Apr 10, 2010 07:03 PM EST
Gray Red Hot Under Blue Sky at Black Rock
By RICH VLECK
On an afternoon when the ideal groove on the Black Rock Speedway appeared to be the bottom, Steve Gray found a way to keep his DIRTcar Sportsman wound up on the top and going forward to score the season opening win.
Gray, of Rushville, charged up from his 11th place starting position into the top-five early on in the event. The race was marred in the opening section of the race by six caution flags in the first 7 laps, allowing Gray to wind up his Fox’s Auto No. 29g on the high side on multiple restarts.
Gray jumped into second on lap 10 and then went after race leader and defending Track Champion Donnie Lawson. Lawson, who was committed to the bottom, got caught up in lapped traffic just before the halfway point, allowing Gray to rocket by coming to Starter Scott Hixson’s Crossed Flags.
Gray would inherit the lead but cautions on lap 20 and 21 would allow Lawson to regroup. The Woodhull resident would get a few runs on Gray once they were up to speed but had nothing for the former Canandaigua Champion on restarts.
When the caution waved on lap 26 for a spinning No. 34 of Trevor Sutherland, Lawson not only struggled to hang with Gray, but lost the second spot to two-time defending Mr. DIRTcar Series Champion Chris Raabe, as the Nappanee, Ont. youngster dove his No. 01 to the inside and would collect a solid finish in defense of his title.
For Gray, the win was his third in a series race, his first since Rolling Wheels in October of 2008. He has always run well at Black Rock but breaking through in an event like this was still uncertain for him.
“I was just hoping the car would stay together,” declared Gray in Victory Lane. “I couldn’t even get the car to stay on the bottom. Every time I went to the bottom it would drive back up to the top so I had to run there.”
Lawson would settle in behind Gray and Raabe, with Series Runner-Up Ryan Susice in fourth. Eric Giguere would complete a stout top-five.
Glenn Whritenhour had a solid car throughout the afternoon in the BRP CanAm Late Model Series Division, but still had plenty of work to score his first win at Black Rock.
Whritenhour, of Jasper, took the lead from John Waters on lap 3 and never let it go the rest of the way, even though Waters gave him a run to the money in the final two circuits.
“I’ve never won a race here before. But I’ve tried and tried and we had a decent car today; it wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either,” stated Whritenhour. “We had a new shock package we were trying today just for this track and it worked out pretty well.”
A debris caution with two laps to go allowed Waters to regroup and give him a chance to get the lead back in the No. 11. With a radical setup, Waters arguably had the best car when he hit the corners correctly, but had lost ground over the course of the race on multiple occasions. Waters caught right up on the rear bumper of Whritenhour, Waters went to the top of the track where he knew his car would handle better; the issue for him though was that Whritenhour was already up in that lane.
Just after taking the white flag, Waters went for open race track by using the bottom but his car developed a terrible push coming off corner four, leaving Waters struggling just to hold on for second.
As Whitenhour pulled away through turns 3 and 4, Waters held off Jeremy Wonderling. Greg Galligan, the winner of this event in 2009, was fourth, just ahead of Mike Wonderling Sr. as they completed the top-five.
Bob Buono started the afternoon on an odd note with a Batman banner that drapes the back of his street stock being left on during his heat race. Once he shed the cape though, he was lightning fast as Buono led the final 21 laps of the Street Stock Special to capture $600.
Buono, from nearby Wayne, took the top spot from Dan Hoffman after the first restart of the race on lap four. Just after Buono put his No. 64 in the lead though, 2008 Track Champion Chris Fisher was on the move, as he got up to second and immediately began to apply pressure to the leader. Buono was up to the challenge however.
“I knew (Fisher) was there, but he ran me clean and we had a good car,” noted Buono in Victory Lane. “This is the same car as last year (when he won the season finale).”
A number of competitors threw their name in the mix but attrition was of utmost concern as front runners such as Nate Peckham, Jared Hill and Doug Jones all fell out before the race was over.
Fisher appeared to have Buono set up through the middle portion of the race, but as the laps clicked away, the leader kept getting stronger. A late race debris caution set up a 3-lap sprint to the finish where Buono saw Fisher peak the nose of his No. 37 in on the 24th circuit but unable to get enough of a run for the final trip around the 4/10-mile oval.
Behind the top two were early leader and polesitter Dan Hoffman Sr., Jim McAfee and defending track champion Frank Guererri Jr., who completed the top-five.
Ray Speicher performed just as well as he did in the 2009 season opener, as he won his heat and dominated the feature to score the win in the 4-cylinder special. With a car that he claimed they had not touched since last year until last night, the Beaver Dams driver quickly got to the lead and then ran away from the field for a comfortable win.
Rich Sharpsteen II was solid to finish in second, with early leader Chad Ayers in third. Brian Grant and Russ Wassner completed the top-five, as well as the cars on the lead lap.
Gary Baker finally broke through for his first enduro win at Black Rock, winning the 30-lap special by over a half-lap. Baker was he best car in the field, but was aided by a number of cars falling out of the event before the races completion. Jeremy Trank and 2009 Big One Winner Bill Werner completed the paying positions.
Black Rock will lie dormant next weekend and then get into regular season mode on Friday, April 23 for the first point race of the season. For more information, make sure to visit www.BlackRockSpeedway.com.
Black Rock Speedway Results: 4/10/2010-
Rock Launcher 2010
Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Feature (30 Laps)- STEVE GRAY, Chris Rabbe, Donnie Lawson, Ryan Susice, Eric Giguere, Brady Fultz, Mark Chiddy, Dan Weisner, Loren Lincoln, Jesse Cotriss, Shane Picore, Fran Hilton, Daryl Hilkert, Rob Richmond Jr., Mark Dixon, Trevor Sutherland, Christine Martin, Greg Donnelly, Justin Wright, Bryan Faulkner, Randy McCulloch, Ricky Newton, Greg Cool, A.J. Potzrebowski, Brent Ayers, Serenity Sutherland, Marcus Dinkins, Tim Sears Jr., Rob Humphreys, Billy VanPelt.
DNQ- Brett Buono.
Lap Leaders- Lawson 1-14, Gray 15-19, Lawson 20-21, Gray 22-30.
Heat Winners- Fultz, Susice, Lawson, Raabe.
Consolation Winner- Dinkins.
BRP CanAm Late Model Feature (25 Laps)- GLENN WHRITENHOUR, John Waters, Jeremy Wonderling, Greg Galligan, Mike Wondelring Sr., Rich Karlnoski, Quinn Sutherland, Jason Bridge, T.J. Newton, J.J. Mazur, Mikey Wonderling, Jon Rivers, Brandon Smith, Chris Peacock, Dale Welty (DNS), Bryce Davis (DNS).
Lap Leaders- Waters 1-2, Whritenhour 3-25.
Heat Winners- J. Wonderling, Whritenhour.
BRS Special Street Stock Feature (25 Laps)- BOB BUONO, Chris Fisher, Dan Hoffman Sr., Jim McAfee, Frank Guererri Jr., Chris Stroh, Daryl Krebs, George Parker, Dave Mannise, Rich Sharpsteen, Jared Hill, Ron Mogavero, Trevor Sutherland, Rob Parker, Nate Daggett, Carl Cleveland, Doug Jones, Quinn Sutherland, Nate Peckham, Kevin Boynton, Dylan Cecce, Matt Pfalzer, Nick Robinson, Dave Pope, Jon Carpenter.
Lap Leaders- Hoffman Sr. 1-3, Buono 4-25.
DNQ: Tim Sebring, Josh Parker, Clint Miller, Harold Fenton, Rich Talada, Larry Fenton Jr., Dan Hoffman Jr., Thunder Anderson.
Heat Winners- Buono, McAfee, Fisher, Mogavero.
Consolation Winner- Krebs.
BRS Special 4-Cylinder Feature (20 Laps)- RAY SPEICHER, Rich Sharpsteen II, Chad Ayers, Brian Grant, Russ Wassner, Val Stephens, Jeff Clarkson, Rob Wilcox, Justin Gardiner, Mike Ziarno, Jason Smart, Erica Bell, Chris Ayers, Pat Toupin (DNS).
Lap Leaders- Chad Ayers 1, Speicher 2-20.
Heat Winners- Speicher, Wassner.
FWD 4-Cylinder Enduro Feature (30 Laps)- GARY BAKER, Jeremy Trank, Bill Werner.
Lap Leaders- N. Werner 1-8, Baker 9-30.