FERNLEY - The mood was somber at Reno-Fernley Raceway Saturday night after a visiting driver, Mike Cohen of San Jose, Calif., succumbed to an apparent heart attack during the first Dwarf Car heat race.
The track flag was lowered to half-staff and the Dwarf drivers lined up in a tribute formation during a moment of silence for their fallen comrade. The decision was made to continue the evening's racing program, but victory celebrations were muted.
The 318 Modified division was first out with nine competitors taking the green flag. Larry Silas of Wadsworth took the early lead from the outside pole with Sparks' John Scherer and Richard Rabe of Silver Springs in close pursuit.
The front three hooked up and pulled away from the field, while Don Hughes headed the second group in fourth. After working on it for a half dozen laps Scherer found an opening and shot past Silas for the lead, never to be headed. While Scherer cruised to the checker Rick Looney of Fernley charged past several cars to finish second. Rabe hung on for third, with Carson City's Troy Crawford grabbing fourth from Silas on the last lap. Kevin Knight of Sparks won the heat race earlier in the evening.
Although saddened by the loss of their fellow competitor, the Dwarf cars put on a spirited race, perhaps looking upon it as a fitting way to say farewell. Daniel Weger of Grass Valley, Calif. grabbed the lead at the green flag in his first 2005 appearance at Reno-Fernley Raceway. Reno's Reece Wilson stalked Weger for four laps and pounced when Weger went high in turn four to snatch the lead. After a yellow for a spin by Stuart Goehring of South Lake Tahoe, Wilson shot away on the restart to build a comfortable lead while Billie Canham of Sparks took over second followed by Weger's brother Patrick and Wilson's father Vuki. As the field strung out, Vuki moved to third while the Weger boys battled each other for fourth. After another yellow Vuki Wilson grabbed second on the restart, making it a Wilson one-two at the checkered flag. Reece took the win with Vuki second, followed home by Daniel Weger, Canham, and Patrick Weger. Patrick Weger and Reece Wilson were the heat race winners.
Danyale Urban of Sparks led the Modified Mini field at the green flag, but only for a lap until Cary Hilton of Fernley tangled with Bishop, Calif.'s Skip Wise and Dan Andreason of Sparks in turn two to bring out the yellow flag. Only Hilton was able to continue after a call into the pits for repairs. Stephen Crook of Sparks blew by Urban on the restart with brother Dennis Crook of Fernley following him through into second. It looked like a Crook Brothers runaway until Carson City's Brian Coclich came up to challenge in the race's late stages. Although it was Dennis Crook's birthday, brother Stephen decided to keep the win for himself, taking the checkered flag ahead of the birthday boy. Coclich came home a close third, with a pair of lady racers, Urban and Melissa Natenstedt rounding out the top five. Dennis Crook gave himself a heat race victory as a birthday present, and Matt Borges of Tracy, Calif. took the other heat race win.
Fast, furious racing, multi-car crashes, and lot of yellow flags characterized the Pro Stock Main. Yerington's Roy Peterson showed surprising strength in the early going, blasting by Pat Couch of Oregon House, Calif. to take the lead on lap three. Peterson held onto the point position until a yellow flag for a spin by David Ellsworth of Loyalton, Calif. bunched the field. Jim Smith, also of Loyalton, took over the lead on the restart, but the course went yellow almost immediately as Shawn Natenstedt of Fernley spun in front of most of the field in turn two, collecting half a dozen cars in a wild melee. Carson City's Matt Ramthun's smoking car was black-flagged during the caution, so he missed the next multi-car pileup on the next restart. When the green flag waved again, Natenstedt found himself in the infield even before turn one after contact with last week's winner Randy Reid of Sparks. Reid pitted, and now only 11 of the original 20 starters remained for a green/white/checker finish. Smith hung on for the win, with survivors Travis Peterson of Spanish Springs, Joe Specchio Jr. of Fernley, Round Mountain's Jay Sears, and Mike Prien of Gardnerville finishing second through fifth respectively. Sears and Natenstedt took heat race checkered flags.
The evening ended on a note of comic relief, with the first appearance of the new Extreme Mini Bombers division. Three cars competed in a flagpole race, consisting of racing around three pylons set up on a very wet front straightaway, with demolition derby rules applying. Glen Costa's "Reject" bested the "Tempo of Doom" driven by Doug Hast and Matt Sherman's "Shermanator".
Next Saturday night Reno-Fernley Raceway hosts the 360 Sprint Select series, along with IMCA Modifieds, 318 Modifieds, and Hobby Stocks. Racing begins promptly at 6 pm. Call 775-575-7217 or check out [ http://www.reno-fernleyraceway.com/ ]www.reno-fernleyraceway.com on the web for more info.
n Contact Roger Diez at Racytalker@aol.com