Ronnie Gardner's take on the Western World 2004.
First night: The 37th Western World Championships at the famed Manzanita Speedway kicked of on Thursday night with 26 cars signing in for the first night of qualifying. A different format that most of us had never seen before had the fans not too happy after the first two nights of the three night show. Thursday and Friday saw only Qualifying and three 15 lap heat races. The Promoter later admitted that it didn't turn out how he thought it would and said it would be different for next year.
The track was lightning fast as Tracy Hines almost broke the five year track record of Brad Noffsinger. Noffsinger's 18.551 stood though after Hine's went 18.571. Second quick was Levi Jones with a 18.750 and third quick was Bud Kaeding with a 18.769. This put them on the front row of the heat races. The heats were started straight up in the order you qualified in. ...First heat went to Indiana's Jon Stanbrough winning over Hines. Stanbrough led all 15 laps on the way to victory. The Second heat went to Levi Jones over Davis as he also led all 15 laps to victory which put him on the pole for the main event after a pill draw after all the heats were done. ...Third heat went to Bud Kaeding winning over Tony Elliot.
The track was fast but not as fast as it was the night before. Fast time went to USAC National Champion Jay Drake with a 19:019. Drake locked up the title at the end of the weekend. Second quick went to Rickie Gaunt with a 19.125 and third went to Josh Wise who was driving a third Tony Stewart car for the weekend. Heat races were a little more entertaining because the track wasn't as fast as the night before so it saw a little more passing. Heat one was all Jay Drake leading all 15 laps for the win. Second heat was maybe the best race if the whole weekend and it wasn't even for the win. Rickie Gaunt started on the pole of the event but Damion Gardner pulled out to the lead off the start. About half way through the race Gaunt slowed on the back straight with a problem and brought out a yellow and was sent to the back with four laps to go in 11th place. On the Green it was like Gaunt was shot out of a cannon and he charged to fourth in two laps when another yellow came out for John Evens. On the restart Gaunt went to the outside of John Scott and the inside of Dave Darland to take second passing ten cars in five laps. Gardner took the win. ...Third heat went to Josh Wise leading all 15 laps to the win.
The final night of the Western World Championship consisted of three mains, a C, B, and A. The C main was a one grove deal and there wasn't much racing in it. Jeremy Sherman took the 15 lap race from start to finish but the real mover was Steve Ostling who started 12th and moved to 5th to lock him self into the B main. Following Sherman to the B were Terry Schank, Leslie, Deskins, Ostling, Seth Wilson, Ronnie Case and Buckman. The B main was a little better because the track had slicked out a little during the C. People came from the back to make a charge to try to make the 40 lap A main. The B main winner was Mike Kirby who had just made a deal with Larry Woodward to have a full time USAC /CRA ride next year with Volcano's Coffee as the sponsor. The mover again in the B main was Steve Ostling who came from all the way back in 21st starting spot to finish 7th and one spot out of a transfer to the main event. Following Kirby to the A main was Dickie Gaines, Josh Ford, Jerry Coons, Tom Hessert III, and Brian Vernard. ...The A main saw 25 cars line up for the 40 lap finale of the weekend. Polesitter Levi Jones stretched out a big lead at the start of the main pulling a straight away ahead but Bud Kaeding was starting to move and ran down Jones by the lap 18 yellow for Bobby Cody. This was the only yellow of the whole 40 lap A main. Levi and Bud again pulled out to a big lead over the rest of the field to settle the win between the two of them. Kaeding stayed right on the rear bumper of Jones until Jones ducked low on lap 37 to try to get by a lapped car. Bud stayed on the high side and motored around Jones for the lead. Jones could never challenge Kaeding again who led the last three laps on the way to his second Western World title in three years. Jay Drake won the National standings for the first time in his career. Third was Josh Wise, fourth went to Davis and fifth went to Damion Gardner. Dickie Gaines came from 20th to finish 8th with his best drive ever at Manzy.