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2016 Western World Race Recap

Friday, November 4th

Beautiful 80-degree days greeted me on Friday, November 4th and Saturday, November 5th, as the Western World was making its 49th annual appearance in Arizona.  Unfortunately, it was the weather on Thursday that threw everyone for a loop and had a large impact on the racing weekend.
Track Officials worked the racing surface at Arizona Speedway on Friday, November 4th
It rained hard at Arizona Speedway on Thursday, November 3rd, forcing Officials to cancel the open practice session scheduled for that night.  There was plenty of standing water and very saturated grounds, when I arrived to the track around 5:00pm local time, on Friday.  A total of 75 (34 USAC 410 Sprints Cars and 41 USAC 360 Sprint Cars) were poised in the pits, ready to do battle on the small semi-banked 3/8ths mile Dirt oval.  Unfortunately, track conditions would play a large role in Friday night’s racing and it was the popular topic of conversation, in the pits.  Hot laps went-off without any trouble, though it was obvious that the track had heavy moisture, as you could see the “spray” of Dirt flying, as cars passed-by.  Outside of the track, standing water puddles were getting pelted with bits of mud, flying-off of the cars, as they desperately tried to pack the surface.

Qualifying

Qualifying was interesting, as the track actually seemed to widen and it developed a rather large cushion in both corners.  Unfortunately for Aaron Farney, he discovered what can happen when you get up and over the cushion, as his Western World started-off with a “bang”.  Thankfully, Farney was uninjured and able to continue competing throughout the night.  Chad Boespflug flexed his muscle in Qualifying on Friday night, as he went Quick Time, blistering the small 3/8ths mile Dirt oval in 14.806 seconds!
Aaron Farney took a wild ride during Qualifying on Friday night.  Thankfully, he was okay & able to continue competing
Chad Boespflug went Quick Time on Friday, with a 14.806 lap around the 3/8ths mile Dirt oval!


Heat Races

Heat Racing action also had its fair-share of drama, as local Arizona racer, Landon Cling got upside down between turns 1 & 2, in 360 Sprint Car competition.  The Track Crew gave their best effort, as they consistently “lowered” the cushion, using the tilling tractor, encouraging drivers to race above where the cushion had developed. Unfortunately, their efforts were uneffective, as drivers simply stayed below the cushion, with very few venturing above the lower 1/3rd of the track.  The track was certainly tacky and fast, but it never widened all night, causing limited opportunity for passing.  With the unfavorable track conditions and narrow groove, if you started up-front in the Heat Races, then you had a good chance to win.  Carson Macedo, Ryan Bernal, Jon Stanbrough and Arizona racer, Stevie Sussex, all took advantage of front-row starting spots to win their Heats!  Some drivers were able to make some ground during Heat Race action, but passing remain limited.  Sadly, track conditions never really improved for the remainder of the night, despite the Track Crew’s best efforts.  The surface continued to hold a lot of moisture and never became dry on the bottom.  Combine that with “marbles” that were being launched from the right rear tire of Sprint Cars, as they ran the bottom groove, an outside groove could never be established.
This was the widest that the groove ever got on Friday, making passing very difficult at Arizona Speedway

360 Sprint Car Feature


USAC 360 Sprint Car 4-wide salute to the fans, Friday November 4th

Despite less-than-ideal track conditions, the 360 Sprint Car Feature offered the most excitement on the evening!  “Big Daddy” Chris Windom took advantage of starting on the front row of the Main Event and fired-off to take the early lead.  Windom flexed his muscle and started hitting lapped traffic around the halfway point of the 30-lap feature.  With such a narrow groove, Windom was having difficulty even passing cars at the tail-end of the field, in order to lap them.  This allowed “Macho Man” Brady Bacon to close-in and make a move on Windom!  The two USAC Sprint Car veterans put on a show, as they raced side-by-side for several laps, all while trying to negotiate through lapped traffic.  Brady actually passed Windom on the outside, with about 10 laps to go, but his progress was slowed by a lapped car, allowing Windom to recapture the lead.  Arizona Sprint Car veteran, RJ Johnson, slowed to bring out the caution with about 5 laps to go.  It seemed there would be a shootout between Windom and Bacon, but Windom fired-off to an insurmountable lead and never looked back, winning the $2,000 preliminary event!  After speaking with Brady Bacon after the race, it was discovered that he ran-out of tearoffs shortly after taking the lead from Windom, helping to explain why his progress was thwarted.
“Big Daddy” Chris Windom won the 360 Sprint Car Feature on Friday night!
“Macho Man” Brady Bacon settled for 2nd place in the 360 Sprint Car Feature, on Friday night
It was discovered that Brady Bacon ran-out of tearoffs in the Main Event, explaining his frustration with finishing 2nd
Arizona racer, Tom Ogle, stayed up-front all night and finished an impressive 3rd on Friday!
“The Real American” Matt Rossi finished 4th on Friday, giving Arizona drivers half of the top-4 that night!

410 Sprint Car Feature

USAC 410 Sprint Car 4-wide salute to the fans, on Friday, November 4th!
As I eluded to previously, the 360 Sprint Car feature was the highlight of the night, as track conditions remained fast, wet and narrow.  California Midget ace, Ronnie Gardner, jumped-out to the early lead in 410 competition, as he led the first few laps.  However, it did not take long for that familiar orange number 5 Sprint Car, driven by “Big Daddy” Chris Windom, to make his way to the front.  Windom made quick work of Gardner and set sail on the 30-lap Main Event.  Windom received very few challenges from anyone else and “cruised” to victory, sweeping both races on Friday, the first time that two USAC divisions were won by the same driver on the same night/track, since 2001.  “Big Daddy” also pocketed a total of $7,000 in race winnings alone, on Friday night, proving that he would be a favorite for the big $6,000 payday on Saturday night!  “The Demon” Damion Gardner was, by far, the highest finishing of the USAC/CRA regular competitors.  While “The Demon” didn’t have anything for race winner, Windom, he did enjoy a solid 2nd place finish, further padding his point lead in USAC/CRA competition!
“Big Daddy” Chris Windom swept the races on Friday night, as he added the $5,000 410 Sprint Car victory!  
“The Demon” Damion Gardner enjoyed a solid 2nd place finish on Friday, in 410 competition!
“T-Mez” Thomas Meseraull climbs from his car after finishing 3rd in 410 competition, on Friday!
“Macho Man” Brady Bacon backed-up his 2nd place finish in 360 competition, with a 4th place effort in 410’s!
No one had anything for “Big Daddy” Chris Windom on Friday, as he swept both Feature races, winning $7,000!
Unfortunately, track conditions never improved on Friday, as this is what was left following the Main Events

Results


360 Sprint Cars

1. Chris Windom, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Tom Ogle, 4. Matt Rossi, 5. Ryan Bernal, 6. Andy Reinbold, 7. Mike Martin, 8. Charles Davis Jr, 9. Brian Hosford, 10. Matt Lundy, 11. Tye Mihocko, 12. C.J. Leary, 13. Jason Grady, 14. Aaron Farney, 15. Josh Hodges, 16. Chris Bonneau, 17. R.J. Johnson, 18. Tanner Grau, 19. Zach Madrid, 20. Clint Boyles, 21. Stevie Sussex, 22. Shon Deskins
410 Sprint Cars (with starting positions in parenthesis)

1. Chris Windom (4), 2. Damion Gardner (5), 3. Thomas Meseraull (1), 4. Brady Bacon (6), 5. Jerry Coons Jr (9), 6. Ronnie Gardner (2), 7. Chad Boespflug (7), 8. Chase Stockon (8), 9. Brody Roa (12), 10. Jake Swanson (13), 11. Richard Vander Weerd (16), 12. Austin Williams (11), 13. Jon Stanbrough (17), 14. Ryan Bernal (20), 15. R.J. Johnson (21), 16. Carson Macedo (15), 17. Mike Spencer (10), 18. Isaac Chapple (19), 19. Aaron Farney (23), 20. Kevin Thomas Jr (24), 21. Max Adams (14), 22. Cody Williams (22), 23. Chris Gansen (25), 24. Jeremy Ellertson (26), 25. Dave Darland (3), 26. Stevie Sussex (18)

Saturday, November 5th

Weather allowed for much better track conditions at Arizona Speedway, on Saturday!
Another 80-degree sun-drenched day greeted me, as I arrived to Arizona Speedway around 4:00pm local time.  One of my first observations, upon arriving to the track, was that we would be in for a much better show!  It was obvious that the Track Crew had a better plan on Saturday, combined with the Arizona sun doing its part and helping to dry-out the surface.  Hot laps went-off without any issue, for the 2nd night in a row and spirits were high, as the track surface was in much better condition than the previous night!
Track conditions during hot laps, as fans start to file-in to Arizona Speedway, on Saturday night

Qualifying

Qualifying also offered limited drama, as there were no incidents during Saturday’s time trials.  It was a night where it was good to qualify early, since the track began to dry and widen, as the 34 USAC 410 Sprint Car competitors completed their laps.  Drivers were being asked to pull into the infield, following their Qualifying laps, as they would be gathered by their crew members all at once, after Qualifying was over.  I remember hearing Brady Bacon correctly predict “Quick Time”, as Chad Boespflug completed his Qualifying lap on Saturday.  Even without the aid of Race Monitor, you could hear Chad on the gas longer than any other driver, combined with the high RPM’s of his powerful V-8 engine.  Boespflug went Quick Time for the 2nd night in-a-row, besting his previous time with a 14.625 and beating his Track Record from the previous night!
Chad Boespflug went Quick Time for the 2nd time in as many days, on Saturday night!

Heat Races

Heat racing action was also improved from Friday, as the track immediately began to dry in the lower groove and take rubber.  This forced drivers to either spin their tires, while running through the slick, or move up higher and race in the cushion.  Thankfully, the majority chose the latter and the track widened-out nicely, while maintaining a manageable-sized cushion.  Jon Stanbrough, Chris Windom, C.J. Leary and Ryan Bernal all enjoyed 410 Sprint Car Heat Race triumphs on Saturday, locking themselves into the Main Event!
A very healthy crowd was on-hand at Arizona Speedway on Saturday night, for the 49th annual Western World!
Track conditions were much better, following Heat Races on Saturday!

360 Sprint Car Feature

USAC 360 Sprint Car 4-wide salute to the fans, on Saturday night!

“Macho Man” Brady Bacon and California racer, Ryan Bernal, shared the front row on Saturday night, suggesting that the two drivers would battle for the win.  What a battle it was, as Bernal chased-down Bacon, catching him around lap 8, after Brady fired-off to the early lead.  Bernal’s lead was only short-lived however, as Bacon regained the lead a few laps later.  Bernal held pace with Bacon until around halfway of the 30-lap main event, as the leaders began to hit lapped traffic.  Brady Bacon proved that he is a veteran, making quick and easy work of all the lapped traffic he encountered.  Bernal began to fade in the closing laps, losing 2nd place to Arizona racer, R.J. Johnson and eventually losing 3rd place to “Big Daddy” Chris Windom.  The three drivers waged one helluva war for 2nd place though, before R.J. stretched away from Windom and Bernal.  Bacon cruised the rest of the way, claiming victory in 360 Sprint Car Competition on Saturday and pocketing a cool $5,000!  The 30-lap Feature went green all the way, proving to be taxing on engines for several of the front runners.  Bernal’s engine overheated, as he coasted out of turn 4, finishing 4th.  “Big Daddy” Chris Windom also had large amounts of steam coming from his engine, after finishing 3rd.  Arizona racer, R.J. Johnson claimed the 2016 USAC Southwest Series Championship by finishing 2nd on Saturday, marking his 4th Championship in-a-row, in that Series!

“Macho Man” Brady Bacon is the 2016 360 Sprint Car Western World Champion, winning $5,000!
R.J. Johnson finished 2nd, clinching his 4th consecutive USAC Southwest Series Championship!
“Big Daddy” Chris Windom did not win in 360 Sprint Car competition on Saturday, but enjoyed a solid 3rd place finish!
Ryan Bernal had engine trouble and coasted to finish 4th on Saturday, after leading laps early

410 Sprint Car Feature

USAC 410 Sprint Car 4-wide salute to the fans, 49th annual Western World at Arizona Speedway!
For the second night in-a-row the 360 Sprint Car Feature upstaged the 410 Main Event.  Somehow, “Big Daddy” Chris Windom drew pole position, setting the stage for what everyone thought was coming.  “The Demon” Damion Gardner jumped-out to the early lead, but it was only a matter of time before Windom got by him.  In an extremely impressive effort, Windom led 25 of the 30 laps of Saturday night’s Feature, enjoying a full straightaway lead at times.  Windom proved why he is one of the best Sprint Car drivers, as he made quick and easy work of lapped traffic, rarely putting a wheel in the wrong place.  While the track was wide and offered room for passing, no one had anything for Windom, as he cruised to the $6,000 victory on Saturday night!  This brought Windom’s race winning total to a staggering $13,000+ on the weekend, in what was a truly impressive display of driving talent!  “The Demon” Damion Gardner enjoyed another solid run on Saturday, finishing 2nd.  While “The Demon” did not win on either night, he clearly showed that he is “tops” among his USAC/CRA competitors.  He also all-but-clinched the 2016 USAC/CRA Series Championship, with his strong finishes on both nights!  “Macho Man” Brady Bacon also enjoyed solid runs on both nights, finishing 3rd on Saturday and padding his USAC National Sprint Car points lead!  After speaking with Bacon after the race, it seems he simply needs to “show up” in Perris next weekend, in order to clinch the 2016 USAC National Sprint Car Championship and add to the already impressive legacy of Hoffman Auto Racing!
“Big Daddy” Chris Windom is the 2016 Western World Champion!
“The Demon” Damion Gardner finished 2nd for the second night & all-but-clinched the 2016 USAC/CRA Championship!
“Macho Man” Brady Bacon finished 3rd on Saturday, padding his USAC National Tour points lead!

Track conditions were much better on Saturday!
Overall, the 49th annual Western World was a success at Arizona Speedway.  While track conditions were not optimal, fans got to see 70+ of the best USAC Sprint Car drivers in the world do battle and exchange sliders.  We hope the Western World has “found a home” and will return to the small 3/8ths mile Arizona Speedway, in 2017!

Results


360 Sprint Cars

1. Brady Bacon, 2. R.J. Johnson, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Ryan Bernal, 5. Shon Deskins, 6. Matt Rossi, 7. Josh Hodges, 8. C.J. Leary, 9. Charles Davis Jr, 10. Stevie Sussex, 11. Mike Martin, 12. Brady Short, 13. Tye Mihocko, 14. Tom Ogle, 15. Aaron Farney, 16. Andy Reinbold, 17. Matt Lundy, 18. Chris Bonneau, 19. Michael Curtis, 20. Zach Madrid, 21. Brian Hosford, 22. Clint Boyles
410 Sprint Cars

1. Chris Windom, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Chase Stockon, 6. Richard Vander Weerd, 7. Jerry Coons Jr, 8. Ryan Bernal, 9. Carson Macedo, 10. Josh Hodges, 11. Kevin Thomas Jr, 12. Chad Boespflug, 13. Jon Stanbrough, 14. C.J. Leary, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Brody Roa, 17. Thomas Meseraull, 18. Jake Swanson, 19. Max Adams, 20. Mike Spencer, 21. Matt Rossi, 22. Mike Martin, 23. Cody Williams, 24. Austin Williams

Points


410 USAC National Points (as of 11/11/2016)

1. Brady Bacon – 2474
2. Chase Stockon – 2217
3. Thomas Meseraull – 2061
4. Dave Darland – 2059
5. Chris Windom – 2013
6. Chad Boespflug – 1998
7. Robert Ballou – 1919
8. C.J. Leary – 1911
9. Aaron Farney – 1322
10. Kevin Thomas Jr – 1274
410 USAC/CRA Series Points (as of 11/11/2016)

1. Damion Gardner – 1443
2. Richard Vander Weerd – 1285
3. Jake Swanson – 1220
4. Brody Roa – 1170
5. Austin Williams – 1127
6. Mike Spencer – 993
7. Max Adams – 869
8. Logan Williams – 744
9. Cody Williams – 729
10. Chris Gansen – 665

360 USAC Southwest Sprint Cars Points (final 2016)

1. R.J. Johnson – 1470
2. Charles Davis Jr – 1339
3. Matt Rossi – 1166
4. Mike Martin – 1160
5. Tye Mihocko – 1020
6. Dennis Gile – 927
7. Stevie Sussex – 897
8. Brian Hosford – 820
9. Chris Bonneau – 799
10. Andy Reinbold – 787

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