particular on a given night, but seven different drivers accounting for a dozen past Lucas Oil ASCS National championships (and every title since 1999) were among the opening night field of combatants.
In an old Jason Johnson mount now owned by Joe Zierolf, 2000 champ Wayne Johnson fared the best by rallying from the 18th starting position to post runner-up honors after a spirited duel along the way with Danny Wood, who is once again at the wheel of the H&H No. 94 formerly piloted by Wayne of Knoxville by way of Oklahoma City himself.
Zach Chappell (2001 champion) and Travis Rilat (2001 champion) notched top-ten finishes by claiming ninth and tenth, respectively, with 2008 kingpin Jason Johnson settling for 12th in the debut of the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41.
Three past champions, including defending titlist Shane Stewart, four-time king Gary Wright and three-time ace Tim Crawley were unable to race into the starting grid without help in the stacked field.
Stewart, who raced wheel-to-wheel with Kevin Ramey on the final lap of the First "B" Main only to be edged for the second and final transfer, and Wright both reluctantly burned provisionals on the first night of the year, while Crawley was the odd man out when neither Shane nor The Texan could successfully race in.
Stewart salvaged a solid finish by rallying from 23rd to sixth while Wright struggled in a manner unprecedented at Devil's Bowl, limping to a finish of 18th, one lap off the lead pace.
7. Milestones – While Tim Crawley remains five feature starts away from his 300th career National feature, pals Jason Johnson and Tony Bruce, Jr., are closing in on milestones of their own.
Jason Johnson is just three starts away from his 200th at 197, while Tony Bruce, Jr., is five away from his 100th at 95.
Johnson will become just the ninth driver in series history to start 200 National features, while Bruce, Jr., is on track to become the 24th driver to reach the 100 mark. If all goes according to the TBJ plan (meaning that he makes each feature event), he'll hit the century total at the Jetmore Motorplex' Steve King Memorial over Memorial Day weekend, an event under Bruce promotion.
8. Bloody Bleeder – Engine issues plagued Jack Dover's 2009 rookie season on the Lucas Oil ASCS National trail, with a final ranking of ninth at least a couple or so spots behind what could have been.
With a new engine program for 2010, the 20-year-old Nebraska shoe scored an easy "B" Main win after surviving a stacked heat race. But even the new Shaver power couldn't overcome an improperly installed left-rear bleeder valve that held Dover to a 16th place Devil's Bowl finish.
9. High Water Mark – While Brady Bacon has guzzled chocolate milk after winged ASCS Sooner and topless ASCS Canyon Region victories, his top finish in official Lucas Oil National competition entering this season was a third-place run in Lake Ozark Speedway's Daniel McMillin Memorial last June.
The 20-year-old wingless semi-convert held second much of the way Friday night at Devil's Bowl before succumbing to Wayne Johnson pressure, still earning a podium finish to match his best to date.
Seventeen-year-old Washington shoe Austen Wheatley had a good chance at equaling or bettering his sixth-place Cottage Grove prelim run last July until rubbing the frontstretch wall and eventually settling for eleventh in just his third career Lucas Oil National feature start. A parking lot foul soon after overshadowed the bent wheel.
10. The Unthinkable – Termed the unthinkable by p.a. jockey Randy Ward, Andrew Marshala held off a rabid Martin Edwards for the second and final transfer from the third "B" Main. The Shawnee, OK, shoe made two successful "A" Main circuits before the same Devilish turn two Bowl corner that tripped him up on no fewer than seven occasions during last October's Winter Nationals threw him for a loop again (the first of Spring). Marshala refired only to exit another pair of laps later, taking Norman's Koby Barksdale with him.
The only driver to make the cut for his first career Lucas Oil ASCS National feature on Friday night, Marshala became the 1,067th different driver to start a National main event in series history.
A pair of Regional weekends, including Saturday night's ASCS Canyon debut at Canyon Speedway Park, are on the docket before the next Lucas Oil ASCS National action at Kilgore's Lone Star Speedway for the first time since 2002 and Little Rock's I-30 Speedway on April 9-10. Go ahead and make those travel plans how.