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ASCS Notebook…


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ASCS Notebook…


by Lonnie Wheatley


TULSA, Okla. (March 27, 2008) - After opening up the season with six different winners in as many feature events, Jason Johnson became the first repeat winner of 2008 in O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour National series action when he topped Saturday night's State Fair Speedway Spring Nationals finale in Oklahoma City.


And, he was the only ASCS winner over the course of the weekend who had previously reached ASCS victory lane. Danny Lasoski, Casey Shuman and Don Grable had not.


---Assembling his own team for the weekend, Lasoski picked off his first career ASCS National Tour win in Friday night's Spring Nationals preliminary. It marked his seventh career series feature start and first since East Bay in 2006. "The Dude" competed in Oklahoma City's Spring Nationals in 2006 aboard Paul Silva's No. 57 entry, finishing second on both nights to Jason Johnson. After Friday's win, Lasoski finished third for the fourth time in four Oklahoma City ASCS outings to none other than Johnson.


---Jeremy Sherman opened up the 2006 season by reeling off four consecutive ASCS Canyon Region feature wins. Not this year though. After winning the season opener on March 8, Sherman could only muster a sixth-place finish this past Saturday night as Casey Shuman made a late move around Jeremy Reagles to post his first career Discount Tire Co. ASCS Canyon Region feature win.


Driving the Foster No. 32 machine, it was Casey's first triumph atop the fabled Manzanita clay that father Ron Shuman conquered on more than 60 occasions. "Lil' Shu" tries to go back-to-back in Saturday's Donny Davis Memorial as the series takes to Manzanita's half-mile for the first time in 2008.


---They should have taken notice when El Paso racer Don Grable finished a strong fourth in Houston Raceway Park's Inaugural Gulf Coast Nationals for the ASCS Gulf South Region on March 1. It proved to be a good tune-up session, as Grable drove the Casey Minks-owned No. 29 to victory lane in Saturday night's ASCS Southwest Region debut at Tucson's USA Race Park.


---Eleven of Saturday night's 24 ASCoT Spring Nationals finale feature starters had Wesmar power under the hood.


---Jason Johnson's Spring Nationals victory on Saturday gave Wesmar Engines its third ASCoT win of the season in seven events. Kistler power claimed the top spot for the second time this season with Lasoski on Friday night after a Tony Bruce, Jr., win a week earlier at Devil's Bowl. Don Ott power propelled Kenny Adams to East Bay preliminary honors, just as an Engler/Burch combo carried Terry McCarl across the stripe ahead of the pack one night later.


---The "Ragin' Cajun" triumph also ran the Eagle chassis victory tally to two, matching the Maxim total of two after sweeping both nights at Devil's Bowl. Other chassis reaching ASCoT victory lane include Wolfweld (Terry McCarl), Shaw (Kenny Adams) and JEI (Danny Lasoski).


---It's not even April yet, but 203 different drivers have already competed in at least one ASCS event this year. Two drivers have competed both with and without wings. Those drivers are Tucson's Ronnie Clark and Mesa's Mike Rux, Jr. After competing in topless fashion in the ASCS Canyon Region opener, both strapped on wings and took in this past weekend's ASCS Southwest Region debut. Clark finished second at Tucson, with Rux in fifth.


---Fifty-two cars filled State Fair Speedway's pit area on Friday night, with 48 on hand for Saturday's ASCoT action. Through the opening seven nights of the season, the O'Reilly ASCoT National series has averaged 51.4 cars per night.


Next up for the ASCoT National series is Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, MO, on Saturday night, April 19. That event at "The Diamond of Dirt Tracks" kicks off four consecutive weekends of series action, with ensuing adventures at Paris and Little Rock (April 25-26), Lake Ozark (May 3) and then Oklahoma City and Devil's Bowl (May 9-10).


---Moore, Oklahoma's Chris Lloyd made his O'Reilly ASCoT debut at Oklahoma City and made the feature his first night out after surviving a perilous game of chicken with the turn three infield tire. Contact on the white flag lap sent the tire skittering into the middle of the track, precipitating a caution. Lloyd surrendered second to Danny Jennings on the restart but still made the feature cut. Jennings ranked as Friday's top earner in passing points and promptly drew the eight pill in the redraw.


---Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Eric Baldaccini recorded his first career O'Reilly ASCoT National series top-ten feature finish by claiming tenth on Friday night. He topped himself by finishing seventh on Saturday.


The 20-year-old Keller, TX, shoe has the early edge in the Rookie of the Year battle, currently ranked sixth in overall points with an 88-point edge over tenth-ranked Don Droud, Jr. Other rookie contenders include Kenneth Walker (15th), Kathryne Minter (19th), Gary Taylor (27th) and Chris Tarrant (28th).


---Yes, Chris Tarrant of Greenville, TX, has thrown his hat into the ring for Brodix Rookie of the Year honors with the ASCoT National series. Tarrant didn't quite have everything ready to go in time for the East Bay opener, but is ready to take on the rest of the Tour.


---Gary Taylor was slated for the pole of one of Friday night's "B" Mains but scratched with suspected engine problems. The Washington-state native bounced back to make Saturday night's main event.


---Kenneth Walker used a provisional for Saturday night's feature along with Nick Smith, who did a 360-degree spin and lost two irrelevant positions after a last-corner bid to get around Don Droud, Jr., for the final transfer spot.


---Reigning ASCS Midwest Region champion Natalie Sather made a last gasp effort to get around Koby Barksdale in Saturday's second heat race, only to spin and collect Missouri's Curtis Evans in the process. Nebraska's Billy Alley was the beneficiary, moving up to second and into his first "A" Feature in two weekends of trying. A third-place finish would have sent Alley to one of three "B" Mains.


---After cutting a right rear tire on one of Friday's initial starts, Jason Johnson tagged the tail of the field and charged from 20th to fourth without the assistance of any caution flags to lock himself into Saturday's Spring Nationals finale. Johnson then drew the pole position for the feature, with Daryn Pittman drawing the second spot. The duo battled throughout, with Pittman's efforts slowed just a couple laps short of the checkered flag when he clipped an infield tire and had to wrestle his mount the rest of the way.


---Garry Lee Maier, the initial ASCS National champion in 1992, nearly took the win from Danny Lasoski in Friday night's prelim. But when he ran afoul of a lapped car on the white-flag lap, Lasoski scurried back by. Had Maier held on for the win, it would have been his first ASCS National Tour triumph since a July 6, 2002, victory at Hollywood Hills Speedway in San Felipe Pueblo, NM. In that span, Maier has collected eleven ASCS Regional wins, three NCRA championships and a Brodix Tournament of Champions victory at Knoxville Raceway. If this past weekend is any indication, look for Maier to break back into ASCS National victory lane soon.


---Dustin Morgan won his heat race on Friday night and then drew the pole position for the feature. But when Chris Lloyd spun in turn one, Morgan dumped his mount in turn three. "I messed up, I rolled out of it when I saw the lights come on and the car was just getting set on the right rear." Morgan explained. But after competing primarily in the wingless Sprint Car and Midget ranks over the past three years, Morgan pointed to the top wing and commented, "That thing makes a huge difference, it's like landing on a huge pillow."


Huge pillow or not, the car was junk. Morgan and the Junior Holbrook team made tracks up the Turner Turnpike back to Tulsa and pieced together another car for Saturday's action with Morgan taking another heat race win before exiting early in the feature.


---Nebraska's Jack Dover, who pocketed $3,000 in ASCS Gulf South action at Houston Raceway Park earlier this month, won heat races on both nights to run his heat win total to three, tops in ASCoT action thus far in 2008.


Team Dover changed engines after his Friday night heat race win, with the 18-year-old then racing among the top four much of the way before settling for sixth at the line. Dover has climbed to eleventh in ASCoT points despite not making the East Bay opener.


---There is only one driver ranked in the top 13 in O'Reilly ASCoT National points that hasn't topped a heat race yet this year. That driver is Jason Johnson.


---After missing Friday's feature, Travis Rilat started his 267th career ASCS National Tour feature on Saturday night. That moves him into a tie for fourth in series history with Tim Crawley, trailing only Gary Wright (343 starts), Garry Lee Maier (278) and Terry Gray (270). Only three other drivers have started 200 or more ASCS National Tour features, including Zach Chappell (256), Wayne Johnson (217) and Toby Brown (209).


---Gary Wright and Wayne Johnson are the only two drivers that have started all seven ASCoT main events this season without the use of a provisional. Wright and W. Johnson have finished among the top ten in all seven features, as has Jason Johnson. Jason used a provisional at Devil's Bowl and raced into the top ten. With two more top tens at Oklahoma City, Jason Johnson extended his streak of top ten finishes to 26 in a row. Still 15 more to go to match Terry Gray's record of 41.


---Wayne Johnson nearly needed a provisional on Friday night after a stubborn Danny Smith (of the Oklahoma variety) seemed to slip away with the second and final transfer from "B" Main action after the pair traded sliders earlier in the race. A late caution coupled with fuel pick-up problems opened the door for Wayne to take the spot at the end.


---Gary Wright kept his string of top-five runs alive over the weekend. But just barely, with Saturday's third-place outing following a fifth-place Friday showing. The streak, outlasting his previous record of 16, is truly remarkable considering it has covered last year's Speedweek, Knoxville 360 Nationals, I-30 Speedway's Short Track Nationals, East Bay's "King of the 360's" and Spring Nationals doubles at Devil's Bowl and Oklahoma City, all events that attract both great numbers and great quality. The average car count over those 20 events has been a remarkable 50.75 cars per night.


---Wright's consistency has him out to a 46-point lead over Wayne Johnson just seven races into the season as he chases down an unprecedented fifth consecutive ASCS National championship. Wright will likely be back aboard the No. 01 machine when action resumes at Lucas Oil Speedway on April 19.


---Jeremy Sherman's ASCS Canyon Region point lead is at just four points after last Saturday's outing. While Charles Davis, Jr., seemed the most likely candidate to unseat the reigning series champion, Nathan High is asserting himself as a contender after consecutive fourth-place finishes.


---Don Grable will get to enjoy the ASCS Southwest Region point lead for a while, as the series next event isn't until May 3. With several contenders, including Rick Ziehl and Steve Stone among others, experiencing engine problems, several weeks to regroup isn't all bad.


---Excluding the ASCS Western Worlds, Sherman won four of the six ASCS Canyon Region events contested on Manzanita Speedway's half-mile last year. Charles Davis, Jr., won the other two.


---Saturday night's ASCS Canyon Region winner could walk away with some extra cash, as several donors have offered up a bonus for the Donny Davis Memorial. Diablo Tattoo Co., Bill Shaver, Steve Dunn and Greg Kamrath have each kicked an extra $100 for any driver that can win his heat and then top the feature as well.


---There's free grub after Saturday's Canyon Region action at Manzanita as well with a barbeque following the races.


---The ASCS Gulf South Region opened up the 2008 season on February 29 and March 1. ASCoT National invaders including Jason Johnson, Travis Rilat, Garry Lee Maier, Wayne Johnson and Rookie of the Year contenders Eric Baldaccini and Kathryne Minter took in both nights along with Nebraska's Jack Dover. Throw in defending Gulf South champ Brandon Berryman and past series champions Gary Watson, Ray Allen Kulhanek and Jerry Bell.


With that cast of characters on hand, who would have been your bet to escape the weekend with the series point lead? If you selected Chris Sweeney, you would be correct.


Sweeney posted finishes of third and fifth to get out of the opening Gulf South Region weekend of action just two points ahead of Travis Rilat, with Travis' father Greg Rilat tied for third with Berryman just six points out of the lead.


---Sweeney, who finished fourth in ASCS Gulf South points and missed the 2004 title by just 24 points, carries his point lead into Saturday night's Inaugural Josh Lofton Memorial at Champion Park Speedway in Haughton, LA.


---Jason Johnson has three overall ASCS wins this year, with a Gulf South score at Beaumont, TX, to go along with his two National wins. Taking the seat of Marvin Pearson's No. 11 for Gulf South action rather than the familiar Shop Motorsports No. 41 seen in National action, Jason makes his first Champion Park start on Saturday night. A stout field of Regional contenders will try to prevent him from reaching victory lane.


---After winning State Fair Speedway's Spring Nationals finale, Jason Johnson had a 5:00 a.m. flight on Sunday morning to Pennsylvania for a test session aboard his Kasey Kahne WoO ride. Johnson is scheduled to make the first of approximately 13 starts aboard the Remington Arms No. 91 in May. Seventy-eight points out of the ASCoT lead, Johnson's primary 2008 goal remains to chase down Gary Wright for the $50,000 series championship.


---Robert Sellers, a fourth-place finisher in 2001 ASCS National points, was at the wheel of Ronnie Davis' No. 25 at Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway. Sellers is slated to drive the No. 25 during selected ASCS events at Oklahoma City and Lawton, with Lawton two-barrel grad T.J. Harrell taking in the rest of the American Bank of Oklahoma ASCS Sooner Region slate. The No. 25 entry has ranked among the top ten in ASCS Sooner Region point over each of the past three years with Derek Cottrell in the seat.


---The ASCS Sooner Region kicks off the 2008 season south of the border (the Oklahoma border that is) next weekend with a pair of Texas events at Waco's Heart O' Texas Speedway on Friday, April 4, and then Cowtown Speedway in Kennedale on Saturday night.


---Defending ASCS Sooner Region champ Brian McClelland was one of three 2007 Regional champions in action at State Fair Speedway's Spring Nationals over the weekend along with ASCS Rocky Mountain Region king C.J. Johnson and ASCS Midwest Region queen Natalie Sather.


C.J. Johnson is set to defend his ASCS Rocky Mountain Region title, bidding to become the series first repeat champion after seven champions have been crowned in seven years (Nick Haygood – 2001, Mike Dreiling – 2002, Randi Miller – 2003, Keith Rauch – 2004, Gary Taylor – 2005, Patrick Bourke – 2006 and C.J. Johnson – 2007).


C.J. wasn't the only one on hand that will chase the ASCS Rocky Mountain Region title, as Los Lunas, NM, racer Colt Treharn plans to make a bid for the title as well. The Rocky Mountain opener is still several weeks off, with the series opening on May 24-25 at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Olathe, CO. That matches the latest ASCS opener in 2008, with the ASCS Northwest Region also kicking off that weekend at Grays Harbor Raceway Park in Elma, WA.


---A "light" weekend of action for the American Sprint Car Series looms, with just two events on Saturday night (Canyon at Manzanita and Gulf South at Champion Park). Not until November 14-15 is there another weekend with as few as two ASCS events on the calendar.


The nation's most prominent Sprint Car sanctioning body with 14 different Regions throughout the United States in addition to the O'Reilly American Sprint Cars on Tour National series, the American Sprint Car Series' (ASCS) 17th year of activity will include approximately 250 nights of racing at more than 100 different race tracks throughout 28 different states and Canada.


Additional information regarding the American Sprint Car Series is available at www.ascsracing.com.

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