Photo by Lance Jennings
Troy Rutherford maneuvers his car around a corner earlier this season.
Tim Tuttle, Ojai Valley News correspondent
Ojai’s Troy Rutherford climbed from sixth-starting position to victory Saturday in the USAC West Coast Sprint Car’s Peter Murphy Classic at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare.
It was Rutherford’s third victory of the season in high-caliber USAC-sanctioned events. He won a West Coast feature at Bakersfield Speedway March 19
and a USAC/CRA Amsoil Sprint Car feature at Ventura Raceway May 7.
Rutherford’s USAC/CRA triumph was accomplished with a 360-cubic inch motor, used in the West Coast series, against the more powerful 410-cubic inch USAC/CRA motors.
Rutherford had taken time off from racing following the May 7 victory to coach his daughter’s all-star softball team and resumed racing with a victory in the ARP Battle at the Beach Sprint Car feature at Ventura Raceway July 16.
“Our success is a testament to our good equipment and how focused our team is,” Rutherford said. “We are able to rise to the occasion with big money on the table.”
Rutherford earned $4,000 for his victory Saturday at the one-third mile Thunderbowl. The typical winning check for 360 sprint car races is closer to the $1,500 he won at Ventura.
They were two good days that help pay for the expensive operation, which is also funded by sponsors AAA Propane, Trench Shoring, State Ready Mix, Grimes Rock, Amsoil and Frank’s Inc.
“Our race earnings go back into the fund to support the habit,” Rutherford said. “Every bit helps, but we couldn’t do it without our sponsors.”
Rutherford struggled on Friday in the opening of the two-night Murphy event at the Thunderbowl. He was 22nd fastest in qualifying, third in his 10-lap heat and 10th in the 30-lap feature.
“We had a problem with a bad left-front shock on Friday and we fought it all night,” Rutherford said. “We found it on Saturday morning when we were working on the car. We went through some other changes to help it out and they worked really good. We changed the car around to adapt to the race track and we hit it right on the head.”
Rutherford moved up to sixth in Saturday’s starting lineup by winning three two-lap match races with the cars that finished seventh, eighth and ninth Friday — a process known as a “pole shuffle.”
“I was disqualified for jumping the start and the crowd wasn’t very happy about it,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford passed Brody Roa, of Garden Grove, on the 18th of 30 laps and led through the finish. Roa led the opening 17 laps.
“I slowly worked my way up to the front, was patient, and drove around Brody Roa on a restart,” Rutherford said. “We had a really fast car.”
It was the 14th USAC victory and sixth in the West Coast Series for Rutherford.
He returned from his nine-week hiatus to lead all 30 laps at Ventura. He began the event with a heat victory.
Rutherford’s next event is Aug. 6 with the USAC West Coast’s Bud Stanfield Memorial at Santa Maria Raceway.
Photo by Steve Lafond
Ojai’s Troy Rutherford (center) continues to add first-place medals to his collection.