ALLARD WINS AT CALISTOGA SPEEDWAY
Steven Allard claimed his first career victory at Calistoga Speedway Saturday night, declared the official winner after being the second car across the finish line in a caution-filled and curfew-shortened sprint car main event on the half mile oval.
Allard, from Chico, jetted into the lead from the front row at the drop of the green flag and led 20 of the 21 laps completed, but was chased down and passed for the lead at the start/finish line by Mike Henry moments before a yellow caution flag ended the race to meet a state-mandated curfew.
But Henry, the apparent winner, was set back three spots by race officials for jumping a restart on lap 10, crediting Allard with the win. “I’ve wanted to win at Calistoga for so long,” said the elated, veteran driver in victory circle.
After dominating most of the race, repeatedly building leads of several car lengths, Allard said he got overly cautious approaching slower, lapped cars, which allowed Henry to reel him in and eventually dive under him in turn four for what appeared to be the winning move. “I prematurely moved to the bottom of the race track to deal with lapped cars,” he said, which slowed him down instead of allowing him to make clean, high speed passes.
Henry, of Sacramento, disputed the officials’ call, claiming that the car in front of him driven by Herman Klein balked on the restart, giving him no choice but to pass before the start/finish line. Despite Klein’s admission that his engine just didn’t respond on the restart, officials insisted that rules required Henry to remain behind Klein until they reached the allowed passing spot.
Klein, also of Sacramento, took the runner-up spot and, coupled with a top five finish the previous night at Petaluma Speedway, ended the weekend as the apparent leader in a five-way battle for the Civil War Sprint Car series’ championship. “This is one of the best runs we have had here,” said Klein. “We’re looking forward to the last three races because they are at tracks where we do well.”
The race got off to a ragged start, stopped for red flags twice before a lap was scored. On the first drop of the green flag, Calistoga driver Mike Benson was bounced around in a tight traffic jam in turn one and flipped his car through turn two. He was unhurt.
On a subsequent attempt at a start, the championship points leader and pole sitter Sean Becker stopped suddenly on the back stretch when his rear axle snapped in half. Officials stopped the race to clean up fuel spilled on the track caused by a sharp piece of metal from the axle that punctured Becker’s fuel cell. “It just snapped in two with no warning,” said Becker, who unofficially lost the points lead he had padded with a win at Petaluma the night before. “We will just try to get all the bad luck out of the way and finish strong,” said Becker, who is attempting to be the first driver to win three consecutive championships in the Civil War series.
Jeff Parady, from Pope Valley, appeared to be headed to his best career finish at Calistoga Speedway before he brought the race to a stop after crashing hard into the turn three wall while chasing down Allard for the lead. “I had my sights set on catching Allard and got a little greedy,” he said to explain how he overcooked his entry into the corner by inches, which sent him into the wall.
Four time series champion Andy Forsberg was one of the biggest movers through the field, finishing sixth after being forced to re-start the race at the back of the 20 car field after being caught up in the wheel-banging traffic jam that caused Benson to get upside down. He preserved his chances to earn a fifth driving title by passing cars in clusters, running on the high-speed top groove of the track despite losing a shock absorber on the very critical left rear corner of his suspension in the first lap melee.
Calistoga Speedway, Civil War Sprint Car Series (Sat.). Heat one (8 laps): Cody Lamar, Sacramento; Steven Allard, Chico; Robbie Whitchurch, Chico; Mike Henry, Sacramento; Mason Moore, Penngrove. Heat two: Andy Forsberg, Auburn; Herman Klein, Sacramento; Jerome Burt, Grass Valley; Sean Becker, Oroville; Willie Croft, Sacramento. Heat 3: Rich Griffin, St. Helena; Jeff Parady, Pope Valley; Moore; Henry; Marty Hawkins, Calistoga. Heat 4: Mike Benson, Calistoga; Becker; Klein; Croft; Burt.
Main Event (21 laps): Allard; Klein; Whitchurch; Henry; Griffin; Forsberg; Jimmy Trulli, Placerville; Lamar; Burt; Trent Canales, Roseville; Joey Magaruh, Vacaville; Hawkins; Brenton Nugent, Lotus; Jim Richardson, Graeagle; Moore; Geoff Ensign, Sebastopol; Parady; Benson; Croft, Becker.