By Laura Kassik
Last year, Factory Stocks driver Jeff Prieur couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong.
He had a fast car and years of racing experience – starting in Supercross at age 12, and later racing jet skis and becoming an IJSBA world champion. But Prieur couldn’t transfer that success onto the quarter-mile asphalt oval at Havasu 95 Speedway. He continually finished fourth and fifth, and as hard as he drove the car, couldn’t find the winning formula.
Until this season. He made some adjustments to his driving style and after finishing second during the season-opener Oct. 1, won consecutive main events on Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.
After talking with William Guevara, and watching video of how William drove the corners - not so much attacking them full throttle as Prieur was used to doing in his other sports, but with finesse to control the corner speed - Prieur entered the 2016-17 season a different driver. And now, he heads into Saturday’s race, Nov. 26, as the points leader in the Sam Nichols Electrical Factory Stocks.
Joining the Factory Stocks Saturday will be the Late Models, Office Cocktail Lounge Bandoleros, Sam Nichols Electrical Factory Stocks, Flowers Assisted Living Team Factory – On Dirt, and Pony Stocks. Gates open at Noon, and racing, sponsored by Anderson Group and Pinstriping by Chris, starts at 2 p.m.
“I have a whole different mind set,” said Prieur of Lake Havasu City. “I started watching William’s driving style. He is one of the best drivers out there. He gave me some pointers.”
After winning his second race, Prieur was reminded by a fellow competitor that he had reached the two-win limit that was reinstated this season for the Factory Stocks. Prieur strongly supported the rule change, and he still does.
“I was really, really happy,” he said of his second victory. “Then someone said, ‘I’d hate to be in your position,’ since I can’t win again.
“I support it. I think it’s a great idea, but it boomeranged me in the face after that second win. Now I will be a little more strategic. I’ll have fun with it. It will get more exciting.”
Prieur got an unexpected boost after finishing third Nov. 12. Race winner Matt Caley and runner-up Brent Delay were disqualified, handing the victory to Prieur. That moved everyone up two spots – rounding out the top 5 behind Prieur were: Chris Blackwell, Bobby Keirns, Jose Guevara, and Tom Gray.
“You hate to see that happen,” Prieur said of the DQs. “I didn’t expect it at all.”
Prieur leads with 203 points, followed by Blackwell (194), Jose Guevara (177), Jeremy Orozco (169), Jeremiah Tix (163) and Gray (150).
Prieur will also race in the Team Factory race, which will feature a portion on dirt. Because of the dirt Outlaw Kart track that sits inside the asphalt quarter-mile track, the configuration for the dirt portion is “completely different,” according to track promoter Bill Rozhon.
After one race, Prieur’s Ewwwweeee Racing leads the standings with 54 points, No. 17 Take & Bake is second (50), followed by No. 29X Asphalt Junkies (49) and No. 56 Vista Cruisers (45). William Guevara is also on his team, as well as another driver, which is undecided.
Prieur’s car number, 321, has special significance and is a tribute to his son who has Down syndrome. 321, or March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day, the day his son was born, and the day his dad, a major supporter of his racing, died.
It is a ‘happy’ number for Prieur and his family, “If we have a great day, we will say, ‘It’s a 321 day!’”
This is the first race of the season for the Late Models – a 100-lap main with $1,000 to win – which traditionally draws a strong field.
Rozhon expects all the major players to return from last year’s Late Model points race except for Bobby Keirns, who sold his car. Keirns finished second in Late Model points last season.
One of the top contenders expected back is Trevor Huddleston, who won three of six races en route to the 2015-16 Late Model track championship. Rounding out the top six last season were: Jeff Peterson, Matt Goodwin, Mark Allison and Nick Joanides.
“It should be a really great race,” Rozhon said. “There should be 20-plus cars if everyone who says they’re going to come, shows up. All the heavy-hitters from Irwindale should be coming and some from Las Vegas.”
The Bandoleros opened the season Oct. 1 and haven’t raced since. Finishing top three in the eight-car main were: Brock Rogers (50 points), Ethan DeGuevara (48), and Madison Gay (46). Fourth in points with 45 is Zackary Ginn, who finished fifth in the main, but got a boost from placing second in the Trophy Dash. Katie Schlarbaum, who was sixth in the main, also got some help by winning the Trophy Dash. She is tied in points (44) with Cody Kiemele, who was fourth on Oct. 1.
This is the final race for the track’s Toys for Tots program. The track will use money from ticket sales and monetary donations to purchase bicycles to donate to Toys for Tots. There will be a box for spectators to donate toys at the race if they want.
The track will go dark in December and will resume its 2016-17 season Jan. 7 with a day race at 2 p.m. featuring Late Model Twin 50s. Joining them will be Bandoleros, Factory Stocks, and the popular Waterless Boat Race.