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Dave Barber Claims First Modified Win at Ocala

. Posted in Racing News

ZUBER FL- For the second week in a row, racers and thousands of fans gathered at the historic Ocala Speedway to open up the 2009 season for three more racing divisions.  The Mini Stocks and Hobby Stocks had one race under their belts, while the Open Wheel Modifieds, Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks, and the Gladiators, all were getting their first shot at the clay in 2009.

img_7913.jpgThe Modifieds saw Dave Barber Jr. dominate his heat race, but his starting position in the feature was less than great.  Jeff Mathews won the second heat and had an equally dismal starting position, and as the feature unfolded his fortunes went south while Barber's went north.  An early race squeeze job caused Mathews to bounce over a tractor tire in the bottom of turn one, and from there he was playing catch up for the remainder of the race, at one point fighting to remain on the lead lap.  Meanwhile Barber was picking off cars and had advanced to the fourth place spot.

John Bradley took control of the race on lap 7 as Barber advanced, and Chris Littrell wound up taking an infield excursion that sent him to the back of the pack.  From that point on it was a race between Bradley and Barber, with Barber all over Bradley's car almost every lap.  And on lap 16 a slight misstep by Bradley opened the door just enough for Barber to take advantage,
and Barber's exciting pass for the lead got him a win at Ocala.  John Bradley would come home in second place, while Gary Sexton took third.  Chip "Hollywood" Owen claimed the fourth spot while Chris Littrell battled back to the fifth spot.  Jeff Mathews finished outside of the top five in sixth position.
 
img_7922.jpgTry as he did, Grady Christian could not muster a Hobby Stock win last week at Ocala, but this week's finish probably made up for it.  Both Grady, and his nephew, Bubba, had starting positions deep in the grid, but rocketed forward early to take control.  Race leader Heath Walker found out that the Christians were too strong to hold off, and finally had to watch them pass on laps 6 and 7.
From that point Grady Christian and Bubba Christian owned the race, finishing first and second on the night and sharing a huge hug in Victory Lane after the race.  William Stalnaker battled hard with Heath Walker in the closing laps to steal away the third spot while Walker settled for fourth.  And Joe Boyd kept all four tires aired up this time out to finish fifth.

img_7906.jpgIn 2008 the Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks were a strong division that featured plenty of paint rubbing, fender banging, and exciting racing.  If the first race of 2009 is any indication, that trend is continuing in 2009.  The initial start saw a three car tangle in turn one that brought out a caution, and forced a complete restart.  Edward England led the race to the green but was quickly overtaken by Augie Burtram on the backstretch, and Joey Durbin followed to the second spot.  Also on the move in the early going was Donald Winne, who was not shy in showing that he has a competitive race car in 2009.

The biggest incident of the night came on lap 4 as Courtney Eubanks got collected by a sideways Brian Brogan and both cars smacked head on into the frontstretch wall.  Brogan was able to drive away, but Eubanks' machine was done for the night and left on a hook.
Augie Burtram had to deal with some restarts that kept Joey Durbin on his back bumper, but held on to claim the victory.  Durbin was the second place finisher while Donald Winne claimed third place.  Robert Ray had an impressive night with a fourth place finish, and pole sitter Edward England held on for fifth.

img_7902.jpgWith Keith Briggs exiting the Mini Stock scene in 2009, it is anyone's guess as to who might step up and be a frontrunner.  The second race of the season saw Sean Babcock step forward and throw his name into the mix, as he held off Paul Combast to claim a victory.  Combast had won the earlier heat race,  and he thrilled the crowd with some late race heroics as he challenged Babcock for the lead.  But on the final lap Combast went high in turn two looking for some grip, and found nothing but loose clay which bogged him down.  Babcock took the checkers, while Combast recovered quickly to hold onto second place.  Greg Bonynge finished third, while William Stalnaker and Ray Ethridge rounded out the top five.
 
img_7932.jpgMechanical issues claimed a couple of Gladiator cars before the first heat race ran on Friday night, but the remainder of the field put on quite a show to open their 2009 season.  Ocala's Eddie Lentz had a strong race car and took control early, but Steven Cox was on a mission and passed him before the first lap was completed.  Another strong car was driven by Tony LaPorta, who began making his way through the field toward the front.
 
Steven Cox was in control and claimed a convincing win, as Eddie Lentz finished second and Tony LaPorta finished third.  Cory Howard had a good run and wound up as the fourth place car, and Troy Sullivan overcame some early race misfortunes to claim fifth.

Next Friday night Ocala Speedway welcomes the staff of Signature Brands to the speedway, as the Late Models return for Signature Brands Night at the races.  Fans will also see exciting action from the Hobby Stocks, Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks, Mini Stocks, and the Gladiators.  And children will highlight the intermission on the frontstretch as Kids Bike Races return for the first time in 2009!  Kids can race in multiple age divisions for trophies and prizes!

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