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Henry clinches Civil War championship in final Placerville Speedway event. Kaeding blisters track record; Furr flies to victory in 30-lap feature event

By Bill Sullivan,John Padjen Motorsports PLACERVILLE, CA (9-27-03)- The championship drama rose to its climax Saturday night at Alan Padjen's Placerville Speedway as competition here came to a close with the final segment of the traveling Hoosier Racing Tires Civil War Sprint Car Series and the coveted series title going down to the final race of the night. When the final checkered flag waved Sacramento driver Mike Henry finished a caution plagued 30-lap feature event in the eighth position to clinch the title over season long point leader Stephen Allard of Chico. Allard finished 18th in the event after a roll-over in the early laps drew the curtain shut on his championship hopes.

The season championship is the second for Henry who won the title last season along with the local track championship. Now the former rookie of the year joins the likes of Andy Forsberg and Glenn Boune to become just the third driver to win back to back titles in this competitive series for 360 sprint cars.

"I want to thank everyone that supports me in this deal," Henry said. "After getting hurt so bad in the off season I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to race. My crew stayed behind me during a tough season and all my sponsors never gave up on me. I really owe credit to them and my crew Chief Larry Shelton, I think this is his fifth championship overall and that's quite a record. He is the best in the sport as far as I'm concerned."

After finishing third last week in Marysville while Allard suffered a hard luck 11th place finish in the semi-main, Henry closed a once 35-point deficit down to a single digit entering Saturday's final event here. As the sixth car out for qualifying he started the night off originally clocking quick time for the needed six bonus points only to later fall down to the 12th position as 1 total of 19 cars clocked times within the ten second bracket due to the great track conditions and ultimately resulted in a new record posted by Tim Kaeding with a 10:488.

After qualifying, the point standings were back where they started for the two top runners and the feature event would ultimately determine the title. Both drivers lined up in the fourth heat race of the evening. Henry transferred into the A-feature with a second place finish while Allard fell victim to an unavoidable opening lap crash resulting in a sixth place finish and a starting position in the grueling B-feature prior to the money race. Despite falling to sixth place in the closing laps, Allard powered his way into the fourth transfer position on the checkered flag lap of the semi feature to keep his championship hopes alive and took to the track starting 13th, two positions behind Henry.

For the first six laps of the event, Sean Becker took the lead with Brad Sweet, Chuck Gurney Jr. and Bard Furr in tow while Henry and Allard dulled for position thick in the field, staying one position within each other lap after lap. On the seventh circuit the scenario completely changed when Allard suffered a roll-over exiting the fourth turn, ending his night of competition. Climbing from his damaged car, Allard made the long walk to the pit area and stopped at Henry's car and displayed true sportsmanship as he congratulated his friendly rival on what would become his second straight title. The race, however, was far from over.

With Allard's crew working feverishly in the pit area during the multiple caution flags that delayed the race, Henry knew he had to finish the race in case Allard made a return but the severe damage prevented him from doing so. "I knew it wasn't really over after he crashed, its like it was over but it really wasn't because I was sure they were going to make every effort they could to get back out here. Then it would have just been a case if bad luck came my way he we could have lost the whole deal again," said Henry. "My hat goes off to Stephen Allard, he's a good friend, he's a hell of a driver and deserves this championship just as much as I do. He just had two weeks of some bad luck and our luck changed for the better, that's how it is in this sport. I know it can be heartbreaking at times, I've been on that other side before too but he deserves credit for a great season."

When the checkered flag flew it was Pleasanton driver Brad Furr picking up the win over Becker in the waning laps and Sweet finishing third. The event saw its share of destruction. Camino's Shawn Whitney took the ugliest tumble on the ninth lap in turn two. Kaeding was racing towards the front in the closing laps but packed his rear wheel with mud and suffered handling woes. Until Saturday, Kaeding was undefeated at Placerville in 2003. David Robinson Jr., the current Placerville Champion, had a tough night.

After falling ill in the late afternoon and nearly withdrawing his entry, Robinson raced despite his condition and won the B-main and finished 19th in the feature, an effort that locked him into fifth in the final standings behind Henry and Allard. Chuck Gurney Jr. finished in third followed by Greg DeCaires who moved up from sixth place. Henry, after finishing eighth, celebrated in the second turn with several power spins. Climbing from his car and tossing his helmet he pumped his his fists in the air much to the satisfaction to the sold out crowd for this final local event.

"This is what its all about right here, the fans, its all about putting on a show for the fans and we all did that here tonight," said Henry "I don't I know if we'll be back next year because money is tight, we're going to try and race Chico next week it will depend on the finances. I just want to thank everyone that has busted their butt to get me out here this year when times have been tough. If we make back maybe we can do it over again next year."


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