ROSAMOND, California — The sun was shining in a wide open clear blue sky day at Willow Spring Intl. Raceway. Mother Nature made it toasty at 100 degrees but not nearly as hot as it had been all week long in the desert. Stock Cars made their return to the 9-turn 2.5 mile road course since July, the third race of the new TOYOTA Super Late Road Race Series is growing faster than expected with double the car count since the previous race and many more cars being prepared for this exciting new series. With the return came some notable drivers as well brand new faces to the course.
First notable was veteran driver Ron Esau, Ron had not been to the track since from what he can remember was about 15+ years ago. To add, Ron won a Southwest Tour race at Willow Springs in it's inaugural year in 1987, he later went on to win the championship. Another notable driver, how about veteran driver Steve Rzesnowiecky, Steve won the Willow Springs Super Production championship and also holds the fastest lap record from that series, but Steve had not driven a race car in over 20 years.
Now lets talk about those fresh faces, familiar on short tracks in the truest forms of Stock Car racing is Tom Whitson. Tom had won a Hobby Stock race on the quarter mile “Speedway Willow Springs” track the previous week. Former Super Late Model regular at Irwindale Speedway Dennis Furden. Former regular in the Late Model class at Irwindale George Atkinson Jr raced his Irwindale legal Late Model, Andrew Porter came out to not only to race “Willow” but also to get seat time in a car he had never raced before, his Grandpa's Super Late Model.
Qualifying began at 1:30pm, 10 cars took time and the fastest driver was Bear Rzesnowiecky, son of Steve Rzesnowiecky. Gail Chase, Esau, Porter and Dana Moore were the top 5. With a little bit of a cool off break and final adjustments before the race, Andrew Porter's team realized they had needed to make repairs on the steering components. Last minute welding was done.
At about 4pm it was time to throw the green for the 50 mile, 25 lap race. A 6 car invert made it an exciting first lap. Steve Rzes. And Dana Moore led the field to the green as 8th place qualifier Dennis Furden's car lost power to the rear wheel's before the green even came out. 4th place starter Esau made a quick jump to the lead after the start line and lead the group of 3 wide into turn 1. As the field raced through turns 1-5 6th place starter and fast time qualifier Bear had worked his way up to the second spot behind Esau. Before the first lap was completed the caution flew for not only Furden unable to fully make it onto pit road, but also rookie Andrew Porter's engine expired in the second corner. On the restart it was a great 4 car battle up front. Drivers Esau, Bear, Chase and Moore ran the course separated no more than a car length from each other for a lap. Bear made multiple attempts to take the lead from Esau and made the pass through turn number 8. The field settled into a race pace from then on. Fast qualifier Bear kept it constant on the clock and on the track by turning multiple fast laps and the fastest lap of the race, but that would prove to be an issue on the last few laps. Second place Gail Chase had been making up ground on leader Bear. Bear went off track and damaged his car with a cone. As the white flag flew the top two were only separated by about 2.5 seconds and second place Chase making even more ground on the leader. Going into the 3rd turn the gap was down to nothing as Chase went to make a move on leader Bear. They both charged into the corner, Chase trying to out-brake Bear. Both door to door, 59 year old veteran Chase an SCCA Regional Champ. Vs. hot shoe 20 year old Bear but Chase would spin out in turn 3 and finished 5th. Esau inherited the second place spot and also made a spin on the last lap. Bear won his first ever road course race, top 3 at the line; Bear Rzesnowiecky, Ron Esau and Steve Rzesnowiecky. Bear mentioned that he burned up his tires too much early on and was trying everything to hang onto the lead. Esau was extremely happy with his podium, Steve Rzes. Had a lot of fun for coming back from a very long break. All in all it was a great day at Willow Springs, None of it would be possible without TOYOTA, Willow Springs, the fans and all of the great competitors. Interest in the return of Stock Car racing at “Willow” is growing. We would like to thank the teams and sponsors for coming out to support the series
Next race is Saturday September 15th. Gates open at 7am, Practice at 9am-12. Qualifying at 1pm and racing at 3pm. General Admission $10, Kids 8 and under get in FREE.
1. 95B Bear Rzesnowiecky
2. 56 Ron Esau
3. 95 Steve Rzesnowiecky
4. 5 Dana Moore
5. 63 Gail Chase
6. 1 Tom Whitson
7. 65 George Atkinson
8. 70 Greg Austin
9. 34 Andrew Porter
10. 43 Dennis Furden
For more information about the TOYOTA Super Late Road Racing Series. Call;
Matt Jackson 661-305-7391
Tony Jackson 661-860-0680
As well as Willow Springs Intl. Raceway 661-256-6666, willowspringsraceway.com