PETALUMA, CA, May12—As one of the youngest drivers competing in the Wingless Sprint Cars at Petaluma Speedway 17-year-old Joe Stornetta acknowledges he has a lot to learn about dirt track racing. But following his third straight win Saturday night the Napa teenager has jumped to the head of the class and first place in the PitStopUSA Wingless Sprint Car championship point standings.
The victory was the most impressive yet for Stornetta, who was nearly perfect against a strong 16-car field and had to overcome the challenge of battling back from fourth place after owning the lead for the first two laps of the 25-lap event. His three-race winning streak is the second-longest since the wingless sprints began regular competition in 2007. Darrell Hanestad, who won seven consecutive races in 2008, is the division’s record-holder.
Front row starter Bill Cornwell grabbed the lead from Stornetta on Lap 3 but surrendered it to sixth-starting Bradley Terrell on Lap 6. When Terrell headed to the pits after 10 laps, Cornwell, Geoff Ensign, Stornetta, and Terry Schank Jr. all moved up. The veteran Cornwell, who was looking for his first-ever victory, led the charge with Ensign and Stornetta battling for second place until Lap 19 when Stornetta took the spot. The confident and aggressive Stornetta squeezed underneath Cornwell on the 21st lap to regain the lead, and five laps later scored the victory. Cornwell finished a career-best second place, followed by Ensign, Schank, and Nick Larson.
In winning his second straight Late Model feature, defending track champion Jeff “The Hitman” Decker of Morgan Hill got off to his best start since 2010 when the two-time champ won four straight to begin the season.
Decker dominated the event from start to finish and was never seriously challenged as he raced to his 23rd career victory at Petaluma Speedway over a nine-car field. The closest any driver came to him during the 25-lap event was when pole sitter John Silva of Fremont got into his door at the start of the race.
In an anticipated battle between heat winners, Decker outdistanced Silva for the first 10 laps until sixth-starting Anthony Restad of Santa Rosa grabbed second place from Silva on Lap 11. Restad was unable to close the wide gap between himself and the fleet Decker and at the checkered flag two lapped cars separated Decker from the rest of the field. Finishing on the lead lap behind the winner was runner-up Restad, Silva, Richard Papenhausen, Dean DeVolder, and Steve Johnson.
In the Carr Racing Chassis Dirt Modifieds double-duty driver Richard Papenahusen of Chico outlasted a late race challenge by Petaluma’s Oreste Gonella to win for the second time in three races. Papenhausen started fifth in the 13-car, 20-lap event and quickly moved to second behind early leader Joel Myers before taking the lead with a bottom pass on Lap 6. Myers regained the front spot on a Lap 7 restart but the relentless Papenhausen again went to the bottom to take charge one lap later.
Third-row starter Gonella took over second place on Lap 12 and began to chip away at Papenhausen’s big lead. Despite getting into lapped traffic on the final lap Papenhausen beat Gonella to the checkered flag by just 1.566 seconds to claim the victory. Points leader Gonella finished second, Myers was third, followed by eighth-starting Brian Azevedo, defending champion Michael Paul Jr., Michelle Byron, David Lindt II, and Jeff Thomas.
First-time feature winner Carroll Mendenhall of Windsor became the third different driver in as many races to prevail in the Dwarf Car division this season and he did it in stellar fashion by hunting down and passing former two-time track champ John Peters of Santa Rosa.
Front row starter Peters led the initial 10 laps as Mendenhall climbed from the second row to take the runner-up spot away from Travis Dutra four laps into he race. It turned into a two-car event with Peters holding a slight edge over the hard charging Mendenhall until Lap 11 when the two combatants switched places. Once in the lead Mendenhall pulled away from the rest of the 12-car field to win by nearly five seconds ahead of Peters, and more than 13 seconds over third finishing Adam Johnson. Fourth place went to Chris Sieweke, fifth to Richard Klinetobe, and sixth to Dutra.
In the BPT Carburetors Mini Stock/Hornets feature, in what is expected to become a season-long duel between defending track champ Keith Benson and ardent challenger John Veeninga, Benson fought back to regain the lead he had relinquished to Veeninga five laps into the race and held on to snap Veeninga’s two-race winning streak with his second triumph of the season.
The eight-car race developed into a two-car battle between the frontrunners. Finishing third, nearly 19 seconds behind the leader was Kimberly Ramirez. Former division champion Michael Drew finished fourth, hornet driver Megan Schroeder was fifth, and John Clark was sixth.
Results for May 12
WINGLESS SPRINT CARS
Fast time—Scotty Dupont 15.172.
Heat 1—Trevor Schmid; Geoff Ensign; Joe Stornetta; Nick Larson; Scott Hall; Bret Barney; Dustin Baxter; Dupont.
Heat 2—Bradley Terrell; Bill Cornwell; Terry Schank Jr.; Gary Paulson; Zack Lynskey; Jason McIntosh; Klint Simpson; Jeff Lee.
Main—Stornetta; Cornwell; Ensign; Schank; Larson; Hall; Simpson; Schmid; Barney; Lee; Baxter; Terrell; Paulson; McIntosh; Lynskey; Dupont.
Fast time—John Silva 16.044.
Heat 1—Silva; Steve Johnson; Dennis Silva; Dean DeVolder; Jimmy Gallagher.
Heat 2—Jeff Decker; Richard Papenhausen; Anthony Restad; Paul Guglielmoni.
Main—Decker; Restad; Silva; Papenhausen; DeVolder; Johnson; Guglielmoni; Gallagher; Souza.
Heat 1—Richard Papenhausen; Jeff Thomas; Joel Myers; Chris Norris; Paul Anderson; David Lindt II.
Heat 2—Oreste Gonella; Michelle Byron; Michael Paul Jr.; Brian Azevedo; Rick Rogers (Ltd.); Freddie Plourde.
Main—Papenhausen; Gonella; Myers; Azevedo; Paul; Byron; Joe Carr; Lindt; Thomas; Anderson; Rogers (Ltd.); Norris; Plourde.
Heat 1—Travis Dutra; Adam Johnson; Scooter Gomes; Richard Klinetobe; Danny Marsh; Kaitlyn Mendenhall.
Heat 2—John Peters; Carroll Mendenhall; Chris Sieweke; Tom Pendleton.
Main—C. Mendenhall; Peters; Johnson; Sieweke; Klinetobe; Dutra; Gomes; Marsh; K. Mendenhall; Pendleton.
Heat 1—John Veeninga; Keith Benson; Josh Williams; John Clark; Megan Schroeder (Hrnt); Manny Avila; Kimberly Ramirez.
Main—Benson; Veeninga; Ramirez; Michael Drew; Schroeder (Hrnt); Clark; Williams; Avila.