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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | MOTOR SPORTS

Kierce Out to Cement Standing on Asphalt

March 29, 2000|DARIN ESPER

Kevin Kierce of Reseda is following the lead of many racers by making the transition to pavement racing from dirt-track racing.

Racing fans usually prefer one or the other with no middle ground, but many successful pavement drivers got their start on muddy clay.

NASCAR standouts Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart parlayed successful dirt-track careers into success on the pavement, following the path set by the likes of A.J. Foyt and Al and Bobby Unser.

Kierce, who has raced sprint cars in the dirt since 1985, will make his third appearance on pavement Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway when the United States Auto Club Western Sprint Car series makes the first of three stops at the half-mile oval.

Kierce has adjusted quickly to asphalt.

Kierce, who won the track championship at Ventura Raceway in 1999, finished 17th Saturday night at Madera after his car's driveline broke while he was in third place.

"I was trying to make the car do what I wanted it to do rather than letting the car tell me how it wanted to be driven," Kierce said. "It took me a minute to settle down.

"Early in the first heat race, I was held up by another car, and it kind of forced me to slow down. Once I did, I could see the big difference."

Sunday at Stockton, Kierce set a track record by qualifying in 12.896 seconds, but Burny Lamar broke the mark by .004 seconds on the final qualification attempt before the race. Kierce's fifth-place finish placed him ninth in the points standings.

"You can throw a dirt car around and make it do what you want it to do," said Kierce. "You have to treat a pavement car like the most pristine princess you ever met."

Kierce has not abandoned the dirt. He plans to compete at Ventura in a borrowed car when the USAC series has a weekend off.

And he hopes to spend plenty of time watching his 8-year-old son, Justin, race a second season in quarter-midgets after sitting out last year to compete in bicycle motocross.

Justin Kierce won eight main events at Pomona in 1998 after beginning his career with a second-place finish in the Copper Classic at Phoenix.

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Sean Woodside of Saugus, who won the 1999 NASCAR Winston West Series championship but stepped down to the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour after losing his ride with Bill McAnally's team, has formed a team and acquired two Winston West chassis with plans to run a limited schedule.

Donna Walker of Pasadena is backing Woodside and her son, Mike Walker, in the Winston West and in the super late model class at Irwindale.

The NASCAR Craftsman truck that Woodside drove for Bob and Shelly Brevak the last two weeks carried the Team Walker Motorsports banner, and Woodside said Donna Walker arranged for ESPN to mount an in-truck camera during Sunday's Dodge California 250 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield.

McAnally helped Woodside acquire the chassis from Andy Houston.

Team Walker is renting space from Ray Claridge, who gave Woodside his first Winston West driving job in 1997. The new team has hired Jeff Schraeder, who was Woodside's Winston West crew chief in 1997 and '98 under Claridge, to perform the same duties.

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Woodside holds an impressive track record at Mesa Marin Raceway.

He has won 37 times on the half-mile oval, including three NASCAR Winston West Series races and the FoodsCo 100 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series race Friday.

Brendan Gaughan of Las Vegas, who replaced Woodside as driver for McAnally, followed Woodside during the first part of Sunday's race.

Gaughan, who won the Coors 200 Winston West race Saturday at Mesa Marin, gave Woodside credit for his success.

"Sean helped me a ton," said Gaughan after finishing 13th Sunday. "I talked to him Friday and he kept reminding me about turns one and two.

"He said to run that low line."

Gaughan eventually passed Woodside by taking the outside path on the 18-degree banking.

"I knew I couldn't pass him low," said Gaughan. "I had to go high.

"I knew we were faster than he was, but I had to have patience.

"He was cool about it, he let me through and I waved to him."

Said Woodside: "I'm not a bitter guy. Money is money, and Brendan's a nice guy."

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Ventura Raceway will feature sprint cars, street stocks, pony stocks and International Motor Contest Assn. modifieds Saturday beginning at 7 p.m.

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