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2018 Hall of Fame Classic Race Recap

 

The stars of the USAC/CRA Series give fans the 4-wide salute  on Saturday night

 

Friday – Night 1

 
It was over 100+ in Queen Creek, Arizona on Friday, Night 1 of the Hall of Fame Classic

 

It was a surprisingly hot day in Queen Creek, Arizona on Friday, with temperatures well over 100 degrees, as we near October.  Concern was high for track conditions, as that much heat combined with a steady breeze usually equates to dry/slick track conditions.  Thankfully, promoter of Arizona Speedway, Jonah Trussel, knows how to prepare for a 100+ degree race day.  The Track Crew went heavy with water and a tiller was used throughout the night to keep the track from taking rubber and to keep moisture in the surface.
Track conditions in turns 1 & 2 just before wheelpacking, as the sun begins to set behind Arizona Speedway

The track was lightening quick in Qualifying, as Logan Seavey took time late in the session, but flexed his muscle with a 15.150 opening lap of his run!  Interestingly, Seavey was the only driver who qualified in the top-10 who’s first lap was quicker.  Drivers were surprised with how much speed the track picked-up from Hot Laps to Qualifying.  It became obvious that it was a balance between hooking the cushion perfectly and keeping your front tires on the ground.

Logan Seavey set Quick Time with a 15.150 lap on Friday

Friday Qualifying Results

 
1. Logan Seavey –    15.150
2. Damion Gardner – 15.212
3. RJ Johnson –         15.215
4. Austin Williams –  15.237
5. Brody Roa –          15.299
6. Mike Martin –       15.363
7. Charles Davis Jr – 15.388
8. Cody Williams –   15.394
9. Logan Williams –  15.412
10. Jake Swanson –  15.484

Friday Heat Races

 

The track surface remained extremely fast and narrow leading-up to heat racing action.  Heat 1 was led flag-to-flag by South Central, Arizona’s “The Real American” Matt Rossi and there was limited passing throughout the 10-lap race.  Logan Seavey started and finished 6th after setting Quick Time earlier in the evening.  Heat 2 saw considerably more passing, as “The Demon” Damion Gardner charged from 6th to pass Tye Mihocko late and claim the win!  Tye led over half of the race and enjoyed a large lead over Gardner, but Faria Jr slowed and brought-out a caution late, allowing Damion to slip-by Mihocko on the ensuing restart.  Brody Roa made a couple of passes, moving from 5th to finish 3rd.  Heat 3 saw Tommy Malcolm lead all 10 laps en-route to victory!  RJ Johnson charged from 6th to finish 2nd and likely only needed a few more laps to get by Malcolm.

“The Demon” Damion Gardner put on a show Friday, charging from 6th to win his Heat Race!

Friday Main Event

 
A 10-invert on Friday meant Jake Swanson would start on pole for the 30-lap feature
Logan Williams would join Swanson starting on the front row Friday.  Here he is waiting for a push truck

The Arizona Speedway Track Crew decided to do work on the surface, just as the feature was rolling onto the track.  All cars and teams were asked to sit in the infield for approximately 20 minutes while Jonah watered the outside of the track and tilled the bottom of the surface, in both corners.  After what seemed like an eternity, they were ordered to the track and given several hot pace laps to work the surface in.  As is customary at every USAC event, the field a 4-wide salute to the fans!

Friday’s 21 starters gave a 4-wide salute to the fans!

Jake Swanson fired-off from the pole position and sped around the outside of Arizona Speedway, stretching his lead over Logan Williams.  Unfortunately for Logan, his chances of winning left on lap 5 when he tangled with a spun lapped car, while running 2nd.  The ensuring restart saw RJ Johnson make a huge run on the bottom, charging from outside the top-5 into 2nd place by halfway.  Brody Roa and Damion Gardner were fixtures within the top-5 and they weren’t leaving anytime soon.  Logan Seavey and Charles Davis Jr were waging a heck of a battle for 5th when the next caution came out on lap 16, due to a lapped car slowing on the track.

The lap 16 caution proved to have an impact on the outcome, as Seavey pulled into the pits and relinquished the 5th place spot, ending his night early.  RJ Johnson had an average restart and it was clear that the bottom line was no longer as dominant for him, as Roa and Gardner slipped past him on the outside, sending him back to 4th position.  Jake Swanson never looked back, and cruised to lead all 30 laps!  This was Jakes first USAC/CRA win of 2018 and 2nd career Hall of Fame Classic victory.  Roa closed on Swanson in the late laps, as the leaders hit lapped traffic, but Brody just didn’t quite have enough to make a move on Jake.  Gardner rimmed the outside perfectly and easily finished 3rd while RJ Johnson held his own and finished 4th.  Charles Davis Jr did a masterful job of holding-off Mike Martin (8th place), Austin Williams (6th) and Danny Faria Jr (7th) to claim his first top-5 of the weekend!
Jake Swanson led all 30 laps Friday, claiming his first of 2018 USAC/CRA & his 2nd career Hall of Fame Classic victory!

Swanson explained to announcer, Jason Carter, that he had lost his brakes entirely during wheelpack hot laps, before the race.  Somehow, Jake was able to maneuver his way through lapped traffic and hold-off Brody Roa in the closing laps!

Jason Carter interviews the victorious Jake Swanson, where Jake shares that he lost his brakes entirely, before the race
Brody Roa claimed his 15th top-5 finish of 2018, settling for 2nd on Friday
“The Demon” Damion Gardner bagged his 12th top-5 of the year, claiming the final podium spot on Night 1
After charging up to 2nd place, Arizona-native RJ Johnson settled for 4th on Friday night
The Arizona Speedway track surface was wide and fast on Friday, with big cushions on the exit of both corners!

Friday Feature Results

(starting position in parenthesis)
1. Jake Swanson (1)  2. Brody Roa (4)  3. Damion Gardner (6)  4. RJ Johnson (5)  5. Charles Davis Jr (3)  6. Austin Williams (8)  7. Danny Faria Jr (11)  8. Mike Martin (9)  9. Tommy Malcolm (15)  10. Matt Rossi (13)  11. Bruce St. James (18) *Hard Charger* 12. Zach Madrid (16)  13. Tye Mihocko (14)  14. Matt McCarthy (17)  15. Logan Williams (2)  16. Cody Williams (10)  17. Chris Gansen (12)  18. Joel Rayborne (19)  19. Logan Seavey (7)  20. Matt Lundy (20)  21. Austin Ervine (21)

 

Saturday – Night 2

It was another 100+ degree day in Queen Creek, Arizona on Saturday, for Night 2 of the Hall of Fame Classic

It was another scorching day at Arizona Speedway, with temperatures over 100+ degrees and a steady wind.  Jonah and the Track Crew were hard at work again, when I arrived, applying plenty of moisture to the surface in preparation for the Hall of Fame Classic finale!  Anticipation was high, as most Dirt racing fans know that a track surface generally gets better on the second night of a 2-day show.  Saturday’s racing action would not disappoint!

The USAC/CRA and San Tan Ford Sprint Car Series wheelpack on Saturday night, before Qualifying

For the second consecutive night, the Arizona Speedway track surface was extremely fast for Qualifying.  Talking with drivers after their runs, the surface was a little more narrow than it was on Friday, resulting in slightly slower times.  “The Demon” Damion Gardner set Quick Time on Saturday, ripping a 15.439 lap around the small, high-banked 3/8ths mile oval!  With the preferred groove being narrow, drivers were tasked with nailing their line perfectly on their Qualifying lap.  One slip or mis-pointed tire would result in a slow lap.

“The Demon” Damion Gardner set Quick Time on Saturday night, circling the 3/8ths mile Arizona Speedway in 15.439

Saturday Qualifying Results

 
1. Damion Gardner –  15.439
2. Logan Seavey –      15.535
3. Jake Swanson –      15.557
4. Matt Rossi –           15.791
5. Cody Williams –     15.834
6. RJ Johnson –          15.897
7. Danny Faria Jr –     15.916
8. Charles Davis Jr –  15.936
9. Chris Gansen –       15.947
10. Logan Williams –  15.962

Saturday Heat Races

 
For the second consecutive night, Heat Races were completed without major incident.  The groove had widened considerably as well, offering plenty of passing and side-by-side racing action!  Also for the second night in-a-row, Damion Gardner put on a show in his Heat Race, charging from 6th to win by nearly 1 second over early leader, Danny Faria Jr.  Tommy Malcolm did his best impression of “The Demon” in Heat Race 2, as he also cruised to his second Heat Race win in as many nights, leading all 10 laps from the pole starting position!  Logan Seavey charged from 6th to finish runner-up to Malcom, in the second Heat Race.  Brody Roa was noticeably upset with his 15th place Qualifying effort earlier in the night, but he took advantage of starting on the pole for Heat Race 3 and cruised to the victory, leading all 10 laps!
Brody Roa qualified 15th on Saturday, allowing him to start on the pole in Heat Race 3 and cruise to the victory

Saturday Main Event

 
Much like Friday night, the Arizona Speedway Track Crew had all USAC/CRA competitors roll into the infield while they worked the surface, prior to the 30-lap feature.  Jonah applied plenty of moisture on the outside while tilling both the bottom and top lines.  Once cars were pushed onto the track, they were given a few hot laps to pack the recently-worked surface.  Hearing the roar of the engines and knowing that 21 of the best Sprint Car drivers in the Southwest were prepared to do battle for 30 laps, is enough to get anyone’s adrenaline pumping.  It’s moments like these where you can feel the electricity in the air and you hear increased noise from the crowd, as anticipation intensifies!
“Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr started on the pole position for Saturday night’s 30-lap Hall of Fame Classic finale!

Arizona’s RJ Johnson fired-off from the outside pole position on Saturday, enjoying leads by as much as a full straightaway!  However, there were several cautions within the first half of the race, which allowed fast cars to gain track position on Johnson.  It was the caution on lap 9 that changed the complexion of the race, as Damion Gardner and Logan Seavey would start directly behind Johnson on the restart.  In fact, Seavey had just successfully ran the bottom line to perfection, prior to the caution, charging from 6th and passed Gardner for 2nd!  Unfortunately for Seavey, the caution was ill-timed and he was forced to restart in 3rd place, behind Johnson and Gardner, with 21 laps to go.

RJ Johnson continued to display his experience on the Arizona Speedway track surface, running the outside cushion with what appeared to be relative ease.  However, it wasn’t long before Gardner and Seavey worked their way by RJ, as his car began to fade just passed the halfway mark of the race.  Prior to passing Johnson, “The Demon” made one of the best saves that I have ever seen in a Sprint Car.  RJ passed the lapped car of Austin Ervine on the outside entering turn 1, while Gardner had still been pressing the bottom line, especially on corner-entrance.  It appeared that Damion went to make a huge slide job on the entrance of turn 1, but he and Ervine made contact, causing Gardner to bicycle with both of his left-side tires off of the ground.  Somehow, “The Demon” was able to wrangle his car back under control and he resumed his chasing of RJ, ultimately passing him a few laps later.
After trading a few epic slide jobs with Johnson, Logan Seavey remained in hot pursuit of Gardner for the remainder of the feature, closing within a few car lengths of him.  However, to no one’s surprise, the 6-time USAC/CRA Champion did not bobble in the closing laps and “The Demon” cruised to his 5th win of 2018!  Brody Roa put on a hell of a show on Saturday night, as he charged from 14th to finish 3rd, just behind Gardner and Seavey.  Roa actually slipped by Seavey with a couple laps to go and seemed to be closing-in on Gardner, but lapped traffic allowed Seavey to claim the runner-up spot.  After leading over half of the race, RJ Johnson settled for his second 4th place finish of the weekend while Friday night’s big winner, Jake Swanson, rounded-out the top-5!

 

 

“The Demon” Damion Gardner claimed his 5th USAC/CRA Series victory of 2018, in the Hall of Fame Classic finale!
Gardner chats with Arizona Speedway announcer, Jason Carter, after earning his $3,000 payday on Saturday night
Logan Seavey was competitive all weekend and capped-off his 2018 Hall of Fame Classic with a runner-up finish
Brody Roa was the Hard Charger on Saturday night, as he charged from 14th to finish 3rd
RJ Johnson settled for his second 4th place finish of the weekend on Saturday, after leading over half of the race
For the second consecutive night, Arizona Speedway offered a hefty cushion on the exit of both corners

Saturday Feature Results

(starting position in parenthesis)
 
1. Damion Gardner (6)  2. Logan Seavey (5)  3. Brody Roa (14)  4. RJ Johnson (2)  5. Jake Swanson (4)  6. Danny Faria Jr (1)  7. Charles Davis Jr (8)  8. Austin Williams (10)  9. Zach Madrid (11)  10. Cody Williams (3)  11. Tommy Malcolm (13)  12. Tye Mihocko (19)  13. Mike Martin (15)  14. Matt McCarthy (12)  15. Bruce St. James (20)  16. Chris Gansen (21)  17. Logan Williams (9)  18. Matt Lundy (17)  19. Austin Ervine (18)  20. Matt Rossi (7)  21. Joel Rayborne (16)

Current 2018 Point Standings

 
1. Brody Roa –          1,292
2. Damion Gardner – 1,262
3. Austin Williams –  1,108
4. Cody Williams –    1,012
5. Jake Swanson –       947
6. Max Adams –           912
7. RJ Johnson –           898
8. Danny Faria Jr –      864
9. Logan Williams –     789
10. Chris Gansen –      750

 

 

 

 

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USAC

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