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Monday, February 8 - The USAC wingless sprints tonight would be invading the East Bay Raceway Park. It would be the first time ever for the sprinters at East Bay and only the second time USAC had raced here. In 2006 the Ford Focus midgets raced here with Pennsylvania’s Ryan Smith and Mike Ward winning races. The only other time that USAC sprints raced in the Sunshine state was in 1987 when the late Rich Vogler won a 30 lapper at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.
A fine field of 32 wingless warriors towed to Florida to do battle with time trials ,four heats, a B main and a 30 lap feature scheduled. Things got underway right at 7 PM with time trials and by 7:44 they were completed with the lst car taking time, Brady Short, setting fast time at 15.027 seconds. Four heat races followed with the top six in time trials inverted with Shane Hmiel, Henry Clarke, Justin Grant, the 2007 Bay Cities midget champion and Hunter Schuerenberg winning. Casey Riggs, the second fastest timer, had to win the B main to make the feature field. All qualifying was completed by 8:58 and it was intermission time. Some track grooming on the wet, tacky clay was in order and a media race pitting several local TV & radio personalities and national representatives such as Rick Benjamin and Hoseheads web site master, Allan Holland also were in the race.
A 23 car field took the green flag at 9:28 with first starter and rookie Ricky Williams making it as far as turn two where he looped it in front of the field. Jeff Bland Jr. was unable to avoid him and slammed into Williams. Both left on a hook and were finished for the evening. On the restart the other front row starter, Shane Hmiel, also did not make it past the second turn as he looped it also and did a 360 and continued but not before the caution again appeared. After the rough start things settled in and the new front row of Shane Cottle and Damion Gardner led them to the green. Gardner took off from the outside and was gone. If you came to see a battle for the lead tonight was not the night to do so. But if you came to see side by side racing throughout the pack then you were in the right place. The race long battle for second was good with Bryan Clauson holding off Brady Short for the runnerup spot. And the races for positions four through eight was great with Shane Cottle claiming the fourth spot and Jon Stanbrough nailing down the fifth position. Levi Jones had worked his way from 14th to 5th but in the last lap and a half dropped two positions to 7th. The final checkered flag waved at 9:47 and our group consisting of Wisconsin visitors, Ed Esser and Dale O’Brien, and Pat and I left the track with a satisfied feeling after witnessing a solid night of wingless sprint car racing.
Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s blog as rainy weather is predicted in the late afternoon and early evening which could put a damper on our night of racing. Good luck with the new storm moving toward the northeast expected to hit on Wednesday. Be safe and careful out there if you need to venture out.
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