A tight race in the point standings of the Hobby Stock division at Duke City Raceway got even tighter Saturday night. Randall Trujillo of Los Lunas drove a flawless race to claim his first-ever checkered flag in a main event on a night when the up-and-comers prevailed over division leaders.
Trujillo, who is in his second year of racing and was seventh in the standings entering the week, and the next three drivers that crossed the finish line behind him, made up ground on the top three points leaders — Ron Leathem Jr., Ronnie Bell and Jeff Whyman, all of Los Lunas.
Just 10 points (674-664) separated leader Leathem from Bell headed into the weekend. Whyman was third with 616.
“It’s a real close battle,” said Leathem. “We’ve been winning a few and keeping consistent — finishing in the top five every time out. Ronnie has had his problems the last couple of weeks, and it’s helped us.”
Bell had problems with an ignition wire one week last month and got into his first bad wreck another time, causing him to DNF (Did Not Finish) for the first time this year.
Both drivers agreed that consistency and avoiding DNFs are the keys to winning the points championship. Just six more dates are left on the DCR schedule for the Hobby Stock division.
“You’ve got to finish every race, and you’ve got to be up front,” Bell said. “You can’t have any wrecks or DNFs. That’s what it comes down to.”
The bad luck struck Whyman in Saturday’s heat race. His motor broke and he tallied a DNS (Did Not Start) in the main race.
His misfortune dropped him from third to fifth in the point standings, and the hard-charging Bonesteels of Albuquerque moved ahead.
Steve Bonesteel Jr., who had won three straight main events, had his streak snapped by Trujillo on Saturday and settled for second. Bonesteel edged third-place finisher Rick Boelter of Los Lunas down the stretch. Steve Bonesteel Sr. finished fourth.
Bell had been leading the point standings the first half of the season before his luck ran out. He regained some ground when he placed fifth in Saturday’s main event while Leathem was eighth. Ron Leathem Sr. was seventh and John Cruikshank of Los Lunas was 10th.
Other Valencia County drivers in the Hobby Stock final were James Mickle of Jarales, who was 14th, and Los Lunas drivers Charla Robinson, Phil York and Aleta Hannah, who were 17th through 19th respectively in a 23-car field.
Valencia County drivers finished 1-2-3 in the Street Stock division’s main event. Belen’s Jim Willis crossed the finish line a car-length ahead of Thomas Winters of Los Lunas, to break a slump. Points leader Jay Pape of Bosque Farms was third.
Jerry Frazier was 10th, despite a couple of spin-outs that brought out the caution flag. Los Lunas drivers Andy Tanner, who was 12th, and Tag von Gedda, who was 14th, rounded out the field.
Willis had less luck with his Late Model car in the next race. Engine trouble left him last among eight entries.
John Aragon of Albuquerque passed Los Lunas’ Ron Frazier Jr. midway through the 20-lap race and pulled away from the field to win. Frazier was second, followed by Albuquerque’s Carlos Dorcas and points leader Robert Schorr of Rio Rancho. Belen’s Squeaky Mendoza was sixth.
Another local driver who experienced bad luck on Saturday was Modified-division points leader Richard Johnson of Los Lunas. He was unlucky-13th in the main event. His nearest pursuer in the point standings, Tyrone Yazzie of Aztec, won the race. Eric Alwin was third and Taylor Yazzie was fourth. Los Lunas drivers Mark McClarren and Bobby Bachechi finished fifth and eighth respectively.
All but the Late Model division are scheduled to run again this Saturday night. In addition, the popular Sprint Car division is on the slate. Racing gets underway at 6:30 p.m.