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FIRST 2006 WIN FOR 2005 CHAMPION GARRETT STEITZ
by Gary Jacob 

IMCA Modifieds, Wingless Spec Sprints, Ocean Late Models, Super Stocks and American Stocks

Watsonville, CA..May 19....Despite rain showers in the afternoon, Ocean Speedway was able to run their regular Friday night racing card and 2005 track champion Garrett Steitz broke out of his tough luck streak by leading all 25 laps from the pole starting spot to score the special $750 win in the IMCA Modifieds. Steitz, champion at Watsonville, Merced and the State of California in 2005, dropped out of the track top ten when he missed last week's race but he took full advantage of his front row start as he was never headed in the special money event in his D&M Chassis with pit help from usual fellow competitor Alex Stanford. It was an emotional win for the Steitz team as May 19 was the birthday of Garrett's father, team leader George Steitz who suffered a fatal heart attack in March. For the extra money show, first was raised from $500 to $750 and 7th on back were all increased to $100. Track point leader Tim Balding gained second on lap 17, but could only chase Steitz to the win. Balding won $250 and Chuck Harrell was a $175 third ahead of Brian Cass and Kenny Nott Jr. Balding came out of the night with an 11 point lead on Nott and is 14 ahead of both Balding and Bobby Scott Jr. Cass is one more point back in fifth. The winner in the wingless spec sprint feature changed in the post race tech area as both race winner and defending champion Steve Pemberton and race runnerup David Press were found to have 39 inch tall right side body panels and the rules only allow 36 inches. When they were both disqualified, Lee Yetter ended up with the win ahead of Craig Smith. The Ocean Late Model count grew to 9 cars and one of the new machines, a former Steve Moldt car from Santa Maria owned by Paul Salaiz and driven by dirt late model star Jeff Decker got the $500 feature win by leading the final 15 laps after an early race duel with MoPar faithful Eric VanHooser. VanHooser ran second ahead of 2005 champion Ken Gregg and the division debut of Chris Messmer in a former Larry Blake car. After a second in his heat and a dash win, Dennis Pelphrey raced to the $500 win in the super stock 20 lapper. Phillip Priddy was a strong $250 second ahead of Tony Oliveira. The points will be shuffled as incoming point leader Doug Hagio was missing, runnerup Danny Scott fell out early and third ranked Mark Cooper placed 7th. After second place runs in both his heat and the dash, Tim Clark Sr dominated the 20 lap American Stock feature that finished with 19 straight green flag laps. Clark Sr's fast pace left just 11 cars on the lead lap and it was a second straight $100 win. Rod Herrick put his Ford in the $75 second slot, opening night winner Sam Kennedy won $50 for third and George Fernandez Jr made it three straight top fives with his $25 fourth. Clark Sr was quick to mention that his big night came on the birthday for his stepfather and key team member Jim Goates.

            The rain was still sprinkling around the drivers meeting time, but new track manager John Prentice promised that the sky conditions would improve and racing nearly started on time. A quick show saw the final checkered flag just slightly after 10 PM. The extra money event for the IMCA Modifieds drew a 26 car field and Prentice was quick to announce a $1000 to win, $100 to start special for June 23. Buck Cox came all the way from Bakersfield and arrived after the heat races had been run. Fifth starting Harrell won the opening heat race after Raymond Keldsen Jr, Randy Miller and Todd Hermosillo all had problems. Balding started 7th and ran second ahead of 6th starting Nott. Cass was the surprised winner of heat 2 when Steitz broke leading and trapped Kellen Chadwick, who was again in the Sargus Peformance Pro Chassis. Chadwick still salvaged second ahead of Scott Jr. Western Dirt Late Model Tour champion and point leader Bobby Hogge IV was in the new JDK Racing GRT for a second time and he won heat 3 from 7th ahead of front row starter Don Breeden and sixth starting Jim DiGiovanni. Hogge knew that he had hurt the motor in the heat win and it blew up in the dash to end his night. Balding won the dash ahead of Chadwick, Breeden and Cass. The top five from each heat advanced into the 25 lapper and six transfers were needed from the B Main with the scratch of Hogge. Female rookie Lisa Riordan crashed hard into the back fence in the B Main and Tim Clark Jr raced to that win ahead of Miller, last starting Cox in his Bob Pierce entry, Larry Lundin and Anthony Giuliani. The usual IMCA point average lineup procedure rewarded Steitz for his tough Ocean Speedway season start and put him on the pole ahead of Breeden, rookie Clay Daly, Harrell, Cass and Nott. Balding and Chadwick shared row 5. A multi-car incident in turn 1 on the first start attempt ended the night for no one, but damaged many cars and Giuliani missed laps making repairs. Steitz raced into the lead over Nott, Daly and Cass. On lap 6, DiGiovanni took fourth from Cass, but Cass rebounded by racing into third on lap 7 when Daly spun his Victory Chassis. Balding was now fourth and he took third from Cass on lap 9. Lundin stalled for a lap 10 yellow, Cox spun for a lap 11 yellow and Clark Jr dropped a drive line. The last two cautions fell on laps 13-14 with Steitz leading Nott, Balding, Harrell and Cass. Daly dropped out after his lap 14 incident. The final 11 rounds ran without a caution and Steitz stayed out front of Balding, who passed Nott on lap 17. Harrell and Cass both shuffled Nott back to fifth on lap 18 as DiGiovanni fell out. Balding tried hard to find an opening, but settled for the point rich second behind the emotional winning Steitz team. Harrell ran third ahead of Cass, Nott, Chadwick, Marcus Aue in a Chadwick built Pro, Dave Graves and Scott Jr. Cox was rewarded for his long late tow with a 10th.

                 There were 7 wingless spec sprints and the track allowed Daniel Hood to race his VRA legal wingless 360 in preparation for the Grand Slam Series opener at Bakersfield the next night. Yetter won heat 1 from the pole as 4th starter Pemberton ran second. Alan Clark had problems and trailered after the heat race. Press was fourth in the heat race and won the dash ahead of Rob Hammond and Yetter. On the first start for the 15 lap feature, Hammond spun and got hit by Aaron Sirles. The race was over for both. The field ripped off 15 straight green flag laps in 233 seconds for a 15.53 average. Yetter led the first 4 laps, but Pemberton used an extreme high line through turn 3-4 to take over on lap 5. By lap 10, Pemberton had built his lead to straight over the dueling Yetter and Press. Yetter got into the infield in turn 2 on lap 14, losing second to Press. Hood crossed the line in fourth ahead of Smith, but was not scored. When both Pemberton and Press were found with the illegal body panels, Yetter was raised to the win over Smith.

               The Ocean Late Model count jumped to 9 cars and a few others are very close to being ready. Outside front row starter Jeff Mead raced to the heat win over the 2006 debut for Rich Barbacciaand pole starter VanHooser. Decker ran fourth in the heat, but got more competitive as the track dried out. VanHooser beat Decker in the dash. The feature lineup was a four car inversion off the heat finish, putting Decker and VanHooser on the front row. Decker led the first 3 laps with VanHooser in second ahead of Mead. VanHooser rode a high line into the lead on lap 4, but Decker managed to come right back and regain the lead for good on lap 6. Barbaccia took third from Mead on lap 5. Steve Ewbank was in the car that he shares with Mark Cooper and he raced into fourth on lap 8. On lap 11, third place Barbaccia got out of shape, Ewbank checked up and Mead was forced into a spin. The track rules Barbaccia to be the cause and sent him to the rear along with Mead. Gregg took third from Ewbank on this restart and Ewbank spun for a lap 13 yellow with Messmer now fourth ahead of Mike Meazell. Meazell continues to have problems with his crate engine and he parked his car on lap 18. Decker led the final 15 laps for the win ahead of VanHooser, Gregg, Messmer, Ewbank, Mead and Merced's Larry Pedrelli. Pedrelli had even towed to the track last week when he missed getting word of the division's event postponement.

               With Hagio missing, ten of the 11 super stocks that have appeared in 2006 were on hand. Priddy beat Pelphrey in heat 1 from 4th starting. Bill Hyland raced into the lead in heat 2 only to see his hood fly up. Pole starter Chris Kulvicki won ahead of last starting Stu Cornick. Pelphrey beat Cornick in the dash. The 20 lap feature had two early cautions and a final one on lap 18. Another four car inversion from the heat results put Cornick and Pelphrey on the front row. Outside starter Pelphrey surged ahead of Cornick with a high move in turn 4 on the opening lap and was never headed. Priddy took third from Kulvicki on lap 2 and Mark Acosta spun for a lap 3 yellow. D Scott and Ash tangled for a lap 6 yellow with Oliveira now in fifth. Cornick slipped too high in turn 4 on lap 9 and fell back to fifth as Priddy, Kulvicki and Oliveira all got by him. Ash parked his car after another spin on lap 11. Cornick's spin forced a final yellow flag on lap 18. Many time division champion Pelphrey was never headed and won ahead of Priddy and Oliveira, who passed Kulvicki on lap 19. Kulvicki ran fourth ahead of Hyland, Acosta and Cooper, a late race flat tire victim. 

                 The American Stocks formerly raced for no purse, but now have the four position payoff at every event. They had a 26 car turnout split into three heat races. Continuing his best season ever, G Fernandez Jr won heat 1 in a photo finish with Herrick after Jimmy Fernandez got into the fence leading. Norm Ayers won heat 2 from third, but broke in the process and was a feature scratch. Steve Taddei ran second. Bill Sorg won heat 3 from the pole over third starting Clark Sr and fifth starter S Kennedy. Herrick beat Clark Sr and G Fernandez Jr in the dash. Les Bowers got the B Main win in front of Wally Kennedy and Kenny Neville. Sorg also had major problems with his car and he elected to tag the field as he only planned to race one lap. Herrick led Taddei and G Fernandez Jr early. After Gary Baker and Billy Nelson II crashed on lap 1, the field then ripped off 19 straight green flag laps to end the 20 lapper. On the lap 2 restart, Steve Montgomery and S Kennedy got tangled up and lost ground to the leaders. Clark Sr took third from G Fernandez Jr on lap 3 and second from Taddei on lap 5. Clark Sr then drove underneath Herrick on lap 8 to take the lead for good. S Kennedy did come back to fourth on lap 9. In his 2006 season debut, Tommy Laliberte spun on lap 17 and Taddei had late race woes. S Kennedy raced into third on lap 18 but could only chase winner Clark Jr and Herrick to the checkered flag. G Fernandez Jr was fourth ahead of Tom Reilly, Jennifer Rood, Remy VanHoose, Montgomery and rookie Josh Davis.

            The holiday weekend race will see six divisions with the four bangers taking the spot of the wingless spec sprints and the figure 8 class closing out the night. On June 2, the Golden State Challenge Series winged 410 sprint cars invade Ocean Speedway and they will be joined by wingless spec sprints and Bay Area dwarf cars.

Summary 

American Stock Heat 1-George Fernandez Jr, Rod Herrick, Tommy Laliberte, Gary Baker, Jennifer Rood. Heat 2-Norm Ayers, Steve Taddei, Steve Montgomery, Billy Nelson II, Tony Oliveira. Heat 3-Bill Sorg, Tim Clark Sr, Sam Kennedy, Josh Davis, Tom Reilly. Dash-Herrick, Clark Sr, G Fernandez, Sorg, Taddei. B Main-Les Bowers, Wally Kennedy, Kenny Neville, Albert Acosta, Remy VanHoose, Ken Jewell, Jimmy Fernandez, Tricia Kickenberg, Kyle Camperud. A Main-Clark Sr, Herrick, S Kennedy, G Fernandez Jr, Reilly, Rood, VanHoose, Montgomery, Davis, W Kennedy, Taddei, Oliveira, Neville, Acosta, Bowers, Nelson, Laliberte, Jewell, Baker, Sorg. 

Super Stock Heat 1-Phillip Priddy, Dennis Pelphrey, Tony Oliveira, Ray Ash, Mark Cooper. Heat 2-Chris Kulvicki, Stu Cornick, Danny Scott, Mark Acosta, Bill Hyland. Dash-Pelphrey, Cornick, Kulvicki, Priddy. Main-Pelphrey, Priddy, Oliveira, Kulvicki, Hyland, M Acosta, Cooper, Cornick, Ash, D Scott. 

Ocean Late Model Heat-Jeff Mead, Rich Barbaccia, Eric VanHooser, Jeff Decker, Ken Gregg. Dash-VanHooser, Decker, Barbaccia, Mead. Main-Decker, VanHooser, Gregg, Chris Messmer, Steve Ewbank, Mead, Larry Pedrelli, Barbaccia, Mike Meazell. 

Wingless Spec Sprint Heat-Lee Yetter, Steve Pemberton, Rob Hammond, David Press, Craig Smith. Dash-Press, Hammond, Yetter, Pemberton. Main-Yetter, Smith, Hammond, Aaron Sirles. 

IMCA Modified Heat 1-Chuck Harrell, Tim Balding, Kenny Nott Jr, Tony Boscacci, Raymond Keldsen Jr. Heat 2-Brian Cass, Kellen Chadwick, Bobby Scott Jr, Garrett Steitz, Dave Graves. Heat 3-Bobby Hogge IV, Don Breeden, Jim DiGiovanni, Clay Daly, Marcus Aue. Dash-Balding, Chadwick, Breeden, Cass, Hogge. B Main-Tim Clark Jr, Randy Miller, Buck Cox, Larry Lundin, Anthony Giuliani, Eli Mendoza Jr, Robert Marsh, Todd Hermosillo, John Dawson Jr, Lisa Riordan. A Main-Steitz, Balding, Harrell, Cass, Nott, Chadwick, Aue, Graves, Scott Jr, Cox, Miller, Boscacci, Breeden, DiGiovanni, Daly, Giulianni, Clark Jr, Lundin, Keldsen, Mendoza.

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