WATSONVILLE, CALIF. (July 29, 2022) – Fresno’s Caeden Steele won his first career Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo feature on Friday night in Watsonville, leading a podium of teenagers across the line at Ocean Speedway. Steele went back-and-forth with fast-time qualifier and dash winner Chase Johnson of Penngrove for the lead before Johnson spun in lapped traffic in the decisive moment of the event.
“It feels awesome. First sprint car (win). I knew it was coming this season,” Steele said. “Got it done tonight. Lapped traffic really helped us out. Kind of a bummer that Johnson spun out as we were having a great battle.”
Johnson led time trials over the 22 Ocean Sprints in attendance before winning the Trophy Dash to earn the pole for the feature. Steele jumped the initial start and was moved back to the outside of the second row. 2021 Rookie of the Year Bryce Eames of Santa Maria moved forward to the outside pole, but Johnson nabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag.
Steele drove past Eames on the backstretch on lap two to take second. Johnson led the field into lapped traffic before a caution for Bakersfield’s Brody Fuson in turn two. The field approached traffic again which allowed Steele an opportunity to pounce. He dove inside Johnson in turn one to take the lead on lap 13. Johnson made a bid on the outside on lap 15 but it was nullified when Jon De Wees of Lemoore stopped in turn two.
Castro Valley’s Jake Andreotti and Eames wrestled for third on the restart. Lapped traffic reared its head again on lap 20, allowing Johnson to close. He showed his nose in turn two on lap 20, then drove alongside Steele in turn one on lap 21. Both times Steele kept the lead.
A side-by-side battle saw Steele lead lap 23 by just .016 seconds. Johnson finally cleared Steele on the bottom of turn four to lead lap 24. Johnson then bounced off the rear of Adam Kaeding of Campbell in turn four on the following lap, sending him spinning and bringing out a caution.
Steele led the final six laps over Andreotti and Eames, for a combined podium age of 52 years young. Concord’s 17-year-old Joey Ancona and Fresno’s Craig Stidham rounded out the top-five. The Beer Optics Hard Luck went to Don Hart for being unable to start the feature.
Brentwood’s Blake Bower won his eighth Western Midget Racing presented by Masters Design and Construction feature of 2022 in just his 12th try. Bower – the 2021 USAC and WMR champion – chased Concord’s Adam Teves over the first nine laps of the feature. The race was halted on lap five when 16-year-old Mattix Salmon of Fresno flipped in turn three in his series debut while running fourth. He was uninjured.
Bower took over the lead on lap 10 and paced Teves the rest of the way. Lodi’s Nate Wait, Oakley’s Bryant Bell, and Moorpark’s Todd Hawse were the top-five finishers. Teves and Wait split the eight lap heat races.
Santa Maria’s Markus Frazier won his third Ocean Speedway IMCA Sport Modified feature of the season. The 20-lap race started with pole sitter Max Baggett of Prunedale spinning in turn four, collecting Andrew Pearce of Oakley for a caution. The complete restart shuffled Chuck Golden of Pittsburg onto the pole position, but Frazier drove around the outside to take the lead.
Jonathan Hagio of Prunedale and Golden battled for second before a caution on lap three for Freedom’s Cody Bryan spinning in turn two. Frazier led the pack into lapped traffic. He opened up the bottom on a few occasions in turn four but Hagio was unable to complete the pass.
A two-by-two duel developed for second position while Fraizer drove ahead for the win. Oakley’s Jacob Mallet, Jr. advanced from eighth to second followed by Hagio, Golden, and Jason Ryan, Jr.
Jason Lazzerini of Moss Landing led all 20-laps for the Four Bangers feature win ahead of an 18-car starting field. Lazzerini had pressure from Sean DePriest of Dinuba throughout the first half of the race, then fended off Watsonville’s Richard Mitchell in the closing stages. Lazzerini, Mitchell, DePriest, 11th starting Kenny Stragalinos of Boulder Creek, and TJ Santos of Gilroy were the top-five finishers. Felton’s Nicole Beardsley was honored as the 2022 champion as well.
Roy Iller of San Benito Sheriffs ended a championship season in Police-in-Pursuit with a main event victory. The 15-lap season finale lineup was set based on donations to the Northern California Special Olympics. Capitola Police Officer Jackie Yeung won a battle of the Ford Mustangs to top John Hohmann of Scotts Valley Police for the second position at the finish. Kyle Wowak of Santa Cruz Corrections suffered a hard crash battling for third but was uninjured.
Ocean Speedway races again this Friday night with the Hall of Fame Night, featuring Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Mods, Hobby Stocks, and South Bay Dwarf Cars.
Ocean Sprints presented by Taco Bravo – July 29, 2022 (30 Laps)
1. 121-Caeden Steele; 2. 7P-Jake Andreotti; 3. 50-Bryce Eames; 4. 88A-Joey Ancona; 5. 36-Craig Stidham; 6. 17-Rickey Sanders; 7. 28-Chase Johnson; 8. 3-JJ Ringo; 9. 2K-Kaleb Montgomery; 10. 72W-Kurt Nelson; 11. 3M-Adam Kaeding; 12. 72S-Bradley Dillard; 13. 25Z-Jason Chisum; 14. 72JR-Chris Nelson; 15. 51-Brody Fuson; 16. 01-Nick Larsen; 17. 69-Ron Laplant; 18. 99-Wayne Katen; 19. 14-Mariah Ede; 20. 63D-Jon De Wees; 21. 33H-Eric Humphries; 22. 56Z-Don Hart