7th annual Walt Branco Memorial on tap for Ocean Speedway this Friday

7th annual Walt Branco Memorial on tap for Ocean Speedway this Friday


 By: Tony Karis karrace24@gmail.com

 The seventh annual Walt Branco Memorial race for traditional non-wing sprint cars—the spec-sprint variety—takes place Friday night September 26th at Ocean Speedway.

 From hardcore drag racer to hardcore dirt tracker, Walt Branco was introduced to sprint cars by his friend C.J. Stubbles in the early ‘90s. That’s 1990s not 1890s for the older folks. 

 In honor of Walt Branco and his car #6X, Sprint car owner Joe Vonschriltz is posting an additional $2100 to the top-six finishers of Friday night’s main event: 1st- $600, 2nd- $500, 3rd- $400, 4th- $300, 5th- $200, 6th- $100.

 Branco became a car owner shortly after his introduction to sprint cars and offered his first-class mount to drivers such as Rick Williams, Chuck Gurney Jr. and Randy Hannagan.

 Walt’s coaching and guidance in Shane Golobic’s early career has paid big dividends with Golobic only one race away from a second Ocean Speedway-Taco Bravo championship in 2014. 

 “The wing sprinters inherited the Johnny Key Memorial race, so we thought an annual race for the non-wing spec-sprints would be a good way to honor Walt for his dedication and commitment to open wheel racing,” Vonschriltz said. 

 Branco enjoyed providing opportunities for young talented drivers and thought that spec-sprints with simple limitations to engines, weight, tires and carburation was a good starting point for someone desiring a career in open wheel racing.

 His last appearance at a racetrack was in April of 2008, watching Golobic win the Golden State Challenge event for 410 winged sprinters at Ocean Speedway.

 He entered the hospital for a heart condition in July of that year and a week later sprint car racing lost a dedicated, loyal and ingenious car owner.

 “Walt loved every aspect of sprint car racing,” Vonschriltz said, “From figuring out what equipment to buy, assembling the car, hanging out at the track before and after the races, and most of all watching his 6X turning laps.”

 Ryan Bernal won the first memorial race at 14 and repeated the feat again in 2010. According to his latest text message, Bernal won’t be trying for a third title this year. Morgan Hill’s Devon Ostheimer won in 2009 at the ripe old age of 16. Taylor Simas of Oroville made the five-hour trek to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds quarter-mile clay oval to win the big one in 2011. Geoff Ensign of Sebastopol added the Branco Memorial title to go along with his USAC Western Classic championship in 2012. And in 2013, Tommy La Liberte of Gilroy topped off his Ocean Speedway spec-sprint championship with his first Branco Memorial win.

 Pit gates open at 1:00 p.m. for racers and spectator gates open at 4:30 p.m. with hot laps and qualifying beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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