2017 Stories by Paul Vetter
April 14, 2017
By Paul Vetter
Friday night racing at Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park began with a season opener consisting of five division open wheel divisions on Good Friday. A good night it certainly was for feature event winners Jake Hagopian, T.J. Smith, Brooklyn Holland, Gauge Garcia and Jade Avedisian.
A new format for the events saw drivers line up for their single heat race via a pill draw. Heat race finishes and passing points then determine the feature event lineups. The time consuming qualifying process has been eliminated.
Passing was at a premium early in the evening with Super 600 heat wins going to Cole Christensen and Kevin MacIntosh. However Jake Hagopian passed several cars in his heat and thereby started on the coveted pole starting spot for the 30 lap feature event.
Hagopian jumped out to an immediate lead before Mason Daniel spun for a yellow. Hagopian again led the pack and he began the lapping process prior to the halfway mark while being pursued by Christensen, Heath Duinkerken and Raio Salmon.
Kevin McIntosh and Paul Javaux spun their way out of contention with Hagopian leading the final eight green flag laps to claim he win in a dominant run. Duinkerken , Salmon, Brooklyn Holland and Daniel rounded out the top five spots.
Non Winged 600 action saw veteran T.J. Smith and class newcomer Brody Fuson capture heat races in nonstop fashion. The 30 lap feature started off with a bang as another newcomer Keith Roush flipped in turn three.
After Fuson led the first six laps Jack Kassik also flipped unhurt in turn three. Fourth starting Smith worked Fuson on the restart to take the top spot while being chased by Ryan Delisle and Mason Daniel. A midrace yellow slowed action with the field now closed up on leader Smith.
The final half of the race was all Smith as he led Delisle, Daniel, Cody Smothermon and Fuson to the finish line. Randy Thompson flipped on the final lap but climbed out unhurt as Smith started his Plaza season off in winning style.
The track has decided to return the Stock 600 class into a class of its own. Double duty driver Brooklyn Holland won the heat race for the class and started on the pole for the 20 lap feature. Bakersfield racer Troy Morris III failed to start after heat race problems with Holland taking an immediate lead.
Breana Hernandez flipped wildly in turn four on the second circuit for a red. She was ok. Cooper Worth dropped out on the restart and Holland then led the final laps to take the win ahead of triple duty racer Mason Daniel and Anthony Verissimo.
The youngsters of the Restricted 600 class found Katey Syra and Gauge Garcia as heat race winners. Garcia, up from the Junior Sprints ranks, jumped out to an immediate lead from the pole starting spot ahead of Syra and Garth Kasiner.
Dawson Faria bobbled in the turn three apex on lap fourteen and Troy Morris III also became involved tipping his car to its side. Both drivers were ok but were done for the event. The leading duo remained unchanged the final laps.
Garcia returned to the victory circle for the first time in this class ahead of Syra, ninth starting Jake Smith, Kasiner and Conner Danell.
Eleven Junior Sprints competed and Robert Rios and Jade Avedisian took heat race victories. Drew Mowry started pole position for the 20 lap feature but failed to hold off Avedisian as the distaff racer paced the opening lap.
Up jumped the devil prior to lap two as newcomer Cash Lovenburg flipped in turn four. Jett Barnes was also out with front end damage. Avedisian maintained the lead on the restart being chased by Mowry and Reilee Phillips.
The top three remained in those spots to the finish of the event with Rios and Wyatt Bookout running in the top five of the nine finishing drivers.
Racing returns to the speedway in two weeks on April 28th. Front gates open at 5:30 with racing to commence at 7pm.