Short Track Nationals Friday report

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (October 24, 2003) - Gary Wright took advantage of a late caution then fought off Garry Lee Maier and Tim Crawley in a rousing finish to Friday night's 25-lap 16th Annual Team Affiliated Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier...

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (October 24, 2003) - Gary Wright took advantage of a late caution then fought off Garry Lee Maier and Tim Crawley in a rousing finish to Friday night's 25-lap 16th Annual Team Affiliated Short Track Nationals presented by Hoosier Tires preliminary feature at I-30 Speedway.

Crawley raced past Maier for second on the 23rd round, and had just charged past Wright to snare the lead exiting turn two on the white flag lap when the caution appeared for a front stretch tangle involving Brian Bell and Darren Stewart, negating the pass. Wright, Crawley and Maier battled ferociously for the point during the green-white-checkered dash to the stripe, with Wright holding on to win while Maier edged Crawley for the second and final transfer position to Saturday night's $15,000-to-win, $1,600-to-start STN finale.

"That caution definitely helped," Wright commented following his 21st feature victory of the season. "I would have been alright with second though, the main thing is being locked into tomorrow night's feature," Wright concluded.

After racing from sixth to second in the evening's first of five heat races for the competitive 40-car field, Pete Butler inherited the heat race victory, and subsequently the pole position for the main event, when apparent winner Josh Baker failed to report to the scales.

Butler then outgunned fellow front row starter Wright at the drop of the green flag in the main event, leading the way through the first two turns before slipping over the turn three embankment and the tail of the field. Wright assumed command with the caution flying the next time around when Brian Bell spun in turn four while battling for second with Crawley.

Wright led the way on the restart, with action interrupted three circuits later when 14th-starter Wayne Johnson slid to a stop off turn two after contact while battling for seventh with Dale Howard.

With the field back under green, Wright led the way with Crawley and Maier trying to keep pace. As Wright began to separate himself from the field by eight car lengths, Maier began pressuring Crawley for the runner-up slot prior to the red flag flying after 14 rounds for Wally Henson's turn two flip. Henson was uninjured.

Back under way, Maier slipped underneath Crawley to snare second on the 16th round as Wright set the pace. With the five-to-go signal, Maier and Crawley both began closing on the leader. With Wright and Maier riding the cushion through turns one two, Crawley utilized the low line to pass Maier for second on the 23rd round, then did the same to Wright the next time around only to see the move negated by the crucial late caution.

Wright moved to the bottom of the track for the final two-lap dash and drove the Salina-powered Southwest Express/Richwood Construction/The Shop Maxim to the narrowest of victories as the trio thrilled the large crowd by dicing for the point over the final two rounds. Maier finished a car length behind Wright, nipping Crawley at the line for the runner-up slot, as a dejected Crawley settled for third.

Ernie Ainsworth ran strong throughout, posting a solid fourth place finish, with Zach Chappell rounding out the top five. Derek Drown crossed the stripe in sixth, with Kevin Ramey racing from 13th to finish seventh. Fifteenth-starter Glen Passmore charged to eighth in his first Sprint Car outing in over a year, with Johnson and 17th-starter Toby Brown completing the top ten.

Butler, Ainsworth, Bell, Maier and Crawley topped heat race action. Passmore edged Brown and Jerrod Hull in an intense First B Main, with Howard beating Chris Morgan and Wally Henson to the line in the Second B Main.

Henry Gustavus' night came to an early end following a turn three flip in the second heat race. Gustavus was uninjured.

After starting eighth in the third heat race, Billy Alley nearly completed an opening lap blast into the lead when his machine broke loose exiting turn four. Alley's machine was drilled broadside by Dusty Zomer. Zomer returned for B Feature action, while Alley was done for the night.

Wright and Maier join Thursday night's top two finishers, Shane Stewart and Tim Montgomery, in Saturday night's "Pack's Dash for Cash" to determine their starting positions in the STN finale, with the remainder of the 79-car field running a full program to determine the final 16 starting slots in the prestigious main event.

Results:

First Heat (10 Laps): 1. Pete Butler, 2. Ryan Coniam, 3. Zach Chappell, 4. Lyle Howey III, 5. Rick Pringle, 6. Mark Huddleston, 7. Glen Passmore. Disqualified: Josh Baker (failed to report to the scales after finishing first).

Second Heat (10 Laps): 1. Ernie Ainsworth, 2. Wade Oliver, 3. Jerrod Hull, 4. Dale Howard, 5. Skip Wilson, 6. Kenny Conrad, 7. Wally Henson, 8. Henry Gustavus, Jr.

Third Heat (10 Laps): 1. Brian Bell, 2. Derek Drown, 3. Toby Brown, 4. Chris Morgan, 5. Jeff Leach, 6. Skip Andrews, 7. Dusty Zomer, 8. Billy Alley.

Fourth Heat (10 Laps): 1. Garry Lee Maier, 2. Darren Stewart, 3. Kevin Ramey, 4. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., 5. Lewis Jenkins, Jr., 6. Eric Winnet, 7. Ray Lee Goodwin, Jr. DNS: J.D. Johnson.

Fifth Heat (10 Laps): 1. Tim Crawley, 2. Gary Wright, 3. Wayne Johnson, 4. Steve Tiner, 5. Robert Bell, 6. Rob Jenkins, 7. D.J. Masner, 8. Brandon Corn.

First B Feature (12 Laps): 1. Glen Passmore, 2. Toby Brown, 3. Jerrod Hull, 4. D.J. Masner, 5. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., 6. Rick Pringle, 7. Eric Winnet, 8. Mark Huddleston, 9. Skip Andrews, 10. Josh Baker, 11. Lewis Jenkins, Jr., 12. Dusty Zomer. DNS: Billy Alley.

Second B Feature (12 Laps): 1. Dale Howard, 2. Chris Morgan, 3. Wally Henson, 4. Rob Jenkins, 5. Robert Bell, 6. Brandon Corn, 7. Kenny Conrad, 8. Jeff Leach, 9. Skip Wilson, 10. Steve Tiner, 11. Ray Lee Goodwin, Jr., 12. J.D. Johnson. DNS: Henry Gustavus, Jr.

A Feature (25 Laps - Starting Position in Parenthesis): 1. 9-Gary Wright (2), 2. 11x-Garry Lee Maier (4), 3. 77-Tim Crawley (5), 4. 8-Ernie Ainsworth (6), 5. 50z-Zach Chappell (8), 6. 26d-Derek Drown (11), 7. 39-Kevin Ramey (13), 8. 69-Glen Passmore (15), 9. 01-Wayne Johnson (14), 10. 61a-Toby Brown (17), 11. 50-Jerrod Hull (19), 12. 6c-Ryan Coniam (7), 13. 90-Wade Oliver (10), 14. 91-Darren Stewart (12), 15. 23-Brian Bell (3), 16. 47-Dale Howard (16), 17. 6h-Wally Henson (20), 18. 7c-Chris Morgan (18), 19. 29h-Pete Butler (1), 20. 55h-Lyle Howey III (9).

-lw-

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Series Sprint
Drivers Darren Stewart , Shane Stewart , Wayne Johnson , Kevin Ramey , Tim Crawley , Chris Morgan