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Hooper Autograph Hounds Include Rival : They don’t call it the Sportsman division for nothing.

Last Saturday, after Lance Hooper of Palmdale clinched the Sportsman points championship in only his second season in the division, he was asked to autograph a few pictures.

Hooper diligently signed color photos of himself for fan after fan until one familiar face sidled up and asked for an autographed picture.

The admirer? None other than Gary Sigman of Carson, fellow Sportsman racer and the man who kept the heat on Hooper all summer from his second-place position in the points standings.

Sigman says he wasn’t pulling any funny stuff. He wanted an autographed picture.

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“I think Lance is going someplace,” Sigman said. “And when he wins Daytona, I want to be able to look back and say I raced with him.”

Hooper, at 24 a pup by stock car racer standards, didn’t miss a beat. He took the picture from Sigman and wrote on it, “To the Toughest Driver on the West Coast.”

Chivalry among race car drivers, apparently, is not dead.

He’s back: Dan Press, a two-time Saugus champion and the 1989 Southwest Tour champion, will return to the Speedway on Saturday to drive in the NASCAR Southwest Tour’s second stop of the season at Saugus.

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Press, in semi-retirement from racing to concentrate on building cars, is out to test a new tour car with a V-6 engine built by himself and Dave Dunlap of Saugus. Press said that he and Dunlap are looking to produce some new cars for tour drivers next year and that he will be mixing business with pleasure in Saturday’s race.

“We’re hoping that we can have something to offer to (all) race-car drivers,” Press said.

Press said that he also will race the car in Las Vegas, Bakersfield and Phoenix--the three remaining Southwest Tour stops after Saugus.

And next year, will it be all business?

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“That . . . and we’ll do a little bit of racing,” Press said with a chuckle.

Mini mania: The Encino Velodrome again will be the stage for one of the Valley’s wilder and more popular auto racing events next weekend.

The fourth Thunderdrome will be held Friday through Sunday, and any race fans unfamiliar with the event had better not look for full-size, high-horsepower stock cars revving around the Velodrome. No, this event just looks like the real thing.

In fact, the cars that race around the Velodrome are 1/10th-scale replicas of NASCAR cars operated by remote control. These are no Boy Scout models, either. The cars reach speeds in excess of 70 m.p.h., according to race promoter Dan Moynihan.

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Practice will begin Wednesday and qualifying for Sunday’s main events will start Friday.

Dueling crews: The Southwest Tour’s stop at Saugus on Saturday also will feature the first pit crew competition for the tour.

Saugus has held pit crew competitions the past two years during the annual stop for Winston West cars, but thanks to two-time Saugus Sportsman champion and current Southwest Tour racer Will Harper of Tarzana, the Southwest Tour will start looking like the big boys.

Harper’s construction company is sponsoring the event, a $500, prize for the quickest of five teams participating. Harper, because he is fronting the prize, has allowed his crew an automatic entry. The other four teams will be from the four fastest qualifiers.

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“Giving the crews a chance to perform at Saugus, close to the grandstand, is really special for a lot of hard-working people who don’t get publicity,” Harper said.

Crews will change two right-side tires and simulate filling a tank. Time penalties will be assessed for infractions such as loose or missing lug nuts. The winner will be determined by lowest net elapsed time.


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