A couple of national mini-sprint racing champions from Fresno started their 2017 seasons well.
Jake Hagopian finished sixth in the feature main event of the 32nd annual Tulsa (Okla.) Shootout on New Year’s night, capping a busy day of racing. And 11-year-old Caeden Steele of Fresno won the Junior Sprints feature at the same event.
The five-day Shootout had a record 1,249 entries among 615 drivers in nine classes, making it the biggest racing event in the country. It’s contested on a quarter-mile clay oval inside the River Spirit Expo Center, where the Chili Bowl nationals for full midgets will be contested Jan. 10-14. Shootout drivers compete in heat races over the week, earning points that seed them for qualifying main events leading up to Sunday’s A main events.
Steele, the 2016 U.S. Auto Club Junior Micro Sprint national champion, started outside Garth Kasiner of Riverdale in the 20-lap Shootout Junior Sprint feature. Kasiner finished second. The 20-car field also featured Hanford’s Eli Bookout (sixth), Jade Avedisian of Fresno (13th) and Reilee Phillips of Fresno (17th).
Hagopian, the USAC Super 600 Micro Sprint champion, had one of the best passing efforts in the 55-lap Winged Outlaw main event after starting 20th in the 24-car field. KJ Snow of Kingsburg was 11th after starting 23rd. Cory Eliason of Kingsburg was racing for third late in the race when he flipped, and he finished 16th. Tucker Worth of Coalinga was 19th and Michael Faccinto of Hanford 20th.
Worth was 17th and Hagopian 21st in Non-Wing Outlaw.
Eliason was fifth in Stock Non-Wing. Justyne Hamblin of Hanford was 17th, Koen Shaw of Fresno 21st and Hagopian 24th.
Eliason was fourth in Winged A Class. Cody Christensen of Fowler was 11th, Worth 12th, Shaw 21st and Hagopian 24th.
Kasiner was second in Restricted A. Also in that 24-car field were Katey Syra of Corcoran (sixth after earning the pole) and Steele (21st).
Et cetera – Three Valley sprint car drivers have rides in Australia. Dominic Scelzi of Fresno placed third in the USA vs. Western Australia Speedweek series, with a best feature finish of third. Carson Macedo of Lemoore, competing for the second straight year, was scheduled to start his racing season Down Under on New Year’s Eve, but the race was rained out. And Eliason is headed to Australia soon. … Catching up on 2016 action, sprint car driver DJ Netto of Hanford won the Copper Classic in Arizona on Thanksgiving weekend.