After spending the majority of his season on the road with the USAC National Sprint Car Series, Eddie Tafoya Jr. returned to his home track, Perris Auto Speedway, for the Glenn Howard Classic. Unfortunately, the Chino Hills, California racer’s triumphant return home was spoiled by a flat tire with 10 laps to go in the race.
Competing on the West Coast for the first time in seven months, the handsome 26-year-old came out firing on all cylinders before the appreciative crowd. Twenty-three other cars showed up for the race on the West Coast’s premiere dirt track. Tafoya topped them all with the fastest lap in hot laps. Minutes later when it counted, he recorded the quickest qualifying time when he toured the half-mile clay oval in 16.381. That was his first-ever fast qualifying effort at Perris and his second ever in the series. His first came in 2022 at the Ventura Raceway.
Being the fastest qualifier meant Tafoya had to start sixth in his heat race. Later in the night, the best he could start in the main was sixth. In order to do that, he had to finish fourth or better in the 10-lap heat. Anything worse than that and he would have to start seventh in the main event with one more fast car in front of him. The now-seasoned veteran driver did what he had to do and placed fourth in the heat.
Like it proved to be in hot laps, qualifying and his heat race, the eye-catching silver #51T was fast in the 30-lap main event. Make that very fast. For the first 1/3 of the race, he was in a battle with several foes as he attempted to move forward. Finally, around lap 10, he made his move and began picking off cars and heading towards the front of the pack.
“The first 10 laps I think there was seven of us all over the place,” Tafoya said of the early portion of the main. “I was just kind of hanging out and seeing what the guys were doing. Then about lap 10, I started making moves and getting runs on people. I even got three of them at one time coming out of two.”
His charge toward the head of the pack had the fans on the edges of their seats in anticipation of a tremendous battle for the first-place check and trophy. However, bad luck intervened and it cost him from having a chance to win to finishing a frustrating 18th.
“When I got to Tommy (leader and eventual race winner Tommy Malcolm), we had a restart and I kind of stayed with him for a lap or two,” the confident racer continued. “Then we had another caution and I could start to hear my tire and started seeing my hood lean the other way. So I knew something was going away. I hung with him for a couple of laps even with it going down. The last restart we had it was completely flat and I could not do anything with it.”
The car was so good all night long that the team made very few changes. What changes they made were speculation and they proved to work.
“We made some changes, but not because I was uncomfortable or anything,” the 26-year-old racer said regarding the early portion of the night. “The changes we made were just trying to keep up with the track and what we thought it was going to do. I had not even touched my shocks yet by the time I got the flat. I still had a lot left and we were definitely coming forward and I think we were the car to beat.”
Tafoya’s concentration on competing in the Midwest this year paid big dividends on his first race back at the track where he began racing sprint cars. If not for the flat, he may have picked up the “W.”
“It is a huge deal,” Tafoya said when asked if racing with the USAC National Series had anything to do with his best Perris performance. “Usually (at Perris) I am either quick in hot laps, or qualifying, or win the heat race or something like that. But to have that speed all night long, every time we were out there, shows that the intensity I have been racing with (on the USAC National tour) is helping. Here you can wait around a little bit and see what people are doing. Back there if you wait around for half a lap you will get passed by three cars. You definitely need to be on your toes and keep trying to go forward.”
Great news for fans and bad news for the competition is the fact that Tafoya will finish out his season at the final four USAC/CRA races of 2023. First up will be a trip to Arizona’s 1/3 mile-banked Mohave Valley Raceway on October 14th. That will be followed by another trip to the “Copper State” on the first weekend in November for the annual Western World Championships. He will then finish the season at Perris on November 11th.
The Specialty Fasteners #51T team is always exploring corporate partnership opportunities. If you or your company would like to be a partner with the hard-working sprint car squad, please contact Eddie Tafoya Jr. via phone at (909) 393-3999 or by e-mail at mailto:[email protected]. He will be happy to talk to you and lay out the team’s plans.
Tafoya’s great-looking shirts and hoodies are available online at www.specialty-fasteners.com.
Tafoya has a great YouTube channel at the following link https://www.youtube.com/shorts/1hrmC5L80EU.
Fans can follow Tafoya on Instagram @eddietafoya51.
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