Kenai's Elton McGahan won the Sprint Car Division Trophy Dash, Heat I and Heat II Friday night in Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions Circle Track Division racing at Twin Cities Raceway, but that's not why McGahan was involved in the night's most chilling moment.
That moment came at the start of the ninth lap of the 10-lap Heat I. McGahan, who had the only 410 engine in the field, started the race at the back of a pack of four cars with 360 engines.
McGahan and his Endsley Chiropractic car gradually worked their way up through the field while Kenai's Pete Ischi and his Dairy Queen car clung to the lead. McGahan finally made his move on Ischi just as the ninth lap started.
Nobody is really sure what happened next.
"I started to go by him and I thought, 'Well, I'm all clear of him,'" McGahan said. "Then all of a sudden, 'Boom!' It happened so fast, I'm not sure what happened."
Ischi also is not sure what happened.
"Things can happen so fast in open-wheel racing," Ischi said.
There was a loud crack indicating the cars had touched, then the Ischi's car jettisoned its front wing. While McGahan suffered no damage from the collision, Ischi went off the track at turn one and sped through a grass field. He was headed toward a mound of dirt in front of some trees that were about 50 yards from track.
It was a scary moment because as Ischi sped toward the trees, it became apparent he'd lost control of the sprint car.
"The steering arm had broken and the throttle was stuck," Ischi said. "I should have hit the kill switch, but I was still trying to steer. Looking back, that doesn't make sense because I didn't have any steering, but everything happened so fast.
"It was a rookie mistake."
Ischi eventually plowed relatively harmlessly into the dirt mound. Ischi is OK and he said the car should be fixed within a couple of weeks. He said he is lucky the incident did not happen at the track in Fairbanks, where he would have nailed a concrete wall.
The crash marked quite a turn of events for Ischi. This is his first full season racing sprint cars. He started racing at the end of last season, but hung in the back of the pack while getting a feel for the car.
Friday, while holding the lead for nine laps, he was on the verge of a breakthrough before the contact with McGahan.
"That would have been great to win, or at least get second," Ischi said. "But that's racing."
McGahan, driving on a new chassis after a crash last year in Fairbanks, has not been a regular at Twin Cities Raceway the past couple of years because he has been working out of town. He showed little rust Friday, however.
The one driver to get the best of him was McGahan's cousin, Jackie McGahan. Jackie, also of Kenai, and his Tesoro car held off Elton for a win in the Main Event.
Jackie is a veteran of Twin Cities Raceway, but was getting in his first racing of the year Friday. He has been letting his son, Cameron, drive his car since Cameron is planning to go pro and needs as much "seat time" as possible. Cameron was in Hawaii Friday, so Jackie got a chance to drive.
"We spent the whole night adjusting the setup, and we finally got it right for the last race," Jackie said. "Elton told me I had a better line than he did in that last race."
Ischi is not the only sprint car driver who will be spending a lot of time in the shop. Doug Fischer came down from the Big Lake for the races, but crashed on Turn 4 during qualifying and was not able to race the rest of the evening.
In the B-Stock Division, Josh Fell totaled the most points for the evening, winning the Trophy Dash, Heat I and Heat II. Richard McGahan held off Fell to win the Main Event, however.
In the A-Stock Division, T.J. Soares won the Trophy Dash, but broke down in Heat I. This gave Brian Johnson uncontested victories in Heat I, Heat II and the Main Event.
The next Circle Track event at Twin Cities Raceway will be at 5 p.m. on July 4.
Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions Circle Track Division Racing
at Twin Cities Raceway
Trophy Dash (5 laps): 1. T.J. Soares; 2. Brian Johnson.
Heat I (10 laps): 1. Brian Johnson; 2. T.J. Soares.
Heat II (10 laps): 1. Brian Johnson.
Main Event (15 laps): 1. Brian Johnson.
Trophy Dash (5 laps): 1. Josh Fell; 2. Richard McGahan; 3. William Broussard; 4. Laurie Speed.
Heat I (10 laps): 1. Josh Fell; 2. William Broussard; 3. Richard McGahan; 4. Laurie Speed.
Heat II (10 laps): 1. Josh Fell; 2. William Broussard; 3. Richard McGahan; 4. Debbie Yancy; 5. Laurie Speed.
Main Event (15 laps): 1. Richard McGahan; 2. Josh Fell; 3. Laurie Speed; 4. William Broussard.
SPRINT CAR DIVISION
Trophy Dash (5 laps): 1. Elton McGahan; 2. Jackie McGahan; 3. Randy Barnes; 4. John McCarthy; 5. Pete Ischi.
Heat I (10 laps): 1. Elton McGahan; 2. Randy Barnes; 3. John McCarthy; 4. Jackie McGahan; 5. Pete Ischi.
Heat II (10 laps): 1. Elton McGahan; 2. Randy Barnes; 3. John McCarthy; 4. Jackie McGahan.
Main Event: 1. Jackie McGahan; 2. Elton McGahan; 3. John McCarthy; 4. Randy Barnes.
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