BATESVILLE, Ark. (July 9, 2004) - Thunderstorms skirted the hills on either side of Batesville Speedway prior to Friday night's opening round of the 12th Annual COMP Cams ASCS Speedweek, but aside from a few sprinkles before the driver's meeting,...
BATESVILLE, Ark. (July 9, 2004) - Thunderstorms skirted the hills on either side of Batesville Speedway prior to Friday night's opening round of the 12th Annual COMP Cams ASCS Speedweek, but aside from a few sprinkles before the driver's meeting, the skies above Batesville's fast 3/8-mile oval stayed clear throughout the night.
When the evening's final checkered flag had flown, Tim Crawley had collected his first ASCS Speedweek triumph since July 18, 2000, at Creek County Speedway. It marked Crawley's 32nd career O'Reilly ASCS National triumph and his eighth career Speedweek victory, moving him into sole possession of second position on the all-time ASCS Speedweek victory charts behind Gary Wright's 21.
Crawley entered the 2004 edition of ASCS Speedweek tied for second in Speedweek feature wins with Terry Gray, who from the opening round of 1995 Speedweek to the final leg of 2000 strung together an astounding 40 consecutive top-ten Speedweek feature finishes. With an off night, Gray dropped in on the Batesville crowd and posted a seventh place run, his 52nd career ASCS Speedweek top-ten feature finish.
Crawley became the fifth different winner in six Batesville ASCS Speedweek events. While Wright is the only driver to post two victories, Crawley joined Billy Wilburn, Larry Neighbors and Terry Gray among Batesville Speedweek victors since Batesville joined the ASCS Speedweek slate in 1999.
Gray, the 45-year-old veteran shoe, topped a youthful heat race field that included Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (16 years of age), Zach Chappell (22), Nick Smith (21), Tony Bruce, Jr. (19), Sam Hafertepe, Jr. (18) and Josh Howard (18).
Toby Brown earned the dubious distinction of first driver to exit the 12th edition of COMP Cams Speedweek via the hook when he tagged the turn two wall on the fourth round of the opening heat race. With a destroyed machine, Brown and the ABF Truck Rebuilders team had vacated the premises by the conclusion of heat race action.
Andy Goin would be the second to exit on the hook when he flipped in the B Main, while Natalie Sather was towed off after wall contact in the feature.
Darren Stewart had an eventful first heat race. After sweeping Hollywood Hills action last weekend, Stewart had just battled past Brown for fourth when Brown slid too high in turn two. Three laps later, Stewart and Cody Branchcomb tangled exiting turn four with both spinning. Branchcomb kept his machine going while Stewart stalled after contact from Justin Sturch. Stewart restarted at the tail and made quick work of Jason Martin, Sturch and Marshall Skinner to secure fourth, then rubbed wheels disapprovingly with Branchcomb on the cool down lap.
Stewart ultimately advanced from eleventh to finish fourth in the main event, his fourth career Speedweek top-five feature finish, while Branchcomb fell to 15th on the final round when he suffered a flat tire while battling for the tenth spot.
Another dubious distinction went to Jan Howard, who passed the scales after battling past North Dakota's Natalie Sather en route to an apparent win in the third heat race, thus earning Speedweek's first disqualification. After some deliberation, Jan started the B Main at the tail and made an early exit.
Jan then watched younger brother Josh just miss a transfer to the main by two positions after an impressive charge, while older brother Dale qualified for his 31st career ASCS Speedweek feature before exiting early.
Defending Speedweek champ Shane Stewart battled past Kelly Angelette (who scored a career best Speedweek feature finish of third in last year's Batesville leg) on the fourth round of the fourth heat, then watched Crawley charge past one lap later. Stewart went on to extend his string of consecutive ASCS Speedweek top-five feature finishes to seven with a third place run in the feature. Stewart could challenge Wright's ASCS Speedweek record of ten consecutive top-five feature finishes if he competes through Tuesday's Tri-State Speedway event near Ft. Smith, AR, although King's Royal plans at Eldora may negate that challenge.
Meanwhile, Wright extended his current string of consecutive top-ten Speedweek feature finishes to 14 by taking the runner-up position. Wright's Speedweek resume is remarkable, with 21 victories, 46 top-fives and 54 top-tens in 63 Speedweek feature starts.
A somewhat late Batesville arrival for the second year in a row, 2001 series champ Zach Chappell raced to a relatively quiet fifth-place finish, the eleventh top-five Speedweek run for the Talala, OK, shoe.
After struggling in his heat race, Travis Rilat earned Hard Charger honors by blitzing from 16th to sixth in the feature.
West Memphis shoe A.G. Rains, whose single ASCS triumph came during Riverside Speedweek action in 2001, topped fellow ASCS Brodix Rookie of the Year contenders Hafertepe, Jimmy Taylor and Sather by crossing the stripe eighth.
Tied for fourth with Garry Lee Maier entering the evening in career ASCS Speedweek top-ten feature finishes, Mike Ward posted his 35th top-ten finish by taking ninth. After earning the pole position, Maier exited at the start with mechanical problems. Maier returned to make one lap before returning pitside.
Broken Arrow's Nick Smith claimed tenth, his third career Speedweek top-ten feature finish.
After making his first two ASCS Speedweek feature starts last year, Tony Bruce, Jr., currently ranked fourth in ASCS Sooner Region points, recorded his best Speedweek finish to date by crossing the stripe in eleventh.
Sam Hafertepe, Jr., who smacked the turn one Batesville wall in his first Speedweek feature start last year, showed no fear of the fast oval by using a provisional to charge from 21st to 13th.
Last year's National 360 Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., made his first ever ASCS Speedweek feature start. Stenhouse battled among the top five in the early going before Gray and Chappell took advantage of the youngster on the lap seven restart. After a quick 360, the younger Stenhouse called it a night after the lap 18 red flag in an effort to preserve his equipment for the rest of the week.
In addition to Stenhouse, Natalie Sather also made her first Speedweek feature start. It was a rough one for Sather, with a turn two spin after six rounds then an encounter with the turn four wall after 18.
A stout field of forty-plus should be on hand for Round 2 of the 12th Annual COMP Cams ASCS Speedweek at Little Rock's I-30 Speedway on Saturday night, the first Little Rock ASCS Speedweek stop since 1998.