Trophy Cup Observations
by Ron Rodda
October 24, 2017
LINCOLN, Calif. – Here are a few observations from the 24th annual
Trophy Cup, held last weekend at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare,
Format – Any format that requires drivers to pass cars any time they
have the opportunity to do so is good. There is no such thing as a
Trophy Cup heat race where if a driver is fourth then all they need
to do is cruise until the checkers wave. Shane Golobic edged Willie
Croft by five points. That equates to two positions in a heat or
main. There is also no such thing as a perfect format, but the
Trophy Cup is closer than any other.
Shane Golobic — Winning the Trophy Cup is a tremendous achievement
given the depth of the field of winged 360 sprints. To win
consecutive years is amazing. Brent Kaeding did it in 1998-99, but
it is more difficult to accomplish that feat now. Winning requires
some luck along the way and Golobic had it the last two years.
Saturday’s very difficult heats, fully inverted by points, saw
Golobic go from seventh to fourth while in the same heat Joey
Saldana finished sixth from eighth. They shared row eight in the
main event and for much of the 50 laps raced each other for the
Saldana reportedly had a tire going down and had to spin the tires
to keep enough heat in them. That would have been a factor in not
being able to keep up with Golobic after he had moved into the point
lead on lap 37.
A huge deal was Golobic’s heat on Thursday. Winning from fifth
starting spot was a point bonanza, but a three-car melee made that
task much easier. Thursday was his high point night, without that
three car wreck it could have been a different headline following
Heat races — Thirteen of 16 preliminary heats were won off of the
front row. But watching the front of the field is not the place to
focus. The race for high point car and therefore the second transfer
is between the third row starters in the invert six heats. Some
great racing took place between them, often multiple lead changes
for the top point car honor during the eight laps.
Track conditions — Thunderbowl Raceway recently received a new layer
of clay, making track prep more of a guessing game than usual. Much
of the time it could have been better, but one thing that makes dirt
track racing special is the unpredictable factor of track
B mains — Both preliminary nights had two, Saturday just one, and
all five B mains were good. Announcer extraordinaire Fred Rannard
Jr. uses the line, “This B main would be an A main anywhere else in
the country.” That was absolutely true for this year’s collection of
A mains — Thursday was good, Friday was OK, Saturday was very good
up front with a battle between Ryan Bernal and Bud Kaeding when the
track was at its best. Bernal’s win shows how the once only
non-winged racer has become an equally skilled winged driver.
Kaeding reported his engine was losing power as the end neared. The
point race between Saldana and Golobic was exciting as it was the
last 10 laps or so before Golobic was in control.
Flips— There were way too many flips and some people blame the
track. It is a difficult track to race compared to many, yet Golobic
made 140 laps at speed and never seemed to even come close to the
Officiating— The officiating crew did a great job and the
racers never went past 11 p.m., probably the first time that has
happened since the Trophy Cup moved to Tulare. Drivers cooperated by
being ready on time, making for a situation where all worked
Crowds — Thursday has grown over the last couple of years and Friday
plus Saturday were large turnouts. The campground was jammed like
Accompanying activities — By all reports, companion events were well
attended and very successful. These are significant fundraisers as
businesses donate to make these events happen.
The big winner — Make-A-Wish Foundation received a check for
$150,000 from the Trophy Cup, raising the total given to $1,570,000
with a goal to make an even larger contribution next year.
The future — The 25th annual Trophy Cup is set for Oct. 18-20, 2018
and will offer a purse of $200,000. It pays $25,000 to win the
championship and to start the A main on Saturday is $5,000
guaranteed for total winnings over three days. There was a
possibility that the 25th would be the finale, but track promoter
Steve Faria has given his word that the 26th annual will be just as
big. When Faria gives his word, you can count on it.
The track will likely see a significant improvement next year as new
lighting is being planned. Assuming all the pieces come together, it
will be one of the best lit tracks in the country.
Next year 95 invitations will be sent to teams eligible to attend
the 25th annual Trophy Cup. Only five out of 100 entries this year
were unable to compete as required to receive the invite.
This must be the first time ever that a sprint car race entry list
is full a year in advance. It started in 1994 at San Jose Speedway
and will offer the largest purse in winged 360 sprint history in
2018, all due to Trophy Cup founder Dave Pusateri having a vision
and making it happen.