By RICHIE MURRAY
PERRIS, CA – Following his career-best third-place finish the previous night, Brody Roa stated that, just a year and a half ago, he would’ve been laughing had you told him he was going to be on the podium at the “Oval Nationals.”
One night later, the question had to be asked. Who’s laughing now?
“I’m still laughing, just for a different reason,” Roa exclaimed. “This is, by far, the biggest one. To do it at Perris, a track I grew up at and have always wanted to win at, and to do it during ‘Oval Nationals’ weekend, even if it’s on a prelim night, it’s against all the same guys we’re running against tomorrow.”
The Garden Grove, California native led all 30 laps Friday night to capture his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature victory on night two of the Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction. In doing so, he became the first driver to break into the win column for the first time in his career during the 2017 season, the latest in the year the series has had a first-time winner emerge.
An all CRA front row held down the front row when the green flag waved for the start of the 30-lap feature in memory of Evelyn Pratt. Roa wasn’t content to bide his time and fall into line. He went on the attack, first sliding the now six-time CRA champ Damion Gardner for the advantage in turn one. Gardner quickly countered underneath Roa off turn two to retake the lead momentarily as Roa reached into his back pocket, pulled out the slingshot, and aimed his BR Performance/HD Industries – Burris Racing/Maxim/Shaver Chevy to the bottom of three before sliding back into the top spot.
By the fifth lap, Roa ran the fastest lap of the race on his way to constructing a half-straightaway lead over new second-place combatant Chad Boespflug. Roa’s lead continued to grow ever larger to three-quarters of a straightaway when, on lap 13, Logan Williams climbed the turn two wall before coming back to earth on all four wheels to bring out the race’s first caution.
From that point, Roa was in the midst of stop signs and red lights at seemingly every corner with a succession of incidents disrupting the rhythm of the race just on the other side of the halfway mark.
Stevie Sussex got upside down on lap 16, Austin Liggett found himself backward against the wall on lap 19, then ninth-running R.J. Johnson tagged the turn four wall with his right rear tire and tumbled over as Justin Grant, involved in a tight USAC National Sprint Car points race, barely escaped trouble. All drivers were uninjured.
On the restart with ten laps remaining, it became a battle between the green of Roa and the Mean Green of Boespflug. On prior restarts, Boespflug tested the waters with attempted sliders tossed at Roa to no avail as Roa kept his right foot glued to the throttle and powered away on the razor’s edge of a cushion.
“On that first restart, I got a good enough start to where Chad showed me a nose, but he could never get there,” Roa recalled. “I just kept trying to do the same thing over-and-over again. I knew our car had good forward bite and I could get down to turn one quickly. I just had to get to the center quick enough to where they couldn’t slide me.”
“I put it on the cushion getting into turn one on the restarts,” Roa continued. “I think I had my left eye closed. If a slider was coming, I wasn’t going to lift. I was going to drive around it. I didn’t want to see it coming and screw up all my momentum. I tried not to look down the whole race. I just tried to keep my eye on my line and running the cushion around it. It was tough tonight, especially at the end, when it started taking rubber, I think. It started getting a little left rear tight on the cushion. A couple times off turn four, I jumped over it and I was just waiting for it coming down into one and it never happened.”
Boespflug’s Timehop revealed that it had been one year to the day since he scored an “Oval Nationals” prelim victory. On this night, it appeared that a repeat performance could be in the cards for Boespflug if there was any slip-up that Roa endured. On the 21st lap, that slip-up occurred, but, instead, it was Boespflug who became entangled in the ensuing web of misfortune.
Roa entered turn three and bounced his right rear rubber off the concrete. As he fought to regain control atop the cush, second-running Boespflug mimicked the same slap of the wall, but the result was much more intense. Boespflug climbed the wall, nearly flipping, before coming to a rest on the track. In the resulting madness, several cars became involved as they scrambled for safety, including top-ten runners Damion Gardner, Dave Darland and Chase Stockon. Robert Ballou was miraculously able to escape to daylight between the wall and the three sprinters that formed an auto blockade.
The high line between turns three and four represented a figurative tightrope that drivers had to balance down the stretch. Navigating it required precise detail and poise to the utmost degree.
“It was about six inches of solid dirt against the K-Rail. It wasn’t very forgiving,” Roa noted. “I could drive to it and try to connect the dots. I would get in, drive it to the next point and keep the car rolling somewhat straight around it, but on the throttle enough that it wouldn’t get tight. I got the thing rolling straight down the straightaway and I knew we had good forward bite even if I drove off it, which I started doing a little bit in turn two toward the end of the race. Turning down off and just getting it rolling straight down the hill, I just gave the wall a little kiss halfway down the back straightaway to get it to stop sliding and get into three. I never saw a nose. And honestly, I wasn’t even looking for the nose. We were going to win it or wear it tonight.”
Roa wore leftover remnants of white wall dust, but was no worse for the wear as he was in a class of his own for 30-straight laps. Even Thomas, arguably the most consistently fast driver of late, couldn’t do much with Roa on the final restart. Roa was downright surgical down the stretch as he stitched this deal up on his way to what would also be the third USAC/CRA Sprint Car win of his career and first at Perris ahead of Thomas, Windom, Grant and Ballou.
Roa’s performance over the two preliminary nights locked him into a guaranteed spot in Saturday’s A-Main along with Windom, Leary, Grant, Stockon and Thomas. Though there was a big cause for celebration in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning, Roa had plans to get some rest and be fresh for the following day with his mind set on the biggest prize – Saturday night’s $25,000-to-win finale.
“It’s going to be tough, but you have to get some sleep,” Roa acknowledges. “But this isn’t like a Saturday night win at a normal show. You have to put your head back down 14 hours from now and get after it again. We’ll get up in the morning, service the car and go through it. It does take a little bit of stress off tomorrow being locked in. It’s a big weekend. The best of the best come out here and bring their A-game, but we brought ours too.”
Cullman, Alabama’s Thomas was the high-point man for the weekend after finishing second Friday night in his KT Motorsports/Jeff’s Jam-It-In Storage – Abreu Vineyards/DRC/Speedway Chevy. Despite the performance, he was not able to gain much ground in the race for the USAC National Sprint Car title with Windom and Grant finishing directly behind him in the running order. Now trailing by 67 points entering the final race and the reality of a 2017 USAC National championship appears to have dissipated.
Windom, of Canton, Illinois, and Grant came into the night’s feature separated by just nine markers. With every position on the track worthier than gold at this moment, the fight for third came down to the final corner between the two with Windom besting Grant by a half-car length – and the extra three points – at the line in his Baldwin Brothers Racing/Fox Paving – AMSOIL/DRC/Claxton Mopar.
With a single race left Saturday night at Perris, Windom leads Grant by 12 points (four positions). A maximum of 70 points are available to the driver who wins the event.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Arizona Speedway included Kevin Thomas, Jr. (ProSource/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifier), C.J. Leary (Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers 1st Heat Winner), Danny Faria, Jr. (Competition Suspension, Inc./Brown & Miller Racing Solutions 2nd Heat Winner), Austin Liggett (Chalk Stix/Circle Track Performance 3rd Heat Winner), Robert Ballou (Indy Race Parts/Keizer Aluminum Wheels 4th Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products/Saldana Racing Products/Rod End Supply Hard Charger), Logan Williams (Pyrotect Racing Cells 5th Heat Winner) and Max Adams (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL & CRA SPRINT CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 10, 2017 – Perris Auto Speedway – Perris, California – 22nd Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction
PROSOURCE/WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9K, KT-16.302; 2. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-16.517; 3. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-16.599; 4. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-16.722; 5. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-16.738; 6. Dave Darland, 73, Ford-16.778; 7. Damion Gardner, 4, Alexander-16.791; 8. Hunter Schuerenberg, 19s, Reinbold/Underwood-16.802; 9. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-16.814; 10. Jake Swanson, 92, Sertich-16.851; 11. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-16.870; 12. Austin Williams, 2, Jory-16.878; 13. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-16.883; 14. Kyle Edwards, 39E, Edwards-16.936; 15. Stevie Sussex, 42, Cheney-16.941; 16. Tommy Malcolm, 5x, Napier-16.956; 17. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-16.958; 18. Mike Spencer, 4s, Gansen-16.987; 19. Max Adams, 5m, Adams-16.995; 20. Richard Vander Weerd, 10, Vander Weerd-17.002; 21. Mike Martin, 16, Martin-17.006; 22. Danny Faria, Jr., 17GP, Dutcher-17.028; 23. Austin Liggett, 56, Phulps-17.033; 24. Cody Williams, 44, Jory-17.035; 25. Logan Williams, 5J, Jory-17.045; 26. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-17.070; 27. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-17.113; 28. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-17.135; 29. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-17.161; 30. Carson Macedo, 73T, Ford-17.169; 31. A.J. Bender, 21, Bender-17.213; 32. Dennis Gile, 13, Gile-17.216; 33. Trent Williams, 52v, Williams-17.243; 34. Michael Pickens, 81, Watt-17.309; 35. Matt McCarthy, 28m, McCarthy-17.326; 36. Jace Vander Weerd, 88, Vander Weerd-17.336; 37. Thomas Meseraull, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-17.383; 38. Jeremy Ellertson, 98, Ellertson-17.441; 39. Verne Sweeney, 98v, Tracy-17.474; 40. Shon Deskins, 42x, Cheney-17.669; 41. Gary Marshall, Jr., 72, Marshall-18.018; 42. Ronnie Gardner, 7K, Kruseman-18.022; 43. Randy Waitman, 90, Waitman-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS/EXTREME MUFFLERS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer) 1. Leary, 2. Courtney, 3. Thomas, 4. Martin, 5. Malcolm, 6. Darland, 7. J. Vander Weerd, 8. Bender, 9. Marshall. 2:48.26
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer) 1. Faria, 2. Chapple, 3. D. Gardner, 4. A. Williams, 5. Bacon, 6. Grant, 7. Meseraull, 8. Gile, 9. R. Gardner. 2:50.28
CHALK STIX/CIRCLE TRACK PERFORMANCE THIRD HEAT (10 laps, top-4 transfer) 1. Liggett, 2. Spencer, 3. Stockon, 4. Johnson, 5. Schuerenberg, 6. T. Williams, 7. Gansen, 8. Waitman, 9. Ellertson. 2:51.16
INDY RACE PARTS/KEIZER ALUMINUM WHEELS: FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer) 1. Ballou, 2. Adams, 3. Windom, 4. Roa, 5. C. Williams, 6. Pickens, 7. Edwards, 8. Sweeney. 2:50.15
PYTROTECT RACING CELLS FIFTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer) 1. L. Williams, 2. Sussex, 3. R. Vander Weerd, 4. Boespflug, 5. Swanson, 6. Deskins, 7. McCarthy, 8. Macedo. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SEMI: (12 laps, top-4 transfer) 1. Grant, 2. Macedo, 3. Swanson, 4. Darland, 5. Malcolm, 6. Bender, 7. Meseraull, 8. J. Vander Weerd, 9. Gansen, 10. T. Williams, 11. Edwards, 12. Pickens, 13. Gile, 14. Ellertson, 15. Deskins, 16. Sweeney, 17. Waitman, 18. Marshall, 19. C. Williams, 20. Schuerenberg, 21. Bacon, 22. McCarthy. NT
EVELYN PRATT FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Brody Roa (1), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (6), 3. Chris Windom (4), 4. Justin Grant (7), 5. Robert Ballou (23), 6. Tyler Courtney (10), 7. Richard Vander Weerd (16), 8. C.J. Leary (21), 9. Brady Bacon (25), 10. Jake Swanson (9), 11. Mike Spencer (14), 12. Chase Stockon (5), 13. Max Adams (15), 14. Danny Faria, Jr. (18), 15. Damion Gardner (2), 16. Austin Williams (11), 17. Isaac Chapple (22), 18. Austin Liggett (19), 19. Mike Martin (17), 20. Jeremy Ellertson (27), 21. Chad Boespflug (3), 22. Dave Darland (8), 23. R.J. Johnson (12), 24. Stevie Sussex (13), 25. Carson Macedo (24), 26. Logan Williams (20), 27. Cody Williams (26). NT
**Sussex flipped on lap 16 of the feature. Johnson flipped on lap 21 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Roa.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS/ROD END SUPPLY HARD CHARGER: Robert Ballou (23rd to 5th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Max Adams
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Windom-2229, 2-Grant-2217, 3-Thomas-2162; 4-Courtney-2120, 5-Stockon-2000, 6-Boespflug-1910, 7-Leary-1846; 8-Ballou-1762, 9-Bacon-1742, 10-Darland-1482.
NEW USAC AMSOIL CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-D. Gardner-1498, 2-Roa-1420, 3-Swanson-1343, 4-Spencer-1171, 5-A. Williams-1019, 6-C. Williams-925, 7-L. Williams-831, 8-Adams-776, 9-Gansen-743, 10-Thomas-686.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL & CRA SPRINT CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: November 11 – Perris Auto Speedway – Perris, California – 22nd Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction