By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Lake Pleasant, AZ
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Lake Pleasant, AZ -- Valley Steel Winter Racing champion Jeff Connors from Las Vegas appeared to have battled from 8th starting to a win in the 20 lap qualifying night feature for the Pro Dwarf Cars only to see a spun car block his groove on the final turn and Arizona star Dean Riggs raced by on the outside for the victory. The disappointed Connors settled for second ahead of trailer mate Ryan Cotrell and track promoter Jeff Stafford Friday night at Canyon Raceway as the two night regionals for the Western States Dwarf Cars opened. For the first time, the event had a separate Senior Division and long time Arizona racer Jerry Larrabee drove to that win ahead of Southern California racers Ken Brady and Steve Nordberg. Nordberg led the first 10 laps and Larrabee the final ten. The mini sprint 600s were on hand for their season opener and a 21 car field appeared. Jeremy Reagles won the pole with his victory in the first heat and he stayed out front for all 20 laps. Fourth starter Garrett Guilkey raced by Adam Millsap for second on lap 9 and he finished there ahead of Millsap and Brandon Young. The Friday night show had it’s usual late start due to the commute traffic and the overly wet track required three hours of work before racing started at 10:25. Both dwarf car features were run after 1 AM and racing finished at 1:35.
The Pro Division for the dwarf cars split a 22 car turnout into three heat races. Young Las Vegas NV racer Cotrell started last in heat 1, but picked off the win with a last lap pass around Wyoming’s Bruce Gibson. Gibson had run a 17.55 best lap leading, but Cotrell dropped the mark to 16.92 on that final lap. Another Wyoming racer Brian Tillotson ran third behind Gibson. Stafford won heat 2 from 7th as he made an inside pass at the white flag for the win. He ran that final lap in 16.79 seconds. John Priest had led from the pole with a best lap of 17.24. Priest ran second ahead of sixth starter Connors and Shawn Arnold. Riggs turned an outside front row start into a win in heat 3 with a best lap of 16.66. Kevin Hickson came from 7th to get second ahead of pole starter Jeff Adams. The 20 lap preliminary night feature was lined up straight up off the heat results and Cotrell led the opening lap before Riggs took over. Stafford settled into third ahead of Priest and Hickson. Both Adams and Utah racer Monte Morris spun early. Hickson and Connors had climbed into the 4-5 slots by lap 6. There were three different yellow flags on lap 10 as Adams spun, Kelvin Spaght and Dan Yirku tangled and finally a multi car incident in turn 1 eliminated Bob Saunders, Mark Dillie and Scott Winger. Connors had passed Hickson for fourth before the rash of yellow flags. Both Stafford and the bottom running Connors got around Cotrell on this restart and Connors raced into second on lap 12. Connors began to pressure leader Riggs and he took the top spot with an inside move in turn 4 on lap 15. Hickson crashed for a yellow flag. As the laps ran down, Connors was leading Riggs, Stafford, Cotrell and Tillotson when Yirku flipped in turn 3 for a red flag with two laps to go after tangling with Colorado champion Jake Muehlbauer. Connors again took command on that green flag with just two laps to run only to find a spun Hickson blocking his groove in turn 3 on the last lap. Riggs was racing up high and he was able to race around the slowing Connors for the win. Connors ran second ahead of Cotrell, Stafford, Tillotson, San Diego’s Bob Brown Jr and Jim Scribelitto. The top ten finishers earned the right to race in a dash on Saturday night to set the starting order in the front of their championship feature. Morris was 8th ahead of Gibson and Adams.
There were a dozen entries in the senior dwarf cars but CDCRA star Mike VanAcker was unable to race on the first night despite appearing with two cars. Bill VanPraag led the opening heat race from the pole, but Arizona’s Fred Donaldson passed the Ventura Raceway racer on the last lap for the win. Van Praag ran second ahead of Nordberg. Larrabee captured heat 2 from fifth with pole starter Mark Ramey from Las Vegas second ahead of Arizona rookie Kelly Gutches. Larrabee had a 17.57 best lap. Starting fifth in the preliminary night 20 lap feature, Nordberg dove to the bottom on the opening lap and he emerged as the leader ahead of Donaldson and Ramey. Van Praag was second on lap 2 and Ramey third on lap 3 as Larrabee settled into fourth. Rick Fasano spun for a lap 4 yellow and both Ramey and Larrabee were able to get around VanPraag for the 2-3 slots. Brady broke into the top five as Fasano fell out. A lap 10 restart found Larrabee racing into second and he then drove underneath Nordberg in turn 3 for the lead on lap 11. Brady passed Ramey for third on lap 11 and took second from travel mate Nordberg on lap 13. The front threesome were battling for the win when Donaldson and Ramey tangled for a lap 15 yellow. Larrabee stayed in front of Brady and Nordberg for the win. Donaldson ran fourth ahead of Van Praag, Gutches, Ramey and Melvin Spaght.
The 21 car modified midget turnout included 19 mini sprint 600s and just two modified midget 250s. Reagles won the opening heat from third with a best lap of 15.32. Fourth starting Guilkey ran second ahead of pole starter Austin Quick. Millsap won heat 2 from the pole as he clicked off a 15.21 lap. Fifth starter Josh Castro was second ahead of John Carioscia as top runners Chad Fife and Andres Batista both broke. New Mexico star Batista was coming off a pavement win at Sandia Motorsports Park the previous weekend. Young captured heat 3 from the pole with a best lap of 15.72. Fellow front row starter Mike Visser ran second ahead of Nick Aiuto. After three cautions in the first 9 laps, the remainder of their 20 lap main was run caution free. They were the first main event of the night, starting just minutes before midnight. Both Tom Parker and Joshua Hodges couldn’t keep their cars running at the start of the feature and Jonathan Patrick fell out early. Doug Welty had been a main event scratch. Reagles raced into the lead ahead of Millsap, Guilkey, Young and Visser. The track had dried some and leader Reagles ran a 13.85 lap. Fife broke for a lap 6 yellow. On lap 8, Millsap raced underneath Reagles for the top spot in turn 1, but Reagles used a dive play in turn 3 to regain the lead before the lap was completed. Jake Grimes stalled for the final yellow flag on lap 9. The final 11 laps were run caution free and Reagles stayed out front for the win ahead of Guilkey, who got around Millsap on lap 9. Millsap ran third ahead of Young, Visser, Stephen Sanchez, Aiuto, Carioscia, Quick and Ashley Robella. It was announced at their drivers meeting that the insurance regulations at USA Race Park in Tucson would not allow their drivers under 14 years old to race in the Saturday night show there.
Summary Senior Dwarf Car Heat 1-Fred Donaldson, Bill VanPraag, Steve Nordberg, Gordon Brand, Ken Brady. Heat 2-Jerry Larrabee, Mark Ramey, Kelly Gutches, Melvin Spaght, Rick Fasano. Main-Larrabee, Brady, Nordberg, Donaldson, VanPraag, Gutches, Ramey, M Spaght, Brand, Paul Ross, Fasano. Pro Dwarf Car Heat 1-Ryan Cotrell, Bruce Gibson, Brian Tillotson, Scott Winger, Bob Brown Jr. Heat 2-Jeff Stafford, John Priest, Jeff Connors, Shawn Arnold, John Saunders. Heat 3-Dean Riggs, Kevin Hickson, Jeff Adams, Casey Hofer, Jim Scribellito. Main-Riggs, Connors, Cotrell, Stafford, Tillotson, Brown, Scribellito, Monte Morris, Gibson, Adams, Priest, J Saunders, Hickson, Jake Muehlbauer, Dan Yirku, Hofer, Ward, Kelvin Spaght, Winger, Bob Saunders, Mark Dillie, Arnold. Modified Midget Heat 1-Jeremy Reagles, Garrett Guilkey, Austin Quick, Ashley Robella, Joshua Hodges. Heat 2-Adam Millsap, Josh Castro, John Carioscia, Jake Grimes, Doug Welty. Heat 3-Brandon Young, Mike Visser, Nick Aiuto, Stephen Sanchez, Jonathan Patrick. Main-Reagles, Guilkey, Millsap, Young, Visser, Sanchez, Aiuto, Carioscia, Quick, Robella, Castro, Chad Fife, Jim Morris, Cody McGullam, Grimes, Fife, Andres Batista, Patrick, Hodges.