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.
Jeremy Sherman was relaxed and ready to race, the car was ready and it was a waiting game
On lap 25, Davis found more grip in turn one than Sherman and passed him for good. Davis won the race over Sherman by just over one second. As Davis pulled to a stop after the race, his tire popped and went flat. He had gotten all the value out of that Hoosier he was going to get. Sherman's tire was not in much better condition but he had seen the tire smoking that Davis was doing and had backed it down a notch to see if Davis's tire would last through the feature. All it would have taken was a half a lap more and the tire on Davis's car would have been destroyed and Sherman's strategy would have paid off with a win. The finishing order for Friday night was Charles Davis Jr. in First, Jeremy Sherman in Second, Jon Stanbrough Third, Cory Kruesman in Fourth and Jerry Coons Jr. in the Fifth spot.
Saturday dawned clear and the air was still all day. The track was still hurting from the abuse it had taken on Friday night but the track crew was doing its best to resurrect a racing surface worthy of the stand out field that was there to race. The top four cars were already qualified for the main based on their finishing order on Friday night. The rest of the field would have to go through the same process as the previous night and race their way into the main event. There were a few more flips and tumbles by some of the drivers but the racing was very good and the fans were treated to a great evening of racing.
The race was run under the ASCS Banner. Ex-Outlaw Ronnie "the Shoe" Shuman was the race Di
While some of the sprint car purists would have liked to see the cars qualify and run a more abbreviated format, the fans really liked the amount of racing and the great show they were treated to each night.
Jerry Coons Jr. had some issues with the car and it was clear that he was not going to be a threat in the main, if he even could make the main. It was obvious that the car was not up to the talents of the driver this particular night.
The heat races were all very good with lots of close racing, there were fewer catastrophic flips and crashes on Saturday than Friday. The drivers must have gotten their fill. When it came time to run the main event, the front row was Sherman and Kruesman ready to do battle. At the start it looked like Sherman had been fired out of a cannon. He was flat moving, and even at this early stage of the race it looked like he was on his way to the big payday. On lap three, Jeremy punctured his right rear. He was forced to pit and change the tire-fortunately for Jeremy, there was a yellow for a spun car and he was able to change the tire and stay on the lead lap. He was, however, now at the rear of the field and Kruesman was leading. The fans were up on their feet ready to watch a charged up Sherman make a run through the field.
Jeremy Sherman's crew puts down a groove they feel will drive the car to the victory circl
When the green flag was waved that is just what happened, Kruseman was pulling away from the pack and Sherman was going through the pack. Each lap Sherman was heading to the front and for a short time it looked like he was going to make it, but there were not enough yellows to keep the pack bunched up and Sherman did not have enough laps left to get the job done. Final result: Kruseman wins his third Western World Championship and Sherman comes up a bit short finishing Fifth for his efforts. The final finishing order was Cory Kruseman, Charles Davis Jr. in Second and Jesse Hockett in Third.
Post-race conversations with Jeremy Sherman found him a bit despondent. The race seemed to be his to win from the start. He was moving forward and nobody seemed to be able to stay with him. Racing is filled with stories of races that should have been won by one driver only to have the rug pulled out from under their car and be deprived of what seemed like a sure victory. It just goes to show you that it's not over until it's over. Next year is only 12 months away.
The track was black and rough for the drivers on Friday night. Saturday was not much bette
Bob Ream Jr. takes it in deep and drives it out hard. This type of foot-to-the-floor drivi
An excitable Charles Davis Jr. climbs out of his car and just starts the celebration after
This right rear popped just as Charles Davis Jr. pulled into Victory Lane. This is what a
The right rear on Jeremy's car after the Friday night feature. This is a "hard" spec tire,
Jerry Coons Jr.'s team had some issues with the car and was not quite able to get the car
Jeff Henry off of turn four. At times during the two nights the track was perfect for this
Cory Kruseman's team had to buy a car from another racer just to get an engine to race tha
Kruseman and his third Western World victory. A job well done and a car well prepared.