WS: FF: El Cajon race summary

Scott Hansen hits Cajon trifecta EL CAJON, CA (10/12/02). On the Cajon Speedway oval where Scott Hansen picked up his first USAC Western States midget car main event victory, the open wheeled veteran earned his initial USAC Western States sprint ...

WS: FF: El Cajon race summary

Scott Hansen hits Cajon trifecta

EL CAJON, CA (10/12/02). On the Cajon Speedway oval where Scott Hansen picked up his first USAC Western States midget car main event victory, the open wheeled veteran earned his initial USAC Western States sprint car feature win Saturday night.

Hansen bested Brian McClish by about 10-car lengths in the 50-lapper on the 3/8 mile paved oval. The event ran non-stop and 17 of the 18 starters took the checkered flag. Hansen was driving his L&S Tool Engineering -- H.P. Enterprises -- Sanders Chevrolet powered Beast. Closing quickly on the leading duo in the last stages of the contest was Tony Hunt. Bobby McMahon was fourth and Rick Hendrix was fifth. The last two cars on the lead lap belonged to point leader Chad Nichols and Mike Aaby Jr., who won his first USAC sprint car go at Cajon last March in his first visit to the track.

Hansen is the only driver to be triumphant in a USAC three quarter midget, USAC midget, and a USAC sprint car main event at Cajon. He scored in the TQ' s back in 1989 before picking off his first midget win in 1997.

In a companion event, JJ Ercse paced the Ford Focus field in their 20-lap contest. Dana Moore earned her first legend car trophy in their 25-lap event. Michael Thomas prevailed in the 40-lap West Coast Pro Truck race.

McClish gained the early advantage in the sprint car feature. From the pole he outgunned Nichols to pace the opening round. Hansen was third and mowed down Nichols on lap 3. A lap later he was out front to stay. By the 15th circuit, Hansen's lead had expanded to half a straightaway; five laps later he was lapping slower cars in earnest. That is when McClish started reeling Hansen back in. By lap 30, the margin had shrunk to about three car lengths. That separation remained the same until lap 44 when they came up to lap Tony Iacobitti. McClish was right on Hansen's bumper at this point. As Hansen worked his way past the slower car, his victory was cemented when McClish got blocked in the high lane.

"The car got a little tight there a few times," Hansen told the 1578 fans on hand. "My car wasn't quite as good as it was in the heat race. It got a little tight about halfway through (the feature). I was just making sure I got a good run off the turn so I was just coasting into the turn so it wouldn't push."

"This is the best I've run in qualifying in awhile," Hansen noted. He was the third quick timer behind Hunt and Hendrix. "I've had a hard time qualifying. We got a good starting position in the heat race."

Turning his attention to McClish, who had it a race, Hansen observed, "In the beginning I was hearing six, eight, ten car lengths (on the radio). As we got into traffic as the race went on, the car got tighter. I was hearing two's and three's so it kinda bothered me. Traffic was a little difficult. A couple of guys were a little difficult to get by. But for the most part it was all right. There were only a couple of close calls."

The night for the Ford Focus midgets turned into a contest between JJ Ercse and Garrett Hansen. The duo diced back and forth in their heat race before Hansen came out on top. But in the more important main event, Hansen faltered in the final turn, slipping from second to fifth. Tyler Brown led early until Ercse, who started on the pole, passed him on lap 4. Following the only slowdown of this race on lap 14, Hansen moved around Ercse into the lead. But Ercse wasn't' ready to give up and moved low on the track to try to regain the number one spot. He was back in front on lap 19 with a low pass in turns three and four. Hansen came back strong on the final round, but charged into turn three way too hard. His car developed a bad push, probably driver induced. This allowed Ercse to take an easy win and also allowing Darren Hagen, Todd Hunsaker, and fast timer Wayne McCormick to grab second through fourth.

Both the sprint cars and the Ford Focus midgets eclipsed their one-lap qualifying standards. Hunt led the assault on Jeff Gardner's single lap mark of :15.455 set last March. Hunt clicked off a lap of :15.334. Others breaking the old record were Hendrix and Scott Hansen. In the Ford Focus midgets, McCormick smashed Ercse's old mark of :16.732 with a lap of :16.358. Garrett Hansen, Todd Hunsaker, and Jon Wilcox also all turned laps quicker than the previous standard.

Moore's victory in the 25-lap legend contest came by five lengths over Brent Jones. Jones paced the field for the opening 20 rounds with Moore pressuring him all the way. On lap 20, Moore finally slipped underneath the leader in turn four and gained the advantage in turn one a half a lap later. Fast qualifier Art Nevill was third ahead of John Isabella and Bill Everett. Following the race Isabella's car failed inspection and he was disqualified.

In the West Coast Pro Trucks, Thomas and Aaron Staudinger had a terrific side-by-side battle for the final seven rounds of their race. Staudinger broke loose just a bit in turn three on the last lap and Thomas was able to finally gain a clear advantage. Fast qualifier Tony Forfa III ran third ahead of Michael May and David Lyon. The race had a heads-up start. During the first 25 laps the only action involved Randy Nelson, who started last after failing to post a qualifying time. Nelson moved steadily up through the field. On lap 26 after he elbowed his way past Mike Pennington, he was unceremoniously deposited into the crashwall at the end of the front chute; that ended his drive.

PIT NOTES: In the flag stand for the sprint cars and midgets was Brian Howard, the Southern Californian who is now the starter for the Indy 500 each year. -- The consensus of the USAC Western States sprint car drivers was that that they felt they could get their times down into the :14.80's with enough track time.


Irwindale report 2002-10-05

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