Sunset Speedway Mini Stock Year in Review: Eric Yorke Rocks the House
Coming into the season, everybody seen the door of opportunity for the championship wide-open after 2011 champion Nicole Podewils announced that she was running a part-time schedule. Taking advantage of that opportunity was Eric Yorke, who proved that solid consistency pays off over the course of a long season of hard racing.
Simply stating his statistics alone will answer the question as to why the driver of the No. 51 Nissan 240SX is the champion. Four feature wins, 14 top fives in 14 feature starts. Nine heat wins, 24 heat top fives in 28 heat starts.
In the first month of racing, Yorke would win two features, along with a sixth and a second, already leading the points by 38 points. There’d be only night that would count in the month of June, which resulted in a third feature win for Yorke. He would now lead by 55 points over Dan Britt. Through the month of July, he would finish fifth, fifth, third and second. Then in August, he finished fourth, second and fourth. Yorke would finish the year off with a second and a third in September.
If Yorke’s season didn’t shock you enough, then look at the guy who finished third in points – Warren Paxton. Paxton’s feature victories and consistency allowed him a solid finish on the season despite missing a night. He had three wins, 10 top fives and 12 top 10s in 13 feature starts, along with 13 heat wins and 20 heat top fives in 26 heat starts.
Rob Krystal was the meat in the sandwich, finishing second in points after scoring two wins, 10 top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 starts. The second place finish in points wouldn’t be easy for the driver of the No. 99 Civic as he had to overcome an engine failure on June 23rd. The season had its special highlight for Krystal, as he would score his first career Mini Stock feature victory on July 21st. He would back it up with as second win on July 28th.
Speaking of scoring first wins, Flamboro Speedway regular Brandon McFerran scored his first Sunset Speedway Mini Stock heat win in May. He would then pick up his first feature victory on August 4th, after a side-by-side battle with Warren Paxton that was exciting to watch. McFerran would win a feature at Flamboro on August 18th, before returning to Sunset on August 26th for a return trip to victory lane.
Another Flamboro driver, Late Model veteran Steve Laking, would also score his first career Mini Stock feature victory. He’d be driving teammate Billy Swartzenburg’s Mini Stock as Flamboro was off and Schwartzenburg was on vacation.
Sophmore James Low would pick up his first feature victory on August 18th after getting the lead on an early race restart.
Masters of Consistancy…….While Yorke, Krystal and Paxton highlighted the level of consistency, Dan Britt is another name worth mentioning. Last year, Britt used consistency to finish solidly in the top five in points. He did that again this year, finishing fourth in points after five top five and 13 top 10s in 14 feature starts. It would not be easy for Britt as he had to battle back from misfortune many times, including an eighth on the third night of racing after being involved in a pair of cautions.
Brian Love would also use consistency to finish fifth in points with 12 top 10s in 14 feature starts.
Improvement……….Mike Robinson Jr. had a rough season last year. The 2012 season started off solidly as he surprised some people by finishing in the top six in the first four features of 2012, including a pair of thirds. He also scored his first heat win on May 19th, backing it up with two more on May 26th. With his Lightning McQueen paint scheme, it definitely had many fans pumped up. The season didn’t continue along the awesome track the whole time, though, as he did have his fair share of struggles in the second half.
Tyler Johnston entered his sophomore season, looking to put the lessons that he had learned last year to good use. He certainly did that to start the year off, scoring four straight top 10 feature finishes. He would also score his first heat victory on June 23rd. However, like Robinson Jr., he would have his fair share of struggles in the second half.
Gehrig Haliday started off the season, struggling with his car and learning new lessons each week about driving. However, after buying Branden Bullen’s mini stock and putting those lessons to use, Haliday became a top contender as the season came to a close. Look for the 13-year-old to be in contention for the top five in points in 2013.
Strong Car, Roller Coaster of Luck………..Rory Collett proved early in the season that he had a strong car, though also had some of the worst luck. He started the year off with having problems the first two nights. However, he then ripped off three straight top fives. Collett would look to have things turned around, though after losing a win at the end of July due to a ruling by the tech officials, Collett would not return for the rest of the season.
Mechanical Gremlins……….Rob Gibson and Harold Noseworthy have one thing in common – mechanical gremlins. Both drivers would experience mechanical issues, resulting in them missing some of the races this past season.
Fire! Fire!! 911!! Fire!!! Fire!!!………The year in review would not be complete without mention Lisa Wells and her fires. The rookie would have her first fire on the third night of racing on the backstretch. She would be back out the next week, finishing a solid 14th place in the feature. The May 21st fire would not mark her only fire of the season as she would have another one later in the year. There was some comedy throughout the whole deal as her number is 911. Following the second fire, she changed her number to 91.
Traffic Maylay……..When you take first glance at Sunset Speedway, you quickly realize that the Mini Stocks can run three, four, sometimes five wide no problem. It produces exciting racing, espically early in the race with the front runners trying to make their way through the pack.
However, there is one problem with that – chances are taken. Sometimes, someone will pull that move to make it four, five wide, though they will not realize that the hole they thought their car will fit in…well, their car won’t. The result is a wreck and August was brutal for the Minis as lots of people suffered damage throughout the month.
The opening feature for August is where the wrecking would begin with Trevor Hemingway hitting the wall after contact from James Low at the front of the field. Hemingway’s car substained heavy front end damage and hasn’t been on track since.
The wrecks would continue on August 18th as there’d be two big wrecks in the opening laps.
Right off the bat, there was three-wide chaos right away with the fast cars coming from the back, resulting in contact between Ryan Goddard and Mike Robinson Jr. would see Robinson Jr. hitting the front stretch wall hard.
Then on the restart, the chaos would continue after Ken Townsend slowed up. As everybody tried to avoid him, contact between Adams and Dickson would send them into the outside turn three wall, collecting Warren Paxton and Tyler Johnston. Dickson did not return to Sunset for the rest of the season, while Adams got her mustang ‘Stella’ back out late in the year.
The other problem, beyond the big wrecks due to the traffic, is there is a significant speed difference between the fast group and the slower guys. The result is the faster group is always forced into lap traffic, having to navigate their way through. Sometimes that can cause a problem, which was evident when Warren Paxton, running in second, would spin Wendy Adams, who was already lapped by leader Brandon McFerran. In surprise to some, Paxton would be able to keep his position as she was deemed to have not follow protocol of yielding to the leaders.