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By Lance Jennings

TULARE, CA – MARCH 8, 2010… Visalia’s Dean “Kiwi” Alexander scored his first career USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series victory at the Groppetti Automotive Thunderbowl Raceway last Saturday night. With 29 cars in the pit area, the race began a new chapter in club history with sanctioning by the United States Auto Club (USAC). It also marked the group’s first appearance at Steve Faria’s lightning fast 1/3rd mile facility.

It was not an easy win for the New Zealand native. Piloting the McCowan Motorsports #11 Maxim, Alexander started alongside high point driver Peter Murphy from Clovis. The two drivers battled back and forth through a couple of failed starts due to flips by San Martin’s Wes Gutierrez and Galt’s Matt Streeter. Both drivers were uninjured. 

A single-file restart placed Murphy’s Tom Tarlton / Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino #21 KPC on the point. As the green flag dropped, Murphy had control, but Alexander made a strong move to lead the first lap. On the next circuit, third place Ricky Kirkbride from Bakersfield powered into a huge wheel stand coming out of turn four. As his car settled, the front of Kirkbride’s Van Meter / Fred Cummings Motorsports #87 TCR grabbed hold of the racing surface. This vaulted the twenty year-old driver into several wild flips along the front stretch. Ricky was able to exit the battered racecar under his own power to get checked by the medical staff.

As racing resumed, Murphy soon took command from Alexander and third place “Showtime” Danny Sheridan from Santa Maria was beginning to make his presence known. The same could be said for Fresno’s Craig Stidham, who started twelfth and favored the outside line to march his way forward. Sheridan shot past Alexander and began to chase down Murphy, who had already put some distance between himself and the field. As the two leaders sliced through slower traffic, it was “Showtime” in the Kittle Motorsports / Pace Lighting #18 SpeedTech that took the advantage for the lead. 

Now in the runner-up spot, Murphy began to apply pressure to the leader. The two continued their torrid pace through slower traffic and Sheridan, who worked the outside line, now found himself squeezed between another car and the outside fence. The turn three contact resulted in a flip for Sheridan and damage to Murphy’s car. Sheridan was able to walk away uninjured, but was done for the night. The Tarlton crew was able to make repairs to Murphy’s machine and he was able to rejoin the field.

This gave the lead to Dean Alexander, who now had to hold off the challenges from Tipton’s “Hollywood” Danny Faria Jr. and Craig Stidham. On the restart, Alexander got the jump with Faria and Stidham in a furious battle. As the laps were counting down, Stidham, in his Shark powered #3S TCR entry, was able to shake away from Faria and start to apply pressure to Alexander. 

A yellow flag was brought out on lap 25 for Steve Osborne. Race officials were now forced to throw the checkered flags, ending the race due to the fairgrounds curfew. Alexander scored the victory, with Craig Stidham, Danny Faria Jr., Visalia’s Jace VanderWeerd, and “The Central Valley Samurai” Garrett Ishii from Caruthers rounding out the top-5 finishers. 

The event used a pill pick format to lineup the heat races, which were won by Peter Murphy, Dean Alexander, Ricky Kirkbride, and Danny Sheridan. For winning the first heat race, Murphy earned a gift certificate from Extreme Mufflers. Visalia’s Richard VanderWeerd, who claimed the 12-lap semi-main, also earned “hard charger” honors for his sixth place finish after starting seventeenth.
The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series will return to action this Saturday, March 13th at Hanford’s Giant Speedway, located on the Kings County Fairgrounds. For event information, please visit www.kingsspeedway.net. 

For more information on the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car series, visit www.racesantamariaspeedway.com, and www.usacracing.com. 


Groppetti Automotive Thunderbowl Raceway – Tulare, California
March 6, 2010

1. Peter Murphy (#21 Tarlton), 2. Jace VanderWeerd (#88 VanderWeerd), 3. Dave Knott (#28 Knott), 4. Andy Ferris (#4J Ferris), 5. Richard VanderWeerd (#10 VanderWeerd), 6. Albert Pombo (#35 Pombo), 7. Jesse Mack (#8M May), 8. Matt Day (#97 Day). 2:19.87.

1. Dean Alexander (#11 McCowan), 2. Justyne Hamblin (#8 JH), 3. Jonathan Logan (#32 Evett/Logan), 4. Garrett Ishii (#71G Ishii), 5. Steve Osborne (#9J Osborne), 6. Bill Jones (#16J Jones), 7. Brandon Thomson (#92 Thomson). NT.

HEAT RACE 3: (8 laps) 
1. Ricky Kirkbride (#87 Van Meter), 2. Jimmy Thompson (#71 Eames), 3. Craig Stidham (#3S Stidham), 4. Chris Ennis (#86 Ennis), 5. T.J. Smith (#14 UHL), 6. Koen Shaw (#88K Shaw), 7. Geoffrey Strole (#09S Strole). 2:26.17.

HEAT RACE 4: (8 laps) 
1. Danny Sheridan (#18 Kittle), 2. Danny Faria Jr. (#17V Faria), 3. Matt Streeter (#14JR Streeter), 4. Davey Pombo (#3P Bowman), 5. Wes Gutierrez (#007 WG), 6. Aaron Altaffer (#21A Dorothy), 7. Rusty Carlile (#51 Carlile). NT.

SEMI-MAIN: (12 laps) 
1. Richard VanderWeerd, 2. Albert Pombo, 3. Steve Osborne, 4. Aaron Altaffer, 5. Jesse Mack, 6. Matt Day, 7. T.J. Smith, 8. Koen Shaw, 9. Davey Pombo, 10. Rusty Carlile, 11. Geoffrey Strole. NT.

FEATURE: (25 laps – With Starting Positions) 
1. Dean Alexander (2nd), 2. Craig Stidham (12th), 3. Danny Faria Jr. (11th), 4. Jace VanderWeerd (9th), 5. Garrett Ishii (8th), 6. Richard VanderWeerd (17th), 7. Peter Murphy (1st), 8. Chris Ennis (14th), 9. Jimmy Thompson (10th), 10. Andy Ferris (16th), 11. T.J. Smith (22nd), 12. Jonathan Logan (6th), 13. Steve Osborne (19th), 14. Matt Day (20th), 15. Justyne Hamblin (5th), 16. Danny Sheridan (4th), 17. Dave Knott (13th), 18. Jesse Mack (21st), 19. Albert Pombo (18th), 20. Ricky Kirkbride (3rd), 21. Matt Streeter (7th), 22. Wes Gutierrez (15th). NT.
**Bill Jones flipped during Heat Race 2.
**Wes Gutierrez, Matt Streeter, Ricky Kirkbride, and Danny Sheridan flipped during the Feature.

Laps 1-2 Dean Alexander, Laps 3-10 Peter Murphy, Lap 11 Danny Sheridan, Laps 12-25 Dean Alexander.

1- Dean Alexander-68; 2- Craig Stidham-63; 3- Danny Faria Jr.-61; 4- Jace VanderWeerd-58; 5- Garrett Ishii-53; 6- Peter Murphy-50; 7- Richard VanderWeerd-49; 8- Chris Ennis-44; 9- Jimmy Thompson-43; 10- Andy Ferris-38.

March 13 – Hanford, California – Giant Speedway