Fresno Driver Takes USAC Sprint Car Win at Champion | NevadaAppeal.com
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Fresno Driver Takes USAC Sprint Car Win at Champion

Column by Roger Diez

Carson City race fans proved Saturday night that terrorists could not deter them from enjoying the most American of all motorsports – Sprint Car racing.

In a moving pre-race ceremony that paid tribute to those who lost their lives in Tuesday’s horrific attacks, General Manager Les Kynett spoke of his anguish in deciding whether or not to hold the races, finally deciding that to do so would speed the healing process.

The ceremony included all competitors, crew, and officials lined up on the front straightaway with American flags, participating in the invocation and the singing of “God Bless America” and the National Anthem. The Stars and Stripes were much in evidence on race cars and in the stands, and Warren Engine Company collected donations for disaster relief.

When the 50-lap main started, points leader Jeff Gardner of Fresno, Calif., was all business as he dominated the proceedings on his way to a decisive victory. The win extended his season points lead over second-place Tony Hunt, who finished fourth.

Local favorite Amy Barnes finished fifth in the race. She took the green flag from the pole, but at the end of lap one it was Randy Mello in the lead, with Amy on his rear nerf bar in second.

A multi-car pileup on the front straight on lap three took Travis Johnson, Bryan Stanfill and Minden driver Bryan Campbell out of the race. Campbell was shaken in the accident, but eventually exited the car under his own power.

On the restart, Gardner moved into third behind Barnes, who was still challenging Mello for the lead. Gardner took over second on lap eight with an outside pass, and took the lead on lap 10, with Barnes dropping to fifth. Hunt took second on the next lap, and early leader Mello spun on lap 13, bringing out the caution and moving Barnes back up to fourth.

Fast qualifier Ryan Flynn took over fourth on the restart and Barnes had her hands full with Mike McCreary for the next 20 laps or so, which were run under green. By lap 25, Gardner had checked out on the field, while Hunt and Scott Hansen had trouble lapping Mello, who banged wheels with both of them.

The caution came out on lap 40 for debris on the course in turn two, bunching the field and wiping out Gardner’s impressive lead.

“Sometimes we’ll pick up a loose condition on a yellow after a long green run, but fortunately that

didn’t happen,” Gardner said after the race. “Our whole package was right tonight, the car was really good.”

He made a perfect restart, while Hansen took over second in traffic. Traffic also helped Flynn, who passed Hunt for third in the waning laps, and Barnes repassed McCreary for fifth, also using traffic. Shauna Hogg, the only other female driver in the field, took sixth away from McCreary at the checker, leaving him in seventh. Damion Gardner, Bryan Bullard, and Mello rounded out the top 10 finishers. Aside from Barnes, local drivers didn’t fare well. Campbell was out on lap three, Reno’s Mike Ogden never got up to speed and finished 17th, while Carson City’s Mark Beck crashed on the start of his heat race, damaging the car beyond immediate repair.

Damion Gardner won the first heat race ahead of Chuck Maddox and McCreary, the second heat went to Travis Johnson, followed by Hunt and Marc Zieski, while Bryan Bullard took the win in heat three, besting Kevin Urton and Jeff Gardner. Scott Hansen, Mello, Barnes, Ogden, and Campbell finished the

semi-main in that order, transferring to the A feature.

The Legends Division also raced on Saturday night, with 17 cars for the largest field of the season. Reno’s D.J. Krentz put on one of his patented drives, coming from deep in the pack to take the win by a wide margin. He was also fast qualifier at 14.64 seconds.

Las Vegas driver Rick Rogas overcame earlier suspension problems to take the early lead in the main, followed by Monte Adcock and Denny Hadler Jr. By lap six, the fast guys were coming to the front, but a yellow on lap seven slowed the field and fifth-place Mike Morrissey Jr. pitted with a mechanical problem.

T.J. Clark blasted past fellow Las Vegan Rogas on the restart and led for several laps, while Morrissey rejoined five laps down, although able to run with the leaders.

Caution came out again on lap 14 for an errant muffler falling off of Mark Bailey’s car. Krentz had worked his way into third behind Mark Mosher by this time, and took the lead on lap 18, just before John Burritt brought out the yellow with a spin.

Now at the front, Krentz controlled the rest of the race, pulling away on the restart and running to a seemingly easy victory. Clark battled his way back into second at the checker, followed by Mosher, Jim Klopp, and Jovon Halen in fifth. Burritt recovered from his spin to take sixth, Adcock was seventh, Hadler Jr. eighth, Bailey ninth, and Rogas rounded out the top 10.

Morrissey won the trophy dash, holding off a charging Krentz. Krentz and Morrissey also won their respective heat races.

Next Saturday night, stock car action returns to Champion Speedway with the Intermountain Late Model touring series. At least two local drivers, Jerry Allec Jr. and Mike Glisson, are slated to compete.

Sportsmen, Hobby Stocks and Legends are also on the card. Call 775-267-3723 for further information.