This would have been a memorable victory for Amy Barnes on her hometown track. Instead, the final race of the Nevada State Sprintcar Championship Series Saturday night at Champion Motor Speedway turned into a memorable victory for Bryan Bullard.
Bullard pulled ahead of Minden's Barnes in a duel for the lead and went on to win a 100-lap feature race that served as the curtain closer on a chilly evening at Champion's 41st annual Silver State Classic. For Bullard, the celebration was made all the more special because he was driving the No. 71 Oval Chassis Research Special owned and designed by Mike McCreary, who was the focus of the "40 years of Excellence" salute. It was a final tribute to McCreary, who began his driving career at Tahoe-Carson Speedway (now Champion) in 1964 and won two Northern Auto Racing Club championships, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer over the summer.
"Mike was at the track; he was in a very weakened condition, but he did get to see the last lap, he got to see Bryan take the checker, and I was told he was very, very happy. So yes, that was very special for Bryan," Champion General Manager Les Kynett said.
Barnes finished second in the race, an improvement over her third-place performance in the state championship series event on Aug. 28, yet a disappointment after leading for the better part of 42 laps in the middle of the race.
"I'm happy, but disappointed," Barnes said, flashing a smile. "Being in my hometown, it would have been awesome to win. I worked hard coming from the back of the pack. It was a good race, a fun race - we all worked our butts off tonight."
Barnes worked her way up to third by Lap 8, moved into second on Lap 17, then surged to the front on the backstretch on Lap 18. Nick Rescino Jr., who had won the first three races in the series, was in hot pursuit and moved up to challenge on the inside going into Turn 4 on Laps 23, 24 and 25. Barnes held off both attempts.
The leaders also came into lapped traffic at the start of Lap 27. Rescino dropped low and took the lead on the backstretch of Lap 28, but Barnes came right back to regain the lead on Lap 30. Rescino made another move for the lead in heavy traffic - only to hit Scott Clough from behind going into Turn 4. Rescino went to the pits to make front end repairs and returned for the restart, but was never a factor in the race again on his way to an eighth-place finish.
Barnes was out front for the restart at the 40-lap mark, with Bullard and "Cowboy" Craig Smith right behind in the lineup. Barnes stayed outside and maintained her lead until Lap 60, when she seemed to slip coming out of Turn 2. Bullard went low and surged to the front.
"I don't know if I hit some sand or what," Barnes said. "The outside was great for me in the beginning, but then it started getting tight coming off the corners."
Barnes made one more serious challenge with an outside move on Turn 4 with 22 laps to go, but Bullard held off the bid. After that, Barnes got caught in lapped traffic and Bullard was able to break away on his way to the win.
Bullard also won the trophy dash, which saw some anxious moments when Mike Ogden's car went over the bank into Turn 1, went over the wall, flipped in the air and flipped two more times before coming to rest.
"Mike went to the hospital, but he called me today and told me everything was OK," Kynett said on Sunday.
Earlier, Rescino sped to a track Sprintcar record time of 12.42 seconds in qualifying.
Bullard's win also created a logjam for the championship of the four-race series. According to unofficial results announced on Sunday, Bullard fell one point short of overtaking Rescino.
There was also drama in the 16-car, 50-lap double points Legends main event, where 18-year-old Richard Malugani of Dayton finished fourth and wrapped up the division championship in his first season of racing.
"I'm very happy - to win Rookie of the Year and the championship in the same season is pretty good," said Malugani. "This is my first year racing, ever. My dad (Jack) used to race in the Winston West series in the late '70s and early '80s and I just wanted to try it and see what I could do."
Nick Parmelee won the race to cap a season in which he won six of the races he started at Champion. Denny Hadler finished second, followed by Estes and Malugani. Estes trailed by seven points coming into the night and needed to finish two spots ahead of Malugani to win the championship. The red flag dropped twice with less than 10 laps to go, but the race was run to its completion because of the closeness of the points race between
Parmelee started 11th, into sixth on Lap 9 ... Malugani fourth and Estes fifth, third and fourth on Lap 12, Parmelee fifth on Lap 14. Hadler takes lead on Lap 15 from No. 54.
"It was pretty intense," Malugani said. "I was just trying to be patient - that's what has worked for me all year -- I knew I could control my car, my dad has taught me how to drive in a lot of different situations, so I wasn't worried about myself.
"I want to thank my dad (Jack Malugani), my mom (Sylvia) and my whole family for all their support; John Burritt, Junior and Senior, and Wes Smith, they've been my crew the entire season; and Big Rob Wood, for all his help with parts all through the season. There were a lot of people involved."
Young Malugani has some big plans for 2005.
"Next year, NASCAR ... Winston West, maybe even the (NASCAR Craftsman) Truck Series, we're not sure yet. The cars and motors are lined up, so that's what we're shooting for."
For Parmelee, the victory capped a season in which he split time racing in Las Vegas and Carson City. Next up, the Reno driver is scheduled to race at the asphalt nationals in Las Vegas on Oct. 7-8 in Las Vegas and the road course nationals at Sears Point on Nov. 14-15.
"The reason we ran here tonight was to make sure the setup was dialed in for nationals. I just wanted to have fun and make sure I didn't interfere with the points race. I just took my time to get to the front."
The Legends division's Ladies' Dash for Cash was won by 14-year-old Mackena Bell, who outran Katie Crome, Rebecca Parmelee and Charlene Baron to the checker. Bell's qualifying time of 14.88 was second fastest of the night, behind only Jack Randall's 14.84.
The 50-lap Western Modified main event saw Craig Swim from Rio Linda, Calif., hold on to beat Jay Linstroth of Citrus Heights, Calif., for his first win of the season.
Linstroth held off Solari to win the Modified trophy dash in his first appearance at Champion. Earlier, Solari broke the Modified track record with a 13.44 circuit.
Jon Phillips from Colusa, Calif., won the Bandolero main event and clinch the season points championship. Phillips came into the finale holding a two-point lead over Derek Holman in the standings.
Phillips won the trophy dash, ahead of Holman.
Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.