By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Watsonville, CA
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Watsonville, CA -- After 8 different drivers had won in the first 8 races on the schedule, young 19 year old Andy Obertello became the first repeat IMCA Modified victor as he scored a $190 victory in the 25 lap feature Friday night at Watsonville Speedway. Having gained the lead on lap 6, Obertello briefly lost the top spot to point leader Kenny Nott Jr on lap 20, but rebounded to retake the lead for good a lap later. Jim DiGiovanni got around Nott for a $115 second and Nott settled for a $90 third. Western Region and California State point leader Bill Saltzman was disqualified from a 4th place run when track officials discovered a very small aluminum suspension piece on his car. Gaining the lead when rookie Danny Scott pushed high off the top of turn 1 on a lap 21 restart, track title challenger Mark Cooper was a $215 winner in the 25 lap NASCAR super stock main event. Scott did rebound to get around Dennis Pelphrey for the $135 second and point leading Pelphrey settled for a $90 third. After slight contact in turn 3 saw him nearly spin and leader John Dawson Jr spin out of the lead, Sam Kennedy led the final 4 laps to win the 20 lap American Stock main event. It was S Kennedy's third win but he gained little ground on point leader Chad Bisordi, who finished third behind Steve Taddei. The local classes got to perform in front of a packed grandstand that was lured by the only Golden State Challenge Series race of 2004 at the 1/4 mile clay oval.
The IMCA Modifieds split their 13 entries into a pair of heat races. Obertello won heat 1 from the pole in his Dana Stahl built car as Garrett Steitz ran second ahead of David Press. Nott turned an outside front row start into a win in heat 2 over Saltzman and DiGiovanni. The heat races were two laps shorter than normal and no dashes were run this night to allow extra minutes for the winged sprint car action. Todd Souza fell out at the start of the 25 lap main event and the race had to be restarted after Todd Hermosillo spun and got clipped by returning racer DiGiovanni. The race was redflagged on lap 2 when the season debut for Otis Gleason ended with a broken engine and Hermosillo returned two laps down. Saltzman led the first five laps over Obertello and Nott. On a restart after a yellow flag for a T J Etchison spin, Saltzman pushed high and fell bck to third behind new leader Obertello and Nott. Steitz moved up and traded third several times with Saltzman as DiGiovanni worked his way back around Mark Sargent for fifth on lap 13. Both Steitz and DiGiovanni passed Saltzman on lap 17 and Jeff Buckner broke for a lap 19 yellow flag. DiGiovanni was now third ahead of Steitz. Nott was able to slide underneath Obertello to pace lap 20, but he pushed high on the next round and dropped back to third behind Obertello and DiGiovanni. Sargent clipped the front fence and Obertello stayed out front over those final five rounds for the win. DiGiovanni ran second ahead of Nott and Saltzman lost his fourth when he was DQ'd. That eliminated Steitz and Sargent to the 4-5 slots ahead of Johnnie Baptista and Press.
With the winged sprint cars requiring time trials, the NASCAR super stocks ran a draw format and Phillip Priddy won heat 1 from his outside front row start ahead of Scott and Patrick Sandoval. Pelphrey came from 4th to capture heat 2 with a last turn pass of Bill Hyland. The 25 lap feature had to be restarted after Chowchilla point leader Chris Messmer veered into the front fence and couldn't break free. He was able to restart in the rear, but the next attempt found Eric VanHooser's race over when he also crashed hard into the front barrier. Scott took a quick lead over Hyland, but Pelphrey raced into second on lap 2. Cooper was third on lap 3 and he began to trade second with Pelphrey. A tangle between Kenny Neville and Ray Martin forced a lap 8 yellow flag and Scott Fuhrman's bid for a third straight win ended with a broken front end. Cooper was able to drive underneath Pelphrey for second on lap 10 and a long green flag run saw Scott, Cooper and Pelphrey open a 1/2 lap lead over Hyland and Priddy. The race was redflagged on lap 20 when Martin and Raymond Keldsen Jr tangled into the front fence. Scott had won earlier restarts, but this was his first with Cooper as the other car. On the green, Scott got into turn 1 too hot and slide off the end of the track, falling back to third behind new leader Cooper and Pelphrey. Priddy took fourth from Hyland. On lap 24, Pelphrey got too high coming off turn 4 and he lost second back to Scott. Cooper started the night just 7 points back of Pelphrey and he posted his second win ahead of Scott and Pelphrey. Priddy was disqualified from fourth when his car failed a series of engine compression tests that lasted nearly 3 hours after the race conclusion. Hyland advanced to fourth ahead of Messmer, Sandoval and Keldsen.
The American Stocks had 20 cars this week and Mike Kofnovec Jr got his first heat win of the year as he outraced the brand new car of George Fernandez Jr in heat 1. Taddei beat Bill Sorg in heat 2 and Bisordi got heat 3 ahead of Jennifer Rood. Norm Ayers lost an engine to end his night. The 20 lap main event started with a red flag as Jeremiah Roma hit the front wall and Kofnovec Jr crashed hard into the turn 2 barrier. Celebrating his 50th birthday, Jerry Hooper saw his night end in a tangle with Billy Nelson III on the restart. Taddei led the first two laps with Eli Mendoza Jr spinning and getting clipped by Wally Kennedy. Sorg broke and Dawson Jr emerged with the lead over Taddei and Bisordi. S Kennedy suffered a flat tire, but was able to stay on the lead lap as the track went red with Nelson into the back fence and Ray Ash spinning. Ash lost a lap making repairs and the event time limit had expired when Nelson spun and got hit hard by G Fernandez Jr for a lap 5 yellow. The officials elected to let them race until the next caution and the slimmed down pack went 15 straight green flag laps to make the 20 lap distance. Taddei lost second to Jennifer Rood on lap 8, but Rood blew a tire a lap later. That allowed S Kennedy up to second ahead of Taddei and Bisordi. S Kennedy was putting heavy pressure on the rookie race leader on a tricky dry slick surface as the division was the final race of the night. Slight contact as they entered turn 3 on lap 17 saw leader Dawson Jr spin and S Kennedy fighting to gain control of his car before it looped. S Kennedy led those final four laps, but Dawson Jr showed his displeasure for the outcome when he drove into the back of the S Kennedy car in the winner's circle. Taddei ran second ahead of Bisordi, Dawson Jr, Mendoza, Paul Champion and Jimmy Fernandez.
The second weekend of June will be a rare dark weekend for the track as they were not scheduled to race on June 11 and the enduro slated for June 12 was cancelled due to a very low number of entries.
Summary American Stock Heat 1-Mike Kofnovec Jr, George Fernandez Jr, John Dawson Jr, Jeremiah Roma, Sam Kennedy. Heat 2-Steve Taddei, Bill Sorg, Wally Kennedy, Eli Mendoza Jr, Jimmy Fernandez. Heat 3-Chad Bisordi, Jennifer Rood, Billy Nelson III, Jerry Hooper, Paul Champion. Main-S Kennedy, Taddei, Bisordi, Dawson, Mendoza, Champion, J Fernandez, Les Bowers, Ray Ash, W Kennedy, Rood, Nelson, G Fernandez, Roma, Mike Kofnovec Sr, Sorg, Hooper, Kofnovec Jr. Super Stock Heat 1-Phillip Priddy, Danny Scott, Patrick Sandoval, Mark Cooper, Ray Martin. Heat 2-Dennis Pelphrey, Bill Hyland, Kenny Neville, Scott Fuhrman, Chris Messmer. Main-Cooper, Scott, Pelphrey, Hyland, Messmer, Sandoval, Raymond Keldsen Jr, Neville, Chris Kulvicki, Steve Peyla, Martin, Fuhrman, Eric VanHooser. IMCA Modified Heat 1-Andy Obertello, Garrett Steitz, David Press, Jeff Buckner, Mark Sargent. Heat 2-Kenny Nott Jr, Bill Saltzman, Jim DiGiovanni, Todd Hermosillo, T J Etchison. Main-Obertello, DiGiovanni, Nott, Steitz, Sargent, Johnnie Baptista, Press, Etchison, Hermosillo, Buckner, Otis Gleason, Todd Souza.