The much anticipated return of the Top Gun Sprints had the crowd buzzing, and even before hot laps were completed the toughest 3/8ths mile in the southeast was living up to its reputation as Rocky Sullivan had a rather nasty meeting with the turn 4 wall. Sullivan's car was pulled away on a hook, but returned later to grab a top 10 finish in the feature race.
But while some were struggling with Ocala's tough reputation, at least one racer was happy to be reintroduced to an old friend. Rich Pratt returned to Ocala Speedway in the cockpit of the Meeks Motorsports car, and used his familiarity with Ocala's tricky layout to stay in the front pack. But While Pratt was fast, Danny Martin had a rocket ship on rails, blasting into the lead on lap 2 and taking complete control of the race.
Martin may have been fast, but the fastest car on the track was Gene Lasker's Bubba Army machine. Early in the night it looked like Lasker was out of it. First there was an oil issue that had the car fogging for mosquitoes, and then there was a tangle with another car that set him back during his heat. But starting near the rear of a competitive field only made Lasker more determined, and he put on a show using every inch of Ocala Speedway to charge through the field and into the top five.
Danny Martin's lead never became insurmountable thanks to a smattering of cautions throughout the race that allowed Rich Pratt to keep it close, but at the same time there were enough green flag laps that the leaders spent a lot of time dealing more with traffic than with each other. Danny Martin got the impressive win while Rich Pratt drew loud cheers for a hard fought second place finish. Top Gun points leader " Flying" Ryan Partin took third place, with Gene Lasker using a checkers or wreckers mentality to nab the fourth spot. Tim George rounded out the top five.
The Florida Mini Sprint Association loves to run at Ocala Speedway, so having not had that opportunity since January they were chomping at the bit to take the challenge as part of their "Border Wars" with the Georgia Mini Sprint organization. Just short of thirty mini sprints took the green flag and put on a wide open, action filled race on Friday night.
Sitting at third place in the FMSA points coming into the night, young Rae Lynn Moss was an early victim on the first turn of her heat race. She was squeezed in a four wide plunge into the turn and spun, but by the time she managed to right herself the field had left her in their dust. That put her in to a deep starting position for the feature race, and perhaps had her trying a bit too hard to make up for it as a spin and contact with the turn four wall ended her night early on.
John Craddock led the field to the green flag, but Chris Pacetti snatched the early lead away from him on the first lap after a multi car tangle in turn 4 forced a restart. But Pacetti couldn't hold it and Craddock jumped back in front on the next circuit around the track. Craddock was strong and maintained the lead until almost the halfway point, but not far behind him the 7 car was quickly making progress toward the front of the pack.
Florida Mini Sprint Association president and repeat former champion, Jesse Teed, never climbed into his car Friday night due to his continuing recovery from a medical issue, but Gavin Thomas was more than happy to climb in and prove that Teed's Jesse James Demolition ride is fast no matter who drives it. Just after Jody McKenzie went up in smoke on lap 8, Thomas used the restart to position himself to pounce on the leader and take control of the race.
Gavin Thomas never looked back on his way to the win, as Brett O'Donnell maintained his points lead with a second place finish. John Craddock came across the line in the third spot to complete a respectable night, followed by Chris Partin and Eddie Moss Jr. to round out the top five. Both the Florida Mini Sprints, and the Top Gun Sprint Car Series, are traveling through the forest to the east for a Saturday night showdown at the high speed half mile tonight.
The battle at the top of Ocala Speedway's Tee Pee Tire Hobby Stocks has been between Dean Jarvis and Heath Walker, and with Jarvis starting from the pole on Friday night it might have looked like more of the same. But someone forget to tell Bubba Christian, Jody Wells, Cory Hupp, and Daniel Miller about all of that, as they stole the show from the points leaders.
Daniel Miller launched toward the lead from the opening flag and forced things 3 wide in turn two as he took control, with Jody Wells not giving an inch and battling him for every inch. But Wells would not be able to hang on and spun in turn 2 as Miller extended his lead, Cory Hupp wrestled himself into the second spot, and Bubba Christian began charging forward toward the top three.
The spin and caution had Wells battling back from the rear, while it kept things close between Miller and the 2H car of Cory Hupp. Meanwhile Bubba Christian was challenging Dean Jarvis for third place in a fight that went for multiple laps, with Christian nosing under Jarvis in turn 2 only to have the door slammed in his face in turn 3. Behind that battle the second man in the season points battle was struggling, as Heath Walker hovered just out of the top five, and later became a victim of contact to end his night.
Cory Hupp gave it a valiant effort, but Daniel Miller Jr. was simply too tough to tame on Friday night. Miller notched the win while Hupp finished second, and Bubba Christian finally freed himself from the battle with the 37 and scored a third place finish. "The Outlaw" Jody Wells may have finished with a dented car and after an exhausting comeback, but he managed to recover for fourth place while Dean Jarvis would come home in the fifth spot.
As Ocala's hard nosed Gladiator Division hit the clay they wasted no time in demonstrating that Friday's race would be a battle to survive as much as it was a race to the finish. Harold Lewis and Matt Shea exchanged paint over the lead early on as young Devin Walker slid into the third spot and then went to work on Lewis for second place as Shea took the lead. Walker would continue to pick his way forward, more than once losing excellent passes to caution flags along the way but never getting frustrated.
The battle up front was tough and some racers fell victim to the intensity along the way. Steven Cox watched his right front tire ricochet off of the billboards in turn two, and points leader Steven Johnson got muscled out on a restart and found the wall in turn 1. The latter incident had Devin Walker and Casey Feaster battling for the potential points lead, with Walker in a fight for the second place in the race with James Sullivan, and Feaster struggling to move up from the fourth spot. And as Walker attempted grab second place on the outside going into turn 3, he found a slow moving lapped car in his path and spun, sending him to the rear with only five laps remaining.
With Walker out of his way, James Sullivan was able to focus on getting past Matt Shea as Walker was forced to salvage what he could. Sullivan would make quick work of Matt Shea and go on to take the win, with Shea settling for second place on the night. Casey Feaster hung on and managed a third place finish, while Jerry Taylor recovered from some early race miscues and grabbed fourth place. And despite starting from the rear with only five laps left, Devin Walker calmly worked his way back to close out the top five finishers.
Ocala Speedway will be back in action next Friday night, July 23rd, as the much anticipated return of the Late Model Division highlights a four division night of excitement. The fender banging Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks will also be racing, as will Florida's only Mini Stock Division on dirt, plus Ocala's always competitive Gladiator Division. For more information on upcoming events, please visit www.OcalaSpeedway.com!
Ocala Speedway Results for 7/16/10
|Top Gun Sprint Car Series
1- 24 Danny Martin
2- 2 Rich Pratt
3- 14 Ryan Partin
4- 02 Gene Lasker
5- 1 Tim George
6- 3 Kurt Taylor
7- 21M Darrin Miller
8- 38 Tony Again
9- 22 Shawn Murray
10- 15 Rocky Sullivan
11- 8 Rich Alexander
12- 30 John Crowder
13- 1Z Harley Zimmerman
14- 27 Tony Knowles
15- 6X Brandon Grubaugh
16- 18 Jennette Burnett
17- 83 Mark Ruel Jr.
18- 9 Tim Grubaugh
19- 6 Mike Schroeder
DNS- 15L Mike Love
Tee Pee Tire Hobby Stock
Florida Mini Sprint Association