Calistoga Dirt Classic – Sprint Cars and Super Stars
By John Drummond
Photos by John Drummond and Steven Bunker
The Calistoga Dirt Classic brought fast cars and super stars to the famed Napa County Fairgrounds half mile dirt oval last Saturday night in wine country, blending two giant fields of sprint cars (360 and 410 sprinters) together in front of the largest crowd this event has ever seen.
Even though the 410 NARC King of the West Series field is the dominant sprint car species, the Calistoga Dirt Classic featured one of the richest 360 class payouts of the year – a $10k winner’s check. All proceeds from this event went to the Boys and Girls Clubs of St Helena and Napa. During opening ceremonies, checks totaling $250,000 were presented to the kids, followed by a “coin dash” which saw hundreds of 12 and under chillens scavenge nickels, dimes and quarters strewn all over the front stretch. It was such an awesome site.
Retired super star and three-time NASCAR world champion Tony Stewart was on hand to race making his first trip to Calistoga Dirt Classic since winning a USAC Sprint Car feature here 20 years ago. “To this day people still come up to me around the country and talk about that evening,” Stewart said. This is one hell of a track. It feels good to be back here.”
Joining Stewart at the big event was NASCAR ace Ricky Stenhouse Jr current driver of the Roush Fenway Racing #17. Stenhouse’s wife Danica Patrick was also on hand having just put her #10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion in the number 6 qualifying position just down the road at the SAVE MART 350 held at Sears Point.
Both superstars left empty handed however as Dominic Scelzi – son of former NHRA Top Fuel Champion Gary Scelzi won the $10k 360-sprint feature going away behind the wheel of the #17 car. Stewart, driving the #14 entry of Rico Abreu and Paul Silva, grabbed the pole position with a 17.848 lap in qualifying but could only muster a 10th place finish.
Stenhouse Jr meanwhile opted for the 410 NARC King of the West Series event, fielding his own car in which he occasionally competes in World of Outlaws events. After qualifying in 3rd with a hot lap of 18.097 seconds, he wound up finishing 9th. Both Stenhouse and his wife retreated back down the Napa Valley to Sears Point to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR stop in wine country.
For our Fuel Curve team, we got our first opportunity of the year to hang out with Larry Antaya and driver Cory Eliason who have been carrying our Fuel Curve flag all year long in the NARC King of the West Series in the Antaya Motorsports #20 car. To have a rooting interest and watch our colors represent in such a prestigious evening of racing gave us goose flesh. Eliason is an extremely talented you hot shoe from Selma, CA and is currently sitting in 3rd in Series Points.
At the Calistoga Dirt Classic, Eliason qualified our car 6th, starting the A-Main on the outside of row three. He fought valiantly throughout the 25-lap A Main feature and finished in 6th after a spirited duel with the #83 car of 15-year old Phenom Giovanni Scelzi. The two were glued to each other all race long, dicing and sliding in their own private duel a few clicks behind the front runner.
This was a classic, old-fashioned Saturday night country classic on dirt with rowdy fans from all over the west. Adding to the charm is the stately Napa County Fairgrounds located right downtown in historic Calistoga. It’s so refreshing to see the next young crop of race drivers coming up through the sprint car ranks. The crowd packed the grandstands, spilling over into standing room only hills and bluffs, straining their necks to get a few of the hot action.
We left the racetrack full of adrenaline. Seeing the superstars, the enthusiastic overflow crowds of the smiles on so many young faces made it an evening to remember. Having pit side access to our Fuel Curve house car made it that much sweeter. A huge thanks goes out to the entire Antaya Motorsports team for their hospitality and dedication to carrying our colors in their pursuit of a NARC King of the West Championship.
For full Dirt Classic results click here.