Opening Night 4/13/19
4/13/19 - PETALUMA SPEEDWAY – Cabinets Plus Night
Petaluma Speedway’s 68th season of operations opened to cool temps and a track which bit back. Four divisions attacked the Petaluma surface this night, the PitStopUSA Wingless Sprint Cars, Lumberjack’s Restaurant Super Stocks, McLea’s Tire and Automotive IMCA Dirt Modifieds and Santa Rosa Auto Body 600s.
The marquee name for the night, the PitStopUSA Wingless Sprints, had a healthy 19 cars sign into the pits for Round 1 of their season series. Qualifying would be topped by 3-time Winged 360 Champion Bradley Terrell at 15.150 while heat races were won by Terrell, reigning and defending track champion Shayna Sylvia and Dennis Furia, Jr. 18 of the 19 cars qualified made it to the main event after Tony Bernard blew a motor early in the night. When flagman Scott Erwin’s green flag fell, pole sitter Furia immediately hit the point, albeit for a short time as soon after completing lap 1, a shot out of a cannon Bradley Terrell blasted into the lead down the backstretch. Terrell, in the Ongaro and Sons/Matteri Electric #11 would fly off into the sunset, never challenged again by anyone as the race went green to checkered, winning in the end by 7.5 seconds over 7th starting Shayna Sylvia, who patiently worked her way through traffic into the first runner-up spot. Battles for the minor placings were hot and heavy between Sylvia, Boy Moniz from Waienae, HI and Furia, Jr. Moniz was exciting all night long in the Bad Boy Racing #22 and ran the tricky surface like a veteran eventually settling for third place. Pole sitter Furia finished a lifetime best 4th at the checkers. Rounding out the top 5 was ageless Sparky Howard, coming back after a 1 year hiatus.
The Santa Rosa Auto Body 600s had three heat races, with Angel Cappas, Nick Robfogel and Kyle Grissom victorious. The feature saw Nick Robfogel establish superiority over the shrunken 10 car field as early night competitors Jack Clark, Rick Alonso, Jeromie Charon, Victor Guerra and Cody Gray all either suffered night ending damage or mechanical issues prior. Early and often, Robfogel ripped the Petaluma 3/8ths mile to shreds while building up a huge and insurmountable lead over the majority of the 20 lap distance. Robfogel would be in cruise control until climbing a right rear of a lapped competitor and doing a frightening series of front stretch wall-aided spins, bringing a halt to the proceedings. With Robfogel out of competition with damage to his 3r mount, the race was turned over for the final 6 laps to Kyle Grissom, Brian Slubik and Justin Adiego, who had fought back from an early jump start penalty and was back in podium finish territory in third. The final furious laps saw Slubik show Grissom a wheel a time or two in turns 1 and 2, but Grissom never wavered while Adiego couldn’t muster the needed speed for a pass due to an early night flip knocking the rear end out of alignment. One final surge from Slubik coming to the checkers fell short and Kyle Grissom would win his first ever Petaluma Speedway Main Event over the hard charging Slubik, and Adiego. Returning Jamie Faulkner would finish 4th and rookie Sam Borland would finish in the 5th spot.
Mitch Machado has won literally hundreds of Super Stock races in his career. His name is synonymous with the division around the state of California. Never before has he felt this way behind the wheel of a racecar. Mitch is fighting the loss of his beloved wife Jane, and tonight, he made his return to the speedway where he celebrated so many victories with her by his side. “It’s gonna be different tonight looking into the stands and she’s not there.” Machado said, pausing to collect himself while in conversation earlier in the night, trying to balance the scales in his mind between loss and carrying on alone. He’s a racer, so that’s what he does, but he’s also a husband, father, mentor and friend to many and on this night, the stage was all Mitch Machado’s.
The Super Stock division mixed some old with new drivers and, in all, 15 cars signed in ready to start their points season. Heat races were won by Tim O’Hara and Machado. The two heat race winners started in the front row of the main event after the inversion draw. A couple of bad starts got the Super Stock main event off to an inauspicious beginning, eventually needing to go to a single file formation to get proceedings underway. O’Hara led for the first lap, until Machado took advantage of a low line pass off of turn 4 for the lead on lap 2. Yellows would be the norm this night as multiple wrecks and spins by competitors allowed those staying out of trouble to make up massive positions on the track, including multiple time champion, Steve Studebaker. As Machado led, Studebaker methodically cut into the loose on the lead Machado’s cushion and ended up on his rear bumper with about 5 laps to go. As another yellow slowed proceedings, these two had emerged as the dominant Supers of the night and while Studebaker could stay with Machado, he never could muster a serious threat for victory. Machado would take the emotional win over Steve Studebaker, Gary Adams, Manny Avila and Austin Ohlinger.
The McLea’s Tire and Automotive Dirt Modifieds proved once again the steadfast rule of Petaluma Speedway: You NEVER leave until the checkers fall. Time and time again, we have proven this statement, and tonight was no different. Early on, the track gave notice that it was biting back. Heat races were won by Auburn’s Ray Trimble and Petaluma’s Michael Paul, Jr. Narrow tires and heavy cars tend to tear up a soft track, and when the 15 car field took green, immediately the speedway put the field on notice, with ruts forming in the racing line in both turns. More cautions would plague this race, although when we were green, the racing was top notch. Defending Champion Oreste Gonnella showed the way early on, until a mistake on entry of turn 3 brought him to a stop, turning the lead over to Michael Paul, Jr, who would lead the majority of the race. While the track’s teeth got bigger, Paul was having problems finding a smooth line through turns 1 and 2 allowing the field to fall in line behind him. Tim Yaeger closed from outside row 3 to mount a serious charge for the lead about halfway through the race along with heat winner Trimble from P4. While Paul showed the way through the rough surface, battles raged on between Trimble and Yaeger with Gonnella suddenly spinning in turn 3 again, ending his night. Trimble would fall out of competition when his car lost power in turns 1 and 2 shortly thereafter. As the laps waned, a final yellow fell on lap 20. Paul would lead another circuit until he entered turns 1 and 2 and the car slid to a stop. Yaeger, running 2nd, spun to avoid Paul and both competitors would bring out our final yellow flag, turning over the lead to Anthony Slaney who started 8th and some guy named Mitch Machado, who had never won a Dirt Mod race suddenly looking history in the eye and racing with a heavy heart but with an angel on his shoulder. The final green saw Slaney dart away on the restart, but Slaney got into turns 3 and 4 a little high, opening the door for Rohnert Park’s Machado to dive underneath him for the lead. For the final three laps, Slaney tried to close the gap, but this night will show Mitch Machado had something extra with him all night long, setting Petaluma Speedway history along the way as the first person to ever win both a Super Stock Main Event and Dirt Modified Main Event in the same night. In the Victory Lane interview, Machado said through a hesitating voice, “I don’t know who I am without her. She’s everywhere I look.” while holding back tears. Machado beat 2nd place Anthony Slaney to the line, followed by Merced’s Tim Cecil, Fairfield’s Terry Kaiser and Paul. Sometimes things don’t make sense as to why this night so many things went right for Machado, but sometimes it’s probably better to just enjoy the show.
We continue with Season 68 next Saturday night, with the PitStopUSA Winged 360s and Wingless Sprint Cars, the Redwood Dwarf Car Association Dwarf Cars and the Jake’s Performance Hobbies Mini Stocks.
See you there!
Article Credit: Ron Lingron