A.J. Russell must like going to new race tracks. After picking up the first ever Supermodified Racing League event at Chaparral Speedway in Idaho, the 2003 Rookie of the Year returned to Southern California to conquer the field at Orange Show Speedway’s first event for the winged offset roadsters. Starting from the pole, Russell led all forty laps of the feature event.
Points leader Troy Regier(98) set an all time track record for the quarter mile banking with a qualification run of 11.359 seconds. Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Jim Tartaglia(83) at 11.598, Jeff Russell(85) at 11.655, Jim Birges(32) at 11.675, and Bobby Dalton(36) at 11.677.
The first Heat Race lined up with Billy Castor(23) leading the way over Mike Ford(56), Ken Hamilton(1), Dalton(36), Jeff Russell(85), Regier(98), Rick Cameron(24), and Dave Maseli(19). Castor led from the drop of the green flag and led until lap seven when Hamilton and Ford both pushed past in turn three. Dalton and Regier managed to duplicate that feat a lap later. The order at the lap eight checkers was Hamilton over Ford, Dalton, Regier, and Castor.
The second heat pushed off with Harry Stone(40) and Mike McCann(14) on the front row. They were pursued by A.J. Russell(7), Ron Burger(89), Jim Birges(32), Jim Tartaglia(83), and Willie Northamer(29). The winner was decided at the drop of the green when McCann stormed from his outside position to take the lead. Stone dropped to third on lap two, then to fifth on lap three. Next time around, Stone had a big wiggle coming off turn two and Birges brushed the retaining wall when he took avoidance action. The finishing order was McCann over Burger, Russell, Tartaglia, and Stone.
The feature event lined up with the top eight qualifiers inverted at the front of the pack. This put A.J. Russell on the pole followed by Ken Hamilton, Ron Burger, Bobby Dalton, Jim Birges, Jeff Russell, Jim Tartaglia, and Troy Regier. Starting behind the fast burners were Mike Ford, Mike McCann, Billy Castor, Harry Stone, Rick Cameron, Willie Northamer, and Dave Maseli. Northamer experience engine problems on the start, and the event was flagged off as he was pushed to the pits. A.J. took the lead with Hamilton, Dalton, Burger, and Birges dropping in behind. The yellow flag flew on lap two when debris was spotted in turn four.
The field lined out in order on the restart and there was much dicing in the pack with very few completed passes although it was not from lack of trying. The yellow was waved again when Stone half spun to the infield in turn three but managed to keep going with only a slight loss of position. On the restart, Birges got around Burger by using a lapped car as a pick, and Regier duplicated the feat a lap later. At half distance, the top five were Russell, Hamilton, Dalton, Birges and Regier. The leaders had been negotiating lapped traffic at this point and Dalton and Regier both made numerous attempts to pass those in front of them. Meanwhile Tartaglia began moving up with some aggressive moves. The caution was displayed again on lap 24 when Mike Ford pulled to the inside of the backstretch with mechanical difficulties. On lap twenty seven, Burger experienced some suspension problems and began to drop back as the car lost the handle and became difficult to drive. He did, however, manage to stay on the lead lap with a car that was bottoming out in each corner.
However, the group at the front sliced and diced continuously, but were unable to improve their positions. When the lap forty checkered flag flew, A.J. Russell had won his second feature of the year. Ken Hamilton was second followed by Teenager Bobby Dalton, Jim Birges, and points leader Troy Regier. Tartaglia, Jeff, Russell, Stone and Burger all finished on the lead lap with Castor in tenth place, two laps in arrears.
The Supermodified Racing League’s Orange Show Speedway debut was a huge a success according to the fans who clamored for more of the exotic land rockets. With another race in Las Vegas the following evening, everyone was happy that all the cars rolled into the trailers ready to be prepped for the next show after a quick run up Interstate 15. From somewhere in that line of rigs moving North, I am the Racing Widow’s Husband.