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Kyle Hirst Goes Topless and Wins
By Troy Hennig
CHICO, CA (8-3-12) - Most sprint car fans would associate Sacramento's Kyle Hirst with winged sprint car racing. Yet, on Friday night at Silver Dollar Speedway, Hirst went topless and beat a diverse field of drivers to win the 30-lap main event during the USAC Western Classic Racing Series. Hirst started sixth but on lap one had already moved into third. One lap later he was in the second spot. By the tenth lap he had moved around Andy Forsberg and took the lead. Hirst led the final 20 laps to secure the popular win. "It was a pleasure to drive this car tonight," said Hirst. "I just felt confident right from the get go and I knew once I got the lead I had to just hit my marks and I would probably end up in victory lane."
Misty Castleberry took a firm grip on the mini stock point championship tonight by winning the 20 lap race. It was her fourth win of the year. However, just important to her as the win, was Jason Clayton's troubles. Clayton was involved in a wreck on lap five that sidelined him for the rest of the night. This unofficially puts Castleberry nine points in front of Clayton with one race to go.
Tony Richards continues to show the way in the Economy Winged Sprint division. However, tonight was not as easy as it has been in the past. Richards beat a nine car field that included some heavy hitters. "This division continues to grow and puts on an exciting show," said Richards.
Randy McDaniel continued his success and won the 20-lap limited late model main event. It was his fourth win of the year in six starts. "I just hope Dennis sticks this thing out and can give us another year," said McDaniel. "These cars are so fun to drive and by next year we should have full fields."
Kyle Hirst started fast right from the green flag tonight. During qualifying he turned the quickest lap at 13.532. The first eight lap heat race win went to Ron Laplant. It was an exciting race as Laplant held off Ryan Bernal. Tom Baker held off Tyler Wolf to win the second heat race. Terry Schank Jr. had a full straightaway lead as he crossed the finish line to win heat race three. Taylor Nelson finished in the second spot.
The USAC 30-lap main event started with Andy Forsberg and Jim Richardson on the front row. Forsberg took the lead while Hirst moved into the second spot on lap two. Kevin Sharrah made a rare non-wing start and looked comfortable in the third spot for the first-third of the race. Forsberg was soon mixing it up with slower traffic. One slight hesitation by Forsberg was all Hirst needed. Hirst passed Forsberg going into turn one on lap nine. James Sweeney spun off turn four on lap 10 to bring out the first caution of the night. Sweeny would return and finished ninth.
On the restart is when a jaw dropping moment happened. Ryan Bernal was racing in the fifth spot when his car bicycled going into turn three. He tried to save the car but when he got back on all four it seemed like the car just took off and headed towards where the water truck is parked. As the car continued to gain momentum it dug into the ground and began a series of spectacular flips that catapulted his car up and over the fence and into the parking lot area. Bernal's car came to a rest on one of the paved access roads that lead to the grandstands. It was the first time I remember a car getting that far out of the racing area at Chico. Luckily no cars were parked in that area and once the car stopped flipping it was reported that Bernal was quickly out of the car and walking away.
Racing resumed and Hirst continued to show the way around the quarter-mile clay oval. On lap 15 Tony Hunt passed Sharrah for the third spot. Hunt drove a great race and should be commended for his effort tonight. On lap 23 Schank moved around Sharrah for the fourth spot. On the next lap Sharrah parked it in turn two and was hit by Marc Mackay. The hard impact ended both drivers night. Tyler Wolf had worked his way up to fifth but on the restart Schank began to spin going through turns one and two. Wolf was directly behind Schank and hit his car. This flipped Wolf up in the air before landing back on all four tires. The red was needed. Wolf would eventually restart. Schank got to keep his spot because when Wolf hit him, it turned him back the right way and he continued on.
The final five laps saw Hirst easily pull away from Forsberg and grab the win. Forsberg was second. Schank passed Hunt late in the race to finish third. Hunt was fourth. Mark Tabor Jr. was the hard charger of the night gaining 10 spots to finish in the fifth position.
Shaun Merritt jumped out to the early lead and looked good in doing so. Merritt lead the first half of the mini stock main event. Yet, Misty Castleberry began to close on the leader. At the half way point the two were racing side by side. Castleberry motored her way around Merritt and took the lead. Jason Clayton had wrecked on lap five and this opened the door for Castleberry to put a stranglehold on the points lead. Castleberry went on to lead the final few laps with ease and won her fourth main event. Merritt held on to the second spot. James Foster came home in the third spot. On lap eleven Foster took the ride of the main event when he was forced to the infield and ran over one of the big white tires. Hunter Merritt came back to finish in the fourth spot. Jim Davis made a rare start and finished fifth.
Tony Richards clean swept the economy winged sprint night by winning the eight lap heat race and 15-lap main event. It was the best night of racing for this division. A solid nine cars showed up for the event and they all put on a great show. Richards held off a talented Nick Larson to win the first heat race. In the main event he had to pass a flying Ron Wyman and then hold off a super fast Scott Gannet. It was by far the most entertaining main event of the year for this class of cars.
Randy McDaniel led all 20 laps to capture the limited late model main event. The only real altercation of the night happened when Jerry Bartlett got into Charlie Marrs near the half way point of the main event. Bartlett tapped Marrs from behind. This sent Marrs around and he stopped in turn four. Under the yellow flag, Bartlett was penalized for rough driving and sent to the rear of the field on the restart. McDaniel was never seriously challenged all night. Jeff Olschowka held on to finish in the second spot. McDaniel also won the eight lap heat race.For full results please visit www.silverdollarspeedway.com