By Gary Thomas
Hanford, CA – October 15, 2011…Two of the very best sprint car drivers on the west coast celebrated on the front stretch Saturday night in Hanford, as Chico’s Jonathan Allard brought home his fourth King of the West 410 victory of the year and San Jose’s Tim Kaeding became the inaugural KWS champion.
“It’s just a great feeling to bring home the first California title for Dennis and Teresa Roth,” said Kaeding after the race. “This was a great year with the King of the West Series and I owe it all to my guys. Todd, Bonzai and our whole crew busted their tails every week and gave me a great car at every race.”
The 2002 Golden State 410 champion ended the year with a King of the West Series-high six victories aboard the HR Cattle, Roth Motorsports No. 83 Maxim. He also led the tour in top-five finishes, having only finished outside of the top-five on two occasions, showing the type of consistency needed to win championships.
“I really have to thank Dennis and Teresa Roth for giving me the opportunity these last few years, because it’s been a fun ride so far and this season has been icing on the cake,” he commented. “I also want to give a big thanks to Dan Simpson for stepping up and making the King of the West a premier 410 series. Hopefully next year we can get more backing and make it even better.”
For much of the main event on Saturday it looked as if youth would prevail over experience, with Northwest traveler Trey Starks outgunning the field from the pole position in his family’s black No. 55 sprinter. The 15-year-old from Puyallup, Washington impressively pulled away from the field on many occasions, but had a hair-raising first turn, where he got sideways and nearly spun out.
It resulted however, in outside front row starter Andy Gregg spinning around and coming to a stop, along with Tim Kaeding. St. Helena’s Rico Abreu also looped the car on the opposite end of the speedway, forcing him to the rear of the field after having a third row starting spot.
The next attempt saw Starks get a clean entry into the first set of corners and lead the field until a yellow flag with three laps complete. During it T. Kaeding had the rear end lock up and resulted in his first dnf of the year.
When things got going again Starks shot to the lead and began to stretch his advantage over the rest of the pack, whom were fighting for position behind him. The Giant Chevrolet Kings Speedway surface had changed drastically as the night went on and became very treacherous and slick, which made finesse paramount to cutting good laps.
A yellow on lap 17 then changed the complexion of the race and tightened up the battle for the top-spot. When the green flag waved Easton’s Tommy Tarlton showed his muscle and carved the Tachi Palace No. 21 mount into the lead. It didn’t last long though as Starks continued his impressive night and went right back around Tarlton shortly after to re-take the point.
It soon became an exciting three-way tussle with two-time Golden State 410 champ Jonathan Allard entering the mix at the helm of his familiar Morrie and Katie Williams’ No. 0 machine. The 3/8 mile clay oval then started to take rubber more and more in the later stages, making speeds go up all around the speedway.
Using his experience from racing all around the globe Allard charged hard after the top-two and on lap 24 sliced underneath Tarlton for second.
The three-time & reigning Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup winner then tracked down Starks and coming off turn four on lap 26 made a great move to cut to the bottom and steal the lead away. After that it was clear sailing for Allard, who took the Willie Williams checkered flag by 2.788 seconds and claim his third career “Cotton Classic” victory. It was also his 28th career Golden State 410 triumph, which ties Steve Kent for third on the all-time win list.
“It’s been a back and forth season for us so to be able to finish the year with another win at the Cotton Classic is a great feeling,” said Allard, who also won the KWS season-opener in April. “That was an awesome race right there and I have to thank my whole team and my car owners Morrie and Katie Williams. I want to dedicate this win to Carwash Mike Avilla. I tried to get a win for him a couple weeks ago, but that didn’t work out so I’m glad I could get it tonight.”
Starks and Tarlton had the huge crowd on their feet as they fought it out for second in lapped traffic. Tarlton got around the youngster with only a few laps left, but the Northwest driver executed a beautiful maneuver off the fourth corner on the final lap to narrowly get the runner up spot. It was a very strong outing for Starks, who has limited starts in Hanford. Thirteen-time Golden State 410 champion Brent Kaeding had a solid night and came home in fourth to wrap up the third spot in the KWS standings.
Also having a nice run in the main event was ’04 series champ Jason Statler, who came home in fifth to lock up the fifth position in the King of the West standings. New daddy Willie Croft ironically crossed the line in sixth to solidify the sixth spot in the KWS points. Elk Grove’s Bobby McMahan finished seventh in the feature after starting from row seven. Wooster, Ohio’s Jac Haudenschild earned the Pit Stop USA hard charger award by coming from 18th to eighth, with the remainder of the top-10 being comprised of Brad Furr and Peter Murphy.
The evenings Last Chance Qualifier was picked off by Willie Croft and the Grants Fine Art/ KSE Racing Products dash was won by Trey Starks. The four Richmond Gear Weekend Warrior heat races were captured by Andy Gregg, Rico Abreu, Kyle Hirst and Trey Starks. The night was started off by Jonathan Allard earning his series high fifth Grants Fine Art fast time award of the season with a lap of 13.167.
On behalf of us all at the Golden State King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series we’d like to thank everyone for their support this year and look forward to a great 2012 campaign. This season we had 17 full time teams compete with KWS and the support from our teams meant a lot to all of us. Thank you to all the fans and sponsors that made this year a great one. Best of luck to all who are competing at next weekends Trophy Cup in Tulare.
Remember to stay glued to http://www.kwssprints.com for updates throughout the off-season and information regarding our championship awards banquet that is tentatively scheduled for the last weekend in January.
Jonathan Allard picked up his 28th career Golden State 410 victory & tied fellow two-time series champion Steve Kent for third on the all-time win list. It was also the Chico drivers third Cotton Classic win since 2005 and his fourth triumph of the KWS season.