OCALA, FL- A huge crowd braved a chilly north central Florida night to see some of the top dirt late model racers in the nation take on each other and the southeast's toughest 3/8ths mile, in Ocala Speedway's "Battle Between the Coasts." The 50 lap, $8000 to win race attracted a stellar field of competitors to Florida's oldest race track, plus provided plenty of drama that kept the final outcome of the race uncertain until the final lap.
The drama began during qualifying runs, as the session became a constant game of "Top this!" The early qualifiers dealt with a slick track, but as the session continued the surface began to gain grip and times began to shrink. Time after time, racers held the fastest time for a bit, then saw it topped by another, until Josh Richards finally topped them all with a 15.014 to become that Kistler Engines Top Qualifier. Richards also collected an extra $300 bonus from East Palatka Tire Brake and Lube for his efforts.
Four heat races and two B mains set the field for the 50 lap feature, with Brad Neat winding up with the pole position. But Bub McCool would jump out to the early lead at the green flag as Austin Hubbard moved up to the second spot and Scott Bloomquist hung onto third place. Hubbard would find a route past McCool on lap 13 and take the lead until Josh Richards assumed the lead three laps later. Hubbard would make contact with some lapped traffic after retaking the lead soon after, then contact between Don O'Neal and John Lobb led to the first caution after 29 laps under green.
O'Neal would have a tire go down as the result of the contact, so a trip to the pits under caution led to his being relegated to the rear of the field for the restart. Hubbard would restart with the lead while Josh Richards gave chase and Scott Bloomquist slipped back to fifth place. O'Neal wasted no time making his way back toward the front of the field, and quickly caught up with Bloomquist, who he passed for the fourth spot.
Austin Hubbard's place as the race leader looked very secure until lap 46 when a flat tire caused him to make contact with the backstretch wall, and at virtually the same time Josh Richards blew a right rear tire as well. After the resulting caution for Hubbard's problems, Don O'Neal found himself back in the lead as two more flats resulted in top contenders, Shane Clanton and Bub McCool, exiting to the pits in the final laps.
Don O'Neal notched the win and got a celebration on Ocala Speedway's frontstretch after overcoming misfortune and a very unforgiving race track, while Scott Bloomquist wound up claiming the second spot. Jonathan Davenport was the third place finisher, followed by Ryan Urzicker and Josh Richards for fourth and fifth places.
Ocala Speedway's rough and tumble Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks were going after a $500 paycheck courtesy of Astor Recycling as they started their 20 lap feature, with 2010 Division Champion Scott Mooers leading the field to the green flag. Mooers would hold the lead until Luke Sadler briefly stole it on lap 3, but lost it again two laps later. Meanwhile Jason Gamble had moved into the 3rd spot and was on his way forward while being challenged by Kevin Durden for the position. Sadler would spin and be sent to the rear on lap 7, and shortly thereafter Durden was in position to challenge for the lead.
Scott Mooers continued to hold the lead until a mechanical issue with the right rear suspension slowed him on lap 9. Mooers would slip to third place while Jason Gamble pounced on the opportunity and jumped into the lead, followed by Chris Fontaine. Mooers would continue to slip as Eddie Lake passed him for fourth place then Durden passed him for fifth.
Jason Gamble was untouchable through the final laps as he claimed the victory and the payoff from Astor Recycling. Chris Fontaine followed in second place and Eddie Lake was third. Kevin Durden was the fourth place car and Alan Peacock rounded out the top five.
February Winternationals action continues at Ocala Speedway this Thursday night as the USAC wingless sprint cars come to America's Dirt Track for the Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals. Joining the wingless sprints will be the UMP Modifieds on all three nights of competition, including Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, at 8PM. For more information on the remainder of the Winternationals schedule at Florida's most historic race track, please visit www.OcalaSpeedway.com.