Jackie McGahan wasn't just winging it Friday night at Twin Cities Raceway he had a pretty good strategy in mind on his way to winning the Main Event in the first Sprint Car Invitational of the season.
"I struggled the first couple races," McGahan said after the race. "I finally figured out what I needed to do to keep it on the ground, which was mainly driving a smooth line."
McGahan might have had a little extra jump early in the race on Twin Cities' 3/8-mile dirt oval as well. The track was watered down before the main event, and after a pair of B-stock drivers finished a 10-lap race, the sprint cars came back out had several laps to get the track packed down and dried out.
McGahan said he got some mud on his spark plugs and wasn't firing on all cylinders, so with the yellow flag still out, took a minute to duck back into the pits to get his engine cleaned off.
The extra power helped him pass his son Cameron McGahan, who started in the front row of the six-car field next to Randy Barnes, two laps into the race.
Meanwhile, Anchorage driver John McDonald, who won the trophy dash and both heats, was charging hard from the back of the pack. Jackie McGahan passed Barnes for the lead about halfway through the race, and McDonald passed Cameron McGahan to move into third place with 18 laps to complete.
McDonald and Cameron McGahan made contact during the pass in Turn 1, sending McGahan into a spin off the top side of the track. McGahan did well to keep from flipping, turning a pirouette in a cloud of dust.
The ensuing caution tightened up the field, and the yellow flag came back out a lap later when Todd Ven Huizen, of Anchorage, went into a spin in Turn 2.
McDonald had a great restart, slingshotting around Barnes to move into second, but Jackie McGahan was able to stay out in front for the rest of the race.
"I don't know if I'd have gotten him or not (with another lap)," McDonald said. "He ran a nice race. He had a smooth, good line.
"I can accept (finishing second), but I don't like it."
McDonald finished first in the night's overall standings, beating out Jackie McGahan and Barnes, who was driving Elton McGahan's No. 74 car. Ven Huizen was fourth, Cameron McGahan, driving the only 360-class car in a pack of 410s, was fifth. Alex Calahan, driving Barnes' No. 23, finished sixth overall.
McDonald benefited from great starts to win the trophy dash, Heat I and Heat II, and said the crowd of 600 made it a great night for racing.
"It's just a nice night," McDonald said. "Nice people, beautiful weather it just doesn't get much better. Well, if I had won that last race ..."
Jackie McGahan said he appreciated the three drivers coming down from Anchorage and was hoping to recruit a few more from tracks in Willow and Fairbanks for the next sprint car event Aug. 22. Lights will be provided for that event so the racers can drive under the stars.
All six sprint cars parked on the front straightaway following the races, and fans had a chance to check them out and talk with the drivers, something McGahan said was an important and fun part of the evening.
"With our team, the NAPA and Tesoro cars, we want to make sure everybody gets a chance to sit in them and get a bird's-eye view of what we get to see," McGahan said. "Everybody comes down and gets to see what they are."
Sprint Car Invitational
Friday at Twin Cities Raceway
Trophy Dash (5 laps) 1. John McDonald, Anchorage; 2. Jackie McGahan, Kenai; 3. Randy Barnes, Kenai; 4. Cameron McGahan, Kenai; 5. Todd Ven Huizen, Anchorage.
Heat I (10 laps) 1. John McDonald; 2. Todd Ven Huizen; 3. Jackie McGahan; 4. Randy Barnes; 5. Cameron McGahan.
Heat II (10 laps) 1. John McDonald; 2. Jackie McGahan; 3. Todd Ven Huizen; 4. Cameron McGahan; 5. Alex Calahan, Anchorage; 6. Randy Barnes.
Main Event (25 laps) 1. Jackie McGahan; 2. John McDonald; 3. Randy Barnes; 4. Cameron McGahan; 5. Todd Ven Huizen; 6. Alex Calahan.
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