Darland Wheels Unfamiliar Car to Manzy USAC/CRA Win - By Bobby Gerould, 03/19/04, Phoenix, AZ. …Lincoln Indiana's Dave Darland was busy during driver introductions. He and his son, 17 year-old Trenton, were in a deep pre-feature race discussion about the fast way around the Manzanita Speedway half-mile dirt track. Whatever was said between the two should be written in the family archives. Daddy Dave jumped behind the wheel of Ben Lancaster's #14 sprint car and led all twenty laps at Manzanita Friday night to post a convincing victory in the newly formed Valvoline United States Auto Club / California Racing Association series. The 1999 USAC National sprint car driving champion started outside the front row in his first drive for the Las Vegas car owner.
"The track was pretty hard to pass on and we had a great starting spot", said Darland. "My son, Trenton, gave me some advice on how to run the track, and it worked."
Entertaining racing throughout the 21-car feature field was the norm. Brian Venard and Darland shared the front row of the star studded main event that served as the first leg of the two-day Sokola Classic. The jump went to the Lincoln, Indiana driver, Darland, and fellow Hoosier visitor Tracy Hines also was strong out of the gate. Hines, in a second Mark Preistley #7H quickly made his presence known by taking third place in turn one on lap two. The action slowed on lap four when a tangle between Hines' Preistly stablemate, Troy Rutherford became tangled with dash winner, Bob Ream Jr., at the exit of turn two.
The restart showed Darland lining up single file at the top of the running order with Eric Wilkins, Hines, quick-timer, Rickie Gaunt, and Damion Gardner right behind. Hines maneuvered past Wilkins on lap eight in turn two to take over the runner-up spot. At the same time many eyes were focused on the rim riding Bud Kaeding. Making his initial start in the Harlan Willis #45, Kaeding was flying around the upper reaches of the speedway much to the delight of the strong crowd on hand. Kaeding, who started 13th after transferring through the semi-main, charged quickly up to seventh by the halfway point of the feature.
Gaunt continued to move forward in one of two Tony Smiley entries. "Super Rickie" passed Wilkins for third on lap 14. The second and final caution of the race happened one lap later when Mike Spencer stopped with damage to the left front in turn four. Darland, who won easily over Hines, Gaunt, Wilkins, and Gardner, controlled the final five laps. Kaeding's charge stalled as he only gained one more spot during the main, and then lost it to Mike Kirby on lap 19, when Kaeding jumped the cushion in turn two. Kirby ended up sixth, Kaeding seventh, and Jeremy Sherman, Cory Kruseman, and 21st starting Tony Jones filled out the top ten. Sherman's performance was especially impressive given that he was running a 360 cubic inch engine as compared the rest of the 410's in the race.
The nighttime temperatures were anything but normal. On an evening following a record high temp of 96 degrees Fahrenheit, the healthy crowd enjoyed summer-like nighttime weather.
With the Copper World Classic running at nearby Phoenix International Raceway, the pits were packed with racers from all over. Up and coming charger, Boston Reid was among those without a ride but watching intently. Reid accompanied his weekend teammate Carl Edwards in the Manzy pits. Mechanic Scott Benic was also in the house. Benic is getting his first taste of tuning on a USAC Silver Crown car at PIR. With track racer Edwards steering, Benic was optimistic about their chance at the big track.
Northern California aces; Brent Kaeding and Jimmy Sills took in the atmosphere from the Manzanita grandstands. Brent is involved in a hands-on role with son Bud in their Copper World Silver Crown effort but was comfortable enough with Bud's dirt experience to serve as only a grandstand heckler.
Cory Kruseman received a fifty-dollar bonus for being the slowest qualifier Friday night. Obviously fighting mechanical ills in the Alexander Racing #4, Kruseman timed in last with a 26.105 clocking. After receiving the cash in a front chute interview, Kruseman quipped over the PA; "I've never been paid for running slow".
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Ricky Gaunt, 2A, Smiley, 18.606; 2. Damion Gardner, 50, Chaffin, 18.679; 3. Bob Ream Jr., 8, B.R.A.T., 18.702; 4. Troy Rutherford, 7, Priestley, 18.862; 5. Tracy Hines, 7H, Priestley, 18.930; 6. Eric Wilkins, 3w, WWS Racing, 18.964; 7. Charles Davis Jr., 8A, Smiley, 18.970; 8. Mike Kirby, 38, Crossno, 19.021; 9. Dave Darland, 14, Lancaster, 19.021; 10. Brian Venard, 47, Venard, 19.110; 11. Josh Ford, 73, Ford, 19.177; 12. Mike Spencer, 44, Engstrom, 19.242; 13. Bud Kaeding, 45, Willis, 19.262; 14. Levi Jones, 38J, Crossno, 19.265; 15. Alan Ballard, 97, Ballard, 19.269; 16. Jeremy Sherman, 21, Ellis, 19.283; 17. Jordan Hermansader, 91, Ferro, 19.284; 18. Tony Jones, 2, Vermeer/Ferreria, 19.332; 19. Mike Leslie, 76, Montgomery, 19.380; 20. Rip Williams, 3, Jory, 19.456; 21. Darren Hagen, 11, McMinn, 19.736; 22. Matthew Rossi, 16, Rossi, 19.799; 23. Jeff Slinkard, 61, Ratz, 19.879; 24. Greg Bragg, 12, Pratt, 20.057; 25. David Cardey, 59, Giardina, 20.723; 26. Seth Wilson, 17, Racing Optics, 20.984; 27. Robert Hall, 16a, Hall, 21.172; 28. Cory Kruseman, 4, Alexander, 26.105; 29. Tony Elliott, 6z, Keller, no time; 30. Bruce St., James, 7k, St. James, no time; 31. Jimmy Crawford, 18, Crawford, no time; 32. Brandon Lane, 97H, Lane, no time.
DASH (4 laps): 1. Ream, 2. Rutherford, 3. Gardner, 4. Gaunt. 1:17.53
FIRST HEAT (10 laps): 1. Gaunt, 2. Hermansader, 3. Darland, 4. Hines, 5. Kaeding, 6. Hagen, 7. Cardey. (3:16.22)
SECOND HEAT (10 laps): 1. L.Jones, 2. Gardner, 3. Wilkins, 4. Venard, 5. T.Jones, 6. Wilson, 7. Rossi. (3:20.94)
THIRD HEAT (10 laps): 1. Ballard, 2. Ford, 3. Slinkard, 4. Ream, 5. Hall, 6. Leslie, 7. Davis. (no time)
FOURTH HEAT (10 laps): 1. Kruseman, 2. Sherman, 3. Rutherford, 4. Williams, 5. Bragg, 6. Spencer, 7. Kirby. (3:17.15)
SEMI (12 laps): 1. Kirby, 2. Kaeding, 3. Davis, 4. Spencer, 5. T.Jones, 6. Leslie, 7. Bragg, 8. Hagen, 9. Cardey, 10. Wilson, 11. Crawford, 12. Rossi, 13. Hall. (no time)
FEATURE (20 laps): 1. Dave Darland, 2. Tracy Hines, 3. Rickie Gaunt, 4. Eric Wilkins, 5. Damion Gardner, 6. Mike Kirby, 7. Bud Kaeding, 8. Jeremy Sherman, 9. Cory Kruseman, 10. Tony Jones, 11. Brian Venard, 12. Bob Ream Jr., 13. Rip Williams, 14. Charles Davis Jr., 15. Levi Jones, 16. Jordan Hermansader, 17. Josh Ford, 18. Alan Ballard, 19. Mike Spencer, 20. Jeff Slinkard, 21. Troy Rutherford. (no time)
Lap Leader: Darland 1-20.