by Ron Rodda
(Lincoln, CA – October 16) The post-season series of winged 360 sprint specials reached the 4-weekend stage with this week climbing the pinnacle with the 26th Annual Trophy Cup.
A record 110 entrants, the maximum allowed, will see some not make it to Tulare, but likely 90 or so will jam the pit area for 3 nights. A $200,000 purse coupled with a demanding format on an unforgiving track plus the support the event gives to Make-A-Wish makes the Cup very special.
But specials have been going on for four weeks, starting with the NorCal Posse Shootout at Placerville Speedway the 3rd weekend in September. Over 40 sprints plus 20+ midget lites put on two entertaining nights of racing with Justyn Cox and Rico Abreu taking the wins. As most of the year has been, track conditions were very good at the foothill quarter.
The next weekend Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico offered a two day Fall Nationals with 50 car fields for the one division special. Again Justyn Cox won the opening night and Tim Kaeding took the finale, with track conditions that were conducive to good action.
One day shows took care of the next two weekends when Petaluma Speedway paying $5000 to win with a tick under 30 cars making the tow. The format was different with a pair of heats using passing/finishing points to form the top 6 in combined heat points. These top 6 then qualified in the traditional way to set the first 3 rows of the main, and it was Sean Becker winning and collecting the big check.
That brings the calendar to October 12 when a can’t miss doubleheader drew a large crowd to Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds in Hanford, or simply Kings Speedway to those of us still tied to the old name.
The King of the West-NARC series brought 21 winged 410s while the Sprint Car Challenge Tour had 33 winged 360s for a pit full of open wheel stars. There were some drivers in both camps and the two Abreu Vineyards entries did not disappoint.
Jac Haudenschild, in California for the Trophy Cup, did his thing in the SCCT main on the top shelf while racing from 14th to 3rd and Rico Abreu used the same area of clay to win the 410 main in dominant fashion.
While Abreu sailed, Cory Eliason, Bud Kaeding, Chase Johnson, and Dominic Scelzi made it interesting in their position trading action for the other two podium spots. It was Kaeding then Eliason at the checkers to join Abreu on the Kings podium.
The SCCT main had its ugly moments with two reds and six yellows, but the intense battle for the lead never stopped. Justyn Cox led the first 14 before, on a lap 15 restart, Cole Macedo won the race to turn 1 and used the bottom for what became the winning pass.
Cox faded to 3rd but charged back as the lap count reached 30 to pressure Macedo. A yellow with 2 left led to a jumbled restart that saw Cox loose ground, but he closed the gap by the end of that lap when another yellow flew. The checkers were thrown also and the race was complete one lap early with Macedo, Cox, and Haudenschild forming the podium.
How can the time not be taken to restart and run the final lap to complete the intense battle for the win after everyone waited an additional 5 minutes before the start of the race to give 1 car more time than the legal 8 minutes to get to staging?
Later this week it is a guarantee that all rules will be followed to the letter when $200,000 is on the line at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway. The number of people who make the Trophy Cup possible is huge and the vast majority are volunteers. Then there are people like Kevin Rudeen and David Abreu without whose support the event would not be the same.
The crew of track officials will be on their A game, the push trucks and safety crew will professionally handle their part, and one person who most everyone in the stands will not even be aware of will perform a critical job. That would be Lisa Becker, the scorer.
Lisa’s husband, Sean, has raced for years and when they started dating she had never been to a race. Lisa lived in Chico and did not even know there was a track in town. Sean’s sister was doing the points and lineups just for fun at the outlaw kart races and became Lisa’s tutor.
Taught how to hand score, Lisa then would score the races for herself to help calm her nerves when Sean was racing, by this time in sprint cars. She started this activity in 2002 but it was 2013 before a call from Chico promoter, Dennis Gage, led to her first job, scoring an enduro fair race.
Chico scorer, Aron Jones, taught her how to use computer scoring prior to the debut but then her 2nd time as head scorer technical issues led to a hand scoring night. It was at Calistoga and now she was serving as the scorer for a race that Sean was entered.
With stopwatch scoring used for qualifying, Lisa did not want to handle that task with Sean also racing, so other officials handled that chore while Lisa hand scored all the racing action for her first open wheel night.
As to her first sprint car scoring, Lisa notes that, “I was scared to death, no computer I have to hand score this, I remember they went out there and I wasn’t thinking how Calistoga is a half mile track. I thought there is so much pressure, this is my first time, and I don’t know what I’m doing. But when they got strung out pretty quickly, I thought I can hand score this track.”
From there she was called upon occasion to substitute score until her first full time deal came at Placerville Speedway when Scott Russell and Kami Arnold took over the promotional duties in 2016. Lisa recalls how the first race of the season the track had a new scorer, new announcer and new promoters.
Lisa has also served as a backup hand scorer for World Of Outlaw events and calls the outlaws “probably the best people in the world to work with. They are very trusting and accepting of any help I can provide. Eloy, the Outlaws scorer, has been a huge support for me.”
After scoring at Placerville 2 years she is now working when a track needs someone to score as well as being the scorer for the biggest winged 360 race in the world, the Abreu Vineyards 26th Annual Trophy Cup Presented by Rudeen Racing. This will be her 3rd year of the pressure of scoring a $200,000 race.
Preparation for the Trophy Cup consumes time and if there was a format change it would take 3 weeks to rebuild all the spreadsheets. There is no change this year so preparation takes less time but still around 15-20 hours of checking and rechecking and entering this year’s data.
Lisa’s workday on Thursday and Friday of Trophy Cup lasts from noon until about 3 am but Saturday takes less time. If the system crashes, then hand scoring can still handle the show, but it is certainly nice to have Lisa and Stephanie up in the scoring booth providing professional scoring for such a major event.