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Clauson and Spatola Win Ocala's Second Night

. Posted in Racing News

#7 Bryan Clauson

OCALA, FL-  Friday night brought a second round of blistering action to the historic Ocala Speedway as the Bubba Army Sprint Car Winter Games continued at America's Dirt Track, and the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series provided another round of non winged action on the clay.  The UMP Modifieds were also back to challenge the southeast's toughest 3/8ths mile, and seemed to be under the spell of the full moon overhead as controversy surrounded the race.

Ocala's gumbo clay showed a slightly dryer side to the USAC racers on Friday, slowing things down a notch in qualifying.  Tony Stewart Racing's Levi Jones set the fast time with a 15.211, while Bryan Clauson followed with a 15.288.  The previous night's winner, Damion Gardner, was third fastest with a 15.391, but failed to transfer to the feature event in his heat race later on.  In fact, Gardner had to rely on a dominant showing in the B main in order to make the A main field on Friday.  Heats produced four winners, including Casey Riggs, Chris Windom, Jon Stanbrough, and Scotty Weir.

The 30 lap feature event saw Blake Fitzpatrick take control as soon as the green flag waved. With just five laps completed Fitzpatrick began to deal with traffic at the rear of the field, and as the race continued under green the traffic woes worsened.  In fact, the race went green to checkers without a caution, and was completed in a rapid 8 minutes and 27 seconds.  And because there were no cautions to bunch up the field, the concept of "open track" was nonexistent.

No matter how hard Fitzpatrick might have tried to stretch his lead, slower cars kept a determined Bryan Clauson close enough to pester the leader at various points in the race.  And Clauson's repeated attempts at getting around Fitzpatrick finally paid off on lap 23, as he shot under the race leader coming out of turn four and blew by as the two passed the flagstand.

But traffic was just as hard on Clauson as it was on Fitzpatrick, and the Indiana driver was unable to stretch his lead very far.  At the same time Fitzpatrick had to deal with the same traffic problems, as did third place runner, Scotty Weir, so no one had a clear shot at each other in the final laps.  Bryan Clauson scored the win, followed by Blake Fitzpatrick and Scotty Weir.  Damion Gardner fought his way from a dismal starting position to fourth place, and Hunter Schuerenberg was fifth.

The Victory Lane celebration took on a far more emotional tone as Shane Hmiel joined the top three finishers on Ocala's frontstretch, making his first venture to the races since his horrific accident back on October 9th of last year.  Hmiel was happy to be there, speaking to the crowd and joining the winners on the podium for photos.  And he was greeted with a rousing ovation from the grandstand and from the racers in the pits as well, as he said that this was his first real time outside of a hospital setting since his accident, and stated that he planned to win this latest race despite long odds.

#89 Mike SpatolaAs the UMP Modifieds made their way onto Ocala Speedway for their feature race, a new face in the crowd was there to challenge the supremacy of repeated Ocala track champion, Jeff Mathews.  Devin Dixon had never raced at Ocala, and the Apollo Beach racer had something for the Tampa area's "Repo Man".  And Dixon wasted no time in showing it, as he jumped in front of Matthews and the two of them battled lap after lap while Kyle Bronson and Illinois' Mike Spatola had their own tussle over third and fourth places.

Late in the race it was Mathews who took a big shot at getting past Dixon as they exited turn two, and contact between the two racers resulted in a caution flag.  Dixon nearly spun into one of the tractor tires on the infield at the bottom of the track, and came to a stop just off of the backstretch as Mathews continued around the circuit.  Under caution the race officials determined that both racers were at fault, and under UMP rules sent both to the rear of the field, which did not set well with either one.  Both made their exit to the pit area, and the race continued with Mike Spatola leading Kyle Bronson and Jason Miller.

Spatola had made the statement early in his 10 day stint in Florida that he was not going home to Illinois without a win, and with just a one lap dash to the checkers he knew that this was his best shot at not becoming yet another permanently transplanted midwesterner in the Sunshine State.  And with Kyle Bronson all over him for the lead, Spatola blasted his machine through turns one and two, leaving Bronson behind and claiming his first Florida win.  Tampa's Kyle Bronson would settle for second place while Jason Miller finished third.  Kentucky's David McWilliams and Panama City's Todd Neiheiser were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Saturday night marks the absolute last chance for race fans to see the USAC non winged sprint cars this year at the famed Ocala Speedway, and the UMP Modifieds will be back for another round of action as well, this time with a couple of axes to grind over Friday's controversial final laps.  The grandstand gates will open at 4PM, hot laps are scheduled at 6:15 with qualifying to follow, and heats will begin at 7:30.  For directions to America's Dirt Track, or more information on the final night of the 2011 Winternationals, please visit www.OcalaSpeedway.com, or phone the track at 352-622-9400.

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Ocala Speedway Results for 2/18/11

Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals, Night 2

1- 7 Bryan clauson
2- 10 Blake Fitzpatrick
3- 1G Scotty Weir
4- 71 Damion Gardner
5- 35 Hunter Schuerenberg
6- 81 Robert Ballou
7- 10E Shane Cottle
8- 53 Jon Stanbrough
9- 20 Levi Jones
10- 29 Bud Kaeding
11- 37 Casey Riggs
12- 4 Tracy Hines
13- 5X Chris Windom
14- 5 Bobby East
15- 40 Justin Grant
16- 10T Bill Rose
17- 36 Brady Short
18- 14 Coleman Gulick
19- 69 Jerry Coons Jr.
20- 32 Chase Stockton
21- 83 Wes McIntyre
22- 17R Kyle Robbins

UMP Modifieds, Night 2

1- 89 Mike Spatola
2- 40B Kyle Bronson
3- 12 Jason Miller
4- 18 David McWilliams
5- 72 Todd Neiheiser
6- 67 Garret Stewart
7- 56 Dave Barber Jr.
8- 07 Jeff Thomas
9- 1S Keith Smith
10- 05 David Wietholder
11- D4 Dave Jamison
12- 2 Devin Dixon
13- 33 Jeff Mathews
14- 11 Chuck Gustafson Jr.
15- 99 Jim Passino
16- 12M David Moheng
17- 21 Gary Brooks
18- 13 Cory Hupp

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