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
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."