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Oval Nationals winner Brady Bacon. (Steve Himelstein photo)

KENNEDY: Recapping The Oval Nationals

LOS ANGELES — The Perris Auto Speedway Heimark Distributing USAC AMSOIL Anheuser Budweiser Oval Nationals marked the 26th running of the prestigious race on the Riverside County clay half-mile. 

The car count this year increased from 34 in 2021 to 41 this year. 

Drivers came from seven states: Arizona, Alabama, California, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Total purse was $118,270. Thursday and Friday 30-lap main event winners received $5,000 and all A-main starters received at least $500. Saturday’s 30-lap A-main winner received $20,000 and feature starters received at least $1,000

Credit should go to PAS promoter Don Kazarian for keeping non-winged 410 ci sprint car racing active in So Cal since the track opened in 1996. He has kept the racing traditions of Ascot Park alive after the Gardena track closed following the 1990 season. 

The Oval Nationals became a worthy successor to Ascot’s Pacific Coast Championship event. For decades that was one of three high-dollar sprint car classics along with the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals and Western World Championship at Keith Hall’s Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix. 

Kazarian, in his mid-60s, received recognition when he was named the 2021 national non-winged 410 promoter of the year in the annual contest for 360 and 410 promoters of winged and non-winged racing. That honor was well deserved. However, Kazarian also deserves to be nominated and inducted in the promoter category into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

One of the first things that hits a person entering the PAS this year is a large white billboard between the first two turns. It reads “# Save Perris” in large black letters. It relates to the fact that the State of California Department of Water Resources plans to expand the Perris dam located beyond the PAS backstretch. That means the speedway and state fairgrounds on which it is located would be demolished.

The timeline is not set yet. Predicted costs for the dam expansion have increased dramatically since the plan became known. If implemented, it could be another waste of government tax money as is the current misguided bullet train project between San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

Opponents of the Perris dam expansion and demolition of the fairgrounds and PAS race track are asked to telephone their opposition politely to Governor Gavin Newsome at (916) 445-2841. All caller topics are logged and the governor is informed about how people react to various issues. 

What makes the PAS Oval Nationals such a must-see event is the fact it is a point race for USAC National Sprints and USAC-CRA regional sprint series. This year, nine of the top 10 national drivers raced. Only Chase Stockon was absent. 

Fourteen of 41 drivers were USAC National series drivers. Most of the point chasing USAC-CRA drivers competed. As usual national drivers dominated Oval Nationals qualifying, points and money won. It proved again that racing more often helps develop skilled drivers.

California drivers such as Jake Swanson and Max Adams moved to Indiana several years ago and race often there. Their racing skills have improved noticeably. Brody Roa and Eddie Tafoya Jr. also benefited by Indiana Speed Week racing. 

A week before the Oval Nationals, Swanson finished second in the Friday Western World feature at Cocopah Speedway near Yuma, Ariz., and won the Saturday main event and $20,000. He finished second in the PAS Oval Nationals for another $10,000 payday. 

USAC National Sprints completed 38 races in 2022 and had eight rainouts. USAC-CRA completed 21 events, had a rainout early, two races lost to central California July water use restrictions, and several cancellations because of September forest fires. 

Brady Bacon’s victories in Thursday and Saturday A-mains earned $5,000 and $20,000 paydays for his No. 69 Hoffman Chevy. He also won $10,000 as the inaugural Bubby Jones Race Faster Award by Spire Sports. The USAC National Sprint Series selected 10 races from May through November and counted points from those races. Bacon topped Justin Grant by 34 points. 

Bacon became the 17th different Oval Nationals champion. 

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