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By: Elijah Jones
CHICO, CA (3-3-17) - The 2017 race season at the Silver Dollar Speedway kicked off last night with the opening night of the Mini Gold Cup. Three divisions signed into the pit area for competition; 410 Sprint Cars, Sport Modifieds, and Dwarf Cars. The dwarf car field had the largest draw of competitors as 41 drivers signed into the pit area on night one.
Dwarf Car drivers from 26 different cities in 3 different states packed into the pit area to kick off the racing season. One of the coolest parts of having the dwarf car teams in the pit area is that all of the drivers and teams pit together. They don't disperse throughout the pit area, it is like one big family out there and at any given time before or after the races you will see the competitors laughing and talking among each other.
With the full field of cars for the nights event the field was split into four individual heat races with the lineups determined by pill draw. The top five finishers in each heat race would transfer directly to the Main Event. While the rest would fall into the B-Main Event where they would have one last shot to move into the feature.
The Heat Races were action packed and we didn't see a caution until the fourth heat race. Heat Race #1 was claimed by Galt, CA driver Ryan Winter in the Winter Racing #4N. Ryan got the lead early and was able to drive away to pick up the victory. Heat Race #2 saw Central Point, OR driver Chad Cardoza in the Rosson Racing #71S hold off hard charges from Kevin Bender and Jake VanOrtwick to pick up the win. Reno, NV driver Joe Frock piloted the Damron Racing #16D to victory in Heat Race #3, holding off a hard charging Matt Sargent. The fourth and final Heat Race saw San Jose, CA driver Shawn Jones pilot the Taz Push Motorsports #80N to victory. Jones is always a threat to win at the Silver Dollar Speedway. In fact he swept the weekend in 2016 during the Mini Gold Cup.
Once the Heat Races were completed there were 20 cars locked into the Main Event. With 21 cars remaining they were all scheduled to start the B-Main Event. Only 17 drivers would make the call though for the B-Main. Red Bluff, CA driver Josh King picked up the B-Main win. King was followed by Medford's Brock Peters in the #2S in second. The #2K of Jimmy Brinster and the #25N of Johnny Reeves finished third and fourth in a photo finish that saw Brinster get the edge by just .001 seconds. Those four drivers punched their tickets to the Main Event while the remaining drivers would have to call it a night early.
The A-Main Event saw Jake VanOrtwick line up alongside Ryan Martinez on the front row. On the initial start it was the #9K of Martinez who got the advantage in turns one and two. Martinez took that advantage down the back straight and into turn three before spinning to a stop in front of the field. Miraculously everyone was able to miss his spinning machine and he was able to restart at the rear of the field. A complete restart ensued with Danny Wagner in the #11D now moving up to fill the vacant spot left by Martinez outside the front row. On the restart it was Scappoose, OR driver Jake Vanortwick who would take the advantage. Getting into turn three on the opening lap though proved to be difficult for him as well as he too nearly spun in front of the field. At the line it was San Jose driver Matt Sargent in the Damron Racing #25X who would lead the first lap. Sargent would not look back from there as he lead every lap en route to the victory. It wasn't easy for him though as he had to hold off the #4N of Ryan Winter and the #80N of Shawn Jones for the duration of the 20 lap Main Event. Winter followed every move that Sargent made around the inside of the racetrack. If Sargent were to make a mistake Winter was there to pounce. The mistake was never made though and Winter had to settle for a second place finish. Shawn Jones was fun to watch as he put the car up on the high scary side of the race track each and every lap. He was able to edge his way into the battle for the lead on multiple occasions but in the end just couldn't keep his momentum up well enough to make the passes he needed. After starting on the Pole for the Main Event, Jake Vanortwick fell back to the fourth position where he would run for much of the race after nearly spinning on the opening lap. The fifth place finisher was fun to watch as he put on the Hard Charge of the evening. After starting in the 24th position Rio Linda, CA driver Johnny Reeves drove the #25N ahead 19 positions to finish in the 5th spot. Reeves was one of the drivers who had to come out of the B-Main Event, and he made the most of the opportunity to start the Main Event.
When speaking with Matt Sargent post race he lamented how great it was to see so many cars in the pit area, and even more so how great it was to come out on top of the competition.
"It's a great feeling to start the season off with a victory, hopefully the weather holds off tomorrow so we can keep the momentum rolling." stated Sargent.Tonight is scheduled to be Night Two of the Mini Gold Cup featuring the King of the West/NARC Sprint Car Series, the West Coast Sport Mod Tour, and the Dwarf Cars. The front gate is scheduled to open at 5:00pm with racing set to start at 6:30pm. For ticket information and directions to the speedway please visit www.silverdollarspeedway.com.