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Thursday, February 17 - If you know Bruce and I personally you know when we retire our plans are to move to Indiana. Why you ask. I can tell you in two words, wingless sprints. So why did we choose to go to Ocala Speedway on Thursday, two words - wingless sprints. The USAC sprints invaded the Ocala Speedway on what was the nicest day weather wise so far and after watching those awful twin 150s they ran at Daytona on television we could not wait to go see some real racing.
We pulled into the parking lot at 6:35 for the 7:30 start and they were running warm-ups. Bruce being the kind husband that he is, shares everything with me and today I had the cold he had earlier in the week. I felt miserable and delayed my entrance into the stands until closer to the starting time. When we did reach our seats a little after 7:00 we learned they were going to run time trials for the 29 sprints in the pits and they started at 7:15. Hunter Schuerenberg set fast time with a time of 14.801.
The UMP Modifieds were also on the agenda and only 18 signed into the pits. A far cry from the 70+ we saw at Volusia Speedway earlier in the week. But we were glad because we came to see the sprints not the modifieds. They ran two 8 lap qualifying heats followed by the sprint heats. The sprints look mighty fast coming down the backstretch going into turn three. The exit from turn four is quite sharp and Justin Grant found this out the hard way. At the completion of lap 1 of heat 1, Grant clipped the outside wall coming out of four and flipped down the homestretch end over end. His front bumper was left stuck in the clay surface and the car continued on. Luckily Grant was okay and they were even able to get the car back together for the B main. The second heat race reaffirmed why we love wingless sprints as the battle for the fourth and final qualifying spot was between three sprints that could have been as the saying goes under a blanket. At the end of the heats management did take a 30 minute intermission followed by the 12 lap B main. It was 9:33 when the UMP modifieds took the green for their feature but the green did not stay out for long. This 20 lap feature had 7 cautions and it just seemed to be one spinout after the other. It was nearly 10:00 when the checkered fell on Jeff Matthews followed by once local New Jersey driver, Todd Neihauser.
Now the excitement was to begin. At 10:15 the green fell and immediately the racing was fierce. But on lap 5 Casey Riggs collided with another car and lightly rolled over in turn 2 putting the red out for the delay the race would see. Jon Stambrough immediately took the lead from his outside row starting position but that did not mean his ride was going to be easy. Damien Gardner moved into second and rode the rear bumper of Stambrough throughout the second half of the race just waiting for Stambrough to faulter. Stambrough did not make that mistake so Gardner simply put it up on the high side of turn three and four on the final circuit and passed Stambrough coming out of turn four for the checkered. It definitely was a thriller and reaffirmed in both my mind and Bruce’s mind why we will be Indiana bound one day. Rounding out the top five were Brian Clauson, Levi Jones and Bud Kaeding.
The events of the night were complete by 10:33 and we were not disappointed. We hung out a bit talking with some newly aquired friends from Anderson, Indiana before heading back to the condo. Of course we did have to make our nightly stop at Steak and Shake for a bite to eat. Leaving the track we had a good feeling because we could come back on both Friday and Saturday night and do this all again.
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