Saturday night at Champion Speedway featured a couple of first-time race winners, some bumping and banging, and even a few fisticuffs to add spice to the show.
A good-sized field of 13 late model stock cars was so evenly matched that the first six laps of the main looked like a Winston Cup restrictor plate race.
Jay Bradley took the early lead from the pole and led for the first five laps, then Scott Bohemier took over for a lap until supplanted by Rich Lawlor's Ford. Dean Heller spun in turn four on the 10th lap with a little help from C.J. Bawden, bringing out the first caution.
Heller joined the pack behind Bawden for the restart, giving him a couple of love taps that damaged Heller's hood.
On the restart Jim Courage Jr., the current Roseville late model points leader, surged to the front. Two laps later the yellow was out for Bradley's hood, which flew off on the back straight.
Lawlor pitted for a flat tire and Bohemier retired with a cherry-red front brake rotor.
At the halfway point the top five runners were: Courage Jr., Chet Danburg, Craig Paulsen (in his first outing with his new car), Mike Millard, and C.J. Bawden.
A yellow on lap 18 for a spin by Randy Bauer gave Danburg a chance at the lead, but Courage Jr. powered away on the restart and held the lead to the end. Bawden got by Paulsen for third, and there was a tremendous battle for fifth between Brian Colodny and Lawlor, with Colodny (also in a new car) getting the position at the checker. Millard was sixth, followed by Heller and J.P. Molnar, the last car on the lead lap. Bradley and Bauer were tenth and eleventh, a lap down, and Bohemier finished eight laps.
Bohemier and Lawlor won the heat races, and Courage Jr. was the trophy dash victor.
The sportsman main was wild and wooly, and the action didn't stop at the checkered flag. Nine cars took the green flag with Tom Eldridge leading the early laps from the pole and Stuart Moon in hot pursuit.
By lap three, points leader Big Al Goss had made it a threesome at the front. Goss powered into the lead on lap five, and Dave Sciarroni worked his way into fourth on the next lap.
The first caution came on lap nine when Frank Sanfilippo and Keith Mikaelsen tangled in turn four, putting Sanfilippo out of the race. Sciarroni moved past Moon into second on lap 13 and five laps later closed up on Goss, who was driving a 30-foot wide Monte Carlo at that point. Sciarroni tried him high and low, but couldn't find a way by, and Goss took the win.
Behind them, Moon had his hands full with Mike Millard, who earlier had done some serious fender banging with John Hood. Moon held Millard off for third, but Millard slowed dramatically after taking the flag, causing Hood and Eldridge to make contact trying to avoid him and spinning Hood to the infield. After the race, Hood went to Millard's pit to discuss the situation, and fisticuffs ensued. When the dust settled, Millard was given a one-month suspension, which effectively ends his season. Millard's mentor, racer Jerry Allec Jr., allegedly threw the first punch, and was banned from the track indefinitely, putting him out of the upcoming Inter-Mountain touring series race. The heat race wins went to Goss and Sciarroni, and Goss took the trophy dash (in which Millard was penalized for rough driving).
Once again, the hobby stocks provided the largest field, not to mention some of the closest racing. And once again, Rafael Gomez was in front when the checkered flag flew. It was Gomez' seventh main victory of the season.
At the start, Christine Droege, pumped from her heat race win, took the lead, but on the second lap Mark Pace tried to drive through her for the lead, and Christine ended up at the tail end of the pack. Chris Betz held the lead through a string of yellows and restarts until lap 22, with Christopher Pfalmer and recent Main winner Rick Garmann right behind him. Then Bill Gould took over for a brief period, but Gomez and Rocky Boice Jr. were coming. Gomez soon took over the lead and held it to the finish, his car handling well in both the low and high grooves. Boice followed him through to take second, with Betz third, Gould fourth, and Garmann rounding out the top five. Also finishing on the lead lap (in order) were Allen Hunter, Pfalmer, Joel Worley, Don Hill, Robert Coleman, Ken Rogers, Chris Anderson, Mike Fuller, Droege and Pace. Ed Sykes was 16th, a lap down, and Erin Morgan completed 20 laps.
Both heat race victors were first-time race winners, with Droege taking heat one and Rogers winning heat two. Gomez won the trophy dash.
Outlaw Karts were also on the card, and Jay Dargert continued his winning ways in the 500cc Open Outlaw division.
The open main was cut short after a rash of yellow flags, one red flag and lots of attrition, but Dargert had been dominant the entire race. Thirteen-year-old Chad Vance finished second, where he had run for most of the evening and Jeff Maguire got his best-ever main event finish in third. Former main winner Larry Devlin was scored in fourth. Randy Devlin, despite a rollover, was one lap down in fifth. Rounding out the field were Josh Diel, Travis McCalla (four laps down), "Hair" (four laps complete) and Cheyne Jackson (three laps).
Dargert made it a perfect evening with wins in the trophy dash and the second heat. Jackson, back in a kart after laying off most of the summer, won the first heat.
After trailing John Harrington for most of the 125cc main, Jordan Dargert made his move on lap 18, diving underneath Harrington and holding on for the victory. At the outset, it appeared that the Harrington boys were off to another one-two finish, but James Harrington spun to the rear of the field, putting Dargert in position to challenge for the lead in the late going. So the Harringtons had to settle for 2-3 (John, James), followed by Jesse and Samantha Diel. John Harrington salvaged his pride by winning both the heat race and the trophy dash.
For the second race in a row, Matt Vallarino dominated the box stock class, leading every lap of the Main and winning both the heat race and trophy dash. Danny Harrington, Colin Dargert, Nathan Buffa and Kyle Lever all tried to mount challenges, but all spun at one point or another trying to catch the flying Vallarino. At the checker it was Vallarino, Dargert, Harrington, Lever, and Buffa one lap down.
Try as they might, none of the beginner box stock drivers could stay with the lead duo of 6-year-old Hunter Colodny and his 5-year-old buddy Zachary Heinz. Heinz led the first five laps, then Colodny took over and the pair ran away to the checkered flag. There was some spirited racing behind them, and some excellent performances turned in by these young novice drivers, notably Caleb Price, who finished third, veteran Nicole Buffa in fourth, and Shelby Price, who parlayed miscues by other drivers into a top-five finish. Brittney Kline finished sixth in her first-ever race, followed by Jay Primm and Shelby Dargert. First-time racer Christian Steele was ninth, two laps down, and first-timer Greg Cazier had problems, finishing only five laps.
Heinz beat his buddy Colodny to the flag in both the trophy dash and the first heat, while Shelby Price won heat two.
This coming Saturday night marks the second 2001 visit of the USAC Sprint Cars to Champion Speedway, featuring local drivers Amy Barnes and Mark Beck, joining more than 20 other drivers from several western states.
Call 267-3723 for ticket prices and times.