Reno-Fernley Hosts Sprint 100’s |

Reno-Fernley Hosts Sprint 100’s

Roger Diez
Appeal Motorsports Columnist

FERNLEY – Sprint 100 open-wheel cars made their only 2005 appearance at Reno-Fernley Raceway on Saturday night.

The 12-car field was reduced to nine for the main, with engine problems sidelining three of the entries. Sprint 100s look just like their bigger Sprint 360s and 410 Sprints that run the World of Outlaws series, but are powered by four-cylinder engines with Toyota and Nissan being the most common manufacturers. Like their larger brethren, the Sprint 100s are light and quick, with an impressive power to weight ratio.

Although the field was small, the racing was spirited. Tony Gowearin of Livermore, Calif., started on the back row but quickly worked his way to the front, passing early leader Tom Goepner of Reno in just half a dozen laps. Gowearin obviously had the field handled, lapping up to first place by the end of the race.

Goepner maintained second by a good margin for much of the Main, but the best race on the track was the third-place battle between the Sacramento father/son team of Kerry McColloch (dad) and Nick McColloch (son). Nick held third the entire race, with dad Kerry hammering on his rear nerf bar until a late caution gave Kerry a run to take over the spot with one lap left. Up front, Goepner was threatening Gowearin in the final two laps, but couldn’t quite make the pass.

“My engine was going off toward the end,” said Gowearin after the race. “I don’t think it would have lasted many more laps.”

At the checker the top five were Gowearin, Goepner, Kerry McColloch, Nick McColloch, and Greg Hanson of Lincoln, Calif., one lap down. Gowearin won one of the two heat races with Chad Thompson of Rancho Cordova, Calif., took the other heat win.

The Dwarf Car division is a semi-regular group at Reno-Fernley, with 10 races scheduled for the 2005 season. With the May 7 rainout, Saturday night was the first appearance this season for the Dwarfs, and they put on their usual exciting show.

At the drop of the green flag on the main, Charlie Correia of Tracy, Calif., and Skip Hempler of Zephyr Cove commenced a side-by-side battle that lasted until Correia spun in turn four, bringing out the caution.

On the restart Minden’s Vuki Wilson charged past Hempler to take the lead and never looked back. Hempler spun and faded to the rear of the field while Billie Canham of Sparks took over second spot, holding the position to the checker.

Carson City drivers Bill Brown and Jeff Shurley battled with Correia for the third position for nearly the entire race, with the outcome in doubt right up to the last lap. At the flag it was Wilson, Canham, Brown, Shurley, and Correia taking the top five spots. Wilson and Correia each won a heat race.

The popular Hobby Stock division had enough cars for three heats and a B main. At the start of the A main Chris O’Neill of Winnemucca showed the field he had the car to beat, surging past front-row starters Gary Serpa of Stagecoach and Fernley’s Joe Specchio III.

Once in the lead, O’Neill never relinquished it, holding off the competition on several restarts. Last week’s A main winner Dean Clark of Silver Springs started at the rear of the field and patiently worked his way up the order, picking off cars on every restart.

Specchio, Serpa, and Fernley drivers Terry Whitehead and David Ausano staged a race-long battle for top-five positions. At the checker it was the fleet O’Neill with the victory, followed home by Specchio, Clark, Ausano and Serpa rounding out the top five. Heat race winners were O’Neill, Whitehead, and rookie Joe Pierson of Fernley, with Clark taking the B main win.

The Modified Mini main was notable for having a pair of female drivers on the front row at the green flag. Melissa Natenstedt and Danyale Urban, both of Fernley, are seasoned and accomplished drivers who give no quarter to their male counterparts.

Both led laps, with Melissa taking the point at the green until Stephen Crook of Sparks powered by. Both of the lady drivers stayed in the top three or four the entire race which was halted when the sixth-place battle turned ugly. Dan Andreason of Sparks and Reno’s Karl Hager were racing side by side when Hager got wide coming off turn two and hammered the wall, sending his car into a series of barrel rolls.

Hager was unconscious when track crews got to him, but quickly came to and exited the car under his own power. When the race resumed Stephen Crook again took the point and was never headed, while brother Dennis Crook challenged Urban and Natenstedt for a top three spot but spun out of contention. Stephen Crook cruised to the checker with Urban and Natenstedt finishing 2-3.

Dennis Crook recovered for fourth and Brian Coclich of Carson City, driving brother Chris’ loaner car, rounded out the top five. Dennis Crook and Matt Borges of Tracy, Calif., came home first in the heat races.

A class peculiar to Reno-Fernley raceway is the 318 Modified division. “Peculiar” is the operative word here, as the cars run V8 engines with a variety of whimsical bodywork consisting of cut-down, narrowed passenger car and pickup bodies.

An AMC Gremlin, Toyota Celica, and Pinto were some of the more identifiable creations. But the racing in this division is definitely serious. Carson City’s Troy Crawford looked like the car to beat in the early going, but Rick Looney of Fernley was stalking Crawford all race long and finally made his move late in the going, taking the lead and driving away.

Buster Pearson of Portola, Calif., had problems keeping the engine running, bringing out a couple of yellows when he stalled on course. The problem finally cleared, giving him a good battle with Kevin Knight of Sparks. At the checker the order was Looney, Crawford, Pearson, Knight, and John Scherer of Sparks taking the top five positions. Knight won the single heat race.

Next Saturday New West Distributing hosts Hat Night at the races, with early-arriving fans getting free hats. IMCA Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Modified Minis, and Pure Stock Minis are on the card. Heat races begin at 6 p.m.

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