By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Ventura, CA
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Ventura, CA --
After racing for the rookie of the year award at Tulare in 1998 and trying the USAC pavement sprint car series in 1999, former dwarf car ace Tom Stansberry from Bakersfield is going to chase the track championship for the VRA Sprint Cars in 2000 and he led all 20 laps from the pole to win the season opening main event Saturday night. In previous years, the unwinged 360 sprint car division has raced under the IMCA sanction, but it has moved to Ventura Racing Association sanction in 2000 and the weekly purse has been upped to $1,000 to win with $750, $500 and $400 for the next three spots. Former legend car star Bobby Graham got around Chris Wakim on lap 16 and was closing on Stansberry at the checkered flag with Wakim third ahead of veteran sprint car racer Gary Howard and B Main winner Greg Taylor.
The season opener had been rained out the previous weekend and 30 cars loaded the pit area. The large turnout included 10 division rookies and the track elected to give the newcomers a heat of their own to start the program. A pair of brothers who moved up from the I-4 Modifieds, Mike Davis and Rick Davis, ran 1-2 in this special race. The division will draw for their heat lineups each week in 2000 and a combination of position points and passing points from the heat action will set the lineup for the scheduled 30 lap A Mains. The large field was split into four heats with Wakim winning the opening heat from an outside front row start over Denny McVey. Howard won heat 2 from the 4th starting spot with pole starter Dale Harwood second. Jim Gresham lined up 3rd for his win in heat 3 with Clark Templeman III second. Stansberry won heat 4 from the pole with 4th starting Jim Crawford second. The top four from each heat advanced to the scheduled 30 lapper with the remainder of the cars racing for two more spots out of the B Main. Taylor and Bill Welch ran 1-2 in the B Main with former A Main winner John Wright missing the transfer with a third ahead of Brett Butler and M Davis.
With 50 points to win the heat and 45 for second with just one point for each position gained, the four heat winners ended the heat action with the most points so the track is looking to fine tune that system. The top four point getters were inverted at the front of the 18 car A Main and that put Stansberry on pole with Wakim in row 1 as Gresham and Howard shared row 2. The race had to be restarted after Harwood stalled. Stansberry took the lead over Wakim and Gresham, but Gresham hooked a rut in turn 1 and flipped hbard for a lap 2 red flag. He was unhurt and Howard took over third with the yellow again quickly flying as Jeff Heaton spun. Graham and Templeman traded fourth several times before McVey got into the rear of Templeman hard as they entered turn 3. Both McVey and Templeman spun in the incident and Templeman's mount ended up flipping over backwards. Templeman was able to tag the field for the restart, but McVey was done with a broken front end. Stansberry continued to lead Wakim with Graham and Howard trading third several times as Randy Moody was out after stalling for a lap 10 caution. Graham got underneath Howard for third on lap 14 and he then charged underneath Wakim for 2nd in turn 1 on lap 16. During the early red flags, the officials elected to shorten the 30 lapper to 20 laps to allow time for both the street stock and IMCA modified main events. Jim Thomson was a late dropout while running fifth as Graham ran out of laps in his quest to overtake Stansberry. Like Stansberry, Graham raced on the pavement USAC sprint car series in 1999, but has switched to the Ventura scene in 2000. Wakim ran third ahead of Howard, Taylor, final starter Welch, Will Perkins, Templeman, Heaton and Crawford.
Summary Rookie Heat-Mike Davis, Rick Davis, Russell DeBlauw, John Woodward, Richard Renken. Heat 1-Chris Wakim, Denny McVey, Bobby Graham, Randy Moody, Greg Taylor. Heat 2-Gary Howard, Dale Harwood, Jim Thomson, Jeff Heaton, Bill Welch. Heat 3-Jim Gresham, Clark Templeman III, Steve Conrad, Ronnie Case, Jim Porter. Heat 4-Tom Stansberry, Jim Crawford, Will Perkins, Rob Kershaw, DeBlauw. B Main-Taylor, Welch, John Wright, Brett Butler, M Davis, DeBlauw, Renken, Woodward, Kenny Brown, Dayle Henry, Luis Espinoza. A Main-Stansberry, Graham, Wakim, Howard, Taylor, Welch, Perkins, Templeman, Heaton, Crawford, Conrad, Kershaw, Thomson, Moody, McVey, Case, Harwood, Gresham.