Dempsey's triumph clinches Super Stock championship

One can only hope that next season brings a continuation of the 2011 racing rivalry between super stock competitors Steve Dempsey of Petaluma and Santa Rosa's Steve Studebaker. For the past two seasons the two highly competitive drivers have challenged the division and each other for dominance. Last year it was Studebaker who prevailed, and for the majority of this season it looked like he might pull off a repeat of his championship season of a year ago but Dempsey had other plans. After finishing second in the All-Pro Series point standings in 2010, Dempsey made a determined effort to go after the coveted track championship this year, and after a season-long slugfest that went down to the last laps of the final points race, Dempsey triumphed over Studebaker to win the championship by a razor-thin three-point margin.

 

Joining Dempsey in victory celebrations were David Johnson of Stockton, who prevailed in the Hunt Magnetos Wingless Spec Sprint Shootout, and dwarf car driver John Wear of Los Gatos, who won the 50-lap $500-to-win Dwarf Car feature.

 

He's a very good driver and he's very patient," Dempsey said of Studebaker in a post-race interview. "We worked hard all year for this, it never would've happened without my dedicated pit crew and sponsors. My thanks goes to Harvey Balestrini, Larsen Racing Products, Johnny Franklin's Mufflers, the Haulot family, and to all who helped us succeed, I’m happy.” Dempsey, who won the All-Pro Series Pure Stock championship in 1997, becomes just the seventh driver in the history of Petaluma Speedway to win multi-division championships, joining notable drivers David Lindt Jr., Charley Campbell, Jay Edens, Tim Haskins, Danny Potts, and Larry Drew in that category.

 

Dempsey finished the season with a career-high six victories along with two second-place finishes in 10 races, versus three wins, four seconds and 10 top-five finishes for Studebaker.

 

Although the Super Stock championship would have gone to whichever driver between Dempsey and Studebaker finished higher in the 25 lap feature, it looked like the favorite would be Michelle Byron, who started out like a ball of fire, setting a sizzling pace and leading by huge margin until Lap 18 when her bid for victory literally went up in flames, caused by an oil pan fire that erupted beneath her car. With Byron out of the race, Dempsey took charge followed by Studebaker, Larry Drew, Gerry Adams, and David Spriggs, which became the order of finish.

 

David Johnson was the fastest qualifier among the 28 entries vying for the $2000 first place prize money in the Hunt Magnetos Wingless Spec Sprint Shootout. An eighth-place starter in the 30-lap feature, he wasted little time climbing to the top, grabbing fourth place after six laps, taking third place from Adam Kaeding on Lap 13, and moving into second place behind leader Scott Hall of Roseville on Lap16.

 

Hall lost his brakes on Lap 18 and after that it just a matter of time before he fell prey to Johnson’s aggressive pursuit, which came on the 21st tour of the beautifully prepared three-eighths-mile clay oval. It was smooth sailing the rest of the way for Johnson, who buried himself in lapped traffic to insure his first victory at Petaluma Speedway. Second place, and $1000, went to 13th-starting Petaluma Speedway track champion Terry Schank Jr. of Santa Rosa, Hall pocketed $750 for third, Taylor Simas, who started seventh and finished fourth earned $500, and fifth-place Kaeding took home $400.

 

The Dwarf Car division concluded its season with its annual $500-to-win finale, which meant John Wear, a regular at Watsonville’s Ocean Speedway would be here. Wear has dominated this event lately, winning it last year and finishing second in both 2008 and 2009.

 

At the start of the twin-25, 50-lap feature it looked like Petaluma Speedway track champion Shawn Jones of San Jose, a five-time feature winner in 2011, was about to put an emphatic exclamation point on his championship season. The talented 18-year-old driver led every lap of the first 25-lap segment and the initial four laps of the second half, until Wear passed him on Lap 30. Jones came right back, following a Lap 31 restart and held the front spot for four more circuits before Wear got underneath him in Turn 4 on Lap 36 to regain the lead.

 

Wear led the final 15 laps to claim the $500 winner’s share, with second place going to former Petaluma track champ John Peters, who swiped second place from Jones with two laps to go. Jones finished third ahead of ninth-starting Tom Brown of Pleasant Hill and 13th-starting, fifth-place finisher Adam Johnson of Santa Rosa.

 

WINGLESS SPRINT CARS

Fast time—David Johnson 14.793.

Heat 1—Roy Fisher; Nathan Washam; Sparky Howard; Johnson; Bill Cornwell; Dan Payne; Dustin Baxter.

Heat 2—Terry Schank Jr.; Colton Slack; Taylor Simas; Alex Schutte; Matt Streeter; Matthew Haulot; Marcus Hardina.

Heat 3—Adam Kaeding; Geoff Ensign; Scotty Dupont; Rowdy McClenon; Trevor Schmid; Mark Chaves Jr.; Pete Lawrence.

Heat 4—Bret Barney; Joe Stornetta; Rick Sharp; Scott Hall; Zack Lynskey; Gary Nelson Jr.; Nick Larson.

B Main—Streeter; Larson; Lynskey; Hardina; Baxter; Schmid; Haulot; Cornwell; Payne; Chaves; Lawrence; Nelson.

A Main—Johnson; Schank; Hall; Simas; Kaeding; Stornetta; Washam; Howard; McClenon; Larson; Schmid; Barney; Slack; Dupont; Streeter; Schutte; Fisher; Sharp; Lynskey; Haulot; Hardina; Baxter.

 

SUPER STOCK

Heat 1—Steve Studebaker; Steve Dempsey; Gary Adams; Paul Hanley.

Heat 2—Larry Drew; Michelle Byron; David Spriggs; Anthony Matthias; Shawn McCoy.

Main—Dempsey; Studebaker; Drew; Adams; Spriggs; McCoy; Matthias; Roger Miller; Byron; Hanley.

 

DWARF CARS

Heat 1—Alan Heeney; Shawn Jones; Mark Biscardi; Carroll Mendenhall; Tom Brown; Matt Hauff.

Heat 2—Robert Mesloh; John Peters; Mark Ramirez; Tommy King; Mike Mangini; Adam Johnson.

Heat 3—John Wear; AJ Salido; Richard Klinetobe; Travis Dutra; Pat Urdahl; Ed Sans III.

Main—Wear; Peters; Jones; Brown; Johnson; Dutra; Mangini; Mendenhall; Hauff; Sans; Heeney; Urdahl; Salido; Klinetobe; Mesloh; King; Biscardi.

 

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