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By Lance Jennings

SANTA MARIA, CA – MAY 10, 2010… Point Leader Craig Stidham of Fresno drove to his third triumph of the 2010 campaign at Chris Kearns' Santa Maria Speedway. Taking advantage of yellow flag and a late race charge, Stidham claimed the win and extended his lead with the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series to sixty-nine points.

Driving the Brad Johnson Trucking / KRC Safety #3S Maxim, Stidham earned his first Sander Engineering fast time award of the season over the twenty-six car field. After getting his time back for a third place finish in his heat race, the former Trophy Cup champion started the 30-lap main event in the eighth position. Making some early moves to charge forward, Stidham put himself in position to score the Santa Maria win.

Starting on the front row of the twenty-two car field were Visalia's Jace VanderWeerd and Steve DeMott from Santa Maria. VanderWeerd got the jump on DeMott as the green flag dropped. Looking for his first victory of the season, Jace hit his marks on the track's low groove. Meanwhile, a torrid battle was raging behind the youngster with three and sometimes four abreast racing. DeMott, Davey Pombo, "Junkyard" Jimmy Thompson, Peter Murphy, Craig Stidham and "Showtime" Danny Sheridan diced back and forth in close quarters on the Santa Maria clay.

Murphy broke through to the runner-up spot from sixth. By lap thirteen, VanderWeerd enjoyed a straightway advantage as he passed slower traffic. On the next circuit, a yellow flag was brought out for San Martin's Wes Gutierrez, who had spun to a stop in turn two. Now, with his huge lead erased, VanderWeerd had to deal with the veteran drivers Murphy, Stidham, Pombo, and defending series champion Justyne Hamblin.

On the restart, VanderWeerd again favored the low line around Santa Maria's 1/3-mile track. The tactic worked as he began to pull away from the field. By lap seventeen, Stidham slipped by Murphy and set his sights on VanderWeerd. The lead gap was closing steadily as the laps counted down with Murphy right behind the point leader in third. With a strong power move, Stidham passed VanderWeerd to claim the lead on lap twenty-six. From there, Stidham led the rest of the way to score the win ahead of Murphy, VanderWeerd, Pombo, and Hamblin. "It was a good night and we qualified pretty good," remarked Stidham. "We like the slicker tracks where you can mix it up and pass."

Clovis' Peter Murphy had his second podium finish at Santa Maria after starting sixth. The 2009 Track Champion took Tom Tarlton's potent Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino #21 KPC entry to victory in the second heat race. The win earned Murphy $125 in certificates from BR Motorsports, Saldana Racing Products, and Keizer Wheels. "We had a good run tonight," said Murphy. "Craig found the moisture on the bottom and if VanderWeerd didn't have the yellow, he had it wrapped up." With his second place finish in the feature, Murphy climbed to the second spot in the point standings.

Jace VanderWeerd had a strong run in the feature by leading the first twenty-five laps. A yellow on lap fourteen erased a straightway lead for the family's Mid Valley Pipe & Supply #88 Maxim. Jace fought hard, but lost the lead to Stidham on lap twenty-six and fell to third after a late charge by Peter Murphy. Earlier in the night, VanderWeerd won the third heat race, earning $100 in certificates from Competition Suspension and Keizer Wheels. "It was hard being up front. I couldn't tell where everyone was and the lapped traffic slowed me down a little bit," said VanderWeerd. "Congratulations to Craig Stidham. He did a great job." Jace is now eighth in the point chase.

Kerman's Davey Pombo battled hard for a fourth place finish after starting fifth. The pilot of Junior Bowman's Buster & Ziggy #3 Bullet was second in his heat race and has five top-5 finishes on the season. "We have a lot of races to go," said Pombo. "As long as you can finish in the top four, it is a good night." Davey is currently third in the point standings and looks to make a championship bid.

Defending series champion Justyne Hamblin of Hanford scored a fifth place finish after starting eleventh. Driving the JH Motorsports / Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino #8 Speed Tech entry, Hamblin finished second in her heat race and has six top-10 finishes. After a rough start to her 2010 season, Justyne has rebounded with solid performances and has moved up to fourth in the point chase.

In time trails, Taft's Jeff Thompson flipped the Swaim Racing #5X entry. Thompson walked away uninjured, but his car was done for the night. Thompson's teammate Jason Swaim from Taft had problems with his machine as the crew could not repair the car for heat race competition. Hanford's Jared Little had to retire from the night's action after a rear axle broke in practice.

With the USAC/CRA 410 Sprints sitting idle, hometown favorite "Showtime" Danny Sheridan won the night's first heat race in the Kittle Motorsports / Pace Lighting #18 Stinger. For his efforts, Danny received $150 in certificates from Extreme Mufflers and Keizer Wheels. "Showtime" was looking for another Santa Maria feature victory, but finished tenth. Sheridan is thirteenth in the point standings.

Bakersfield's Rusty Carlile earned "Hard Charger / Best Passing Job" honors on the night with a seventh place finish after starting twenty-first in the main event. The driver of the Southwest Contractors / N.T.S. Incorporated #51 Bullet is eligible for a $25 certificate from King Racing Products and is looking to rebound with a victory after some tough luck.

The USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series would like to thank Southwest Contractors, Hoosier Tire, Amsoil, BR Motorsports, Competition Suspension, Cory Kruseman's Sprint Car & Midget Driving School, Crow Enterprizes, DJ Safety, Extreme Mufflers, Hinchman-Indy Racing Uniforms, Integra Shocks, Kaeding Performance, Keizer Wheels, King Racing Products, Kirkey Racing Fabrication, Port City Racing, Saferacer.com, Saldana Racing Products, and Sander Engineering for their support.

Round 8 for the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series will be this Saturday, May 15th, at Tulare's Groppetti Automotive Thunderbowl Raceway for the Pombo-Sargent Classic. Also on the card are the winged 410 Golden State Challenge Sprint Cars and the Central California Modifieds. Located on the Tulare County Fairgrounds at the corner of Bardsley and K Streets in Tulare, the Front Gates will open at 5:00pm, with Time Trials at 6:00pm, and Racing at 7:00pm. Reserved Grandstand Tickets are $18 and Bleacher Tickets are $15. Advance tickets are on sale and can be purchased by calling the track office at (559) 688-0909. For more event information, please visit the track’s website at www.tularethunderbowl.com. 

For more information on the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series, please visit westcoastsprintcars.com, www.usacracing.com, www.racesantamariaspeedway.com, or follow the series on facebook. 
Santa Maria Speedway - Santa Maria, CA
May 8, 2010

1. Craig Stidham, 3S, Stidham-16.060; 2. Chris Ennis, 86, Ennis-16.245; 3. Richard VanderWeerd, 10, VanderWeerd-16.273; 4. Jeff Culver, 71C, Culver-16.508; 5. Peter Murphy, 21, Tarlton-16.520; 6. Davey Pombo, 3, Bowman-16.559; 7. Jimmy Thompson, 71R, Eames-16.568; 8. Geoffrey Strole, 09S, Strole-16.579; 9. Aaron Altaffer, 21A, Dorothy, 21A-16.622; 10. Danny Sheridan, 18, Kittle-16.662; 11. Steve DeMott, 35D, DeMott-16.759; 12. Jace VanderWeerd, 88, VanderWeerd-16.828; 13. Joey Layman, 11X, Layman-16.860; 14. Wes Gutierrez, 007, WG-16.884; 15. Andy Ferris, 4J, Ferris-16.894; 16. Justyne Hamblin, 8, JH-16.923; 17. Albert Pombo, 83, Pombo-16.942; 18. Bill Jones, 16J, Jones-16.975; 19. Rusty Carlile, 51, Carlile-17.110; 20. Ricky Kirkbride, 87, Van Meter-17.169; 21. Jesse Mack, 8M, May-17.257; 22. T.J. Smith, 14, LeGras-17.709; 23. Jeff Thompson, 5X, Swaim-18.253; 24. Jared Little, 25, Little-NT; 25. Jason Swaim, 52, Swaim-NT; 26. Brian Weber, 71, Culver-NT. 

1. Danny Sheridan, 2. Justyne Hamblin, 3. Craig Stidham, 4. Jimmy Thompson, 5. T.J. Smith, 6. Rusty Carlile, 7. Jeff Culver, 8. Joey Layman. NT 

1. Peter Murphy, 2. Albert Pombo, 3. Ricky Kirkbride, 4. Steve DeMott, 5. Wes Gutierrez, 6. Chris Ennis, 7. Geoffrey Strole. NT 

1. Jace VanderWeerd, 2. Davey Pombo, 3. Andy Ferris, 4. Richard VanderWeerd, 5. Bill Jones, 6. Aaron Altaffer, 7. Jesse Mack. NT 

FEATURE: (30 laps - With Starting Positions) 
1. Craig Stidham (8th), 2. Peter Murphy (6th), 3. Jace VanderWeerd (1st), 4. Davey Pombo (5th), 5. Justyne Hamblin (11th), 6. Aaron Altaffer (19th), 7. Rusty Carlile (21st), 8. Richard VanderWeerd (7th), 9. Andy Ferris (10th), 10. T.J. Smith (15th), 11. Ricky Kirkbride (14th), 12. Danny Sheridan (3rd), 13. Albert Pombo (12th), 14. Jimmy Thompson (4th), 15. Bill Jones (13th), 16. Steve DeMott (2nd), 17. Chris Ennis (16th), 18. Jeff Culver (17th), 19. Joey Layman (20th), 20. Jesse Mack (22nd), 21. Wes Gutierrez (9th), 22. Geoffrey Strole (18th). NT 
**Jeff Thompson flipped during time trials. 

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-25 Jace VanderWeerd, Laps 26-30 Craig Stidham. 

1. Craig Stidham 442
2. Peter Murphy 373
3. Davey Pombo 370
4. Justyne Hamblin 324
5. T.J. Smith 307
6. Rusty Carlile 300
7. Andy Ferris 274
8. Jace VanderWeerd 270
9. Jonathan Logan 259
10. Danny Faria Jr. 250
11. Chris Ennis 248
12. Richard VanderWeerd 218
13. Danny Sheridan 193
14. Jimmy Thompson 187
15. Jesse Mack 168
16. Garrett Ishii 146
17. Geoffrey Strole 127
18. Wes Gutierrez 126
19. Dave Knott 117
20. Kevin Barnes 114
21. Dean Alexander 103
22. Albert Pombo 87
23. Matt Day 74
24. Jared Little 71
25. Ricky Kirkbride 56
26. Bill Jones 55
27. Koen Shaw 49
--- Aaron Altaffer 49
29. Steve Osborne 47
30. Ronnie Case 44
31. Ray Knight 40
32. Matt Streeter 37
33. Scott Kinney 36
34. Joey Layman 35
35. Adam Frith-Smith 26
--- Steve DeMott 26
37. Marty Hawkins 23
38. Jeff Culver 20
39. Tyler Schmidt 13

May 15 – Tulare (CA) Thunderbowl Raceway – “Pombo/Sargent Classic”