By BILL FOLEY
Everyone familiar with dirt track racing knows that track conditions are a guessing game.
What the track is for the heats isn’t what the track is for the feature.
This was never more evident than on Thursday night at the Volusia Speedway Park as the track decided it was going to take rubber very early in the 30-lap All Star Circuit of Champions feature and it pretty well locked down the field.
Looking at what was left of tires after the feature it was pretty certain that many simply didn’t figure the track would do what it did.
It was a race long David Gravel advantage, but Donny Schatz was lurking right behind. There was that anticipation that this could be a classic finish. With four laps to go the yellow came out for Lucas Wolfe and the stage was set for that “classic.”
The classic never happened. I am unsure if Schatz spun his tires on the restart, but Gravel certainly didn’t and in four laps pulled away for a seven second, yes seven second, victory.
For Gravel it has been a challenging night as he timed second quick only to lose a motor.
The Connecticut native said, “This is awesome as I have never won in Florida before and never won a Gator before. I am hoping for big things this year and hopefully this is the start of it.”
Reflecting on Schatz he said, “I really wanted to beat him as he is the best. The track took rubber early and I just needed to hit my marks. I knew it was going to be a tire wear issue and on top of that I just made weight.”
Schatz noted, “It feels good (three wins and two seconds thus far in Florida), but the track caught us as we didn’t expect it to take rubber. I’m sure the track will make it better tomorrow night.”
Third placed Brad Sweet summed up what everyone else was saying, “We had a good car, but that track just took rubber quick. No one expected that.”
One mans junk is another mans treasure is an old saying.
So the UMP Mods hit the track for their 20 lapper and passing was difficult, but in the end Brian Ruhlman passed Kenny Schrader with two laps to go to win his first gator of the week.
Ruhlman chased Schrader for a long time and with a handful of laps left tried to go inside in the first turn, but he was shut off coming out of two. A late race restart saw Ruhlman try something no one else had…he went outside and drove around Schrader.
Ruhlman said, “Kenny drove a smart race. He is one of my heroes and a good friend of mine. It is nice to say I snookered Kenny Schrader tonight.”
Schrader commented, “I heard him coming and figured it was going to be all about tires. He was faster and he went around us. I knew what tires he was running and I knew we would be in trouble. The track might not have been good for the sprinters, but it was good for us maybe it was the dampness and the smaller tires.”
Lots of Problems for Sprints
The Sprint Car field was shorter than the night before and it got smaller as the night wore on.
Many guys had trouble and came back, but not all.
T.J. Michaels lost a motor really early in the night and Gravel had to replace his after time trials. Kraig Kinser went up in a ball of smoke and they pulled that one. Then Dale Blaney, in his time trial in the Zemco car, not only lost his engine, but blew out the rear end. Others also had difficulties on the cold, damp night.
The night started with 33 sprints and 60 UMP mods…
Jason Johnson and Jason Sides didn’t return…
Ryan Smith, after rebuilding the car overnight, lost a rear end and the team packed up and headed home….
Blaney indicated team would make repairs and be back for the rest of the weekend…
With that only 31 cars timed….
Chad Kemenah could be one of the All Stars that does well against the Outlaws over the next few nights….
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was visiting with his team and wandering the infield during the night….
Caleb Armstrong grabbed attention in the heat as he passed Schatz on the final lap with a all out move between three and four and drag raced to the line where he won by .072 of a second. Best heat race of the week thus far…
It was fun watching Justin Allgaier and Kenny Wallace battling in their heat for the UMP win…
Armstrong and Gravel won their dashes….
The Bobby Allen team or better known as Shark Racing were stranded in North Carolina after a motor problem in the hauler. Supposedly someone is going to help and get them to Volusia…
New faces tonight should include Jason Sides, Logan Schuchart, Jacob Allen, Clyde Knipp and Greg Wilson…
Not sure who is going home so around 30 cars should be pit-side tonight…
There was a decent crowd on hand and it will grow as Speedweek fans start arriving…
One thing about VSP is the midway with a wide choice of foods from pizza, calzones, strombolli’s, shrimp fried rice, Chinese food, steak and shrimp on a stick, pork chop sandwiches, deep fried corn dogs, and all the regular racing concession foods. Track hamburgs are great. Just a warning $3 water in the midway and $2 at the concession stands. Compare pricing…
Coldest night I’ve seen in Florida in nearly two months. I had long underwear, a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve jersey, hooded sweatshirt and it wasn’t until I put on the fleece line jacket that I got warm. It was supposed to be the coldest night and now the temperature goes up…
Rain is spotty in the forecast for the next several days and Saturday doesn’t look good…
Many thanks to Ferris Mowers reps. My pens died and I searched all over the vendors for one to buy,but no luck. Ferris Mowers had a couple they gladly gave me. It is good because my memory isn’t what it use to be.
That’s about it for this time around. Back to Volusia tonight for more Sprints.