Ron Rodda
Ron Rodda is a contributor to Hoseheads Sprint Car News and Speed Sport News.
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History Of The Trophy Cup by Ron Rodda

Welcome to Thunderbowl Raceways for the 29th annual Trophy Cup race. You are attending the highest paying 360 sprint car race in the world, featuring not only a huge payout, but also the most talked about format in racing. This year’s three day racing purse is $225,000.00 made possible by the amazing level of support within the racing community. The Cup champion is guaranteed $29,000.00 total payout while the Saturday A main drivers are guaranteed at least $6,000.00 for the three days combined.

Past Trophy Cup Winners

Corey Day
Shane Golobic
Buddy Kofoid
Rico Abreu
Jac Haudenschild
Shane Golobic
Shane Golobic
Bud Kaeding
Willie Croft
Kyle Larson
Jason Meyers
Jac Haudenschild
Jonathan Allard
Tim Kaeding
Brad Sweet
Jason Meyers
Tim Kaeding
Brent Kaeding
Jac Haudenschild
Steve Kent
Tim Kaeding
Craig Stidham
Tom Tarlton
Brent Kaeding
Brent Kaeding
Mark Kinser
Brent Kaeding
Kevin Pylant
Ronnie Day

In 1994 Dave Pusateri, the owner of Trophy City in San Jose CA, came up with the idea of a race that featured a main event that was fully inverted, putting the fastest cars at the rear for a passing filled race.  The event was called the Trophy Cup and its remarkable history continues this year with the 28th annual race.

It is a winged 360 sprint show that draws attention to the West Coast from across the country.  The Cup reaches a dramatic conclusion due to the final night main that puts the highest point cars close to the rear of the 24 car field.  From qualifying on the first two nights to heat races and mains, drivers earn points and the highest total after the racing ends wins the Trophy Cup.  There are two parts to the purse money, some is paid to drivers based on race finishes and the remainder is used to pay the top 24 cars in the point tally.

Over the years the format has been adjusted.  To make qualifying more consistently fair, the drivers are split into groups A and B.  Each group has its own fastest qualifier so two drivers will earn 150 points for fast time.  Heat races are within each group, i.e., the A group has their own heats and likewise with B group.  Once main events start, the groups are now combined for determining lineups, based on heat finishes and point totals.

On Friday B group will qualify first and the order of cars within each group will be reversed.  The format mirrors Thursday action and, once completed, drivers will use their higher point total from the first two nights to carry into Saturday.  A driver may have a tough night on Thursday but gets another chance the next night.  Saturday will not have qualifying but heats and mains, culminating with the 50 lap, invert 20 main event.

The Trophy Cup has always been a cooperative effort among businesses, the host track, fans, and all the volunteers that shape the Trophy Cup organization.  The event has earned the Short Track Race of the Year from National Speed Sport News, an award befitting the level of competition that fans have enjoyed each year.

San Jose Speedway was the host track until closing in 1999 and the inaugural victory went to Ronnie Day.  A one day format in its early years, two mains were raced and Day won the first one and started next to last as a result of his point total in the finale.  Kevin Pylant and Brent Kaeding won the next two years. The first 3 years the show featured winged 410 sprints.  Concerns over car count prompted the change to the 360 engine and the move to a two day format allowed teams to not have to race two mains in one night.

In 1997 Mark Kinser took the treasure back to Oolitic, IN.  Brent Kaeding won his 2nd title in 1998 and the following year was the last for San Jose Speedway as the track closed and an era in racing concluded with another BK title.  Terry McCarl won the Saturday main, the last race ever on San Jose’s third mile oval.

Watsonville Speedway hosted the Cup in 2000 and Tommy Tarlton was the champion and  the following year the Cup was held at Kings Speedway in Hanford and Craig Stidham won the championship.  In 2002 it was Tim Kaeding winning his first Cup title and the 2003 version was one of the closest in Cup history and it was a last lap, last turn pass that made Steve Kent the champion by the slimmest of margins.

The 2004 Cup was the last at Kings as the track closed in August the following year, at least temporarily.  Ronnie Day was again so close to a title, winning the Saturday main from 18th, but coming up 5 points short of Jac Haudenschild’s total.

Tulare Thunderbowl, about a 30 minute drive from Kings Speedway, took over the 2005 version on short notice after Kings shut their doors.  Brent Kaeding won the title the first year the Cup was in Tulare and his son, Tim, won the following year.  Jason Meyers won the event the next year by a large margin after a 20th to 3rd run in the Saturday finale.

In 2008 Brad Sweet went from 24th to 3rd on Saturday to edge Sammy Swindell for the championship and a year later TK won his 3rd title, the 7th for the Kaeding racing family.  Kaeding was also the one and only driver to ever win the Saturday main from 24th starting, using the Thunderbowl cushion and sometimes the wall to accomplish the feat.

In 2010 it was finally time for Jonathan Allard to enjoy victory at the Trophy Cup.  Often in position to claim the title as Saturday’s main went green, problems seemed to follow Allard to deny a Cup crown.  The 2011 finale produced a great duel between Jac Haudenschild and Allard with Haud prevailing for the championship.

Jason Meyers won another title in 2012 with a 23rd to 2nd run on Saturday and the following year produced a finish that is still talked about.   Saturday’s main event finish was the wildest in the first 20 years of Cup action.  Last lap drama exceeded any prior script when Kyle Larson and Brad Sweet raced for the win with last turn contact between the pair leading to Sweet flipping and Larson slamming the turn 4 wall.  Larson limped to the line in his battered ride, shedding parts along the way, as the race was allowed to finish.  Larson, 23rd starting, won the main and Cup title to cap a memorable night.

2014 was the first for the new three day format and Willie Croft won the title from 6th starting.  The following year rain ended Thursday racing during qualifying so two shows were run on Friday.  Bud Kaeding was the champion for the unusual two day format

In 2016 the format was adjusted to 8 heat races on the first two nights with the winner and high point car making the A main.  Those 16 cars are supplemented by the top 4 finishers from a pair of B mains to create the usual 24 car field.  The youngest main event winner ever at the Cup came on Friday night when Buddy Kofoid, age 14. took the checkers first.  Shane Golobic won his first of two titles in a row with a consistent performance.  When he won the title the following year he joined BK as the only drivers to win back to back years.

Jac Haudenschild won his third title the next year at age 60 and the following year something never considered possible happened when Rico Abreu won all three main events starting in 5th, 10th, and 17th.  The following year there was no event, but when resuming in 2021 another event record was set when Buddy Kofoid became the youngest Cup champion ever.  His smooth driving style coupled with expected contenders not able to finish the 50 laps led to a ninteen year old champion.

Last year Shane Golobic became a three time Cup champion, utilizing his smooth and steady driving style to claim the $28,000 check.  Golobic won by 16 points, a relatively large margin, by racing to a third place finish from 20th starting in the 50 lap Saturday finale.

The 29th year of the Cup offers a record purse of $225,000 and now guarantees $6000 minimum to the drivers who start the Saturday A main event.  The $6000 is the payout for the three days combined.

The Trophy Cup organization has supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation each year and every penny of entry fees is given to the cause.  Additional activities such as a golf tournament, auction, and other activities add to the huge amount that has been donated to the very worthy cause.  The Trophy Cup has reached a total of $2,675,000 in funds awarded to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The entire event is possible only through many volunteers supporting the Cup as well as the outstanding support from the host track, Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway.

This year a bonus is available on Saturday night for the drivers that start the 50-lap main in rows nine and ten. If one of these four drivers wins the Saturday main event and Cup title, they will be eligible for a bonus.

With 20 cars inverted by points, the two rows eligible means they are the top four in points entering the extra length main. If the driver starting 20th entering the main wins the race and championship, the total winnings for the three days will be a guaranteed $50,000. Start 19th and win the main and title and the check will be for $40,000. From 18th the reward will be $35,000 and if it is 17th starting able to win both race and points the total will be $30,000. All others in the 24-car field will receive the regular $28,000 to win the title.

Even without an event in 2020, The Trophy Cup & Our Sponsors Gave the Make-A-Wish® Foundation $100,000! Trophy Cup Grand Total Make-A-Wish Donations are now



Ron Rodda
Ron Rodda is a contributor to Hoseheads Sprint Car News and Speed Sport News.
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