Willie Croft won Saturday night’s Chris & Brian Faria Memorial feature race in Tulare, but it was Rico Abreu who stole the show.
Abreu crashed Friday night in a race won by Tulare native Matt Crafton. And he crashed again Saturday night.
But his spectacular charge through the field on the Thunderbowl third-mile clay oval, only to flip his sprint car while trying to make a daring pass for the lead, led many to give the Napa Valley driver a standing ovation as he walked to the pits.
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With Abreu sidelined on lap 21, Roseville’s Croft went on to score his first King of the West series win at Thunderbowl in the 30-lap main event. Colby Copeland of Roseville scored his second runner-up finish of the weekend (he was behind winner Cory Eliason of Kingsburg on Friday night in Hanford) and Shane Golobic of Fremont was third.
Bud Kaeding of Campbell in the Oakhurst-based Williams Motorsports car was fourth, and Kyle Hirst of Paradise in the Easton-based Tarlton Racing car was sixth.
DJ Netto of Hanford was seventh, Eliason (after losing his brakes early in the race) was eighth, Mitchell Faccinto of Hanford 10th, Dominic Scelzi of Fresno 11th, Craig Stidham of Fresno 19th, Scott Parker of Coarsegold 22nd after crashing and Geoffrey Strole of Laton 23rd.
In other Faria Memorial features, Austin Liggett of Tracy checked out on the 17-car U.S. Auto Club West Coast 360 wingless sprint car field, leading all 30 laps without much challenge. Richard Vander Weerd of Visalia had the best passing job, going from 14th starting to finish sixth. Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton, whose brothers are honored in the race at the track run by the Faria family, was eighth, Jace Vander Weerd 14th and Landon Hurst of Riverdale 15th.
Blake Robertson of Hanford was clearly the class of the Western RaceSavers sprint car field in a race shortened to 12 laps because of curfew. Matt DeMartini of Oakley was second, Albert Pombo of Fresno third, Mathew Moles of Fresno fourth and Zane Blanchard of Hanford fifth.
The All Star Modified Tour 25-lap feature had the most exciting finish, with Troy Foulger of Martinez making a pass on the final frontstretch to beat Dwayne Cleveland of Chico. Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas was in command until a mechanical failure sidelined him.
Keller Auto Speedway – Friday night in Hanford, Eliason started 16th and made a steady rise through the field, passing Copeland on lap 25 en route to victory in the 30-lap King of Kings 360 feature.
Giovanni Scelzi, Dominic’s younger brother, started on the pole and led the first half of the race before yielding to Copeland.
Stidham was third, Faccinto fourth, Netto fifth and Scelzi sixth. Steven Tiner of Rio Linda, who won the first two races of the Hanford season, was seventh.
Other feature winners were Kellen Chadwick (Modifieds) and Austin Frye (Sport Mods).
Et Cetera – Dominic Scelzi and Eliason both confirmed they’re heading to the Midwest where they’ll join Carson Macedo of Lemoore campaigning in various series. Scelzi said his team is headed out after the May 21 King of the West race in Stockton. Both Scelzi and Eliason plan a schedule that will include the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, sprint car racing’s Super Bowl.
▪ Tarlton Racing had a busy weekend: Besides Hirst at Tulare, the team fielded cars for Cole Macedo (Carson’s younger brother), who was 10th at Hanford; and team leader Tommy Tarlton, who finished third Friday at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, where he is a two-time season champion.
Keller Auto Speedway
Friday’s main events
▪ King of Kings 360s (30 laps): Cory Eliason, Colby Copeland, Craig Stidham, Mitchell Faccinto, DJ Netto, Giovanni Scelzi, Steven Tiner, Heith Duinkerken, Jace Vander Weerd, Cole Macedo.
▪ Modifieds (20 laps): Kellen Chadwick, Ethan Dotson, Cody Laney, Paul Stone, Jeff Streeter.
▪ Sport Mods (20 laps): Austin Frye, Nick Spainhoward, Brendon Frye.
Chris & Brian Faria Memorial
Saturday’s main events
▪ King of the West (30 laps): Willie Croft, Colby Copeland, Shane Golobic, Bud Kaeding, Jonathan Allard, Kyle Hirst, DJ Netto, Cory Eliason, Brent Kaeding, Mitchell Faccinto, Dominic Scelzi, Bobby McMahan, Justyn Cox, Jarrett Soares, Sean Watts, Cori Andrews, Rico Abreu, Jason Statler, Craig Stidham, Justin Sanders, Tyler Walker, Scott Parker, Geoffrey Strole.
▪ USAC West Coast 360s (30 laps): Austin Liggett, Trey Marcham, Brody Roa, Ryan Timmons, D.J. Johnson, Richard Vander Weerd, Tristan Guardino, Danny Faria Jr., Kyle Smith, Ricky Kirkbride.
▪ Western RaceSaver sprints (12 laps): Blake Robertson, Matt DeMartini, Albert Pombo, Mathew Moles, Zane Blanchard.
▪ All-Star Modified Tour (25 laps): Troy Foulger, Dwayne Cleveland.