Photos by Paul Gould
Craig Stidham rises up to post long overdue first career King of the West 410 Sprint Car Series win at Antioch Speedway on Saturday night
By Gary Thomas
Antioch, CA – July 21, 2012…Throughout his career Fresno, California’s Craig Stidham has won a number of championships in the Central Valley and is even a former winner of the famed Trophy Cup. The one thing that he had not accomplished though in the past is a 410 Sprint Car victory and when he returned to the KWS series in 2012 that was his number one goal.
Keeping that in mind the 2002 Golden State Rookie of the Year debuted a new car at the Antioch Speedway on Saturday night and raced to an impressive victory with the Cancen Oil KWS Series presented by Goodyear, adding a 410 Sprint Car win to his resume.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to me and our whole team,” said an exuberant Stidham in victory lane. “This is my first ever 410 win and I’ve been trying hard to get one of these for so long. This is a huge accomplishment for us and I can’t thank our sponsors enough for their support this season. I also want to thank Dan Simpson for putting this series on because it’s been great. We’re one big family out here and that’s how racing should be.”
Despite warm day-time temps, track conditions were very racy all night long and the 30-lap main event came to the line with KSE Dash winner Cody Lamar and defending Silver Dollar Speedway champion Tyler Wolf on the front row. At the waving of the green flag it was Wolf jumping into the lead and was quickly followed by Elk Grove’s Bobby McMahan in second.
The first half of the feature saw terrific racing all throughout the pack and Wolf did a solid job up front looking for his first ever KWS win aboard the Chuck Wolf Sand & Gravel No. 19 mount. The fight for second was an intense one as well with McMahan, Stidham and Sacramento’s Kyle Hirst duking it out on the hooked up clay. Stidham found a nice line to his liking by running the high-scary-side of turns one & two and on lap 11 he would charge past McMahan for second.
Stidham then came hard after Wolf and with 13-laps complete the former Rebel Cup Series champ blasted to the lead down the back stretch. Just moments later fourth running Hirst would make contact with a flipping car which collapsed his front end, forcing the Roth Motorsports sprinter to the rear of the field. On the ensuing double-file restart chaos occurred when contact between Stidham and Wolf resulted in the No. 19 machine spinning and collecting Brent Kaeding, Peter Murphy and Jonathan Allard.
The line-up was shaken up a bit for the next restart and saw Stidham leading 11th starting Jason Statler of Grass Valley, who had carved his way forward to get around McMahan for the runner up spot. The remainder of the race saw a number of cautions slow the flow, but through it all Stidham remained calm & cool aboard the Brad Johnson Trucking, KRC Safety Equipment No. 3 mount. When the white flag came out he had no worries and crossed the checkered by 1.798 seconds to score the popular victory.
Statler came home in second to tie his best Cancen Oil King of the West Series presented by Goodyear finish of the season in the DF Rios Motorsports, Kaeding Performance No. 00 sprinter. “The Big Guy” put together the strong effort even despite losing his brakes over the final half of the race.
“It was a great run for us tonight and being back up here on the podium is really awesome for this whole team,” said Statler. “I want to congratulate Craig Stidham on the win and have to thank Dave Rios and all my guys for their support. We lost our brakes there later in the race and Craig was really fast, but it would have been nice if we could have been up there to challenge him for the win. All in all a great night though so we’re happy.”
McMahan crossed the stripe in third to continue his success at the Antioch Speedway this season behind the wheel of the American Tool & Mfg, Performance Powder Coating No. 25 mount. The former NARC Speedweek champion has finished in the top-five all three times at the track this year.
“If we could race here every weekend it wouldn’t hurt me because we have been really good at Antioch this season,” said McMahan, who has moved back into fourth in the King of the West standings after last night. “We’ve had a fifth, fourth and now a third here so we couldn’t be happier. That was a really fun race tonight being able to race up front and I can’t thank this whole team enough. I also want to congratulate Craig Stidham for the win and Jason Statler for a good run in second.”
Claiming fourth at the finish was Sacramento’s Willie Croft, who averted near disaster when he and Andy Gregg got together late in the race. Croft’s Holy Smokes BBQ, AIC Powder Coating No. 29 machine pirouetted in the air and he somehow saved it amazingly and continued on to post the strong result. Rounding out the top-five and doing a great job from the rear of the field was Kyle Hirst in the Roth Motorsports, HR Cattle No. 83. The 24-year-old has been very impressive in his four starts for Dennis & Teresa Roth.
The drive of the night however, may have gone to young 15-year-old Dominic Scelzi, who earned the Pit Stop USA Hard Charger Award by coming from 18th to sixth in the main event. The son of former NHRA Funny Car & Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi, was extremely impressive in the main event utilizing a 360 power plant under the hood. Completing the top-10 in the feature were Placerville’s Andy Gregg, Scotts Valley’s Evan Suggs, Clovis’ Peter Murphy and Broken Hills, Australia’s Josh Ruhs.
Winning the Last Chance Qualifier was Elk Grove’s Sean McMahan and picking up the KSE Racing Products Dash was Rio Linda’s Cody Lamar. Kaeding Performance heat race wins went to Bobby McMahan, Cody Lamar, Andy Gregg and Peter Murphy. Setting his third BR Motorsports fast time of the season was Willie Croft, who toured the one-third mile oval in 11.782 seconds.
The Cancen Oil KWS Series presented by Goodyear will now take a few weeks off, before returning to action on Saturday August 18 at the Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico. More info on the event in the coming weeks can be found at http://www.silverdollarspeedway.com
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