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MOTOR RACING ROUNDUP

Preparation Pays Off for Clanton

April 07, 2002|TONY SOLORZANO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Joey Clanton knew going into Saturday's qualifying for the American Speed Assn. TireRack.com 300 at Irwindale Speedway that his biggest challenge for the pole would come from Gary St. Amant and Kevin Cywinski, two veterans of the short track series.

"We pulled a couple of all-nighters to get the car ready for today," Clanton said after posting a top qualifying time of 17.949 seconds on the half-mile track.

Clanton, from Stockbridge, Ga., had held off St. Amant and Cywinski two weeks ago to win the WJ Plemons Investments 200, the series opener in Lakeland, Fla., but with the overcast skies keeping the track cool Saturday, the qualifying times averaged just over 18 seconds.

Cywinski had drawn the sixth qualifying spot, and had set an early time of 18.008 seconds, with Clanton and St. Amant near the bottom of the draw. Clanton overtook Cywinski for the pole, but then had to wait and see if St. Amant would catch him with the final run of the day.

Before the qualifying started, the drivers had to work through two practice crashes that thinned the field of three of the 33 cars. A driver involved in the first crash, David Stremme of South Bend, Ind., was able to get his backup car through the technical inspection in time to qualify 14th.

However, on Stremme's final qualifying lap, his tires came in contact with the oil his original car dropped in the first accident and his care slid into the wall along turn 3, damaging the rear end of the car.

As the regular card opened at the track, Stremme's crew was trying to merge the damaged cars into one that could pass inspection for today's event.

Rip Michels of Mission Hills needed only 19 laps to take control of the field and win the 75-lap Jani-King Super Late Model Series feature before 3,620 fans at Irwindale.

"We a lot of bad luck running out here last year," said Michels, "but today we came out and ran as hard as we could today."

Not only did Michels win the feature race, but he also claimed the top qualifying speed and won the six-lap trophy dash.

Tony Green of Oak Hills, who won the first race of the season, was second and Ben Walker of North Hills was third.

Walker, a former NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series driver, had taken the early lead by getting a jump on Michels at the green flag. But Michels, who started third, snatched the lead on lap 19.

Walker stayed close for the next six laps, but once Michels cleared the lap traffic, his lead increased by as much as 2.5 seconds until a yellow flag on lap 49, but Michels quickly regained his lead.

In the 40-lap Vista Paint Super Stock series feature, Darren Cheek made it three in a row, holding off Julianne Seeley and Greg Crutcher. Seeley, who had been fourth entering lap 38, moved up to second when Will Cottrell and Andrew Phipps collided at the start/finish line and spun into the pit wall, knocking both out of the race. Seeley's finish tied her with USAC Three-Quarter Midget driver Randi Pankratz and Legends driver Dana Moore as the highest-finishing women at the track.

In the 35-lap Grand American Modified Series feature, Roger Carufel, Jr. went wire-to-wire to win, holding off Steve Luecht and Eddie Ernst by more than 6.5 seconds.

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Jeff Purvis won the NASCAR Busch O'Reilly 300 at Fort Worth, leading only the last six laps under caution after he took only two tires on his final pit stop and was in front when rain ended the race.

Purvis was running 10th when the caution flag came out on lap 108 after Kasey Kahne spun out of control at the entrance to pit row.

Soon after the drivers had completed their pits stops, rain began to fall again with the caution flag still flying. The race, the start of which was delayed 31/2 hours by rain, was finally called with only 116 of 200 scheduled laps completed.

When the pits opened after Kahne's spinout, dark skies were again threatening Texas Motor Speedway. Purvis' crew chief, Terry Shirley, opted to take only two tires instead of four like the rest of the front-runners.

Purvis got out the pits first for a race that never went back to green.

Jack Sprague, who had taken the lead from polesitter Jeff Green on lap 43 during another caution, finished second.

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John Force will go for his 100th career Funny Car victory today at the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals from the top qualifying position.

Force had the 109th top qualifying effort of his career and third of the season with a quarter-mile run Friday of 4.831 seconds at 315.86. Those numbers held up Saturday, and Force will face Dean Skuza in the opening round at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larry Dixon and Ron Krisher also had No. 1 positions.

Top Fuel driver Dixon claimed his third No. 1 of the season and 15th of his career when no one improved on his 4.575 at 325.37. Krisher had his fourth consecutive top qualifying effort in Pro Stock, clocking a 6.954 at 198.23.

Reigning 250cc EA Sports Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael won his sixth consecutive main event and his eighth victory of the season before 53,312 at St. Louis.

Chad Reed won his first 125cc Eastern Regional championship and extended his winning streak to eight.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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