Wilkins top 30 car Sprint Car field
in Manzanita's 50 lap "Salute to Indy"
By Windy McDonald
Phoenix, AZ (May 29) A lightning fast car on a near perfect race track
was more than enough for Eric Wilkins to beat a star studded field in Saturday
night’s Arizona Race Mart/Sunoco 50 lap “Salute to Indy” on Manzanita
Speedway’s one third mile track.
The track was in direct contrast to the previous outing that saw a hard track
take rubber and force the field to consider tire wear. While it took a little
extra time to get the track worked into shape, it remained in top shape through
106 laps of green flag racing for the sprints plus 37 laps run by Dwarf Cars.
After earlier winning the Arizona Race Mart/Advanced Engine Components trophy
dash and his heat race, ‘The Whiz Kid” took the measure of the 20 cars that
made the feature. He started eighth and went to work early. While Ben Gregg was
building a lead from his front row starting berth Wilkins was urging his Ahern
Equipment Rentals Buckley toward the front. He took third on the eighth lap and
was second four laps later.
The race was halted when Bernie Smith hit debris, ruptured his fuel cell and his
car burst into flames. Smith made a hasty exit and the fire crew quickly
extinguished the fire. Smith was uninjured but was the first driver out of the
Gregg, driving his best race ever, went back to work and and held off Wilkins’
charge until he pushed a little wide in turn two on the 18th lap. That was all
Eric needed as he shot to the front. He opened up a 2.36 lead over Gregg until
the race was slowed by a spin at the midpoint.
Wilkins again built his lead and was turning laps in the low 15 second bracket
and clicked off a 14.98 (80.106 m.p.h.) on the 35th lap.
His lead vanished when Bugs Norbury flipped on the 37th lap in a three car
tangle that also involved Seainn Henricson and R.J. Johnson. That brought out a
race stopping red flag and changed the complexion of the race. Johnson was able
to rejoin the field but the other two drivers were through for the night.
It appeared that Wilkins slowed his pace and was pushing the front end in the
turns. He got an awakening when Nathan High tried an inside pass on the 44th
lap. Eric slammed the door shut and picked up the pace.
Points leader Bob Ream, Jr. slipped past High for second on the 47th lap but was
1.58 seconds back at the checkered flag. High finished third just ahead of 15th
starting Ricky Johnson with Marty Miller fifth.
It was a tough night on equipment as only 11 cars finished. Behind the top five
were Gregg, R.J. Johnson, Chuck Buckman, J.T. Imperial, Andy Reinbold and
Wilkins pocketed an extra $100 as the half way leader, Ricky Johnson got a like
amount as the hard charger and Jay Ervine received $100 for hard luck after
blowing an engine while running in the top five.
Buckman captured the first eight lap heat race over Imperial, Ream and Henricson.
The second heat went to Gregg who beat Jeff Henry, High and Steve Sussex, Jr. .
R.J. Johnson led Brain Swinehart, Jesse Dunham and Ricky Johnson to the
checkered flag in the third heat. Behind Wilkins in the final heat were Miller,
Bryan and Smith.
Wilkins beat Ricky Johnson, Smith and Sussex in the dash. A special “Arizona
Young Guns” trophy dash for drivers 21 and younger was won by Mikey Kuemper
over Chris Bonneau, Michael Bonneau, Bryan and Imperial. The win was worth $100
to the youngster from Interstate Wreck Rebuilders and Mazatal Dirt Works.
The 30 car field necessitated a 15 lap semi main with the top four transferring
to the feature. Andy Reinbold took the win with Ervine, Chris Bonneau and Bugs
Norbury taking the other main event berths.
ARIZONA SPRINT CAR ASSOCIAITON
Main Event: 1. Eric Wilkins 2. Bob Ream, Jr. 3. Nathan High 4. Ricky Johnson 5.
Marty Miller 6. Ben Gregg 7. R.J. Johnson 8. Chuck Buckman 9. J.T. Imperial 10.
Andy Reinbold 11. Michael Bryan 12. Seainn Hendricson 13. Bugs Norbury 14. Jay
Ervine 15. Steve Sussex, Jr. 16. Jeff Henry 17. Brian Swinehart 18. Chris
Bonneau 19. Jesse Dunham 20. Bernie Smith
Lap leaders: laps 1-17 Gregg, laps 18-50 Wilkins
1st Heat; 1. Chuck Buckman 2. J.T. Imperial 3. Bob Ream, Jr. 4. Seainn
Hendricson 5. Andy Reinbold 6. Jay Ervine 7. Michael Bonneau 8. Dale Colgrove (8
laps, Time: 2:04.17)
2nd Heat: 1. Ben Gregg 2. Jeff Henry 3. Nathan High 4. Steve Sussex, Jr. 5. Paul
Norbury 6. Bugs Norbury 7. Scott Pasmore 8. Chris McArthur (no time)
3rd Heat: 1. R.J. Johnson 2. Brian Swinehart 3. Jesse Dunham 4. Ricky Johnson 5.
Chris Bonneau 6. Brian Hacker (DNS-Mike Boat—time: 2:01.10)
4th Heat: 1. Eric Wilkins 2. Marty Miller 3. Michael Bryan 4. Bernie Smith 5.
Mike Leslie 6. Mikey Kuemper 7. Willy Grombach (Time; 1:57.58)
Semi Main: 1. Andy Reinbold 2. Jay Ervine 3. Chris Bonneau 4. Bugs Norbury 5.
Brian Hacker 6. Willy Grombach 7. Michael Bonneau 8. Chris McArthur 9. Dale
Colegrove 10. Mikey Kuemper 11. Paul Norbury 12. Mike Leslie 13. Scott Pasmore
(15 laps, Time 6:37.38)
Young Guns Trophy Dash: 1. Mikey Kuemper 2. Chris Bonneau 3. Michael Bonneau 4.
Michael Bryan 5. J.T. Imperial (5 laps, Time: 1:20.04)
Trophy Dash: 1. Eric Wilkins 2. Ricky Johnson 3. Bernie Smith 4. Steve Sussex,
Jr. (4 laps, Time: 1:03.32)
UNOFFICIAL ASCA POINTS
1. Bob Ream, Jr. 1982
2. Eric Wilkins 1761
3. R. J. Johnson 1532
4. Ricky Johnson 1475
5. Chuck Buckman 1385
6. Nathan High 1224
7. Bugs Norbury 1178
8. Josh Pelkey 1146
9. Marty Miller 1102
10. Bernie Smith 1077