CRAIG STIDHAM WINS BAKERSFIELD 360 CLASH
By Lance Jennings
BAKERSFIELD, CA – JUNE 1, 2010… Fresno's Craig Stidham continued his domination of the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series with the 30-lap Southwest Contractors 360 Clash win at Bakersfield Speedway. Having won four of the nine races this season, Stidham is now tied with Clovis' Peter Murphy as the all time series leader in main event wins with six victories. "The track was a little slick and I tried not to spin my tires," remarked Stidham. "I'd like to thank my crew, my father, my mom, and my wife. They are a big part of this and the win is for them."
Driving the Brad Johnson Trucking / KRC Safety #3S Maxim to third fast in time trials, Stidham also earned $150 in certificates from Extreme Mufflers and Keizer Wheels for winning the first heat race. Starting seventh in the main event, the series point leader methodically worked his way to the front and pressured young Ricky Kirkbride for the lead. Craig took control on lap fifteen and led the rest of the way to the Memorial Day Classic triumph. "I've raced many years with Brent Kaeding. He'd run up on somebody so many times, show them a wheel, and make them nervous," said Stidham. "I tried to do that a few times and he (Kirkbride) did a good job." The former Rebel Cup Sprint Car champion now has a fifty-one point advantage over Davey Pombo.
At the drop of the green flag, it was a drag race down the front straightaway between "The Rickster" Ricky Kirkbride and "G Man" Geoffrey Strole. A yellow was brought out for Jesse Mack, who had spun to a stop. On the complete restart, it was Kirkbride that took control. Ricky hit his marks on the low groove of the Bakersfield clay and began to stretch out his lead. Strole was falling back and now in a torrid battle with Albert Pombo, Chris Ennis, Davey Pombo, and Danny Faria Jr. With two and sometimes three wide action, drivers were looking for traction to charge forward.
Craig Stidham had made some early moves and broke free from the pack to chase after Kirkbride. With over a half straightway advantage on second place, Kirkbride's lead was quickly evaporating as Stidham closed in. Meanwhile, defending champion Justyne Hamblin and T.J. Smith found a rhythm and moved forward to battle for the fifth and sixth positions. Stidham tried several different lines to challenge for the lead, but Ricky held his own. The point leader showed the young driver a wheel through the turns, but Kirkbride had good drives off the corners to stay out front.
After a bobble by the leader, Stidham used a power move to take command on lap sixteen. Kirkbride tried to battle back, but the point leader was too strong. Wasting no time, Stidham began to motor away from Ricky and the field, but a yellow on lap twenty for a spun Adam Frith-Smith bunched the field. Danny Faria Jr. had also spun at the track's exit. Frith-Smith rejoined the field as Faria was done for the night. From there, Stidham led the rest of the way to score the win ahead of Kirkbride, Hamblin, Albert Pombo, and Davey Pombo.
Bakersfield's Ricky Kirkbride has his best run of the 2010 campaign with the runner-up finish. The driver of Bob & Toni Van Meter's Fred Cummings Motorsports #87 TCR led fourteen laps of action before falling to Stidham. Kirkbride was fourth in his heat race and in only his fourth start of the season, he is now nineteenth in the point chase. "I felt the pressure and slipped up a little bit," said Kirkbride. "He (Stidham) got me and I did everything I could to keep up."
Another driver with their best run of the season was Justyne Hamblin of Hanford. The defending series champion scored a third place finish after starting eleventh. Driving the JH Motorsports / Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino #8 Speed Tech entry, Hamblin timed in eighth quick. After a valiant effort in her heat race narrowly missed the transfer spot, Justyne earned "Hard Charger / Best Passing Job" honors on the night. That performance earned her $125 in certificates from King Racing Products and Kirkey Racing Fabrication. "We had a good finish," said Hamblin. "There was a good spot coming out of turn two, but you had to hit it just right." With seven top-10 finishes, Hamblin is fifth in the point standings.
Easton's Albert Pombo turned in his best performance of the season with a fourth place finish. With a former Roth Motorsports #83 JEI World of Outlaws car, Pombo was sixth quick in time trials and second in his heat race. Albert held the third spot in the feature until a late charge by Hamblin relegated him to fourth. In six starts, Pombo has one top-5 finish, one heat race win, and is now eighteenth in the point chase.
Davey Pombo of Kerman battled hard for a fifth place finish after starting eighth. The pilot of Junior Bowman's Buster & Ziggy #3 Bullet was second fast in qualifications and won his first heat race of the season. The win earned Davey $125 in certificates from BR Motorsports, Saldana Racing Products, and Keizer Wheels. Pombo has eight top-10 finishes and is now second in the point standings as he looks to make a run at the championship.
Fresno's T.J. Smith drove Steve LeGras' UHL Rubber #14 Maxim to his first fast time award of the season. With an extra 360 Clash bonus up for grabs, that drive earned Smith, $100 in certificates from Sander Engineering and Keizer Wheels. The former Plaza Park track champion flipped in his heat race and with the help from his crew, he rebounded with a sixth place run in the feature after starting ninth. Smith has seven top-10 finishes and now sits fourth in the point chase.
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 10 for the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series will be this Saturday, June 5th, at Giant Chevrolet Speedway in Hanford, California. Located on the Kings County Fairgrounds, the event will also showcase the Central California Modifieds, IMCA Stock Cars, and the Bud Light Mini-Stocks. The Driver’s Meeting will be at 5:00pm with Hot Laps at 5:30pm. Qualifying is scheduled for 6:30, with racing to follow. For event information, please visit www.kingsspeedway.net or call (559) 584-RACE (7223).
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.
USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT RACE RESULTS:
Bakersfield Speedway - Bakersfield, California
May 29, 2010 - “Southwest Contractors 360 Clash / Memorial Day Classic”
SANDER ENGINEERING TIME TRIALS:
1. T.J. Smith, 14, LeGras-13.181; 2. Davey Pombo, 3, Bowman-13.346; 3. Craig Stidham, 3S, Stidham-13.401; 4. Wes Gutierrez, 007, WG-13.415; 5. Danny Faria Jr., 8M, May-13.415; 6. Albert Pombo, 83, Pombo-13.587; 7. Chris Ennis, 86, Ennis-13.709; 8. Justyne Hamblin, 8, JH-13.817; 9. Rusty Carlile, 51, Carlile-13.822; 10. Jesse Mack, 71M, Gilbert/Mack-14.299; 11. Adam Frith-Smith, 62, Frith-Smith-14.869; 12. Jason Swaim, 52, Swaim-15.415; 13. Geoffrey Strole, 09S, Strole-NT; 14. Ricky Kirkbride, 87, Van Meter-NT.
EXTREME MUFFLERS / KEIZER WHEELS HEAT RACE 1: (8 laps)
1. Craig Stidham, 2. Chris Ennis, 3. Danny Faria Jr., 4. Geoffrey Strole, 5. Adam Frith-Smith, 6. T.J. Smith, 7. Rusty Carlile. NT.
BR MOTORSPORTS / SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS HEAT RACE 2: (8 laps)
1. Davey Pombo, 2. Albert Pombo, 3. Jesse Mack, 4. Ricky Kirkbride, 5. Justyne Hamblin, 6. Wes Gutierrez, 7. Jason Swaim. NT.
FEATURE: (30 laps - With Starting Positions)
1. Craig Stidham (7th), 2. Ricky Kirkbride (1st), 3. Justyne Hamblin (11th), 4. Albert Pombo (5th), 5. Davey Pombo (8th), 6. T.J. Smith (9th), 7. Wes Gutierrez (10th), 8. Chris Ennis (4th), 9. Jesse Mack (3rd), 10. Rusty Carlile (12th), 11. Adam Frith-Smith (13th), 12. Geoffrey Strole (2nd), 13. Danny Faria Jr. (6th), 14. Jason Swaim (14th). NT.
**T.J. Smith flipped during the first heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS:
Laps 1-14 Ricky Kirkbride, Laps 15-30 Craig Stidham.
NEXT USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT RACE:
June 5 – Hanford, CA - Giant Chevrolet Speedway
USAC WEST COAST 360 SPRINT CAR POINT STANDINGS:
1. Craig Stidham 527; 2. Davey Pombo 476; 3. Peter Murphy 439; 4. T.J. Smith 412; 5. Justyne Hamblin 398; 6. Rusty Carlile 389; 7. Danny Faria Jr. 342; 8. Jace VanderWeerd 331; 9. Chris Ennis 313; 10. Andy Ferris 297; 11. Richard VanderWeerd 277; 12. Jonathan Logan 259; 13. Danny Sheridan 222; 14. Jesse Mack 210; 15. Wes Gutierrez 203; 16. Jimmy Thompson 187; 17. Geoffrey Strole 184; 18. Albert Pombo 170; 19. Ricky Kirkbride 153; 20. Garrett Ishii 146.
SOUTHWEST CONTRACTORS 360 CLASH POINT STANDINGS:
1. Craig Stidham 140; 2. Davey Pombo 119; 3. Justyne Hamblin 106; 4. Rusty Carlile 93; 5. Jesse Mack 89; 6. Wes Gutierrez 87; 7. T.J. Smith 76; 8. Chris Ennis 76; 9. Danny Faria Jr. 72; 10. Peter Murphy 69; 11. Geoffrey Strole 67; 12. Ricky Kirkbride 62; 13. Albert Pombo 59; 14. Jonathan Logan 54; 15. Andy Ferris 44; 16. Ronnie Case 44; 17. Jared Little 37; 18. Adam Frith-Smith 35; 19. Dave Knott 34; 20. Jimmy Thompson 27.