Richard Griffin wins SCRA Non-Wing World Championship thriller in final turns; Nat Tuckey wins third of the year in Thundercars. ABBOTTSTOWN, PA, 8/10/02 - They call them the Wingless Warriors for a good reason - they battle to end. The SCRA ...
Richard Griffin wins SCRA Non-Wing World Championship thriller in final turns; Nat Tuckey wins third of the year in Thundercars.
ABBOTTSTOWN, PA, 8/10/02 - They call them the Wingless Warriors for a good reason - they battle to end. The SCRA Wingless warriors came to Lincoln Speedway Saturday night for the fourth race of there 14-race 2002 Non-Wing World Championship Tour. And in the end, not one person was sitting in there seats as Tony Elliott of Kokomo, Indiana and Richard "The Gas Man" Griffin of Silver City, New Mexico battled side-by-side for the final 20 laps of the 30 affair. Elliott took the high road and Griffin the low road lap-after-lap with Elliott leading the way the entire distance except for the 20th lap when Griffin edged ahead at the flagstand to lead lap 20.
But on the final lap Elliott got held up momentarily by a lapped car in the final turns to the checkered, allowing Griffin to charge off the bottom in a race to the checkered and steal the win by a half a car length over Elliott for his first win of the 2002 Non-Wing World Championship Tour.
"I was having a great time out there and Tony (Elliott) was racing me clean," said the man they call the Gas Man as he exited his Ron Chaffin-owned/Jon Boy Chassis/Shaver-Powered/Arizona Race Mart/Circle C Marketing No.50 sprinter in victory lane. "The main thing I hope these guys that came out to watch this non-wing racing got there monies worth."
"I had a heck of a time. That was about 20 laps side-by-side there and it was nerve-racking. We were just lucky enough that lapped traffic came into it. We fell back a bit when there were some guys on the bottom (lapped cars) and then Tony got hung up a little there a little bit those last couple of laps. I can't say enough for him because he raced me nice and clean. It was just a great race for the fans."
Outside frontrow starter Elliott grabbed the lead at the drop of the green and paced the field while polesitter Rickie Gaunt, third-starting Corey Kruseman, fourth-starting Damion Gardner and fifth-starting Tony Jones gave chase.
All eyes quickly shifted to the lone Pennsylvania racer to make the JE Pistons Dash, Johnny Mackison Jr. as he began to work the bottom of Lincoln' s 3/8th-mile high-banked oval and had moved by Kruseman and Griffin to move into second place. But then Griffith began to fight back and suddenly Mackison found himself behind Griffin once again. Mackison then shifted his line form the bottom of the track to the top. That provided to be his demise as the York speedster jumped the cushion in the third and fourth turns on the 10th lap and hit the wall, causing him to flip his mount and bring out the red flag.
"He (Johnny Mackison Jr.) blew by me on the bottom in the first couple of laps," said Griffin on York, Pennsylvania-racer Johnny Mackison Jr. who looked to be a factor in the early stages of the race. "I really didn't know where to go and what to do...we kind of set up for the top because I really don't like running the bottom and I'm really not very good at it."
"When he blew by me and a couple other guys got by us I thought I was going to have to at least try to block them or something so they just don't drive by me. I just got down there and the car was working good. Then we got by a couple of guys and lucky enough the red came out and it wasn't for us. We made some more changes on it and tightened the car up for the last half and helped it and didn't screw up."
From there the Elliott and Griffin battle began an as Elliott drove almost along the outer wall while Griffin skimmed the inner guardrail lap-after-lap. Griffin got a run off the fourth turn of the 20th lap and nipped Elliott at the line to lead the 20th lap. But Elliott continued around the top and regained the lead once again on the 21st lap.
As the laps wound down lapped traffic loomed ahead with 10 laps to go. Griffin was the first to encounter cars on the low-side of the track, causing him to lose valuable ground to Elliott with about five laps to go.
But as Griffin cleared the lapped cars Elliott's line around the top became congested with the white flag waving, allowing Griffin to close on the leaders bumper heading up the backstretch on the final lap.
Elliott was forced from the top entering the final turns in an attempt to hold Griffin at bay, but Elliott slipped up exiting the turn and opened the door for Griffin. Griffin the got the bit he needed coming off the turn and surged ahead as he took the checkered for his fifth overall win of 2002.
"I saw it coming (lapped traffic) but I didn't know if it would become a factor or not," said Griffin on the final laps. "Sure enough there on the last lap it looked like they were holding Tony up a little bit."
"I was down on the bottom and Tony went to the bottom on the last lap and he just got in a little bit hotter than he should have and missed it and slid up. I actually followed him in there as hard as I could and just about missed it too. It's just one of those circumstances in racing. It's happened to me before. It's no fun I know that. But it sure is fun winning one like this."
The packed grandstand then tried to sooth the agony of defeat for Elliott as he graciously accepted the roaring applause for the thrilling battle that left him with a disappointing second place run after nearly leading the entire race.
"That's just a part of racing," said a despondent Elliott on losing to Griffin in the final turns. "We've won a few races like that but obviously we lost one tonight."
"It's kind of a shame. We've been out here struggling a bit and finally got things figured out and got the thing running good. To lead the whole darn thing except for the last quarter of a lap makes it a little tougher. I wish we would have lost the thing on the first lap...but that's part of it and we 'll come back tomorrow night at Grandview and try to win that thing."
Kruseman watched from third place nearly the entire race and was clearly not able to make a move on the leaders this night.
"We were a little bit loose tonight," said the third place Kruseman. "But I 'll tell you what, you had a great prepared race track....we've been to a lot of places and you guys definitely took a lot of time and got us a great non-wing race track. I really appreciate what you did for us."
"Elliott got the top going pretty good and you had a local guy that was going pretty Good (Mackison), but unfortunately he a some bad luck. We got the bottom working pretty good and I guess Richard nipped him at the line. Hopefully there was some good racing and get to come back here next year."
Mike Kirby (Torrance, CA) came from his 11th starting spot to finish fourth and Tony Jones (Garden Grove, CA) finished where he started in fifth.
Completing the top-10 were Mike English (Norwalk, CA) sixth, Bud Kaeding seventh (Campbell, CA), and Adam Mitchell (Escondido, CA) eighth.
Hanover's Pat Cooper was the highest finishing local driver as he came from his 21st starting position to finish ninth, and Troy Rutherford (Ojai, CA) came from his 18th starting spot to finish 10th.
Lance Gremett (San Marcos, CA) won the Hedman Hedders heat, Mike Spencer (Temecula, CA) won the Shaver Engines heat, and Rutherford won the Spin Tech Mufflers heat.
Rickie Gaunt (Torrance, CA) won the JE Pistons Dash to start on the pole for the 30 lap feature, but faded to a 11th place finish in the end. Kirby won the B-Main.
The Sander Engineering Fast Time Award went to Kruseman over the 26-car field with a one-lap time of 15.970 seconds.
Biglerville's Nat Tuckey charged from his 10th starting position to pass race-long leader Sean Herrick for the lead on the 12th lap and then lead the rest of the way to pick up his third win of the year in the 29lap thundercar feature.
Herrick, last week's feature winner, started outside the frontrow and grabbed the lead at the drop of the green and survived numerous early race cautions to lead the first 11 laps. Tuckey moved around Bobby Rudisill on the ninth lap for second, setting up his race-winning move on the 12th lap.
Point leader Bernie Beard and five-time thundercar winner Neil Smith were closing fast on the leader and actually passed Tuckey for what appeared the win on the final turns to the checkered. But in a rare occurrence in local racing, both Beard and Smith were deemed a lap down to the race leading Tuckey after being involved in accidents earlier in the race.
Herrick settle dfor second, with Allen Cullum third, Mike Ciezobka fourth, and Duane Watson fifth.
Completing the top-10 were Greg Messersmith, Ken Berwager, David Prunkl, Bryan Wagaman and Butch Harvey. Beard and Smith finished 11th and 12th respectively, one lap down to the leaders.
Heats for the thundercars were won by Herrick, Mike Zeigler Jr., and Jeremy Brown.
Next Saturday night, August 17th, it will be CHECKERED FLAG FAN CLUB NIGHT. The super sprint and thundercar regulars will be joined by the ARDC Midgets in a special wingless show for the travel group. Gates will open at 5:30 PM, with hot-laps getting underway at 7 PM, and the first heat getting underway at 7:30 PM.