FERNLEY - The Memorial Day racing weekend commenced at Reno-Fernley Raceway Saturday night with New West Distributing's Hat Night at the Races. Instead of hats, the first 300 fans through the gates received t-shirts instead, plus a night of exciting racing.
Yellow flags were the story of the night, as caution periods bunched fields, erasing big leads and in some case changing race outcomes.
The entry level Pure Stock division began the evening's festivities, with 13 starters on hand for the 20-lap main. Aaron McIlvain of Silver Springs grabbed the lead on the first lap, with Reno's Brandon Martin and Walter Ball of Silver Springs in hot pursuit. The speedy McIlvain was into lapped traffic when the caution came out on lap eight.
Darrick Rauscher of Lemmon Valley made a call to the pits, but rejoined before green flag flew. On the restart it was again McIlvain, Martin, and Ball, with Yerington's Joshua Long coming through to challenge for the lead. Ball retired with an engine problem while McIlvain and Long ran side by side for several laps.
At the white flag, the pair collided, spinning down the front straightaway. Tim Cremeans of Reno shot into the lead and took the victory. Long recovered for second, followed home by Fernley's Matt Sherman, Rauscher, and McIlvain. Martin and Ball won the heat races.
Next up were the Modified Minis. Stephen and Dennis Crook won the heat races, then in the main, the brothers had to work their way through the pack. Matt Borges of Tracy, Calif., led the early laps with Fernley drivers Richard Scott and Nate Creiglow in hot pursuit. After a couple of early cautions bunched the field, Scott took over the point while Stephen Crook slotted in behind him. Scott and Crook battled for the lead. Stephen Crook slowed dramatically with a mechanical problem, and brother Dennis moved into second. Scott held Dennis Crook off to the checker, with Borges finishing third. Melissa Natenstedt of Fernley charged into fourth at the flag, with Sparks' Dan Andreason rounding out the top five.
Nineteen thundering, V8-powered Pro Stock entries rumbled onto the track for the next race.
Pat Couch of Oregon House, Calif., dominated the early stages of the race, with Carson City's Matt Ramthun, Jim Smith and David Ellsworth, both of Loyalton, Calif., and Yerington's Roy Peterson in hot pursuit.
Ramthun powered by Couch for the lead at the halfway point, but a caution flag bunched the field. Ellsworth stalked Ramthun for several laps after the restart, finally taking over the lead on lap 24. Smith also passed Ramthun's Ford and at the finish Ellsworth held off a charging Smith to take the win. Ramthun came home third, followed by Couch and Peterson. Shawn Natenstedt and Joe Specchio, Jr., both Fernley drivers, won the heat races.
The last race of the evening was the main for the very quick IMCA Modifieds, with 20 cars taking the green flag. Shawn Natenstedt, making a quick change from his Pro Stock car, grabbed the early lead. Behind him a snarling pack of Modifieds scrapped over second place, with Carson City's Steven McGee, Douglas Adams of Truckee, Gardnerville ace Robert Miller, and Sparks racer Rich Hill all involved.
Natenstedt appeared to have the field covered, maintaining a good-sized gap to the second-place battle until the caution flag waved for McGee, whose driveshaft came apart in turn two. Natenstedt restarted with Miller right on his tail, a situation that almost immediately reversed itself.
"Shawn was focused on staying down low, but I knew there was a good high line, so I went around him on the high side," said the 26-year racing veteran.
Trying mightily to re-take the lead, Natenstedt spun in front of the whole field coming off turn four, with cars going everywhere to avoid a major wreck.
At the checker it was Miller, followed home by Hill, Reno's Conrad Wilson, Jesse Gonzalez of Fallon, and Adams.
Miller's victory put him at an estimated 40 or so main event wins in the IMCA modified class at Reno-Fernley, according to his count. Adams and Natenstedt won the heat races.
Next Saturday's racing card at Reno Fernley Raceway includes the BCRA Midget Lites, Dwarf cars, Pro Stocks, 318 Modifieds, and Pure Stock Minis. Heat races begin at 6 p.m.
n Contact Roger Diez at Racytalker@aol.com