More than 160 cars turn out for season finale at Fernley
Appeal Motorsports Columnist
FERNLEY- Reno-Fernley Raceway wrapped its season with the fifth annual High Desert Shootout, featuring six racing divisions and more than 160 cars.
The IMCA Modified division had by far the most entries with 63, necessitating eight heats and a D, C, and B main to set the 24-car field for Sunday evening’s A main event.
All of the heat races and the 318 Modified division A main took place on Saturday night.
Keith Walsh of Sparks led the first lap, then turned over the point to Duncan Lee of Dayton. Lee spun out of the lead in turn two, handing first place to Rick Looney of Fernley, who ran off to a half-lap margin at the checker.
Rick’s dad Wally Looney of Reno ran second, holding off a very determined Walsh the entire race. Heat race winner John Scherer of Sparks nipped Don Hughes of Loyalton, Calif., for fourth – but was subsequently disqualified for having an engine that exceeded the 318 cubic inch maximum.
It would not be the last mechanical “oops” of the weekend.
With the heat races out of the way, racing action began Sunday afternoon with the D main for the IMCA Modifieds, followed by the Pro Stock C main.
Pure Stock Mini
The first A main was the Pure Stock Mini division, which turned into a rout by Brandon Martin of Reno. Martin grabbed the lead at the green and motored into the sunset, lapping nearly the entire field. Reno’s Tim Cremeans quickly took over second-place and rode comfortably for most of the race until Fernley’s Lynda Crook caught up after working her way through the field. Crook ran out of race before she got close enough to challenge Cremeans, but it was a different story behind her. Darrick Rauscher of Lemmon Valley held off Fernley’s Matt Sherman and Mitch Murphy of Susanville for the second half of the race, but bobbled on the penultimate lap and both drivers got past for position.
The final finishing order was Martin, Cremeans, Crook, Sherman, and Murphy in the top five. Heat race wins went to Cremeans and Sherman.
Then it was the Hobby Stock division’s turn to stage the most excruciatingly long race of the day – nearly an hour to complete 25 laps.
At one point it was feared the cars might have to pit to refuel. The problem? Yellow flags galore. Several times crashes occurred on restarts, causing another yellow and many more non-counting laps.
Doval Hopper of Fernley was the early leader, with Carson City’s Janet Lyford hanging onto second for the first 10 laps or so. During all the yellows and restarts, the faster cars (which had started mid-pack due to a half-field invert) began working their way to the front and soon muscled the early leaders out of the way. Recently crowned Hobby Stock Champion Dean Clark of Silver Springs worked his way to the front by the midway point, and no one was able to mount a challenge.
Clark took the checkered flag, followed home by Winnemucca’s Chris O’Neill, Kevin Boles of Carson City (who was disqualified in post-race tech for a non-complying exhaust system), Rick Miller of Sun Valley, and Carson City’s Shane Ramthun. Clark, Joe Specchio III, and Steve Rauscher won their respective heats.
The next A main was for the Modified Mini division, with a good field of cars and lots of action. Ron Wagner of Winnemucca took first place at the green, but a restart after an early yellow saw Dennis Crook of Sparks snatch the lead away. Another yellow, another restart, and it was Crook’s brother Stephen of Sparks who took the lead. Dennis Crook and Skip Wise of Bishop, Calif. ran side by side vying for second until Wise spun, bringing out another caution. Melissa Natenstedt of Fernley liked all the yellows, as they allowed her to work her way up from the back of the field, taking over third at the halfway point. Dennis Crook slipped back through the field with mechanical woes and Matt Borges of Tracy, Calif., took over second with Natenstedt in hot pursuit.
Melissa got by him easily and set out after the flying Stephen Crook, closing the gap dramatically. Alas, the checkered flag flew before she could mount a serious challenge, and the win went to Crook. Natenstedt had to settle for second with Borges third, Richard Scott of Fernley fourth, and Danyale Urban of Sparks rounding out the top five.
Natenstedt and Stephen Crook were victorious in Saturday night’s heat races.
With five heat races, a C and a B main setting the field for the Pro Stock division, 21 ground-pounding stock cars took to the track for a 30-lap main.
In keeping with the tone that had been set for the evening, yellow flags and restarts abounded. Attrition would also play a big role, with barely half the field still on track when the checker flew.
Robert Miller, jumping from his accustomed IMCA Modified to try out the Pro Stocks, was dominant in the early laps. Then on a restart, Jim Hill of Grant’s Pass, Ore., used Miller for brakes going into turn one. The impact broke something on Miller’s car and he was done for the day. Hill was shown the black flag and retired to the pits. After several more yellow flags and restarts, Joe Specchio Jr. found himself in the lead and pulled away from the pack followed by John Hood of Loyalton.
Specchio appeared to have the field handled, pulling away at each of several subsequent restarts. But with four laps to go, Hood crept up and snuck by, while Specchio vainly chased him to the checker. The finish order was Hood, Specchio, Loyalton’s Dennis Ashley, Jake Holland of Calpine, Calif. and Pat Couch from Oregon House, Calif. in positions one through five respectively.
Tom Caniff of Susanville won the C main, with Carson City’s Billy Church taking the B main and the first of six transfer spots to the A main.
The IMCA Modified main, often the most chaotic race on the program, was the smoothest on Sunday night.
With 63 entries distilled down to the 24 quickest for the main, the stage was set for some close racing. Kellen Chadwick of Oakley, Calif., led from the pole, with Alex Stanford of Chowchilla, Calif., and Carson City’s Steve McGee in tow as all three pulled away from the rest of the field.
The race ran green for a considerable length of time while Monte Bischoff of Central Point, Ore., and Chico, Calif. driver Richard Papenhausen worked their way through traffic into the top five.
Ominous billows of smoke appeared at the rear of Bischoff’s car, but it wasn’t slowing him down. After a brief caution for a spin in turn two, Bischoff took over second behind Chadwick and Stanford, while McGee faded back into the pack.
Meanwhile, Gardnerville’s Robert Miller mounted one of his patented charges through the field. Starting in 17th, Miller wasted no time advancing to 11th, then began picking cars off one by one. The yellow flags helped, bunching the field and giving him better track position. Papenhausen fell victim to contact with another car and other front runners faded in and out of the top five, but the final restart found Miller in third.
Miller worked over Stanford pretty good in the waning laps while Chadwick slowly pulled away to the checker. Miller made his last charge off of turn four coming to the checker and it paid off as he nipped Stanford by mere inches to grab second place. Bischoff, no longer smoking, came home fourth, and the patriotically painted car of Eugene, Ore., driver Jesse Williamson rounded out the top five.
The D main winner was Tonopah’s James Thibodeaux, Scott Lenz of Shady Cove, Ore. Won the C main, and B main honors went to Robert Miller.
n Contact Roger Diez at Racytalker@aol.com