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See You At The Races!!!

by Gary Jacob 

Wingless Sprint Cars

Tucson, AZ...Dec 31...Leading from lap 19 on, former WoO star Johnny Herrera from Albuquerque NM closed his 2005 SCRL wingless sprint car series championship season with a $2500 win in the 40 lap Saturday afternoon feature as USA Race Park opened the second annual Roger McCluskey Classic. Herrera had earlier set fast time and battled from sixth to 2nd in his heat race in his father's machine. Arizona star Charles Davis Jr led twice, laps 1-2 and laps 13-18, before settling for the $1400 second place money. Driving the Mark Alexander USAC/CRA machine, national racer Jerry Coons Jr was a $1000 third. Another USAC/CRA regular, California's Damion Gardner raced to a $800 fourth in the Broome entry. Defending race champion Josh Pelkey gained a $700 fifth. For this second McCluskey race, the event was changed to two one day shows each paying $2500 to win with $125 entry fees. The Sunday show will open the 2006 point season for the traveling series. Twenty eight cars signed in to race on Saturday.

            The track agreed to let the sprint car group run time trials for the Saturday afternoon show, but the teams had to be ready early as the time trials were scheduled for 11 AM after a brief hot lap session. The club had a lot of problems with the timing clock so many of the teams lost their faster laps and had to requalify when the track had slowed down. Herrera ran before the problems and set quick time with a 16.346 lap. Matt Rossi ranked second at 16.590 and the first car to run, New Mexico's Jason Tanner ran a 16.760. Gardner lost a lap that would have challenged Herrera for quick time and settled for a 16.770 on his rerun. Coons clicked off a 16.788 and Phoenix 360 racer Andrew Reinbold ranked sixth at 17.000. Tim Beal made hard contact with the crash wall in hot laps and missed time trials. He made a brief appearance for his heat race then trailered for the weekend. The club allows 410 engines to run with sleeves, but the majority of teams are using 360 engines. The sleeved 410s included Gardner, SCRL point runnerup Rick Ziehl and nationally recognized Missouri racer Jesse Hockett, who was debuting a brand new car for Phoenix area car owner Jim Massey. Ziehl drives a second car for Show Low's Robert Hall. The four heat races had six car inversions and transferred the top four finishers into the 40 lap A Main. Ziehl won the opening heat race over Herrera, Coons and J T Imperial, who was a last minute driver for the Dave Burns car. Hockett won heat 2 by 1/3 lap over Chris Bonneau, late arrival Ben Gregg and Reinbold. Former New Mexico champion Jon Taylor, running a family car after a season as Tanner's teammate, won heat 3 over Davis, Tanner and Bruce St James. Pelkey outraced Gardner in heat 4 with Yuma's Mike Martin third ahead of Hall. The B Main was scheduled to transfer just four cars into the A Main, but the track agreed to allow six transfers after the race was run. The A Mains were paying a minimum of $325 to start each day. Rossi made a late move around Mike Rux Jr to win the B Main. Rux ran second ahead of Arkansas long tow Sean Walden, Nathan High, Ronnie Clark and New Mexico's Scott Box. Walden had made contact with the back fence in his heat race.

          The 22 car, 40 lap A Main had a six car inversion that placed Davis and Reinbold on the front row ahead of Coons, Gardner, Tanner and Herrera. Davis led the first two laps over Reinbold and Coons with Gardner settling into fourth ahead of Herrera. Running medium tires, Reinbold gained the lead on lap 3 and quickly pulled away from the pack. Gardner nearly got upsidedown when he and Herrera made contact on the front stretch finishing lap 4, but he only lost the one spot to Herrera. Hockett climbed into the top five on lap with his pass of Gardner. Ziehl had pushed Gardner back to 7th when the first yellow flag dropped on lap 12 as a left rear tire exploded for Rux. On the restart, Reinbold got too high in turn 4 and was shuffled back to fourth by new leader Davis, Coons and Herrera. The lapped car of Rossi pulled into the infield and Herrera drove around Coons for second on lap 15. Gardner began moving forward, taking fourth from Reinbold on lap 17. Herrera drove underneath Davis to take the lead for good on the backstretch on lap 19. Pelkey briefly took fifth from Reinbold on lap 21, but Ziehl had moved into fifth when teammate Hall spun for a lap 23 caution. Ziehl was one of the drivers who had a shot at overtaking Herrera for the 2005 series championship starting the feature. On the restart, Bonneau broke to bring out another quick caution. With Herrera in command, Davis, Coons and Gardner were dueling for second. Hall parked his car on lap 29. With ten laps to run, Pelkey ran sixth ahead of Walden, Reinbold, Hockett and Martin. Rux broke for a lap 35 yellow flag. Fifth place Ziehl had a right rear tire going flat and the race was red flagged on lap 36 when Tanner crashed into the turn 3 fence after losing a rear wheel. Tanner was later found to have suffered a concussion and his weekend was over. Ziehl changed his tire and restarted last with just four rounds to run. Herrera led those final four laps for the $2500 win and the series championship. Davis ran second ahead of Coons, Gardner and Pelkey. Walden ran a strong race for sixth ahead of Hockett, Martin, Gregg, St James and Taylor. In the final 2005 point standings, Herrera led Ziehl, Clark and Taylor.

Summary Sprint Car Fast Times-Johnny Herrera 16.346, Matt Rossi 16.590, Jason Tanner 16.760, Damion Gardner 16.770, Jerry Coons Jr 16.788, Andrew Reinbold 17.000, Charles Davis Jr 17.103, Josh Pelkey 17.120, Rick Ziehl 17.133, Jesse Hockett 17.165, Bruce St James 17.495  Heat 1-Ziehl, Herrera, Coons, J T Imperial, Ron Kratz.
Heat 2-Hockett, Chris Bonneau, Ben Gregg, Reinbold, Brian Swinehart. Heat 3-Jon Taylor, Davis, Tanner, St James, Jerry Johnston. Heat 4-Pelkey, Gardner, Mike Martin, Robert Hall, Johnny Williams. B Main-Rossi, Mike Rux Jr, Sean Walden, Nathan High, Ronnie Clark, Scott Box, Kratz, Williams, Swinehart, Johnston, Chris Beal. A Main-Herrera, Davis, Coons, Gardner, Pelkey, Walden, Hockett, Martin, Gregg, St James, Taylor, Imperial, High, Ziehl, Box, Reinbold, Clark, Tanner, Rux, Hall, Bonneau, Rossi.






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