PETALUMA, Calif. (September 11) - Petaluma Speedway wrapped up its championship points racing season in three of its seven All-Pro Racing Series divisions Saturday night with Jeff Decker capturing the Late Model division, John Peters topping the Dwarf Cars, and Petaluma native Michael Drew winning in the Mini Stocks. The winged 360 Sprint Cars and the Wingless Sprints will conclude next week and the Super Stocks finish on September 25.
The veteran Decker, who has won seven career driving titles including his first at Petaluma Speedway, opened the season with four straight victories and barely slowed down all year finishing all 11 points races in fourth place or better and topping the division with six wins. "Winning the track championship was our goal all season, that's why we came up here. Besides, I've always wanted a Jimmy Jacket," said the Morgan Hill driver, referring to the championship jacket awarded to the division winners at the Speedway's annual awards banquet.
As dominating as Decker has been all season, including 10 top-three finishes, he wasn't the hottest Late Model driver over the past three races, that honor belonged to 2009 division champ John Silva of Fremont, who struggled at the beginning of the season before finding the right setup and finishing with three straight victories. With the Speedway's 31st annual M. Maselli & Sons Late Model Classic scheduled for next week, and its $2000-to-win top prize expected to lure the best Late Model drivers from throughout California both Decker, who's won the event the past two years, and Silva, who's won it a record four times, will be among the favorites to win.
In Saturday's All-Pro Series finale Silva came up from the second row and led the final 22 laps of the 25-lap race to notch his 35th career win at Petaluma. Decker was second and Anthony Restad, who finished second to Decker in the points standings, was third.
"We've got to do it one more time," said Silva, while discussing his late season hot streak leading up to the M. Maselli Classic. In qualifying, rookie driver Dean DeVolder broke a five-year-old record held by Larry Damitz when he clocked a 14.422, breaking the old record of 14.646 seconds. DeVolder crashed on Lap 2 in the feature and didn't complete the race. Rounding out the finish behind the top three were fourth place finisher Richard Papenhausen, Nick Perivolaris, Rick Shafer, Paul Guglielmoni, Rod Arnold, Steve Johnson, Randy Shafer, and Matt Michelli.
Dwarf Car champion Peters, who won his first championship in 2007, had the title clinched before the race started. Consistency and dependability were his strongest allies in a season that included two victories and eight top-threes in 13 races. On Saturday, the Santa Rosa driver finished third behind a pair of Los Gatos drivers, winner Robert Mesloh and runner-up John Wear in the 18-car, 20-lap feature.
In the 50-year history of Petaluma Speedway an uncounted number of second generation drivers have followed their parents or grandparents into racing with a much smaller number winning championships. The list of families who've won more than one track championship is a short one but includes Gary and Alissa Geving, Michael Paul Sr. and Michel Paul Jr., Brandon and Justin Mattos, Art and Adam McCarthy, Dave and Brian Knuutti, and Larry and Kenny Drew. And now with 20-year-old Michael Drew capturing the 2010 Mini Stock championship the Drew family of Petaluma becomes the first ever to have three champion drivers.
Larry Drew, the father of Kenny and Michael, earned his first championship in 1976 in the old Street Stock division. After a three-decade layoff he returned to racing and captured the Mini Stock crown in 2008 and was followed in 2009 by Kenny Drew's title. This season, Michael Drew, after a season long battle with Keith Benson, put his family in the record books with their third championship. When asked to describe his feelings about the triumphant moment Michael Drew replied, "On a scale of one to ten--500!" He then thanked his sponsors anycal.com, Larry Drew Backhoe Service, and Drew Dairy for their support.
Although he finished just short of winning the track title Benson went out a winner after overcoming major problems in his heat race that required a quick trip home to get spare parts and a frantic repair. In the feature Benson took the lead from Drew after three laps and held on the rest of the way to win for the fifth time in 12 tries. Drew, who finished with six victories this season, was second and Kimberly Hartman was third.
In the Super Stocks, Steve Dempsey led wire-to-wire to win his division-high fifth feature, but with points leader Steve Studebaker finishing second, it would take a major breakdown by Studebaker, who leads Dempsey by 20 points heading into the final race, to fail to win his first track title since 1986.
The division looked to be heading into a final-race showdown between Studebaker, second-ranked Woody Woodward, and Dempsey but Woodward, who finished fourth on Saturday, was disqualified following a post-race tech inspection, and fell from contention. Rounding out the official finish were third place Kenny Drew, followed by Shawn McCoy, Rich Levacque, David Tiesso, Anthony Matthias, David Spriggs, and Michelle Byron.
Results for September 11
Fast time--Dean DeVolder 14.422 NTR.
Heat 1--DeVolder; Jeff Decker; Michael Paul Sr.; Nick Perivolaris; Richard Papenhausen; Paul Guglielmoni; Dennis Souza.
Heat 2--John Silva; Rod Arnold; Randy Shafer; Anthony Restad; Rick Shafer; Matt Michelli; Steve Johnson.
Dash--Decker; Arnold; Silva; DeVolder.
Main--Silva; Decker; Restad; Papenhausen; Perivolaris; Rick Shafer; Guglielmoni; Arnold; Johnson; Randy Shafer; Michelli; Paul; Souza; DeVolder.
Heat 1--Steve Dempsey; Kenny Drew; Shawn McCoy; Anthony Matthias; Terry Van DeHoven; Paul Hanley; Woody Woodward DQ.
Heat 2--Steve Studebaker; David Spriggs; Michelle Byron; Rich Levacque; David Tiesso.
Main--Dempsey; Studebaker; Drew; McCoy; Levacque; Tiesso; Matthias; Spriggs; Byron; Hanley; Van DeHoven; Woodward DQ.
Fast time--John Peters 17.208.
Heat 1--Peters; Robert Mesloh; Shawn Jones; Scooter Gomes; Dan Zugar; Carroll Mendenhall.
Heat 2--Eric Weisler; John Gomes; AJ Salido; Marty Weisler; Richard Klinetobe; John Deatherage.
Heat 3--John Wear; Mark Ramirez; Sonny Calkins; Mike Mangini; Tommy Knig; Matt Hauff.
Dash--Mesloh; Wear; J. Gomes; Peters; E. Weisler; Ramirez.
Main--Mesloh; Wear; Peters; Jones; Ramirez; Mendenhall; E. Weisler; Zugar; Mangini; Calkins; S. Gomes; J. Gomes; Hauff; Klinetobe; King; Deatherage; Salido; M. Weisler.
Heat 1--Keith Benson; Michael Drew; Kimberly Hartman; John Veeninga; Annie Stahr; Josh Williams.
Main--Benson; Drew; Hartman; Veeninga; Stahr.