By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Watsonville, CA
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Watsonville, CA --
Having only made very infrequent appearances at Watsonville when the track wasn't sanctioned by IMCA, Hollister's Andy Obertello grabbed the lead on lap 5 and went on to win the 25 lap IMCA Modified feature race Friday night. Obertello's father Ron started his racing career at Watsonville and eventually moved his action onto the pavement at Madera Speedway. Ron picked Merced as a good place for Andy to learn the sport and Andy got a feature win back in 2001 as a 16 year old rookie. Andy wants to chase the Watsonville point title here in 2004 with his Dana Stahl built car and he was very excited about his first Watsonville feature win worth $360. Driving a former Todd Hermosillo car that was purchased by his brother in law, Kenny Nott Jr gained the $180 second place spot by outdueling Southwest Series star Todd Souza. Souza is in the Eli Mendoza car formerly wheeled by Nott and he won $120 for third. After having to battle a badly rutted track on opening night, the teams were given an extremely dry-slick, but smooth 1/4 mile clay oval this week. Mark Cooper was able to drive underneath Scott Fuhrman on lap 22 to win the 25 lap super stock main event. Cooper came from fifth on the straightup lineup to take second from Phillip Priddy on lap 7. The race ran without a caution for the last 19 laps and Cooper made his late race pass pay off in a $270 win. Fast timer Fuhrman won $165 for second with defending division champion Dennis Pelphrey a $95 third. With defending track champion Mike Meazell sidelined by his broken engine of opening night, the limited late model field was down to 8 cars and double division racer Ken Gregg led all 20 laps for a $110 win. Gregg had actually lost the lead to opening night winner Fred Lind on lap 7, but the track's new don't race to the caution rule put Gregg back in front. Gregg stayed out front the rest of the way to win ahead of Lind and John Harville. For a second straight week, the American Stock main event was shortened by the time limits and fast improving Jennifer Rood got her first ever feature win in the 14 lapper. She led from lap 2 on and won ahead of Chad Bisordi and Ray Ash. The first destruction derby of the season found young Ryan Chivers the winner over his veteran father Tom Chivers.
The IMCA Modifieds had a solid 23 car turnout split over three heat races. Nott won heat 1 from third starting ahead of Kellen Chadwick, who just returned from events in Alabama and Arkansas. 2003 Western Region Rookie of the Year Larry Hood made the long tow north from Bakersfield and he won heat 2 from fifth starting in his Xtreme Chassis ahead of Phil Indihar. Chuck Harrell returned after a long absence and captured heat 3 from fifth starting ahead of Jeff Buckner. Harrell also added the dash win in front of Chadwick and Buckner. All 23 cars were allowed to start the 25 lap feature. Merced long tow Johnnie Baptista gave up a second row assignment to fall to the rear. Outside front row starter Buckner led the opening lap with the red flying as Scott Wheelock spun on the front stretch in front of the pack. Indihar got underneath Buckner in turn 4 on lap 2 to take the top spot and Obertello followed him into second a lap later. Newcomer Gordon Bamberry spun for a lap 4 yellow and Obertello gained the lead on this restart. Buckner spun to force another early race yellow flag. Souza got by Garrett Steitz to take over third on lap 7 and he gained second when Indihar pitted with sparks flying on lap 8. Hood, a track champion at both Bakersfield and Hawthorne NV in 2003, raced into second on lap 9, but was passed by both Souza and Nott on lap 13. State point leader Bill Saltzman lost several spots when he was trapped behind a broken Chadwick on lap 12. Nott grabbed second on lap 15, but lost it back to an outside pass by Souza on lap 17. Nott then drove back underneath Souza to take second for good on lap 18, but he could only chase Obertello to the checkered flag. Father crew chief Ron said that Andy has progressed to the point that he made all the suspension calls for this tricky race track. The dueling Nott and Souza had to race around a spun T J Etchison on the final lap. Nott took second ahead of Souza, opening night winner Brian Cass, Hood, Steitz, Saltzman, Baptista, Jim DiGiovanni and Antioch long tow Brian Pearce.
Fuhrman was the quickest of the 18 super stocks in time trials with a 17.954 lap. Improving Ray Martin had a 18.186, Eric VanHooser was third with his MoPar at 18.462 and P Priddy had a 18.514. Priddy won the dash from the pole ahead of VanHooser. Pelphrey beat Cooper in heat 1 and opening night winner Doug Hagio won heat 2 ahead of a returning Darrell Hughes. A track regular when he lived on the coast, Hughes made the tow from Manteca to race. He sat out time trials when his roof was declared illegal, but was given the option of racing for no points or money. Despite the tricky surface, the 18 car feature grid did a good job in the 25 lap feature as it was slowed just 3 times by yellow flags. Chris Kulvicki was eliminated in a four car tangle on lap 1 with Fuhrman setting the early pace over Priddy, Martin and VanHooser. Cooper was fifth on lap 1, but climbed to third on lap 3 as Martin clipped the front fence. Martin spun on the next lap and got hit by VanHooser. The rim riding Cooper drove by everyone on the restart to take the lead, but a spin by Mike Franco Sr voided the lap. Fuhrman saw Cooper's line and moved high on the restart, successfully fending off Cooper until the late race action. With his high line taken away, Cooper settled into second ahead of Priddy and Pelphrey. Cooper made several attempts to get by on the bottom, but couldn't pull off a pass. Fuhrman maintained his lead despite a tangle with Franco on lap 18. Cooper was finally able to make an inside challenge work exiting turn 4 on lap 22. He stayed out front for the win with Fuhrman second ahead of Pelphrey, Priddy, Hagio and Hughes. The top ten was rounded out by Bill Hyland, Tony Oliveira's Ford, Danny Scott and Gregg.
The 8 limited late models ran in a single heat race and Lind won from the pole ahead of Mike Calhoun and Gregg. Stu Cornick won the dash from the pole ahead of Lind. The 20 lap feature had an invert 3 lineup that put Gregg and Calhoun on the front row ahead of Lind and Cornick. Cornick lined up late and was moved to the rear. Gregg raced into the lead with Lind getting around Calhoun on lap 2 for second. Calhoun spun on lap 5 with Rich Barbaccia gaining third ahead of Cornick. Lind had completed an outside pass on leader Gregg when Gene Blakeman spun to force a lap 6 yellow flag. Barbaccia had to pit with a flat tire after getting collected in the Blakeman spin along with Cornick, Jeff Mead and Calhoun. Harville moved up to third and Blakeman gained fourth when Calhoun spun on lap 12. Gregg was quicker than Lind over the last half of the race and won by a quarter lap with third place Harville a half-lap behind the winner at the checkered flag. Blakeman ran fourth ahead of Mead, Calhoun and Barbaccia.
The American Stocks split 23 cars into three heat races. Sam Kennedy turned an outside front row start into a win in heat 1 and Bisordi outdueled Rood in heat 2. Opening night winner Bill Sorg crashed hard into the front wall at the checkered flag of heat 2. Rod Herrick drove his Mustang from third to take heat 3 ahead of Ash. Herrick beat Kennedy in the dash. The scratches of Mike Kofnovec and Terry Stanton left 21 cars for the scheduled 20 lap feature. The lineup was straight up off the heat finishes, but Kennedy lined up late and went to the rear. Herrick blew a tire on lap 1 and Bisordi led the opening lap over Rood and Ash. Rood took over on lap 2 with John Dawson Jr into fourth ahead of Aaron Hill. Don Gilbertson lost a wheel on lap 5 and a spin by Hill moved Jason Busby into fifth on lap 7. Busby spun and then crashed with Eli Mendoza Jr as Sorg raced into fifth on lap 9. Gilbertson returned only to lose another wheel on his first lap back. He got into the infield without a caution. The early incidents had eaten up the 20 minute time limit and a tangle between Hill and Norm Ayers forced a lap 14 yellow flag. Rood got tangled up in the incident and got passed, but the no racing to the yellow rule put her back out front and the race was called as the field circled under the yellow flag. Bisordi finished second ahead of Ash, Dawson Jr, Kennedy, Sorg, Herrick, Steve Taddei and Ramey VanHoose.
Summary American Stock Dash-Rod Herrick, Sam Kennedy, Jennifer Rood. Heat 1-Kennedy, Aaron Hill, Jason Busby, Ramey VanHoose, Norm Ayers. Heat 2-Chad Bisordi, Rood, Billy Nelson II, Les Bowers, Bill Sorg. Heat 3-Herrick, Ray Ash, John Dawson Jr, Gary Hecker, Jeremiah Roma. Main-Rood, Bisordi, Ash, Dawson, Kennedy, Sorg, Herrick, Steve Taddei, VanHoose, Busby, Duane Bieser, Jerry Hooper, Eli Mendoza Jr, Hill, Ayers, Bowers, Roma, Paul Champion, Don Gilbertson, Nelson, Hecker. Limited Late Model Dash-Stu Cornick, Fred Lind, Ken Gregg. Heat-Lind, Mike Calhoun, Gregg, Cornick, John Harville. Main-Gregg, Lind, Harville, Gene Blakeman, Jeff Mead, Calhoun, Rich Barbaccia, Cornick. Super Stock Fast Time-Scott Fuhrman 17.954 Dash-Philip Priddy, Eric VanHooser, Fuhrman. Heat 1-Dennis Pelphrey, Mark Cooper, Ken Gregg, Tony Oliveira, VanHooser. Heat 2-Doug Hagio, Darrell Hughes, Priddy, Danny Scott, Chris Kulvicki. Main-Cooper, Fuhrman, Pelphrey, Priddy, Hagio, Hughes, Bill Hyland, Oliveira, Scott, Gregg, Jason Rood, Chris Messmer, Steve Peyla, Keith Trusso, VanHooser, Mike Franco Sr, Ray Martin, Kulvicki. IMCA Modified Dash-Chuck Harrell, Kellen Chadwick, Jeff Buckner. Heat 1-Kenny Nott Jr, Chadwick, Garrett Steitz, Todd Souza, Bill Saltzman. Heat 2-Larry Hood, Phil Indihar, Andy Obertello, T J Etchison, Kenny Fredenberg. Heat 3-Harrell, Buckner, Brian Cass, Johnnie Baptista, Todd Hermosillo. Main-Obertello, Nott, Souza, Cass, Hood, Steitz, Saltzman, Baptista, Jim DiGiovanni, Brian Pearce, Harrell, Etchison, Buckner, Fredenberg, Hermosillo, Chadwick, Mark Sargent, Tony Capote Jr, Tom Flattery, Gordon Bamberry, Indihar, Jeffrey Priddy, Scott Wheelock.