Even in tough economic times, the Civil War Series proved it is still very much alive and well as 37 cars packed the pit area of Jim Soares' 3.8 mile oval on the Sonoma Marin County Fairgrounds nestled within the California wine country and the scenic Northern California coast. Despite a weekend offering numerous forms of entertainment in then area, it was a successful night for the facility in its 50th year of operation and the traveling series alike.
In qualifying, Forsberg set the tone for the night as he powered his Friends and Family Racing #x1 to the Pit Stop USA fast time award. Forsberg timed in with a 13:005 on his second trip around the oval. Mr. Excitement edged Fair Oak's Chad Compton who clocked in second with a 13:018. Brett Miller of Chico was the third fastest of the night with a 13:091 and Herman Klein fourth with 13:154. Shawn Wright rounded out the top five qualifiers with a 13:247.
After finishing third in his heat race, Forsberg started Saturday's 30-lap feature event on the inside of the fourth row in the seventh place position. In year's past, the tacky Petaluma Speedway has offered a mixed bag of results for Forsberg, a driver who is accustomed to mastering his way are the top sides of high banked, often dry slick tracks. On this occasion, it was apparent that Lady Luck was riding shotgun with Forsberg aboard his well wrenched new ride owned by the detailed oriented Steve Tuccelli and Alan Bradway.
With the drop of the initial green flag, Sebastopol's Geoff Ensign took the early lead from the pole position over second place starter Mason Moore of Princeton, aboard the Harley Van Dyke owned #5h this season. Former two time Civil War Champion Sean Becker of Antelope started third in the event after a damaging rollover at Placerville Speedway on Friday night kept his team busy all night to make it the front lines in Saturday's war.
With five laps complete Forsberg broke into the top five and continued to muscle forward. Two laps later he closed in behind Becker and settled into the third position up until the 18th lap when he overtook the Shark for the bridesmaid position and set his sights on Ensign. With only four laps remaining on the scoreboard, it appeared that the Human Highlight Reel Ensign was on his way to his first Civil War victory aboard his new Vertullo Racing #83v.
After flirting with a rut in the fourth turn a couple of different times while Forsberg watched the pattern from behind, Ensign finally fell victim to the spot on the 27th lap and allowed Forsberg to close in on him. The two front runners raced side by side down the front stretch and into the first turn where Forsberg powered into the lead he would never relinquish.
At the waving of the checkered flag, Forsberg was followed across the line by Ensign who claimed the Fuel Safe second place position, Steven Tiner of Visalia finished in the third position. Becker rolled in at the fourth spot followed by Penngrove's Alissa Geving. Mike Henry of Citrus Heights was the KSE Racing Products- Pit Stop USA Hard Charger of the race as he drove from 21st into the sixth spot and also picked up the Racing Optics bonus. Moore finished in the Frankline Racing Products seventh followed by Jeremy Burt of Grass Valley who finished in the VSR Steering Repair sponsored 8th position ahead of Mike Benson of Calistoga. Billy Aton of Benicia claimed the King Racing Products 10th place position.
"It was crazy out there pretty early, I was for the most part just hanging on and trying to get through traffic," said Forsberg. "Once I got into second I had nothing for Geoff (Ensign) unless they got into traffic or he made a mistake. He had to slow down a little to make sure he didn't hit the ruts and I was able to close in on him and then when he did hit them I was able to take the lead. This was a good night, it was nice to see the solidarity of this series with all the cars here. We didn't know quite what to expect at this first race."
In preliminary action on Saturday night, Nick Green took home the win in the first heat race of the night. Geving finished in second followed by Forsberg, Roberto Kirby and Shawn Wright. Cody Lamar was victorious in heat race number two over Moore, Chase Johnson, Compton and Kyle Hirst. The third heat race of the night was claimed by Jeff Griffin followed by RC Smith, Miller, Burt and Benson.
In the B feature, Wright picked up the victory and the bonus awards from Hanson Machine and Fabrication and Pit Stop USA. Tiner finished in second place followed by Kyle Hirst of Sacramento, Benson, Aton and Henry. Mike Monahan of Reno was the Hunt Magnetos-BR Motorsports first non transfer driver of the race in seventh. Monahan also picked up the CRV Carbon Solutions bonus for his efforts.
In the year to come, the Hoosier Racing Tires Civil War Series competes for more than $250,000 and an outstanding championship of $40,000 in championship funds is in place with $10,000 of that amount going to the 2011 Civil War Series Champion alone. This is the highest payday for a series champion in the history of the Civil War tour and one of the most lucrative among similar racing campaigns in the region. Additional contingency awards throughout the year are expected to exceed the $25,000 mark in various products as well.
Saturday's event was the first of 14 events at six of California's best known race tracks that have all experienced the thrill of Civil War Sprint Car Racing in year's past. The hosts of this tour span Northern California from the Sierra Foothills to the Wine Country and the Coastal Region, offering many tourism opportunities along the way in the communities which it competes. Every regular Civil War Series event will pay $2000 to the winner and $300 to start the 22 car A-feature.
The next event for the Civil War Sprint Car Series will bring competitors to the scenic Sierra Foothills in search of gold as they head to the fast and furious bullring known as Placerville Speedway on Saturday, April 30th. For further information on the Hoosier Tires Civil War Series visit www.civilwarsprints.com.