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Motor Racing / Vince Kowalick : Spangler--and Trusty Engine--Rides Again

One is 30 years the other’s junior.

One races, the other doesn’t.

And one is battling for a track championship, while points standings do little to make the other’s wheels spin.

Yet Keith Spangler and Van Swearingen are a match made in the pits at Saugus Speedway--thanks to a twist of fate and some wrench-clenching, grease-covered hands.

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Both have battled back in the Sportsman division points standings--Spangler among drivers, Swearingen among car owners--after suffering potential season-jeopardizing setbacks during the 40-lap main event May 27.

Spangler, a 19-year-old track sophomore from Northridge with two main-event victories under his seat belt, was left with an engine but no car after his 1989 IROC Camaro slammed into the Turn 2 wall, causing severe suspension and body damage.

Swearingen, a 49-year-old race car owner from Sherman Oaks, was left with a vehicle but no motor when the 355-cubic-centimeter engine of his 1989 Pontiac Gran Prix blew up with Tom Colgan of Studio City behind the wheel.

But for Spangler, who was faced with more than $600 in repairs, and Swearingen, who was “looking for a new driver anyway,” all’s well that’s finally oiled well beneath the hood of Swearingen’s car.

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“I went over and said, ‘There’s no use of both of us sitting out. So, let’s put your motor in my car and let’s go racing,’ ” Swearingen said.

Said Spangler: “It was just one of those deals.”

Although Spangler has slipped from second to third in the points standings since the crash, he has driven the pair’s entry to a top-four finish in two of three events and has resisted a hard charge by Dave Phipps of Simi Valley, the two-time defending track champion, who is fourth.

Points standings for car owners are not released until the track’s year-end banquet. But Swearingen, who finished eighth last season, is not concerned about his current standing.

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“I don’t even care about that,” he said. “I’m just delighted to have Keith in the car. He’s a very popular kid, very young. And he listens to what you have to say. I hope I have him the rest of the year.”

Spangler’s sentiments exactly.

“It’s been great,” he said. “It’s just as good as my car. I haven’t been doing as well as I was with my other car, but I think I’m going to come on strong. I still think we’re gonna be the ones to beat. I’m still right there and I just ain’t gonna give up.”

Sunbelt standings: Spangler is among three Saugus Sportsman drivers in contention for the championship of the Sunbelt Region of the NASCAR Racing Series points race.

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Spangler, with 1,850 points, is listed 26th among the top 53 drivers from 11 tracks in California, Alabama, Arizona, Florida and Texas.

Will Harper of Tarzana, Saugus’ Sportsman points leader, is 19th with 1,904 points. Gary Sigman of Carson, second at Saugus, is 30th among Sunbelt leaders with 1,807 points.

Points are awarded only for wins. Drivers finishing among the top 10 in the Sunbelt Region will share a purse of $15,000. A national champion will be determined among eight regional champions. To the winner goes $60,000.

Follow the leader: Who leads the NASCAR Winston West Series entering Sunday’s Motocraft 500 at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash?

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Well, it’s rather complicated.

According to the official points standings after last week’s 100-mile race at Tri-City Raceway in Richland, Wash., Bill Sedgwick of Van Nuys, with two wins and 825 points, holds a two-point lead over Roy Smith of Victoria, Canada, and a five-point lead over Bill Schmitt of Redding, Calif.

But that’s only the official standings and what do they mean? Everyone and their mechanic knows that Sedgwick actually is second and Schmitt, who posted his first win at Richland, is the points leader.

Even Sedgwick.

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“I don’t see how I could be the leader,” Sedgwick said.

How’s that?

A dispute concerning the finish of the July 4 race at Portland Speedway has NASCAR officials reviewing the race to determine an official order of finish.

According to NASCAR promoter Owen Kearns Jr., Schmitt was the clear winner and Jerry Bowers of Meridian, Ida., finished second in a race that was mistakenly allowed to run an extra lap.

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Consequently, the order of the next 10 finishers is in question.

Sedgwick, who officially finished fifth, contends that he finished fourth. “And at this point, that contention looks pretty good,” Kearns said.

A fourth-place finish, however, coupled with a Schmitt victory, would place Sedgwick second in the points standings, 15 points behind Schmitt, who would assume the series lead, and ahead of Smith, who would drop to third.

A fifth-place finish places Sedgwick in second place, 20 points behind Schmitt. In either case, Sedgwick is sure to lose his precarious points lead.

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But until officials make it official. . . .

“It’s a technicality,” said Kearns, who added that officials will solve the matter next week. “But while it’s a technicality, it’s still official. We can only go by what’s official.”


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