Red Vann Returns in Style to Ocala – Allen Dominates FastSprints
Tampa’s Red Vann returned to the track he dominated in 2001 and led every lap of the 50-lap Modified special Friday night at Ocala Speedway. A stellar field of 26 cars was led in qualifying by Troy Robinson’s 15.414 clocking, but that would be the only bright spot to Robinson’s evening as he lined up in the fourth row on the re-draw while Vann had the pole for the big race. Vann took off in the lead with Alan MCafferty in tow, but this race would be a caution flag-filled affair starting early with a tangle between Jason Garver and Ron Campbell on the opening lap. Then on the restart, Jeff Borden and Robert Gulvin crashed on the frontstretch to put the field right back under caution. Vann, who had decided just Friday morning to go to the race, had his car geared for the faster high-banked tracks of New Smyrna and USA International and was at a definate disadvantage coming off the corners as McCafferty hounded his every move but could never really build up any momentum due to the numerous yellow flags. Rob Partelo spun on lap 19 to bring out the caution, then it was out again on lap 26 for a controversial tangle between D.J. Hoelzle and Gary Southard as they battled just outside the top five. Mitchell Reeves spun on lap 33 for yet another caution, then following the restart it was a multi-car crash that saw fast qualifier Robinson take his car pitside with damage severe enough to drop him out of the event. Vann continued to set the pace when there was actually green flag racing and the final caution for a Jeremy Gerstner/Kevyn Terry tangle set up a five lap dash to the checker. Try as he might, McCafferty could not pressure Vann into a mistake and he made one last effort on the final lap moving up to the high side of the track, nearly pulling even with Vann at the stripe. In victory lane, McCafferty said he should have tried his outside move earlier but said Vann did what he needed to do: keep the inside line. Vann praised McCafferty for driving him clean and thanked his crew for preparing a great race car on short notice. Rick Hall made his first start in over a month and drove to a solid third-place finish over David Baxley and Raymond Vann who managed to keep things relatively clean between themselves after an altercation a few weeks ago. Darren “Action” Jackson, racing on three-year-old Goodyear tires soaked in WD40 prior to the race, grabbed sixth spot with Chris Fadling, Mike Wilson, Jeff Conyers and Johnny Newsome rounding out the top ten. The FASTSPRINTS made their second appearance of the season at Ocala and the evening was dominated by Taylor Andrews’ Dayton-Andrews Dodge team out of St. Petersburg. “Big Daddy” Dave Pletcher, fresh off his AACS Super Late Model win at Desoto Speedway the week before, took over the wheel of the car that Andrews normally drives and led the way in heat one while his teammate Sport Allen ran off with heat two. Luck of the draw saw both drivers start in the front row of the 30-lap feature and it was no contest from the drop of the green as Allen drove away from his teammate and the rest of the field in dramatic fashion, lapping everyone but second place Pletcher, third place Jimmy Alvis and fourth place Joe Melnick as the race ran all the way under green. Kevin Cahill was fifth, one lap down, followed by Lee Cipray and Skeeter Faulconer. Murray Hall was putting on the best show of the night racing lap after lap with Melnick and Cahill until he climbed the backstretch wall and nearly turned his car over. Hall was able to keep the rubber side down and soldiered on to an eighth place finish despite a damaged suspension. Mike Love and J.J. Dutton rounded out the top ten. For Allen, it was his second sprint car win of 2002 at Ocala as he took a TBARA win earlier this year and he heaped praise on Pletcher in victory lane for building an “awesome engine.” Street Stock action was wild and crazy as always and a heartbreaker for John Betts. Betts grabbed the lead from Paul Fletcher on lap two and had his car working perfectly, well on his way to victory when the engine blew in turn three on the final lap. Second-running Mark Mitchell slid in the oil and tagged Betts’ car but only received bodywork damage and was able to continue. A one lap race to the checker saw Mitchell take the win followed closely by Moose Alderman. Doug Webster, involved in an early tangle, came back through the field to claim third followed by Tom Fralish and Darren Dukes. Michael Rosa, Jamie Dunn, Rick Hart, Steve West and Mike Fiddia completed the top ten. Alderman, Doug Webster and Frank Buchanan won the heats. A short field of Mini-Stocks saw Clint Foley run off with the 10 lap feature over Tater Stalnaker, Jeff Stalnaker, Sr., Larry Goolsby and Jacob Antis. Tater Stalnaker won the heat. The Four Cylinder Stocks put on quite a show as always, but point leader Robert Oxendine and 2002 regular season Champion Ric Fort were out before a lap could be completed after a crash on the backstretch. When the race got going there was more slicin’ and dicin’ than a Three Musketeers movie as Joey Durbin grabbed the top spot and held off fellow Mustang drivers Tom Ellis and Justin Durbin for the win. Steve Gallagher and his VW were fourth just ahead of Dan Sanderson’s Toyota pick-up truck. Gallagher, Oxendine, and Ellis won the heats. Also visiting the track were the Florida Open Wheel Lite cars, and although New Smyrna’s Dan Nyhan led all the way, he was forced to fend off constant pressure from Rick Lundeen, Brian Gingras, and Bob Quick, who finished in that order. Jim Harrison was fifth. Heats wins were taken by Nyhan and Quick. Next week, Ocala Speedway has a six-division show featuring the Super Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and Four Cylinder Stocks beginning at 8PM.