Shauna Hogg from Citrus Heights Races at Calistoga Speedway

By Kevin Triplett of Live Oak, CA.
Contributor to Open Wheel Racers 3 .com.

Shauna Hogg

United States Auto Club (USAC) Western Classic series competitor Shauna Hogg of Citrus Heights California has been driving race cars and watching races at Calistoga Speedway for over 15 years, but the 2011 Louie Vermeil Classic marked her first time to race at the historic ½ mile oval. Shauna began racing at age 13 in quarter midgets, then moved into sprint cars on dirt, with Placerville Speedway as her home track. Throughout her career, Ms. Hogg has been a record-breaker; she was the first woman to win a California Sprint Car Civil War series race, in 1995, then a year later, Shauna became the first woman to win a USAC sprint car heat race on dirt. After transitioning into pavement sprint cars, in 1999, Shauna was the first woman to win a USAC sprint car heat race on pavement, and won the 2003 Vukovich Classic, thus she became the first woman in history to win a USAC Sprint Car pavement feature race. In 2005, Shauna made the trip to Indiana to race in the historic Little 500 at Anderson Speedway and became the first women to lead laps in the historic event as she led 16 laps enroute to a tenth place finish.

From 1999 through 2010, Shauna exclusively competed on pavement with the USAC Western States sprint car series, so she was excited to return to her dirt racing roots when USAC announced the Western Classic Series would combine races on pavement and dirt. In preparation for the dirt races, her father Richard bought a gently used Eagle sprint car and borrowed a 360 cubic inch USAC-legal engine from Bill Mackay, and Shauna ran many practice laps at Marysville Speedway in preparation for the 2011 season. Shauna’s team is a family operation, with her father Richard Hogg serving as crew chief, with team members including her brother Brian Hogg, Allen Young,Bill Mackay, Tara Arruda, and on occasion, this author, Kevin Triplett. Sponsors of the #5 sprint car include Jerry Crowell Racing Shocks and Tony Borello Racing Engines. Coming into the Calistoga weekend, Shauna was third in Western Classic points.

Shauna Hogg on the track at Calistoga Speedway.
Shauna Hogg on the track at Calistoga Speedway.

There has been automobile racing at Calistoga Speedway located on the grounds of the picturesque Napa County Fairgrounds since 1937. Although flat, the track’s reputation is that of an extremely fast but narrow surface, with long straightaways and tight corners. Calistoga has a treacherous reputation, having claimed nine lives thorough the 60’s and 70’s, though the last fatality was Gary Patterson in 1983.

Louie Vermeil, father of NFL coaching legion Dick Vermeil, was the promoter at Calistoga Speedway until 1985.

On Saturday afternoon, the #5 team’s troubles began during wheel packing on the wet, heavy track surface, as Shauna brought the car to the pit area with the throttle partly hung open, causing the engine to run far about the typical idle speed. The crew removed the hood then the injector stacks in an effort to diagnose and solve the problem.

The car seemed to run well during hot laps, and Shauna qualified at 22.156 seconds, 20th fastest, which the team considered a good time, since this was Shauna’s first time on the big track, and given that most of the fast qualifiers were piloting 410 CI sprint cars. With the 410 CI cars far outpacing the USAC Western Classic competitors in their 360 CI machines, Shauna managed to finish the first night’s feature in 18th place.

Bill Mackay making some last minute throttle adjustments.

The following morning, #5 team engine specialists, Brian Hogg and Bill Mackay, discovered that after the adjustments made due to the problem during wheel packing, at some point during the previous evening’s racing, the throttle had slipped back to the point that Shauna had only ¾ throttle at most.

The pair re-adjusted and tightened up the throttle components in preparation for the second night’s action, confident that car would be faster with full throttle available. The second night’s qualifying times for the sprint car field were typically ½ second slower than the first night, but Shauna’s time was only .122 second slower, she improved to 16th fastest overall, and buoyed the team’s spirits, as the problems seemed over. As the night before, in her heat race, Shauna’s 360 CI machine was no match for the 410 CI machines, and she started the feature deep in the field. Early in the feature event, the red flag came out for the turn one flip by Damion Gardner, and Shauna’s #5 rolled to a stop at the pit entry with the throttle stuck again, the engine running far above idle speed. The team descended on the car and tried to remedy the problem, with no real result in the limited time available. Because of the sticking throttle, Shauna had to pull the throttle up with her foot on corner entry. A few laps later, there was another red flag for the flip by Austin Williams but once again, the crew could not find and solve the throttle problems. Over the next 19 laps, Shauna bravely drove her #5 car with the sticking throttle problem to record a remarkable twelfth place finish. Although she held onto her third place position in the 2011 USAC Western Classic overall points, the crew wondered how much better the result would have been without the throttle problem.

The USAC Western Classic sprint cars return to action at the ¼-mile paved Madera Speedway at the Madera County Fairgrounds on September 17th in the Harvest Classic.

This article originally appeared at Open Wheel Racers in Kevin Triplett’s column, Going Back. All photos courtesy of Kevin Triplett.

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