January 5th, 2019
There’s a certain feeling you get when you arrive at a big racing event. Pits packed with big toters and race haulers, campers everywhere, the colors, the souvenir haulers, the flags and banners making noise, as they wave in the wind. Hearing Ben Shelton on the microphone talking about this year’s strong field of cars. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, then you should probably stop reading now.
Weather was the talk of the weekend, as it has been unseasonably cold and rainy in Arizona, over the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, weather would have a major factor in this weekend’s races, but not before we completed all 3 features on Saturday!
It was overcast for the majority of the day on Saturday, January 5th. Anyone who read a forecast or watched the news, knew rain was anticipated later in the evening. This caused the Arizona Speedway Crew and Wild West Shootout Promoters to go into “hurry up” mode. But, not at the sacrifice of the show! As pictured above, the track surface took quite a bit of rubber during hot laps and Late Model group Qualifying. But before they could add more moisture and work the track, “Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce ripped a 14.769 second lap around the high-banked 1/3rd mile FK Rods Arizona Speedway, to claim Quick Time Honors:
Qualifying Quick 8
1. Bobby Pierce – 14.769
2. Chris Simpson – 14.870
3. Hudson O’Neal – 14.928
4. Tony Toste – 14.929
5. Chase Junghans – 15.012
6. Pat Doar – 15.020
7. Scott Bloomquist – 15.245
8. Brandon Sheppard – 15.256
47 Late Models and 40 USRA Modifieds competed on Saturday, where a full Entry List can be found here:
Hot Laps and Qualifying were completed without major incident. The Track Crew worked the surface immediately following Late Model group Qualifying, as the surface desperately needed moisture. This setup some exciting Heat Race action, especially as the bottom groove began to burn-off and a cushion developed for the Late Models.
USRA Modified Heat Races started with Arkansas’ Tyler Wolff making a daring last-lap pass on the outside of Lance Mari, who had lead the race’s first 7 laps. Kyle Beard joined them as the race’s 3 transfers into Saturday’s 25-lap $1,000-to-win main event! Minnesota’s Chad Olsen ran away from Rodney Sanders and the field to take Heat 2, with fellow-Minnesotan Darrell Nelson transferring along with them. Oklahoma’s Dereck Ramirez battled with Casey Arneson, which was a precursor for their battle in the feature, to claim Heat 3. Arizona’s Austin Kuehl transferred along with them. North Dakota’s Dustin Strand cruised to win the 4th and final Modified Heat Race, fending-off Ricky Thornton Jr and Bumper Jones. Overall, some clean heat racing from the Mods!
Iowa’s Chris Simpson has been competing in Arizona during January, for the last 8 years and he was welcomed-back to the desert by cruising to win Late Model Heat Race 1 over “Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce. “Ice Man” Jimmy Mars and “The Hurricane” Earl Pearson Jr rounded-out your 4 transfers to the night’s 40-lap $5,000-to-win feature! Illinois’ native “B-Shepp” Brandon Sheppard and “Black Sunshine” Scott Bloomquist did some foreshadowing of their own. Two of the best in Dirt Late Model racing right now, Sheppard and Bloomer traded slide jobs for the lead at the end of Heat Race 2, with B-Shepp getting the better of him. This was not the last time those two would trade sliders while racing in the top-3. Canada’s Ricky Weiss made it 2 Sweet-Bloomquist Chassis in the top-3, with New Mexico’s Garrett Alberson taking the final transfer spot in the second Black Diamond house car. “The New Deal” Hudson O’Neal dominated the 4th and final Heat, cruising to win over Pat Doar, Stormy Scott and Arizona’s Joey Moriarty as the transfers. Excellent Late Model action, with the battle between Sheppard and Bloomquist in the 2nd Heat being the show-stopper!
Tyler Peterson cruised to win the USRA Modified B-main, punching his ticket into the night’s feature along with Christy Georges-Barnett, Carlos Ahumada Jr, Isaiah Geisel, Jessie Hoskins, Steve Muilenberg, Adam Kates and Casey Skyberg! Alex Guthmiller, Kody Scholpp, Dylan Goplen and Cody Skytland also made the main event, as they were the top-4 in passing points who did not automatically qualify.
Late Model B-mains were exciting and offered last-corner battles for the final transfer spot in both consolation races! “Thriller” Cade Dillard dominated Late Model B-1, transferring to the night’s main along with “Wild Child” Scott Ward, Don Shaw and Washington’s Joey Tanner barely held-off California’s Cody Laney for the final transfer spot, nipping him by 0.04 seconds. This would not be the last photo finish of the night!
Arizona’s Ricky Thornton Jr cruised to win the second Late Model B-main in Casey Skyberg’s Club 29-Black Diamond Chassis. He transferred to Saturday’s feature event along with Terry Phillips, Rob Sanders and California’s Jason Papich made contact with Alabama’s Billy Franklin on the exit of turn 4 of the last lap, stuffing Franklin into the fence, who scrubbed along the wall all the way to pit entrance. Franklin was okay, but it was a rough way to end his night. The B-mains created edge-of-your-seat excitement, but merely represented an appetizer to what we would see later in the evening!
Modified Main Event
Remember when I mentioned that Dereck Ramirez and Casey Arneson would resume their battle from earlier? That time was when the 25-lap USRA Modified feature went green! Ramirez claimed the early lead, but Arneson and Ricky Thornton Jr were all over him up until the race’s first caution for Bumper Jones, on lap 8. Coincidentally, Thornton had just slowed and pulled-off at the very start of that lap, after breaking a gear. Minnesota’s Darrell Nelson inherited 3rd place after Thornton’s bad luck.
Fargo, North Dakota’s Casey Arneson didn’t take long on the ensuing restart, as he and Nelson made quick work of Ramirez, who settled-in at 3rd place. They ran like that up until lap 22 when it appeared El Paso, Texas’ Christy Georges-Barnett lost a motor at the exit of Turn 4 and pounded the outside wall, head-first. Thankfully, Christy was okay, but the race was brought to a halt with the second red flag of the evening (there was a big collision in the X-Mod main event that caused a brief red. All drivers were okay).
The running order for your 3-lap shootout was Arneson, followed-by Nelson, Ramirez, Dustin Strand, Tyler Wolff, Kyle Beard and Rodney Sanders. Arneson cruised to the victory on Saturday, claiming his 1st career Wild West Shootout victory! Your top-7 remained the same with Austin Kuehl, Dylan Goplen and Chad Olsen completing the top-10.
*Unfortunately, the victory lane celebration was originally postponed until after the Late Model main (due to concern about the weather), but then ultimately cancelled, so I do not have any pictures*
1. Casey Arneson 2. Darrell Nelson 3. Dereck Ramirez 4. Dustin Strand 5. Tyler Wolff 6. Kyle Beard 7. Rodney Sanders 8. Austin Kuehl 9. Dylan Goplen 10. Chad Olsen 11. Cody Skotland 12. Adam Kates 13. Carlos Ahumada Jr 14. Alex Guthmiller 15. Lance Mari 16. Isaiah Geisel 17. Casey Skyberg 18. Christy Georges-Barnett 19. Jessie Hoskins 20. Kody Scholpp 21. Ricky Thornton Jr 22. Bumper Jones 23. Steve Muilenberg 24. Tyler Peterson
Late Model Main Event
Unfortunately, due to the threat of weather, there was no time for a 4-wide salute or fancy buildup to the 40-lap $5,000-to-win feature. Basically, it was “line up boys, it’s time to race” once the Late Models hit the track. And race, they did! Manhattan, Kansas’ Chase Junghans was able to muscle-by Hudson O’Neal on the initial start, allowing him to lead the race’s first 15 laps! Unfortunately for Hudson, this was the closest that he would be to leading, for the rest of the race. After being slowed with an early spin by Jason Papich, the race stayed green until lap 16, when Stormy Scott slowed and went to the pits, ending his night. By that time, Bobby Pierce, Brandon Sheppard and Jimmy Mars had already passed O’Neal and were running 2nd – 5th. Pierce was able to slip passed Junghans, as Chase had gotten stuck in lapped traffic just before the caution for Stormy!
This setup an 8-lap sprint to the race’s third and final caution, as Pierce led Junghans, Sheppard, Mars, O’Neal and Scott Bloomquist. 17th place starter Cade Dillard had already begun his assault on the field, as he ran the cushion to perfection and he began to crack the top-10! B-Shepp snuck past Junghans on the ensuing restart and Chase was under heavy pressure from the Sweet-Bloomquist Chassis contingent of Bloomquist and Canada’s Ricky Weiss. The race took a dramatic turn on lap 24, as Weiss over-drove turn 3 and clipped Junghans, causing them both to spin. Tempers flared and contact was made between the two drivers, as both drivers retired for the evening with Weiss driving to the pits and Junghans limping to the hot pit. This ended both driver’s chances of winning for the night.
The restart with 16 laps to go saw Pierce still ahead of Sheppard and Bloomquist, while the most-recent caution caused Brandon Overton and Cade Dillard to inherit top-5 positions. Pierce fired-off to an early lead on the ensuing restart and seemed to have his Rocket Chassis on cruise-control, until he hit lapped traffic with a handful of laps left. Later, we discovered that Pierce not only lost his power steering in the closing laps, but he also lost his electronic transponder. However, everyone in attendance knew who the leader was! Bloomquist put on a hell of a show in the closing laps, as he slipped past Sheppard and set his sights on Pierce with about 5 laps to go. Pierce was slowed by lapped traffic and Bloomquist was able to draw alongside of Pierce on the exit of Turn 4, but “The Smooth Operator” held-off “Black Sunshine” by mere feet, coming to the checkered flag! Brandon Sheppard, Cade Dillard and Brandon Overton rounded-out your top-5 on night 1 of the Wild West Shootout!
Late Model Results
1. Bobby Pierce 2. Scott Bloomquist 3. Brandon Sheppard 4. Cade Dillard 5. Brandon Overton 6. Earl Pearson Jr 7. Hudson O’Neal 8. RC Whitwell 9. Tony Toste 10. Garrett Alberson 11. Terry Phillips 12. Ricky Thornton Jr 13. Pat Doar 14. Jason Papich 15. Joey Moriarty 16. Don Shaw 17. Joey Tanner 18. Rob Sanders 19. Chris Simpson 20. Jimmy Mars 21. Chase Junghans 22. Ricky Weiss 23. Stormy Scott 24. Scott Ward
Unfortunately, mother nature washed-out Sunday’s show, postponing it to this Saturday. Now, there will be a double-header this Saturday, with the event’s final 4 races taking place during the 3 days this weekend! The next event is Wednesday, January 9th with hot laps starting at 7:00pm Arizona time. Be sure to catch all the action on DirtonDirt.com if you can’t make it!
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Short track racing is my passion!