Kyle Hirst and Carson Macedo punctuated a good weekend for Easton-based Tarlton Racing on Saturday night at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway.
Hirst completed a weekend sweep of the third annual Peter Murphy Classic for King of the West winged sprint cars, the state’s premier open-wheel class.
And Macedo, the Lemoore 19-year-old back home for a break from his season racing in the Midwest, charged from 22nd to sixth in the companion U.S. Auto Club West Coast 360 Sprints wingless class.
The big winner, however, was Murphy, the Australian transplant who now lives in Clovis. Murphy suffered a severe head injury in a July 2013 crash at Antioch Speedway that ended his driving career but not his connection to sprint car racing. Now, he raises money to boost the purse for his race: Hirst earned $11,000 for his win and last place Saturday night was worth $1,000, often a good winning payday in many series. Friday’s win paid $3,000.
And it’s likely to only get better. During Saturday’s race, Tachi Palace general manager Willie Barrios, a big supporter of Valley motor sports, pledged $30,000 to next year’s purse if others combine to match his pledge.
Murphy is getting better, too. In his signature green-and-black shirt he was easy to spot running around the infield of the 1/3 -mile clay oval helping orchestrate the races. At the finish of the 30-lap King of the West main event, he ran to check on driver Jason Statler of Grass Valley who had flipped in turn 4; once it was clear Statler was OK, Murphy ran to turn 3, where Hirst had stopped his car, to be the first to congratulate the winner.
Hirst won Friday’s preliminary feature to secure a spot on the front row for Saturday’s 30-lap main event. He lost his match race with former two-time World of Outlaws champion Jason Meyers of Clovis for the pole position and slid back to third after the start.
But the driver from Paradise rallied past Bud Kaeding of Campbell in the Oakhurst-based Williams Motorsports car. And on a lap 11 restart, Hirst shot past Meyers for the lead.
From there, Hirst mastered a place on a dusty track that few others matched: The high groove. Hirst routinely planted his car’s oversized right rear tire near the wall on the corners and was never challenged as the race ran nonstop the rest of the way.
The two weekend wins (Hirst has won four straight overall) helped Hirst build his King of the West points lead as the Tarlton team chases its second straight championship. (Macedo won for Tarlton in 2015.)
Kaeding, who’s second in points, finished second followed by Meyers (in only his third start of the season), Shane Golobic of Fremont (in his third start of the season for Fresno-based Roth Motorsports), Tyler Walker of Los Angeles, DJ Netto of Hanford and Mitchell Faccinto of Hanford.
Gio Scelzi of Fresno, the 14-year-old making his King of the West debut on the weekend, was 11th one lap down. Steven Kent of Fresno was 14th, Scott Parker of Coarsegold 15th and Koen Shaw of Fresno 16th. Mechanical issues sidelined Fresno’s Craig Stidham before the start.
Ryan Bernal of Hollister spiced up the companion 30-lap USAC race before it started. Bernal looked to be the class of the field after winning Friday’s feature and easily earning the pole position for Saturday’s race.
But he made an offer that fans accepted: Post a $500 bonus and he’d drop back to 11th starting position. Fans raised $1,100 and Bernal wowed the crowd with a race to second place, unable to catch Ojai’s Troy Rutherford. (The fans still handed over the bonus in appreciation of the show.)
Bernal’s charge took the spotlight off Macedo’s run from last place (he secured the last transfer position from the B main event). Macedo, whose Midwest schedule is predominantly starts in non-wing midgets, had flipped duirng Friday’s feature but looked strong in Saturday’s main event.
Visalia’s Richard Vander Weerd rebounded from a Friday night flip to finish fifth. Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton was seventh after a sixth place Friday. Michael Faccinto of Hanford had a 10th and a seventh.
Swansons 1-2 in Indiana – Kody Swanson of Kingsburg finally got the better of his younger brother Tanner on a pavement track, winning the Rich Vogler Classic USAC Silver Crown sprint car race Thursday at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana.
On a night when, among others, Tony Stewart and Rick Mears were enshrined in the USAC Hall of Fame, Kody Swanson dominated all 100 laps on the .686-mile oval that’s just six miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Tanner had won five times in his last six starts at the track, with a close second in his other start. But he didn’t have anything for his big brother Thursday, finishing nearly 1 second behind.
Kody retook the season points lead in his chase for a third straight championship. The next race is Aug. 13 in Salem, Indiana.
Et cetera – Cory Eliason of Kingsburg posted two more top-10 finishes on the weekend as he continues to barnstorm Midwest sprint car tracks ahead of the sport’s “Super Bowl,” the 56th annual Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals.
▪ Roth Motorsports driver Joey Saldana of Indiana led the first 19 laps but faded to 11th Saturday night in the Outlaws race at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Saldana is fifth in season points.