Tracy, California -- With just one race remaining, five drivers had a shot at the series championship as Davey Hamilton’s SRL Wild West Late Model Shootout returned to Altamont Motorsports Park in Tracy, California Saturday night. Palo Alto’s Rusty Buholz led the final 54 laps to win his first career SRL Wild West Shootout Victory. Anderson’s Ryan Foster finished second, with Rick Ruzbarsky running third, Jeff Anthony fourth, and with Steve Belletto’s fifth place he won the 2004 series championship by two points.
“This series is so tough, there is a lot of competition at every track and every race. This series is run the right way. Great officials and great racers. I’m happy to be the 2004 Series Champion, this is fantastic.” Said 2004 SRL Wild West Shootout Series Champion Steve Belletto.
“This is great to win at my home track. We were able to save the car for when we needed it most. We ran a limited schedule this year. Hopefully we can run the entire schedule in 2005 and run for rookie of the year. The 21 car (Foster) might have been a little faster then me, but he had to go on the outside to get by me.” Buholz said.
Ken Boyd set quick time for the fourth consecutive race Saturday night, clinching the Apex Financial Qualifying Points Championship. “If you would have told me we were going to show up and run 18.11 in qualifying, I wouldn’t have believed it, but we did it. The car has been awesome all year, and all the guys work so hard on it.” Tracy’s Mark Smith qualified second, his best qualifying effort of the year. The 2004 Victory Circle Chassis and Parts Rookie of the Year ran a lap of 18.322 seconds. Ryan Foster qualified third with a lap of 18.328 seconds. Rick Ruzbarsky qualified fourth as he stopped the clock with an 18.377 second lap. Salida’s Jeff Belletto rounded out the top five qualifiers with a lap of 18.537 seconds.
With Boyd earning five points during qualifying, the Ceres, California driver had a seven point lead over Steve Belletto entering the 100 lap feature race. Rick Ruzbarsky sat 13 points out of first, with Jeff Anthony in fourth 24 points back, and Ryan Foster in fifth 32 points behind.
The eight car invert placed Mike Mason on the pole for the 100 lap event. The last time the 17 year old rookie from Bakersfield, California sat on the pole, he led every lap earning his first career Shootout victory at Mesa Marin Raceway on August 7th. Rusty Buholz started on the outside of row one, with Daly City’s Greg Leonard making his SRL debut from the third starting position. As the green flag waived Mason jumped out to an early lead as Buholz followed. Roseville’s Jim Courage Jr. spun in the middle of turn one and two, and he was able to continue without going a lap down as the race remained green. Meanwhile, Rick Ruzbarsky and Ryan Foster raced side-by-side battling for the fourth position for nearly five laps. Foster took fourth from Ruzbarsky on lap 14, then on lap 24 Ruzbarsky took the position back from Foster.
Mason continued to lead on lap 25 with Buholz closely behind. Jeff Belletto ran third, Ruzbarsky fourth and Foster fifth. Chad Pais spun exiting turn two on lap 32 bringing out the first caution of the night. The race restarted on lap 34 as Buholz began to put pressure on race leader Mike Mason. Buholz was able to get under Mason as they headed into turn one on lap 45. Buholz stretched his lead out as the race reached the halfway point on lap 50. Jeff Belletto continued in third followed by Ruzbarsky, Foster, Smith, Boyd, Leonard, Bob Strandwold and Ray Lawson Jr. Foster and Ruzbarsky continued to fight over the fourth position, as Foster passed Ruzbarsky on lap 58 as Bob Strandwold spun in turns ones and two.
Foster continued his charge to the front as he passed Jeff Belletto on lap 64 to take third, and on lap 65 he was able to pass Mike Mason for second. Buholz and Foster opened up nearly a ten car length lead as the raced completed 85 laps. Mason continued in third with Ruzbarsky fourth, Smith fifth, Ken Boyd sixth and Jeff Belletto seventh. The leaders approached lap traffic coming out of turn two as the pack of cars headed for turn three Josh Bews nearly spun as Buholz and Foster checked up to avoid hitting lapped cars. Foster drove to the bottom of the track to avoid making contact with Buholz. Jeff Belletto and Ken Boyd made contract in turn three, and Boyd’s car hit the wall as the caution flag was displayed. Boyd’s car was retired for the night with significant damage to the front and rear of his racecar, ending there quest for a championship.
Ryan Foster tried his best to pass Rusty Buholz on the lap 90 restart but was unable to complete the pass. Mark Smith and R.B. Bracken made contract halfway down the backstretch as Bracken’s car bounced off of Smith’s and hit the wall sending the car airborne. Smith’s car came to a rest in turn three. Both drivers were ok, as the red flag was displayed for track cleanup and debris. When the race restarted, Mike Mason entered the pits with a flat tire, losing his sixth position. Mason was able to rejoin the field and went on to finish eight. With five laps to go, Buholz led Foster, Ruzbarsky, Steve Belletto, and Jeff Anthony. Anthony passed Belletto to take the fourth position, as Buholz picked up his first career SRL Wild West Shootout Victory.
“He didn’t make any mistakes tonight, he really drove a great race. The car was better on the long runs tonight, but we just ran out of time.” Ryan Foster said.
“This was the most fun I had in a racecar in a long time. There was so much excitement and drama, it was incredible. I gave it everything I had, the car was just to free tonight.” Rick Ruzbarsky said.
Ken Boyd finished in the 15th position, earning him 22 points, and a total of 27 for the race day. Rick Ruzbarsky’s third place finished earned him 46 points, plus the two he earned in qualifying for a total of 48 points. Steve Belletto who trailed Boyd by seven points heading into the race finished fifth earning 42 points which was good enough to beat Rick Ruzbarsky by two points to win the 2004 SRL Wild West Shootout Series Championship. Steve Belletto will be crowned champion at the end of the year awards banquet on Saturday, November 13th in Sacramento.
For complete results and point standings check out the SRL Wild West Shootout website at: http://www.srllatemodels.com
2004 Awards Banquet Information:
Saturday, November 13th, 2004
Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza
300 J. Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Hotel Reservation Name: Supermodified Racing League
Davey Hamilton's SRL Wild West Shootout would like to thank their 2004 Sponsors, which include: Apex Financial Group, Bassett Racing Wheels, Beam Design, Brodix Inc., Dynatech, Finishline Racing Equipment, Five Star Stock Car Bodies, Frank's Radio, G. P. Fabrication., Hoosier Tire West, Impact Racing, Paul Oil Co., Peterson Fluid Systems, Pit stop usa.com., Print Werx, Sunoco, Total Seal Inc., U. S. Brake, and Victory Circle Chassis and Parts.