Ocean Speedway at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds is preparing for a milestone year. This is the 60th season of championship racing at the quarter-mile clay oval. It all started with the Hardtop Claimer Cars back in 1960. Hap Barber won the inaugural championship. There was only one championship division competing back then. This year, there are eight classes.
Promoter John Prentice has booked an exciting lineup on Friday night that will be headlined by the Ocean Sprint Cars, Presented by Taco Bravo. IMCA Modifieds will be there along with IMCA Sport Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks. After a string of rainouts, the racers are anxious to get the new season started.
Last season, Brad Furr took a step into elite territory in becoming the first three-time Sprint Car champion in speedway history. To do it, he had to beat Koen Shaw. Shaw enjoyed a great season as well in finishing a career best second. Last season, Furr and 2015 champion Justin Sanders topped the field with four feature wins each. The Winged Sprint Cars are the fastest division at the track and provide close racing and sometimes very spectacular moments. In addition to the three stars mentioned above, other racers to watch for include Jeremy Chisum, Jason Chisum, Kurt Nelson, Richard Fajardo and long time racer Jerry Bonnema. Some of the top drivers in the state will show up from week to week to make things that much more interesting.
The IMCA Modifieds are back for their 30th championship season. Last season Cody Burke won the title in a close battle with 2015 State champion Alex Wilson. Both drivers were two-time winners in the competitive field. Multi-time champion Bobby Hogge IV will likely be seen on several occasions and becomes the driver to beat on any night in which he’s there. He led the division with six wins last season. Other drivers to watch for include past champion Robert Marsh, Raymond Keldsen Jr, Austin Burke, Kyle Wilson and Todd Hermosillo. After finishing second in Sport Modified points last season, Anthony Giuliani is moving up to the Modifieds this season.
Jim DiGiovanni held off Giuliani to win his second IMCA Sport Modified championship last season. Though DiGiovanni led the class with 11 Top 5 finishes, he was held without a feature win. He’ll be hoping to change that this year. Past Four Banger champion Adriane Frost did get a win last year and figures to be a tough competitor this season. Two-time champion Matthew Hagio, Austin Williams, Justin McPherson, Charlie Hunter and Igor Gradzuk are other drivers to watch for. Kelly Campanile has made the move up from Four Bangers to race Sport Mods this season.
The Hobby Stocks bring the fans some exciting, fendered Stock Car racing with a competitive field of racers. Matt Kile won a good battle with JC Elrod and Rob Gallaher to claim his second championship last season. All three drivers were five-time feature winners, and they made it very challenging for anybody else to get a win. Past Four Banger champion DJ Keldsen and Jerry Skelton were both winners last season, and they will be looking to make it into the winner’s column again this season. Others to watch for include ageless veteran Tony Oliveira, Terry Traub, Joe Gallaher and Chris McCabe.
Not to be forgotten in the mix are the entry level Four Bangers. The Beardsley family fields three cars, and it was Kate Beardsley winning the championship in last season’s finale. She had to contend with fellow feature winner Abigail Kennedy to win the title. Kennedy lost by just one point. Dakota Keldsen was only nine points back in third in what was last season’s closest championship race. Other drivers to watch for include 2017 champion Bill Beardsley, Nicole Beardsley, Tom Summers, Justin Williams and division veteran Ray Bunn.
Friday night has a great lineup of five exciting divisions.
For information, go to www.racepmg.com or the Ocean Speedway Facebook page.