CHOWCHILLA, CA – April 16, 2009 – New track promoter Kenny Shepherd is certainly excited to bring the DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series to Chowchilla Speedway for the first time this Saturday night (April 18).
But defending Western Allstars champion Chris Shannon is simply thrilled to have the reinvigorated one-third-mile clay oval appear on the tour’s schedule.
That’s because Shannon makes his home in Merced, Calif., just 10 miles from Chowchilla Speedway’s pit gate. No other Western Allstars event this season will be so close to his front door.
“It’s going to be an interesting and fun night for me,” said the 42-year-old Shannon, who emerged as the 2008 tour champion in just his second full season of dirt Late Model racing. “All my family and friends who don’t usually get a chance to see me race will be there, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Despite the proximity of Chowchilla Speedway to Shannon’s residence, he hasn’t made a competitive start there since running an open-wheel Modified event two years ago. He did, however, take some practice laps around the track during last Saturday’s racing program, which he attended to help familiarize fans with a high-powered dirt Late Model machine in advance of the inaugural Western Allstars show.
Shannon gladly brought his No. 32 Victory Circle Chassis car to Chowchilla last Saturday to help the promotional efforts of his longtime friend Shepherd, a former pavement Late Model racer whose Short Track Management company added Chowchilla to its dossier this season. Shepherd also operates the paved Madera (Calif.) Speedway.
“Kenny is a heck of a promoter,” said Shannon, who raced against Shepherd earlier in his career in stock cars at Madera and on the NASCAR Southwest Tour and even enlisted Shepard as a crew chief for two Southwest events in the ‘90s. “He’s doing a tremendous job of promoting races on the West Coast right now. I look for him to make Chowchilla one of the best dirt tracks in California.”
Shannon is also a co-sponsor of this Saturday night’s Western Allstars event through his family’s Shannon Pump Co., which has a large list of clients near Chowchilla Speedway.
“We do all the pump work for a lot of farmers in the area, so we’re inviting our customers out for a night of racing on Saturday,” said Shannon, whose family-owned race car prominently displays the Shannon Pump Co. logo. “We’re also bringing out my employees and we’ll have a barbeque for all of them, a little tailgate party before the races start.”
With so much support behind him at his hometown track, the pressure will most definitely be on Shannon. But he’s ready to accept the challenge and would love to make Saturday’s 30-lap feature his first career Western Allstars victory.
“Knowing all my family and friends are going to be there is getting my stomach all in knots,” said Shannon, who topped the ’08 Western Allstars points standings without the benefit of a feature win. “I want to perform good for them and give them a good show, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to do that.”
Shannon is coming off a performance in the 2009 DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series season opener that would qualify as exciting for his fans – even though he didn’t reach the checkered flag first. He set fast time for the Gary Jacob Memorial on March 28 at Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif., but mechanical problems forced him to the pit area while he led his heat. He came back to win the B-Main and charge forward from the 17th starting spot for a third-place finish in the feature, behind winner Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, Calif., and runner-up Jeff Decker of Morgan Hill, Calif.
The 32-year-old Hogge, who won a dirt Late Model event at Chowchilla in 2004, will carry the Western Allstars points lead to Chowchilla and stand as one of Shannon’s prime rivals again on Saturday night. Other contenders expected include 2007 series titlist Mike Johnson of Lompoc, Calif.; five-time ’08 winner A.J. Kirkpatrick of Castroville, Calif.; Richard Papenhausen of Chico, Calif.; and the El Segundo, Calif.-based family trio of Ron, Nick and Bill Bartels.
Saturday’s program, which also includes the Western open-wheel Modifieds, Super Stocks, Hobby Stocks and the 4-Banger Two-Track Challenge, is scheduled to begin with Western Allstars qualifying at 4:30 p.m. Heat races are set to start at 5 p.m. and features are scheduled to get the green flag shortly after 7 p.m.
Pit gates will open at 1 p.m. and the grandstands at 4 p.m.
Tickets for the huge night of racing were slated to cost $25, but race sponsors Shannon Pump Co. and Richwood Meats and support from Shepherd’s Short Track Management Co. have allowed the price to be slashed to $15 for adults, $7 for juniors 6-12 and free for kids 5-and-under. In addition, Family Packs have been cut by $15, to just $35 for two adults and two juniors.
“The theme at both of my race tracks has been to provide the best entertainment value for the fan,” said Shepherd, “and with this ticket price we feel we are providing one of the biggest events of the year at the greatest ticket value the fans have ever seen.”
The DIRTcar Western Allstars Late Model Series is scheduled to return to Chowchilla Speedway on Oct. 17 as part of the track’s two-day Pacific Dirt Nationals.
For more information on Chowchilla Speedway, visit www.racechowchilla.com.
Additional info on all of the series, sanctioning and member tracks of DIRTcar Racing is available at www.DIRTcar.com.