Kevin Vernon went into tonight’s "Sparkle Labor Day 100" confident his Action Towing #51 would take him all the way to a 4th Mesa Marin track championship. He was eleven points ahead of Mike Alsup, qualified 3rd ahead of Alsup and had consistently done well in 100-lap events this season.
But it all started going wrong for Vernon when he and Alsup tangled in the trophy dash and his rear end bumped hard into the front straight-away crash wall. Alsup survived to start 3rd in the main event.
Vernon was able to test his back-up #37 in the heat race. With a brand new engine it was fast and seemed like it would do the job. Starting at the back of a field of 20, he moved up to 8th by the 13th lap. But on lap 19 pop went the engine - fluids caused the 1st yellow of the night and Vernon went behind the wall.
In next week’s season finale, the CARQUEST Auto Parts 100, with Alsup leading by 22 points Vernon will need to finish at least eleven places ahead of Mike Alsup to win the 1999 championship. Mike Duncan, currently 3rd in points, would have win next week’s race with Alsup and Vernon going out of the event early in the evening.
So who won the Sparkle Labor Day 100? When the green flag dropped pole-sitter Dan Holtz of Pacific Palisades had the car to beat, but he was ready to make it two in a row after picking up a win last week at Irwindale. Holtz didn’t just put it in cruise. He had to fight for it all the way. His first challenge came from Mike Duncan who saw his chance for a championship with Vernon out of the race and Alsup behind him. Then he had to battle Gary Collins of Bakersfield, who passed Duncan on lap 31. Each re-start was another challenge including the mid-race break when the car was several lenths ahead of the field.
After the break Duncan’s problems began. He stayed in the pits too long and had to start in the back. He worked his way up to 5th by lap 74 and then spun out in turn 2 on lap 75. Meanwhile, Holtz was holding off challenge after challenge from Collins until lap 85 when Collins had a tire go down. That put Mike Alsup in 2nd place. Alsup needed the win and put the pressure on Holtz. Duncan worked his way to 6th again, but in turn 4 he had mechanical trouble and the #9 flamed in the engine area. Duncan got out easily, but had to retire to the pits on lap 93 and saw his chances for a championship go up in smoke!
Holtz held on to win. "Last week at Irwindale was great, but I’ve really wanted to win another one at Mesa. You earn it here all the way. The car was awesome thanks to my great team," he said.
Alsup took 2nd followed by Barry Bradshaw, Brian Branson, and Shawn Calderwood.
In the NASCAR Winston Racing ShorTrack Series, Mike Alexander extended his lead for a championship win in next week’s season finale. Starting dead last behind 20 other Street Stocks, Alexander made his way to 1st by lap 14, but he was in the pack with Daren Blanton, Mike Riale and Mike White. White had a mishap with the guest driver from the Kern County Farm Bureau and went out of the race, while the pack passed Paul Ebersbacher, who had his best race ever and finished 5th just behind Alexander, Riale, Blanton, and Billy Tucker.
In Modified Stocks, Danny Collins was back in the Winner’s Circle after losing two events to Gene Fife. Fife finished 2nd followed by Dave Howell, Vic Posey and Jeff Smith.
Super TT Motorcycles points champion Don Canet was running behind Bakersfield Rick Pearce until Pearce lost his #32 cycle in the jump in turn 4. Canet won followed by Mark Cernicky of Huntington Beach, AJ Herrera of Sata Ynez, Sid Payne of Bakersfield and Pearce of Bakersfield finishing 5th.
In the 911 Race for Youth Paul Dias of the CHP started behind Will McNeal of the BPD. Once he turned on his "pull over" lights, it might have make an impression on McNeal because he ended up moving over and Dias won the race. Jack Campbell of the Kern County Sheriff was 3rd followed by Casey Clark of the Kern County Fire and John Leon of the Bakersfield Fire.
In the Campus Motorsports High School Series, the Visalia Motorsports Youth #84 won their 2nd event of the year. The car was a bullet in the earlier heat race and took the main event easily from Jason Keeney’s North High #08, followed by Trina Eggleston of Centennial, Eric Barton of Kern Valley, and Sukhi Grewal of South.
Next week’s season final "CARQUEST Auto Parts 100" will begin at 7pm. Tickets are $8 with Kids 12 and under free.
WINSTON LATE MODELS Division
1 16 DAN HOLTZ
2 61 MICHAEL ALSUP
3 13 BARRY BRADSHAW
4 2 BRIAN BRANSON
5 65 SHAWN CALDERWOOD
6 10 KRISTI SCHMITT
7 83 LESLIE LIPSCOMB
8 09 GARY JENKINS
9 64 REX CALDERWOOD
10 35B BEN WALKER
11 26 BOBBY ALDRIDGE
12 47 CHARLIE WATLER
13 11 LES DENHERDER
14 9 MIKE DUNCAN
15 7C GARY COLLINS
16 59 STEVE REAVES
17 21 JEREMY SALAMACHA
18 51 KEVIN VERNON
WINSTON LATE MODELS Division Top Ten Points
61 MICHAEL ALSUP 790
51 KEVIN VERNON 768
9 MIKE DUNCAN 758
26 BOBBY ALDRIDGE 579
13 BARRY BRADSHAW 55
59 STEVE REAVES 516
16 DAN HOLTZ 433
83 LESLIE LIPSCOMB 401
2 BRIAN BRANSON 398
98 GREG PURSLEY 359