Luckily for eventual winner Richard Pappenhausen of Chico, the carnage occurred behind him. The red flag came out, leaving him sitting safely alone on the fourth turn.
An extended stoppage of racing was needed to clear the track of seven cars sandwiched together and John Silva’s car on top of Bobby Hogge IV’s. Top runners Silva and Clay Daly, of Watsonville, were unable to continue.
Pappenhausen, who has scored two DIRTcar Late Model major events in two weeks, was thankful his car was fast. He surged to the top spot after eight laps and never looked back.
“When I took the lead I knew I had a really fast car tonight,” Pappenhausen said after the race. “If anyone was going to get by me, they would need a miracle.”
The outside of the track – the highest groove – is sometimes the fastest. Pappenhausen rode higher than the competition. “Everyone else was staying low; we were rocking around the top,” he said. “We set the car up right, and it paid off.”
For Hogge IV, the nightmare began in heat laps. He blew an engine but had a spare handy. Drivers jumped in to swap engines in time to qualify for the modified feature. His late model was gaining momentum on Pappenhausen in the main event, but the wreck dashed his hopes of winning.
When the pile was separated, Hogge fired up his severly damaged car and finished the race, chasing Anthony Restad of Santa Rosa to take third.
Brian Cass, who hails from Livermore, raced Nick DeCarlo for the lead for most of the DIRTcar West modified half of the Budweiser Fall Classic. Cass’s plain car, devoid of a single sponsor, carried a simple message of love from 3-month-old daughter Blake. The win was his biggest since he started racing in 1996.
“This is awesome – to win a race with my wife, family, friends and neighbors in the stands,” he said in victory lane. “Luck was everything.”
Cass’ smooth racing style and a clean-driving dancing partner made all the difference. Second-place DeCarlo raced Cass hard through three restarts. “It was a good battle,” Cass said. “Nick (DeCarlo) was really good. He drove clean. We’ve raced each other clean all season, so I felt confident with him beside me.”
The two top runners were in fast company, as third place Pappenhausen waged battle with Hogge IV and Scott Busby. Hogge IV, running with his spare engine, was able to bring home fourth.
Sunday evening the Budweiser Fall Classic continues at Merced Speedway. “Merced is smaller,” Pappenhausen said. “It will be whole different ballgame on Sunday night.”
– Contributed by Mike Adaskaveg