Brady Bacon, winner of the Oval Nationals. (Steve Himelstein photo)
LOS ANGELES – The Perris Auto Speedway Heimark, which hosted the USAC AMSOIL Anheuser Budweiser Oval Nationals, marked the 26th edition of the prestigious race on Riverside County’s sandy half-mile.
The number of cars this year increased from 34 in 2021 to 41 this year.
The drivers came from seven states: Arizona, Alabama, California, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The total purse was $118,270. Thursday and Friday’s 30-round Main Event winners received $5,000 and all A Main starters received a minimum of $500. Saturday’s 30-round A-Main winner received $20,000 and feature starters received at least $1,000
PAS promoter Don Kazarian should be commended for keeping non-winged 410ci sprint car racing active at So Cal since the track opened in 1996. He kept Ascot Park’s racing traditions alive after the Gardena track closed after the 1990 season.
The Oval Nationals became a worthy successor to Ascot’s Pacific Coast Championship event. For decades, this was one of three high-priced sprint car classics alongside the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals and the Western World Championship at Keith Hall’s Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix.
Kazarian, in his 60s, received recognition when he was named the 2021 National Non-winged 410 Promoter of the Year at the annual competition for 360 and 410 promoters of winged and non-winged races. This honor was well deserved. However, Kazarian also deserves to be nominated and inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in the promoter category.
One of the first things a person encounters entering the PAS this year is a large white billboard between the first two corners. It says “# Save Perris” in big black letters. It relates to the fact that the State of California Department of Water Resources is planning to expand the Perris Dam, which is located beyond the opposite PAS track. That means the speedway and the state fairgrounds on which it sits would be demolished.
The schedule is not fixed yet. The projected costs for the dam expansion have risen dramatically since the plan became known. If implemented, it could be another waste of state taxpayer dollars, as is the current misguided bullet train project between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Opponents of expanding the Perris Dam and demolishing the fairgrounds and PAS racetrack are asked to politely call their opposition to Gov. Gavin Newsome at (916) 445-2841. All caller issues are logged and the governor is informed of how people are responding to various issues.
What makes the PAS Oval Nationals a must-see event is that it is a points race for the USAC National Sprints and USAC-CRA Regional Sprint Series. This year, nine of the top 10 national riders competed. Only Chase Stockon was missing.
Fourteen of 41 drivers were USAC National Series drivers. Most of the points-chasing USAC-CRA drivers competed. As usual, national riders dominated the Oval Nationals qualifiers, winning points and money. It has been shown again that races are more likely to help develop skilled drivers.
California riders like Jake Swanson and Max Adams moved to Indiana a few years ago and often race there. Her racing skills have noticeably improved. Brody Roa and Eddie Tafoya Jr. also benefited from Indiana Speed Week races.
A week before the Oval Nationals, Swanson finished second in the Friday Western World Feature at Cocopah Speedway near Yuma, Arizona, winning Saturday’s Main Event and $20,000. He finished second at the PAS Oval Nationals for another $10,000 payday.
The USAC National Sprints completed 38 races in 2022 and had eight rains. USAC-CRA completed 21 events, had early rain, lost two races to water use restrictions in central California in July, and several cancellations to wildfires in September.
Brady Bacon’s wins in the A-Mains on Thursday and Saturday earned him $5,000 and $20,000 paydays on his #69 Hoffman Chevy. He also won $10,000 as Spire Sports’ first Bubby Jones Race Faster Award. The USAC National Sprint Series selected 10 races from May through November and tallyed points from those races. Bacon outscored Justin Grant by 34 points.
Bacon became the 17th different Oval Nationals Champion.