Phoenix, AZ (March 30) While two time Arizona Sprint Car Association
champion Charles Davis, Jr. enjoys the success he has had with the west coast
Sprint Car Racing Association, it is evident that the challenge of racing
against Arizona's best on Manzanita Speedway's one third mile track also
presents a challenge.
Saturday night, facing a tough 32 car field of non winged sprinters, Davis
managed to keep the crowd on its feet as he and ASCA points leader Eric Wilkins
let it all hang out with Davis coming home with a car length win in the 25 lap
feature. Davis had the Fred and Evelyn Bryan Buckley lined up on the outside of
the fifth row with Wilkins starting alongside him.
From the time the flag dropped on the 20 car starting field until action was
finally slowed on the 22nd lap for the only yellow flag, few fans were using
their seats as they stood in awe of the driving display in the battle for the
Paul Beregszaszy sped away from the field at the drop of the green and kept
the HB Machine/Medtek car in front for nine laps while Davis and Wilkins were
working their way toward the front. Most of the field were using the lowside of
the track but Davis moved to the outside and put the F&E Development/Arizona
Race Mart car in front on the tenth lap.
Even with the lead Davis knew he still had some work to do as Wilkins had
switched to the high side and both drivers were pushing the cushion. Davis
dropped to the bottom when the leaders encounter traffic on the 19th lap and
Wilkins shot past in his Canyon Aparrel/Westgate Electric Buckley.
The same traffic that cost Davis the lead was responsible for him reclaiming
it a lap later as Wilkins tried the low line and there went Davis. The duo
traded a little paint a couple of times and both were happy that the yellow came
out with three laps remaining to give them a clear track to the finish.
Jeremy Sherman, winner of the NAPA/Budweiser Western World Championships last
October at Manzanita, was up to third at the yellow and was hoping the track
would stay green. He felt that he still had a shot at the win with Davis and
Wilkins battling each other as well as the traffic. However, he was still
smiling with a third place finish with the Total Seal car.
The entire field was quick as 18 of the 20 starters took the checkered flag
and 16 of them were still on the lead lap. Bob Ream, Jr., the dominant ASCA
sprint car driver the past few years, finished fourth with the 2000 champion
Marty Miller in fifth. The rest of the top ten also had some talented drivers as
Mike Boat, making his first start of the year, was sixth, five time champion
Ricky Johnson seventh, former modified midget champion Jeff Henry eighth, 1998
rookie of the year Terry Belcher, Jr. ninth and Mike Martin tenth.
Both Davis and Sherman will head back to SCRA competition but expressed hopes
of having a couple of open dates, the first of which could be April 20th, to
again challenge the ASCA drivers.
In contrast to the precision driving in the feature the 12 lap semi main was
tough on equipment. Three cars flipped hard getting into the first turn as
several cars made contact and Jon Gaston, Jason Sutphen and Shawn Deskins got
airborne. Fortunately none of the drivers were injured but their cars suffered
major damage and they were through for the night. Steve Cushman went wire to
wire to win the semi with Belcher, Jr. making a late charge that fell just
short. The other two main event transfer spots went to Matthew Rossi and Theo
The track was very fast in the preliminary races but yellow flags kept the
eight lap track record intact. Davis came out of the third row to win the first
heat race and was clocked at 14.70 on the final lap. The overall record for a
non winged sprint car is 14.43 held by Tony Elliott who was at the wheel of a
410 c.i. sprinter. Martin finished second and Ream was third. In the second heat
it was Mike Boat taking the win after trophy dash winner Josh Pelkey spun a
bearing and gave up the lead. Miller took second with Davey Bateman in third.
Sherman had the pole for the third heat and beat Johnson, up from fifth, and
rookie driver Brandon George. The fourth heat went to Beregszaszy with Wilkins
in second and Henry fourth.
14 YEAR OLD R.J. JOHNSON WINS MIDGET MAIN
The introduction of drivers for the sprint car main event had to be delayed a
couple of minutes as many of the drivers were in the pits congratulating 14 year
old R.J. Johnson following his great drive in winning the Kenz & Leslie BG
Midget Series feature.
Johnson, who turns 15 in April, almost got the win in the March 9 season
opener but a faulty magneto brought him to a stop about 200 yards short of the
checkered flag. This time the Weiler Farms/Arizona Race Mart Proflyer Buick
never skipped a beat and Johnson was flawless. R.J. showed patience as he
avoided several spinning cars and, although he dropped back from his second row
starting position early in the race, he waited for the traffic to thin out and
then urged his car toward the front.
Mike Welker led the first two laps and then gave way to fifth starting Adam
Young. Young lead lap # 3 and then Welker put his Mad Max Upholstery car back at
the point. He stayed there until the 13th lap when points leader Luke Icke made
pass and appeared in shape to win his second straight at Many.
R.J. was flying on the bottom of the track and showed the savvy that belied
his years as he urged his car past Icke. The Colorado driver gave it one last
try as he flew to the outside of Johnson entering the final turn but Johnson was
not to denied as he scored one of the most popular wins ever at the track where
his father Ricky has won a combined seven driving championships.
Johnson, a high school freshman who stands 5 feet 3 and weighs in at 140
pounds, said he was thinking about what happened on the white flag lap on March
9th when he started the final lap. "Yeah, it was on my mind and I was
hoping I wouldn't suffer the same misfortune. Luckily, this time I didn't".
Young brought the Elite Collision Center midget home in third with 15 year
old Justin Fisher, another high school freshman in fourth. Mike Leslie, winner
of the trophy dash took fifth with David Birmingham, Jr., the defending champion
in sixth. Steve Sussex, Jr., the 2000 champion crossed the line in eighth ahead
of rookie driver Dustin Burkhart and Rob Clary.
Icke beat Sussex and Leslie in the first heat and Young bested Welker and
Johnson in the second preliminary race.
ARIZONA SPRINT CAR ASSOCIATION
Main event: 1. Charles Davis, Jr. 2. Eric Wilkins 3. Jeremy Sherman 4. Bob Ream,
Jr. 5. Marty Miller 6. Mike Boat 7. Ricky Johnson 8. Jeff Henry 9. Terry
Belcher, Jr. 10. Mike Martin 11. Terry Belcher 12. Nathan High 13. Clint Haulot
14. Theo McCarty 15. Steve Cushman 16. Paul Beregszaszy 17. Brandon George 18.
Jay Ervine 19. Davey Bateman 20. Matthew Rossi
Lap Leaders: 1-11, Beregszaszy–10-19, Davis–20, Wilkins–21-25, Davis
Semi main: 1. Steve Cushman 2. Terry Belcher, Jr. 3. Matthew Rossi 4. Theo
McCarty 5. Michael Bryan 6. Ryan Linder 7. Chris Bonneau 8. J.T. Imperial 9.
Darrell Sickles 10. Kaylene Verville 11. Chris Rhein 12. Jon Gaston 13. Jason
Sutphen 14. Shawn Deskins
1st heat: 1. Charles Davis, Jr. 2. Mike Martin 3. Bob Ream, Jr. 4. Clint Haulot
5. Steve Cushman 6. Chris Bonneau 7. Michael Bryan 8. Darrell Sickles
2nd heat: 1. Mike Boat 2. Marty Miller 3. Davey Bateman 4. Jay Ervine 5. Matthew
Rossi 6. Shawn Deskins 7. Josh Pelkey 8. Kaylene Verville
3rd heat: 1. Jeremy Sherman 2. Ricky Johnson 3. Brandon George 4. Nathan High 5.
Ryan Linder 6. J.T. Imperial 7. Jon Gaston 8. Theo McCarty
4th heat: 1. Paul Beregszaszy 2. Eric Wilkins 3. Jeff Henry 4. Terry Belcher 5.
Terry Belcher, Jr.6. Jason Sutphen 7. Chris Rhein 8. Brian Stansbury
Trophy dash: 1. Josh Pelkey 2. Ricky Johnson 3. Mike Martin 4. Theo McCarty
KENZ & LESLIE BG MIDGET SERIES
Main event: 1. R.J. Johnson 2. Luke Icke 3. Adam Young 4. Justin Fisher 5. Mike
Leslie 6. David Birmingham, Jr. 7. Steve Sussex, Jr. 8. Dustin Burkhart 9. Rob
Clary 10. Doug Elliott 11. Dean Daly 12. Chris Edwards 13. Dale Daly 14. Mike
Welker 15. Shane Parker 16. Scott Mears
Lap Leaders: 1-2, Welker–3, Young–4-12, Welker–13, Icke–14-20,
1st heat: 1. Luke Icke 2. Steve Sussex, Jr. 3. Mike Leslie 4. David Birmingham,
Jr. 5. Rob Clary 6. Justin Fisher 7. Doug Elliott 8. Dean Daly 9. Bugs Norbury
2nd heat: 1. Adam Young 2. Mike Welker 3. R.J. Johnson 4.Chris Edwards 5. Dustin
Burkhart 6. Dale Daly 7. Scott Mears 8. Shane Parker
Trophy dash: 1. Mike Leslie 2. Bugs Norbury 3. Shane Parker 4. Justin Fisher