Sprint cars put on show at Fernley
Appeal Motorsports Columnist
FERNLEY – Twenty-two NCMA sprint cars from Northern California took to the 3/8 mile Reno-Fernley clay oval Saturday night, much to the delight of a large crowd of race fans. Four local divisions bolstered the show, providing all the racing action a fan could want.
The 318 Modified division, V8 powered cars with cut-down stock car bodies, was the first group to race. Buster Pearson of Portola, Calif. took the lead at the green, with Rick Thuemler of Stagecoach in tow until Larry Silas of Wadsworth passed for second. Fernley’s Rick Looney started last on the field, but quickly began working his way toward the front. Looney made it to third but was a long way behind the lead pair when a spin by rookie Duncan Lee of Dayton brought out the yellow and bunched the field.
Looney fastened himself to Pearson’s rear bumper on the restart, and the pair powered away from the field. Pearson hung onto the lead, but Looney’s bid for a late charge ended when he got caught behind rookie Jeannette Strong of Sparks on the last lap as Pearson romped home to the checker, with Looney in second.
Silas was third, followed home by Don Hughes and John Scherer of Sparks, who passed Silver Springs driver Richard Rabe on the last lap. Looney and Silas won the heat races.
The Pure Stock division featured an exciting back to front performance by Brandon Martin of Reno. Reno’s Darrick Rauscher took the lead at the green with Doug Davis of Fernley and Walter Ball of Silver Springs right behind him. Martin charged through the pack when he spun, bringing out the yellow and sending him to the rear of the field.
On the restart Rauscher had his hands full with Davis and Matt Sherman of Fernley, while Aaron McIlvain of Silver Springs came up to join the lead pack. Martin charged through the field like he had an afterburner and blew by Rauscher for the lead when Rauscher slipped high in turn four.
Martin slowed for a yellow on the white flag lap, but everybody else decided to race back to the flag, leaving Martin several spots back. He was unable to catch up on the restart and Rauscher took the win, followed home by Sherman, Davis, Martin, and McIlvain in that order. Heat race wins went to Ball and Sherman.
Lots of Hobby Stock entries meant three heat races and a B main to fill the field for the feature. At the green flag, Rick Miller of Lemmon Valley took the lead from the pole, followed by Chris O’Neill of Winnemucca, Fernley’s David Ausano, William Richey of Stagecoach, Shane Ramthun of Carson City, Fernley’s Terry Whitehead and the rest of the field. Dean Clark of Silver Springs and Fernley’s Joe Specchio III began to work their way forward from deep in the field. O’Neill took the lead on lap eight and Ramthun moved into third shortly thereafter.
Action was halted by a red flag to extinguish the blazing car of Cody Myers, who was uninjured in the incident. With the field bunched, Clark and Specchio moved into the top five.
At the checker it was O’Neill, Ramthun, Miller, Clark, and Specchio. Post race inspection found illegal parts on Miller’s car and he was disqualified, moving everyone behind him up one position. Ausano, Mike Kinkel of Carson City and Steve Rauscher of Sun Valley won the heat races, with the B main victory going to Jimmy Berhorst of Silver Springs after a red flag for a scary incident that saw William Anderson’s car climb the back straight catch fence before rolling. Anderson was uninjured.
The popular Dwarf car division was the last local class to run.
Billie Canham of Sparks rocketed out of his second-row starting position into the lead with Fallon’s Tim O’Neil in second. Kevin Bender of Rocklin, Calif., quickly reeled in the lead pair and fastened himself to Canham’s rear bumper. The duo opened a big gap on the field, and then Bender snatched the lead from Canham and began driving away.
The front four, Bender, Canham, O’Neil and Zephyr Cove’s Skip Hempler were widely separated, but there was a spirited battle for fifth, headed by Carson City’s Derek Rossa. As the race wound down, there was some place-swapping in that battle, and at the checker, Dave Hays Jr. of Rio Vista, Calif. found himself in fifth behind Bender, who won convincingly, Canham, O’Neil, and Hempler. Jeff Shurley of Carson City and Bender were the heat race victors.
Finally, the traveling 360 Sprint Cars took to the track for a 25-lap main. The sound of 22 roaring V8 engines matched the visual impact of the brightly-colored open wheelers.
The field exploded into action at the green flag, with nose-to-tail and side-by-side duels all the way through the field. Darrell Hanestad and Jimmy Olmstead paired up and powered away from the field until a yellow on lap four bunched the field. Rob Hammond spun while in fourth position, and amazingly none of the following cars hit him. Hanestad and Olmstead continued to lead for the next four laps until David Goodwill brought out a lengthy yellow with a locked drive train that necessitated a tow to the pits. Olmstead grabbed the lead from Hanestad on the restart, and the pair traded first place back and forth several times while Gary Koster, Keith Shipherd, Jeremy Hawes, Scott Hollaway, and Sam Fries battled for position behind them. On lap 14 Hawes and Jimmy Lavell tangled in turn three, bringing out a red flag flew while track crews extricated Lavell from his mangled race car. He was uninjured. Olmstead got out of his car during the red flag and was penalized two positions for this infraction. The race restarted and ran green to the checkered flag, with Hanestad hanging on for the win. Steve Stein finished second, right on his bumper, followed by Olmstead, Hammond, and Koster. Fries, Koster, and Holloway scored heat race wins.
Next Saturday night is Napa Auto Parts Night at Reno-Fernley Raceway. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m., racing starts at 6.
n Contact Roger Diez at Racytalker@aol.com