By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Chowchilla, CA
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Chowchilla, CA --
Chowchilla's own Dennis Clay led the final 14 laps to score a $525 win in the 25 lap street stock feature Sunday afternoon as George Steitz and Chowchilla Speedway's Tom Sagmiller staged the first annual New Year's Bash at Chowchilla Speedway. Clay led the first four laps before surrendering the top spot to Bakersfield's Keith Heaslet. Heaslet had to pit with a flat right front tire on lap 12 and Clay led the rest of the race to win ahead of Porterville's Royce Patterson and Antioch Speedway titlest Rich Gardner Jr with Petaluma champion Mitch Machado coming from the rear to finish fourth. Rain early in the week postponed the event from it's scheduled Jan 1 date to the weekend and the event was staged despite an unusable pit area and a flooded infield on the 3/8 mile clay oval. Chowchilla regular Marshall Weaver from Merced used lapped traffic to his advantage as he picked off a $325 win in the 25 lap hobby stock feature. Weaver leaped from third on lap 10 to the lead on lap 12 with a pair of traffic passes. Former Merced Speedway champion Mike Hamilton led the first 11 laps and finished second ahead of Bay Area star Phil Indihar. The event was staged on a frozen cold afternoon under the valley's famous tule fog, but the five division show drew an outstanding 90 car entry.
The 22 street stocks were divided into three heat races. Machado drew the pole for the first heat that saw Petaluma regulars take the top three spots. Mikol Westling was second and Mark Ohlinger ran third. Heaslet impressed by driving from 4th starting to win heat 2 ahead of Bob Motts Jr and Clay. Frank Hanna came from dead last to win heat 3 as Bakersfield long tow David Childress ran second ahead of Tim Ragsdale. The feature had an 8 car inversion off the heat results that put Clay and Ohlinger on the front row. Marysville's Charlie Marrs was a feature scratch and Phillip Lust pitted before a lap was scored. Clay led the first lap over Childress and Motts, but Childress, Motts, Westling and Machado all got tangled up in turn 1 on the next round. All restarted in the back and Watsonville's Ken Gregg also pitted. Heaslet was now second ahead of Patterson. Jimmy Lust moved into fourth on the restart and a spin by Hanna produced a lap 4 yellow flag. Heaslet took the lead from Clay on this restart and Chris Harless got fourth from J Lust on lap 9. P Lust stalled for a lap 11 yellow flag and Johnny Cardoza took a wild ride through the wet and muddy infield racing to the flag. George Lefler Sr had just taken sixth from Ragsdale, but he spun on the restart and collected Ragsdale. Heaslet suffered a flat right front tire on this lap and had to pit with Clay the new leader over Patterson and J Lust. Gardner broke into the top five and took fourth from Harless on lap 15. Machado was flying through the pack and he passed Harless on a lap 16 restart for fifth. Ohlinger crashed hard into the turn 3 fence for a lap 19 yellow flag. During the caution, an engine fire sidelined third place J Lust. The final six laps were run without another slowdown and Clay stayed out front of Patterson and Gardner for the win. Machado ran fourth ahead of Nathan Corn and Mike Bledsoe. Motts was 7th in front of Cardoza and Childress.
The hobby stocks had the day's biggest turnout with 30 entries. They were divided into four heat races and Petaluma's Lonnie Pagh won the first heat in front of Los Banos racer Shawn Bryant and Thomas McAbee. Weaver came from 4th to win heat 2 ahead of Bakersfield's Eric Olson and Petaluma champion Debbie Taylor. Indihar won heat 3 from 4th as Hamilton ran second ahead of Bob Ackerman. The final heat saw Terry DeCarlo Jr winning from the pole as fellow front row starter Andrew Krumm was second ahead of Duane Fast. The top four in each heat transferred to the 25 lap feature and they were joined by six cars from a 12 lap B Main. Mike Soiseth won the B Main ahead of the Bakersfield duo of Richie McGowan and Tom Manzella with Lebec long tow Gene Verbeek coming from dead last to finish fourth. Coming off his big Victorville Turkey Classic win, Garrett Steitz broke an axle in his heat to end his day and Ron McCaul's car suffered heavy damage in the heat action.
This feature also had an 8 car inversion and was very well run with just two caution flags despite a narrow race track and no escape routes for broken cars. McAbee broke on a pace lap and Hamilton raced into the lead over Krumm and Bryant. Indihar was third on lap 2 when the yellow fell for a spin by Hanford's Michael Anderson. Both Olson and Weaver got by Indihar on the restart. Manzella dropped out after spinning and Jim Watson spun through the muddy infield. DeCarlo ended up in the mud on the backstretch, then climbed the front fence for a lap 6 yellow flag. Weaver beat Olson to the flag for third place. The final 19 rounds were run without another slowdown. Weaver used lapped traffic to take second from Krumm on lap 11 and he got by Hamilton for the top spot on lap 12. Olson took third from Krumm and teammate McGowan drove by Indihar and Krumm for fourth on lap 14. Fast and Roger Dory both took wild rides in the infield swamp and Fast watched the rest of the race from the top of his car in a large infield lake. Bakersfield's David Hayder dropped out as B Main winner Soiseth advanced to 4th on lap 17. Soiseth lost the spot back to Indihar on lap 18 as a flat tire sidelined Pagh. Hamilton moved in to challenge Weaver for the top spot, but couldn't pull off a pass. The flying duo left just 8 finishers on the lead lap as Soiseth smoked heavily over the final two rounds and Verbeek dropped a drive line. Weaver won ahead of Hamilton, Indihar, McGowan, Soiseth, Olson, Ackerman and Krumm as Taylor rounded out the top 9.
Summary Hobby Stock Heat 1-Lonnie Pagh, Shawn Bryant, Thomas McAbee, Michael Anderson, Roger Dory. Heat 2-Marshall Weaver, Eric Olson, Debbie Taylor, Jim Watson, George Lefler Jr. Heat 3-Phil Indihar, Mike Hamilton, Bob Ackerman, Cory Gilmore, Tom Manzella. Heat 4-Terry DeCarlo Jr, Andrew Krumm, Duane Fast, David Hayder, Rodney Lefler. B Main-Mike Soiseth, Richie McGowan, Manzella, Gene Verbeek, G Lefler Jr, Dory, Billy Nelson II, Rachel Paul, Richard Schearer, Charles Balderston, R Lefler, Chris Juhl. A Main-Weaver, Hamilton, Indihar, McGowan, Soiseth, Olson, Ackerman, Krumm, Taylor, Paul, Watson, Verbeek, Bryant, Pagh, Dory, Hayder, Fast, Anderson, Gilmore, DeCarlo, Manzella, McAbee. Street Stock Heat 1-Mitch Machado, Mikol Westling, Mark Ohlinger, Royce Patterson, Mike Bledsoe. Heat 2-Keith Heaslet, Bob Motts Jr, Dennis Clay, Jimmy Lust, Nathan Corn. Heat 3-Frank Hanna, David Childress, Tim Ragsdale, Johnny Cardoza, Charlie Marrs. Main-Clay, Patterson, Rich Gardner Jr, Machado, Corn, Bledsoe, Motts, Cardoza, Childress, Ragsdale, Westling, Mark Funkhouser, George Lefler Sr, Heaslet, Chris Harless, Ken Gregg, Roslynn Lewis, Hanna, J Lust, Ohlinger, Phillip Lust.