OCALA, FL- Many long time Florida racers regard Ocala Speedway as a "driver's track" because the tricky layout requires skill in order to be competitive. But Florida's oldest speedway also has a reputation as "the toughest 3/8ths mile in the southeast" and on Friday night it certainly lived up to both reputations. Over five inches of rain over two days made the track hard to manage, and created a situation where drivers needed guts, skill, and determination, to hang with the front runners.
The "Night of Thousands" brought three divisions to Ocala Speedway in search of a $1000 payout to the race winners with the Gladiators rounding out the night, and that filled the pits with racers from across Florida and south Georgia. None of the races counted toward the Ocala Speedway 2010 points races, which meant that all of the racers had nothing to lose and money to gain, and it was full contact and full throttle from start to finish in every division, with the racers battling the unforgiving clay and each other.
Ocala's Tee Pee Tire Hobby Stocks have been entertaining fans with some hard nosed racing this season, and Friday night was no different. But with $1000 on the line the race attracted a few extra names that immediately stirred up the mix, and many of the regulars ended up getting swallowed up in the results. From the start it looked like Kevin Durden was going to going to be the man to beat as he charged to the front and began stretching his legs, but a problem on lap 10 sent Durden to the pits and handed the lead to Bubba Christian. Christian had already battled forward ten spots from his 11th starting position, and then had to defend himself for the remaining laps from Steve Mooers.
Mooers made a race of it, but Bubba Christian hung on and got to celebrate in Victory Lane while Mooers watched as he drove to the pit area. Apopka's Cory Hupp followed Mooers after gaining 21 positions during the race to finish in third place. Heath Walker and Chad Scranton rounded out the top five.
Forty Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks had to fight through five heats and two B mains in order to make the starting grid for the main event, but 25 racers managed to get the job done. Willard Driggers had the pole and led most of the race, but Jessie Corbitt and Michael Stalnaker had something to say about that before it was over. Both managed to get past Driggers and battle for the lead late in the race, but Stalnaker and Corbitt were both a little too exhuberent and banged each other hard in turn two. Not only did that allow Driggers to regain the lead, but it also cut down a tire on both Corbitt's and Stalnaker's cars, effectively taking them out of contention.
Willard Driggers would hold on and win the race as Chris Fontaine moved up to claim the second spot. Jerrid Bennett had to fight through the field for the third spot after some earlier problems with a flat tire, and Scott Mooers managed to survive for a fourth place finish. Ryan Lisak also survived all of the action at the front of the field, coming away with a respectable run in fifth place.
Ocala Speedway's Sportsman Division saw 21 cars take the green flag, and immediately Ken Hall took over the race and looked almost unbeatable. But thanks to contact and mishaps that kept the yellow flag waving periodically, Hall never got too far in front of Alex Boerner, who had rocketed to second from the seventh starting position. And after a restart on lap 12 Boerner made his move, pulling alongside of Hall and then completing the pass out of turn 4 two laps later. The handing on Hall's car had apparently gone south, which led him to climb the backstretch wall on lap 17 and thus give Tim Powers a shot at the leader.
The final couple of laps saw a flurry of position changes in the top five, but Alex Boerner was not to be denied a trip to Victory Lane. Boerner was followed by Phillip Cobb for the second spot, while Paul Shead gained 14 spots during the race to grab a spot in the top three. The biggest mover of the race was Shane Nichols, who fought forward 15 positions for a fourth place finish, while Tim Powers faded back to fifth.
The final race of the night featured Ocala Speedway's Gladiator Division, and between the competition and a track that was taking no prisoners, some usual frontrunners found themselves in quite a struggle. Super Dave Ladrie stole the lead from pole sitter Matthew Kramer and dominated the early laps, but finally succumbed to Mike McDonald after the first third of the race. Meanwhile Casey Feaster had started at the very rear of the pack, but had discovered that the fastest way around the track might not be the shortest. Feaster stuck to the outside line and worked his way to the front, grabbing the lead in the final two laps.
Casey Feaster earned himself another visit to Victory Lane while Mike McDonald followed in second place. Matt Shea drove the third place car and held off Matthew Kramer who wound up in fourth place. And rounding out the top five on the night was Matt Stein.
Ocala Speedway is back in action on Friday, May 14th, with the return of the Pepsi Wheel of Fortune. Fans will se action from Ocala's Colortyme Modifieds, the Tee Pee Tire Hobby Stocks, Amsoil Synthetics V8 Thunder Stocks, Mini Stocks, and Gladiators. For more information, visit www.OcalaSpeedway.com, or phone the speedway at 352-622-9400.