Sprint Cars and Turkey Night in Spotlight
Two of the season’s most important open-wheel racing events will be held in Southern California this month--the final race of the Sprint Car Racing Assn. season Saturday night at Ventura Raceway and the 55th running of the U.S. Auto Club’s Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix, Nov. 23, at Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale.
Lealand McSpadden and Ron Shuman, veteran drivers from Tempe, Ariz., have exchanged SCRA leadership eight times this season, and Saturday night’s 40-lap main event will determine the champion.
McSpadden, who won the Quaker State Classic last week at the Imperial Fairgrounds in El Centro, regained the lead for the fourth time and moved 10 points ahead of the defending champion, 1,820 to 1,810.
Shuman’s string of 22 top-10 finishes was broken at Imperial when a flat tire on the sixth lap dropped him far back. He finished 15th as McSpadden, 49, won for the 10th time in the 33-race season. Shuman, 43, has won only three times, but two were on Ventura’s tiny quarter-mile clay oval.
Saturday night’s program, which also includes dwarf cars, will be dedicated to SCRA driver Cory Kruseman, a hometown Venturan who suffered a crushed right arm as well as hand and eye injuries in a midget accident in Sacramento last month.
Shuman will also be a central figure in the 100-lap Turkey Night midget race, which he has won a remarkable eight times. No other driver, including A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones, has won it more than twice.
Tony Stewart, USAC’s versatile driver from Rushville, Ind., may make racing history Turkey Night when he is almost certain to clinch the midget championship to go with the sprint car and Silver Crown dirt car championships he has already won. He would become the first to win three USAC division titles in the same season since the Silver Crown series began in 1971. Pancho Carter won all three but in different years.
Stewart, 24, drives a midget owned by Steve Lewis of South Laguna and is going for his second consecutive USAC midget crown. He has a 45-point lead over Andy Michner of Grass Lake, Mich., with three races remaining--Nov. 18 at Ventura, Turkey Night and Nov. 25 at Perris Raceway.
Stewart has also tested an Indy car for Foyt at Phoenix and is expected to drive for him in Indy Racing League events. The day after the midget finale in Perris, Stewart will leave for a barnstorming tour of Australian sprint car and midget events before returning for the IRL opening race Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fla.
Another Arizonan, Billy Boat of Phoenix, may be Stewart’s biggest obstacle in the remaining three midget races. Boat won a USAC-record 11 consecutive Western States races and 15 overall en route to the regional championships.
Motor Racing Notes
STOCK CARS--All Jeff Gordon needs to do to end Dale Earnhardt’s string of Winston Cup championships is to finish 41st--ahead of only one car--or better Sunday in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Even if Gordon failed to qualify, Earnhardt would have to win and lead the most laps to pass the 24-year-old Gordon to win his eighth championship, his third in a row.
INDY CARS--Dan Gurney’s new Toyota-powered Eagle MK-V Indy car has been testing at Willow Springs Raceway for its introduction into the Indy car series next year. Juan Fangio and P.J. Jones shook down the car, which was built at Gurney’s All American Racers shop in Santa Ana. . . . Jeff Krosnoff of La Canada, who has raced most of the last six years in Japan, has been named to drive a Toyota-powered Reynard next season for the Arciero-Wells team.
Raul Boesel is leaving Bobby Rahal to replace Indy car champion Jacque Villeneuve--who is moving to Formula One to become Damon Hill’s teammate on the Williams team--as Barry Green’s No. 1 driver. Earlier reports had Adrian Fernandez getting the Team Green ride, but now it appears the Mexican driver may move to the Tasman team.
Jimmy Vasser, of Chip Ganassi’s team, was voted Indy car racing’s most improved driver. Ganassi won the same award in 1983. . . . Gil de Ferran, Jim Hall’s driver, was named Indy car rookie of the year.
ROAD RACING--C.J. Mears of Bakersfield, the 17-year-old son of off-road and stadium track champion Roger Mears, holds a one-point advantage over Shan Groff of Reseda going into the final race for the Russell Pro Triple Crown championships on Sunday at Willow Springs Raceway. Groff won the opener and Mears the second race. They will run 20 laps over the 2.5-mile road course.
MOTORCYCLES--Scott Parker, six-time American Motorcyclist Assn. dirt track champion and three times AMA pro athlete of the year, has been nominated for the organization’s top award for a fourth time. Other nominees include Jeremy McGrath, Supercross and 250cc national motocross champion, and Michael Duhamel, national Superbike champion. The winner will be announced at the AMA awards banquet Dec. 16 at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas.
The 1996 Supercross season will include races Jan. 27 at Anaheim Stadium and Feb. 20 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. . . . Fred Merkel, two-time world and three-time national Superbike champion, has retired after suffering chest, heart and arm injuries in a crash last September at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz.
DRAG RACING--The fourth California Hot Rod Reunion, sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Assn., will be held Nov. 18-19 at Bakersfield Raceway. Grand marshals will be Don (Snake) Prudhomme and Tom (Mongoose) McEwen. The reunion, held on the site of the legendary March Meet at Famoso drag strip, will feature acres of vintage cars on display as well as exhibition runs both days.
MISCELLANY--The 10th Chrysler Grand Prix of Palm Springs, featuring Vintage Auto Racing Assn. cars, is scheduled Nov. 16-19. . . . Walt James, longtime president of the California Racing Assn. and builder of the Indian Dunes and Willow Springs stadium tracks, is hosting a vintage race car gathering for pre-1970 non-caged midgets, sprint cars or roadsters Nov. 25-26 at Willow Springs Motorsports Park in Rosamond. . . . The International Hot Boat Assn.'s Coors Light World Finals will be held this weekend at Firebird Lake, near Phoenix.