Perris Auto Speedway opened its 2013 season March 2, and Fallbrook driver Brad Urquhart finished third in the Street Stocks main event.
“It was an incredible race,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart, who also finished third in his heat race, was in second place during the 25-lap main event before damage from both a heat race collision and main event contact gave eventual second-place finisher Shaun Estes the ability to pass Urquhart’s 1978 Nova.
“Very happy with third. I’m very happy with the fact that I was able to finish the race,” Urquhart said.
The result was also Urquhart’s first-ever finish at Perris. His only previous race there was in October 2012, which was also in the 1978 Nova he purchased from Gary Hartsuyker in August 2012. Contact in the first lap of the October 2012 race left the Nova with multiple flat tires, and after the car started overheating Urquhart pulled it off the track.
Sponsorship by Amsoil oiltwins.com allowed extra purse money to be paid to the winner of the 2013 season opener, and Urquhart was one of 26 drivers who competed. The extra money also led to a lengthening of the main event from its normal 20-lap distance to 25 laps.
The number of cars resulted in three heat races. The pill pick gave Urquhart a start on the outside of the fifth and final row for his eight-lap heat. “I had a really good run going off the turn and was in the process of passing some cars,” he said.
The #77 car driven by Manny Baldiviez was still in front of the Nova. “Number 77 completely dropped an anchor right in front of me. I had nowhere to go and plowed directly into the back of him,” Urquhart said.
The impact of that first-lap crash pushed in the Nova’s front bumper. “It crumpled the front end all the way back to just shy of the radiator,” Urquhart said. “I was able to keep going but lost a great opportunity to pick up some positions.”
Although a blow to the radiator may have caused the Nova to overheat in the main event, there was no detectable damage to the radiator. “At the time the car was handling well,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart was pleased with third place in the heat after his 10th-place starting position. “I probably could have finished an extra car or two ahead, I’m sure, if it wasn’t for plowing into the back of #77.”
Urquhart normally races at Barona Speedway, which is a quarter-mile dirt oval. Perris has a half-mile dirt oval. “I like the half-mile. I like the track out there because it’s banked more than Barona Speedway so you can get some pretty good speed off the corners,” Urquhart said. “The car was running pretty good and the track was fast there.”
Urquhart’s brother Scott raced in the now-discontinued Cruiser division at Perris, and Brad Urquhart also was at Perris as a spectator for one of his brother’s races.
“I remembered the drivers tended to be a little more aggressive and enjoyed contact here more than most tracks,” Urquhart said. “With 26 cars on the track, this spelled contact throughout the main.”
Urquhart began the main event in the 15th position, or the inside of the eighth row. His car was hit six times during the main event, including twice in which another car’s front end hit the Nova’s right side. “The T-bones just crumpled in the right side of my car,” Urquhart said.
The first of those T-bone collisions was on the fifth lap. Two cars collided on a turn, one of which hit the Nova after coming down from the high groove. Urquhart was able to pass a pair of cars between that collision and the eighth-lap T-bone which occurred more toward the front of the Nova and affected the tire toe.
“The right side of my car was smashed, crumpled in. The front side of my car from the heat race was crumpled in. The toe was changed,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart’s six collisions in the main event do not include near-misses. “I was able to move up a few more positions by narrowly missing numerous close calls. It was becoming just this side of a demolition derby, and I was thinking car survival would be paramount,” he said.
Yellow flag cautions were thrown after the two T-bone collisions as well as during subsequent incidents on the track. Although the yellow flags caused restarts which nullified any distance between Urquhart and drivers behind him, the caution laps not counted in the race allowed for slower speeds and a lower engine temperature for the Nova. “The temperature was within a few degrees of the red light coming on. I would have had to leave the track,” Urquhart said. “I was glad to see timely yellow flags come out so that the temperature would drop a little.”
Urquhart moved into second place in the 15th lap, although some of his car problems were becoming apparent.
A dirt track is watered down to minimize dust, and the yellow flag delays also allowed that water to evaporate. “The track condition was perfect in the early going and then dried up a little too much by the end of the race,” Urquhart said. “As the track started to dry out and with my toe being a little bit out, gradually I was starting to lose traction on the corners.”
The toe and traction problems also affected the Nova’s handling. “My car started pushing out towards the high side,” Urquhart said.
Estes passed Urquhart with five laps remaining in the race.
Urquhart appreciated the challenge of driving in the traffic he had March 2. “I could have crashed into other vehicles numerous times and I just narrowly missed them,” he said. “This was the type of racing I enjoy because it tests your hand and eye coordination and reflexes. I enjoy the challenge of successfully navigating through traffic.”
Urquhart clarified that he didn’t enjoy the contact itself. “I would prefer a clean race with zero contact. Then I don’t have to do the repairs,” he said.
Urquhart’s pit crew March 2, as well as his repair crew, are Rod and James Robison. He is sponsored by Eagle Eye Fabrication, Fallbrook Auto Works, and Fallbrook Fertilizer Feed and Farm Supply.
If weather permits, Barona Speedway will open its 2013 season March 30, and Urquhart expects the Nova to be ready for that race. Urquhart also owns a 1976 Nova he purchased from Jim Ramsey; the Robisons are building that Nova and are expecting it to be ready by March 30 for Rod Robison to drive at Barona that night.