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Close finishes, chaos highlight dirt track championships
by Dan McGee
Oct 16, 2012 | 5556 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - A very happy Shawn Natenstedt take a victory lap after winning Sunday's IMCA Modified feature at Rattlesnake Raceway and clinching the division's Dirt Track Championship. This traditional annual two-day event closes out the regular season at the track.
Tribune/Dan McGee - A very happy Shawn Natenstedt take a victory lap after winning Sunday's IMCA Modified feature at Rattlesnake Raceway and clinching the division's Dirt Track Championship. This traditional annual two-day event closes out the regular season at the track.
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Tribune/Dan McGee - In a case of losing a battle but winning the war, Chris Neal (12) is passed by a charging Carl Barlow, who ended up second in Sunday's Hobby Stock feature. While Pete Olsen (not shown) won the race, Neal's fifth-place finish gave him the division's weekend championship.
Tribune/Dan McGee - In a case of losing a battle but winning the war, Chris Neal (12) is passed by a charging Carl Barlow, who ended up second in Sunday's Hobby Stock feature. While Pete Olsen (not shown) won the race, Neal's fifth-place finish gave him the division's weekend championship.
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Tribune/Dan McGee - One small mistake by Al Bishop (white and orange car), allowed Shawn "Mr. Rabbit" Hartzell to grab the inside line and make the winning pass in Sunday's Gen-X feature. That victory gave Hartzell a one-point advantage and the division's Dirt Track Championship.
Tribune/Dan McGee - One small mistake by Al Bishop (white and orange car), allowed Shawn "Mr. Rabbit" Hartzell to grab the inside line and make the winning pass in Sunday's Gen-X feature. That victory gave Hartzell a one-point advantage and the division's Dirt Track Championship.
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Tribune/Dan McGee - Taking advantage of others having problems, Lee Ketten streaks toward the checkered flag as he wins both Sunday's Rat Mod feature and the class Dirt Track Championship.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Taking advantage of others having problems, Lee Ketten streaks toward the checkered flag as he wins both Sunday's Rat Mod feature and the class Dirt Track Championship.
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FALLON — The annual Dirt Track Championships at Rattlesnake Raceway is a sure sign of fall. It's one evening and afternoon of hard racing where a title is determined by the cumulative points drivers score during the weekend.

And this year, with two exceptions, most championships were determined by just one point. The "runaway" contest was in the IMCA Modified ranks.

"I was hoping they'd throw a green, white, checkered as there was nothing but wrecks, wrecks, wrecks," Shawn Natenstedt said after Sunday's feature. "The car wasn't great at all, we tried some stuff for Vegas but it's just not going to work here as it's too tight corners. It was so slick the car reacted better if you were easy on the throttle so I just pedaled it real slow and it worked."

Then he gave thanks to his sponsors that have supported him during this season, Silverado Casino, Silver Strike Casino and Competition Carburation.

The action began as the cars took the green flag. Contact put the racer of Adam Walters into the mud on edge of the front straight while the offending car spun and collected five others.

From that point, it was a start-and-stop affair with Natenstedt using his lead position to scoot out of harm's way every time the green waved.

Behind him there was everything from single car incidents with spins to pile-ups of several cars that kept the tow trucks and officials very busy; not to mention the flagman, who got a lot of exercise waving the yellow flag.

Toward the end of the race, Zach Thorp crashed into the wall but was able to get back to his pits. What no one knew was that he was injured and after sitting in his car, someone finally checked on him.

The medics were summoned and they gently lifted him out of his car and sent Thorp to the local hospital to be checked out. His condition was unknown at this time.

When the points were totaled, Natenstedt won the championship by nine over Dave Duste, who was tied with third-place Jeff Macedo.

Ken Gotchal was the other "runaway" winner as, despite sweeping all his events in Pro Stock, his margin of victory over Gary Nevers was only four points. Nevers and Al Goss, two competitors from the old track in Carson City, had a race-long duel with Goss, who ended up third in the championship totals, taking second in the final dash from Turn 4 to the checkered on Sunday.

Sunday's Hobby Stock feature was a case of winning the battle but losing the war. Due to an opening lap spin, followed by more problems, it took three attempts to get the race going.

Finally, when the field took off, Rick Miller led the charge with Pete Olsen right on his back bumper. Two more cautions slowed the pace, and in one of them Miller headed for the pits after having contact with the wall.

The race probably had more caution laps than green flag laps by the time it ended.

The longest delay came when the low sun was blinding drivers as they headed into Turn 4. For safety reasons, the officials halted it for about 15 minutes until it was safe to race again.

Two more cautions and Olsen was on point, while Chris Neal first moved forward and then slipped backwards in the field. Behind the leader, Carl Barlow had been moving through traffic and eventually claimed second.

One more caution for debris and the field was able to race all the way to the checkered. Up front, Olsen was in command as Barlow wasn't able to close the gap.

Behind them, Neal found fifth place a comfortable place to run and just stuck there. In the end, his keeping fifth gave Neal a scant one-point lead over Olsen in the final points total.

Back in the pits Neal said, "I was just playing it easy, didn't want to mess it up and be out of it all together. So I just drove easy and tried not to let too many people pass me. I didn't know how many points I could give to Olsen but I just drove and we did good."

Another close finish was in the Gen-X division, a class where compact cars make up most of the field. All weekend the race was between Al Bishop, driving a Neon and Shawn "Mr. Rabbit" Hartzell, who pilots a VW Rabbit truck.

The feature itself came to an abrupt halt right after the green when the cars driven by Ed Stidham and Jimmy Edwards had contact. Both cars were too damaged to continue and were towed back to their respective pits.

On the green Shawn Burton briefly held the point until Bishop and Hartzell swept past him. Only one caution slowed the race and when the green waved again Bishop and Hartzell took off leaving everyone in their dust.

With only a few laps to go, Hartzell was able to take the inside line and made the winning pass as he and Bishop tore down the front straight. This victory gave Hartzell the one point more he needed to top Bishop for the weekend championship.

"I had to work for that one and all I can say is to thank Rattlesnake Raceway for having the greatest track ever," Hartzell said later. "I stood on Al's tail until he did make a little, tiny mistake, and it was tiny, then I took full advantage of it."

The Rat Mod division was another close call for the winner and that field had a very special guest driver racing a car normally piloted by Duncan Lee.

For the second year in a row, Maurie Williams, from Nanango, Queensland, Australia, was in the field. He piloted the car normally driven by Duncan Lee, who was driving a car he won the division championship with two years ago.

On Saturday, Williams was in the catbird's seat sweeping his heat and feature although Duncan's rider was too badly damaged in a wreck to continue.

Things didn't turn out so well on Sunday when contact with Scott Hammond's car put Williams into the back stretch wall and both of them out of the race.

This left Lee Ketten, who had problems of his own on Saturday, on pole and he made the most of it running away with the victory. Despite having to sit out the feature, Williams still had enough points to end up second while Ketten's one point advantage gave him the championship.

Savoring his narrow victory, Ketten said, "It was pretty good, that's what I was hoping for that some bad would befall them and it worked out in my favor. On Saturday we had fuel pump problems and ended up with a third place last night so we needed something to work our way and it did."

While the cars raced on the big track those younger drivers that compete in the Amsoil Northern Nevada Outlaw Kart series used their own short track, located on the infield. Not to be outdone by their elders these younger drivers put on an exciting show of their own that included close racing as well as spins and rollovers.

The wildest finish came in the 250 main where both leaders tangled heading for the checkered and Trey Walters was able to zip around them to claim the win and weekend championship.

Other winners and champions were McKenna Krshul in Beginners, Caleb "Little Rocket" Gonzalez in Intermediate and Jacob Dias in the Box Stock division.

These youngsters are the next generation that will take to the big track in the coming years. One of them, Lee Ketten Jr., now races in both the 250cc division as well as driving a Gen-X in his rookie year with the cars.

Judging how hard they race their elders had better watch out when they move up onto the big track.

The weekend also saw the return of "Black Flag," Bob Vaden to the flag stand where he ran the races with a firm but fair hand. It's unknown if he'll return to the stand next year or once again climb into a racecar but his contribution for the weekend was appreciated by the officials.

Next up for the track is the annual charity event, the Kris Kringle race on Oct. 27, then Rattlesnake goes dark until next spring when once again the roar of engines will awaken this bullring.

OTHER RACING NEWS

•The only racing event in this region is the SMRA motocross in Hawthorne on Sunday. As usual the action should begin around 10 a.m. after morning practice sessions.

•The Busch brothers raced at Charlotte this weekend and in Friday night's Nationwide event Kyle started sixth and finished fourth. In Saturday night's Sprint Cup event Kyle ended up fifth, after starting eighth, while older brother Kurt started and ended up 21st.

RESULTS

Rattlesnake Raceway - 2012 Dirt Track Championships

•Sun., Oct. 14

IMCA Modifieds:

Heat Winners - #1 Dave Duste, #2 Adam Walters, #3 Jeff Elerick Jr.

Main - 1. Shawn Natenstedt, 2. Robert Mull, 3. Paris Archie, 4. Jeff Macedo, 5. Jim Turner

Pro Stocks:

Heat Winners - #1 Ken Gotchal, #2 Al Goss

Main - 1. Ken Gotchal, 2. Al Goss, 3. Gary Nevers, 4. B.J. Pearson, 5. unlisted

Hobby Stocks:

Heat Winners - #1 Rick Miller, #2 Pete Olsen, #3 Robby Carey

Main - 1. Pete Olsen, 2. Carl Barlow, 3. Robby Carey, 4. Ricky Stephens, 5. Chris Neal

Rat Mods:

Heat Winners - #1 Scott Hammond, #2 Maurie Williams

Main - 1. Lee Ketten, 2. Gordon Hughes, 3. unlisted, 4. Loren Bianchi, 5. unlisted

Gen-X:

Heat Winners - #1 Shawn Burton, #2 Al Bishop

Main - 1. Shawn Hartzell, 2. Al Bishop, 3. Shawn Burton, 4. Kyle Babb, 5. Dillon Sanford

Mod Mini:

Heat Winner - Steve Singley

Main - 1. Steve Singley, 2. Jesse James

Outlaw Karts Feature:

Beginners - 1. McKenna Krshul, 2. Haley Scarberry, 3. Sarah Anderson

Intermediate - 1. Caleb "Little Rocket," Gonzalez, 2. Katie Robertson, 3. Lacey Richardson

Box Stock - 1. Jacob Dias, 2. Lee Ketten Jr.

250cc - 1. Trey Walters, 2. Eric Taylor, 3. Zachary Cail

Outlaw Kart Dirt Track Champions

Beginner - McKenna Krshul

Box Stock - Jacob Dias

Intermediate - Caleb "Little Rocket," Gonzalez

250cc - Trey Walters

•Sat., Oct. 13

IMCA Modifieds:

Heat Winners - #1 73, #2 Shawn Natenstedt, #3 68

Pro Stocks:

Heat Winners - #1 Ken Gotchal, #2 Gary Nevers

Main - 1. Ken Gotchal, 2. Gary Nevers, #3 unlisted, 4. Al Goss, 5. unlisted

Hobby Stocks:

Heat Winners - #1 Chris Neal, #2 Ricky Stephens, #3 Carl Barlow

Main - 1. Chris Neal, 2. Pete Baglin, 3. Robby Carey, 4. Rick Miller

Rat Mods:

Heat Winners - #1 Duncan Lee, #2 Maurie Williams

Main - 1. Maurie Williams, #2 unlisted, #3 Lee Ketten, #4 Gordon Hughes, 5. Loren Bianchi

Gen-X:

Heat Winners - #1 Al Bishop, #2 Shawn Hartzell

Main - 1. Shawn Hartzell, #2 Al Bishop, 3. Shawn Burton, 4. Kyle Babb, 5. Dillon Sanford

Mod Minis:

Heat Winner - Steve Singley

Main - Jesse James
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