Often when you go to a race there seems to be only a handful of drivers that have a real chance of winning, pre-race favorites, guys on the inside track; this seems to be the case at many of the bigger races. Many will show up to try but the fact is that only a few really have a chance to win.
Such was the case with the 2007 running of the Parker Store 360 Western World held at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona. The pits were filled with 52 of some of the best non-wing 360 sprinters in the country. Walking through the pits it was obvious that the cars that showed up were the cream of the crop and the drivers were some of the best talent in the country. But conversations in the pits revealed the "in-the-know" crowd was saying that of the pre-race favorites there were only a few drivers who had a real chance at winning this race which was spread out over two days.
Tuning of tires was an activity that was going on in every pit on both evenings of racing.
Jeremy Sherman is always a threat at Manzanita in what ever he happens to be sitting in. Cory Kruesman, a two-time winner of this event, was a favorite. He was again teamed up with chassis builder Dave Ellis. Ellis had come to the Western with a double-barrel load of talent and the other barrel was filled with Ricky Stenhouse. Charles Davis Jr. was a threat to win as was Jerry Coons Jr. who had just won the USAC Midget title for the second year in a row. Jerry was hot and he has the talent to drive to the front. These five guys were the favorites to win the two-day event. This is not to say that the rest of the field was running for Sixth place, it just seemed the winner would come from one of these five racers. That was the underlying gut feeling that many in attendance had about the outcome of the race.
The racers were not going to have to qualify but they would have to race into the feature. There were going to be 12 heat races, two consolation races and one main event each night. The fans were going to get their money's worth of racing. The track was going to take a beating and the main event would most likely be a dry slick track. It was going to be two great days of racing.
There were no sub-par cars in the pits. The teams brought out their best iron to race, and
As the first night of racing moved ever closer to the main event it became clear that the format was taking a toll on the track as the drivers were forced to try many different lines to find traction and the racing line was moving ever closer to the outside wall as the heat races clicked off. This condition would change by the main event.
Some drivers had some really bad luck trying to qualify. Chad Boat had secured a transfer spot into the main but as his car crossed the start/finish line the engine made a very expensive sound and he had to pull off the racing surface. The engine had dropped a valve and that ended Chad's Friday night. He would be forced to reload and try again Saturday. Chris Bonneau caught a rut and bicycled over hard entering turn one and proceeded to show the crowd the bottom of his car at least three, maybe four, times as the car barrel rolled to a stop next to the fence. Chris walked away and will race another day, but he did some real damage to his car.
After the heats and the consolation races, the five drivers who had been the pre-race favorites were all in the main event. The action started on the first lap of the main as Ricky Stenhouse passed Sherman going into turn one on the first lap but he could not hold the position. He then tried to use his car to knock down the fence, he was done for the weekend, and unhurt, but the car was totaled. After the yellow, Jeremy Sherman retook the lead and proceeded to walk away from the rest of the field. He was hooked up and checking out. His lead came into peril as he had to slow for lapped traffic and Charles Davis Jr. caught back up. Then there was a yellow flag thrown for debris. Once the track was cleaned, Sherman was back in the front of the field until there was another yellow for Jeremy Reagles, who had destroyed a tire. Once the track went green again, the two leaders, Sherman and Davis, were looking for traction and had to move to the bottom of the track. The two of them were putting on a show smoking off thier right rears. It would have made John Force proud.