Geoff Ensign leads the way in first 360 Sprint Car win
An interesting storyline and a virtual cornucopia of exciting thrills and surprises accompanied each winner in Petaluma Speedway’s five-division race card on Saturday night. Among the highlights were Geoff Ensign snaring his first 360 Sprint Car triumph, veteran Joe Carr’s surprising victory in the Dirt Modifieds, and Mike Learn keeping his hot streak alive with his third consecutive Super Stock win. Not to be overlooked were John Peters’ rise from seventh place to victory in the Dwarf Car feature and John Veeninga’s repeat conquest in the Mini Stocks.
Ensign, a regular competitor in the wingless sprint cars, jumped at the opportunity to drive Brett Lay’s mount in the Pit Stop USA.com winged 360 Sprint Cars. And following his flag-to-flag victory from the pole, from where the 22-year-old Sebastopol driver outlasted a race-long challenge from Sacramento’s Billy Butler by clinging tightly to the apron of the dry-slick three-eighths-mile clay oval, it may be hard to pry him out of the driver’s seat in the coming weeks.
“The only place that had any bite, and any moisture, was on the bottom,” Ensign said of the unusually dry track. But staying low and delving into lapped traffic protected Ensign from Butler’s threatening presence. Ensign, who has four career victories in the wingless division, is now one of just a few drivers victorious in both sprint car divisions.
Third place went to sixth-starting Bradley Terrell, and fourth place to Brett Rollag, who started 13th in the 17-car field and was engaged in an exciting battle with former track champion David Lindt Jr. for several crucial laps before claiming the spot for good six laps from the finish. Fifth place went to Trent Canales, followed by fast qualifier Chase Johnson, Adam McCarthy, Kirk Simpson, 15th starting Matthew Haulot, and heat winner Lindt.
In the Dirt Modifieds, six-time track champion Michael Paul Jr. looked like a shoo-in for his 37th career victory as he maintained a huge lead 10 laps into the 25-lap event. But a yellow flag, and the sudden emergence of eighth-starting Joe Carr, added a significant twist to the race and before he knew it the veteran Carr was riding his bumper. With the race between two of the division’s historically most successful drivers reaching a fever pitch Paul managed to slam the door on Carr’s threats until Lap 24 when he got too high in Turn 4 allowing Carr and third running Jeff Olschowka to slip underneath him. One lap later Carr was celebrating his division-high 57th career victory and first Petaluma win since 2009. Olschowka was a happy second place finisher, and Paul a disappointed third. Oreste Gonella and Brain Azevedo completed the top five. In the heats, 15-year-old David Lindt II of Sebastopol became the youngest Dirt Modified driver in Speedway history to win a heat race.
Mike Learn increased his points lead, and stretched his winning streak to three straight, with a dominating performance in the Lumberjacks Restaurant Super Stock over a 15-car field. Learn started on the pole and was never seriously challenged although Kevin Aguirre, who swiped second place from Larry Drew on Lap 12, closed to within a couple of car lengths over the closing laps and was hoping for a miscue by Learn as the field headed into lapped traffic. Learn remained perfect on the track and for the season as he became the first Super Stock driver since Woody Woodward in 2010 to open the season with three consecutive victories. “We’re having fun,” noted Learn. Aguirre, who finished .625 seconds behind the winner, claimed second ahead of Drew, seventh-starting David Spriggs, “Ironman” Shawn McCoy, Michelle Byron, 11th-starting Steve Studebaker, Paul Hanley, 15th-starting Trevor Brady, and Michael Drew.
In the 20-lap Dwarf Car feature former two-time track champion John Peters drove almost unnoticed from seventh starting to third place behind frontrunners Matt Hauff and Adam Johnson. Hauff had led from the start, and Johnson up from the second row was eager to swap places with the Petaluma driver who just the day before had tied the matrimonial knot. And even though Hauff’s wedding went as planned he couldn’t foresee the trouble he encountered on Lap 15 when Johnson came too close in Turn 4 and Hauff ended up banging the crash wall. The tangle ended Hauff’s night and sent Johnson to the rear as Peters took over the lead ahead of Scooter Gomes and Travis Dutra. Peters held on for his seventh career victory followed by Gomes, Dutra, AJ Salido, Chris Sieweke, and Johnson.
In the BPT Carburetors Mini Stock feature John Veeninga gave notice that he’s no one-hit wonder as the El Sobrante driver led every lap to secure his second straight victory. Defending track champion Keith Benson made a valiant but futile attempt to catch Veeninga’s fleet Toyota but instead was forced to settle for second place ahead of Bradley Clark, Kimberly Ramirez, and Josh Williams. “I couldn’t be happier,” gushed Veeninga afterwards.
Results for May 5
360 SPRINT CARS
Fast time—Chase Johnson 14.931.
Heat 1—Norm Johns; Geoff Ensign; Bradley Terrell; Johnson; Art McCarthy Jr.; Bobby McCarthy.
Heat 2—David Lindt Jr.; Roberto Kirby; Richard Bailey; Adam McCarthy; Chase Wood; Matthew Haulot.
Heat 3—Kenny Drew; Trent Canales; Kirk Simpson; Billy Butler; Brett Rollag; Dusty Green.
Main—Ensign; Butler; Terrell; Rollag; Canales; Johnson; Adam McCarthy; Simspon; Haulot; Lindt; Drew; Johns; Art McCarthy; Green; Kirby; Wood; Bailey.
Heat 1—Jeff Olschowka; Joe Carr; Joel Myers; Brian Azevedo; Michael Paul Jr.; Chris Norris.
Heat 2—David Lindt II; Oreste Gonella; Rick Rogers (Ltd. Mod.); Nick Caughman Jr.; Jeff Thomas.
Main—Carr; Olschowka; Paul; Gonella; Azevedo; Myers; Lindt; Thomas; Rogers (Ltd. Mod.); Caughman; Norris.
Heat 1—Mike Learn; Larry Drew; Michelle Byron; David Spriggs; DW Drew; Trevor Brady; Steve Studebaker; Anthony Matthias.
Heat 2—Shawn McCoy; Kevin Aguirre; Mike Rose; Nathan Schleth; Paul Hanley; Michael Drew; Stan Devore.
Main—Learn; Aguirre; L. Drew; Spriggs; McCoy; Byron; Studebaker; Hanley; Brady; M. Drew; Devore; Matthias; DW Drew; Rose; Schleth.
Heat 1—John Peters; Scooter Gomes; Travis Dutra; Matt Hauff; Danny Marsh.
Heat 2—Frank Munroe; Adam Johnson; AJ Salido; Chris Sieweke.
Main—Peters; Gomes; Dutra; Salido; Sieweke; Johnson; Hauff; Marsh; Munroe.
Heat 1—John Veeninga; Keith Benson; Kimberly Ramirez; Bradley Clark; Josh Williams.
Main—Veeninga; Benson; Clark; Ramirez; Williams.