COLUMBUS, MS - Terry Gray of Bartlett, TN won his third United Sprint Car Series feature win in the fourth USCS start of his career Saturday night at Columbus Speedway. The current USCS point leader took the lead at the start of the 30-lap...
COLUMBUS, MS - Terry Gray of Bartlett, TN won his third United Sprint Car Series feature win in the fourth USCS start of his career Saturday night at Columbus Speedway. The current USCS point leader took the lead at the start of the 30-lap feature race, and then checked out to post his fourth win of the season in the Goodson Farms/Wendy's Maxim/Ott.
While all race car drivers always look for a break on the race track, Gray ended up with a "break" and a "brake" both literally and figuratively.
"The bolt that holds the brake pedal on fell out on the initial start of the race," Gray said. "I was able to put it back in for the restart and held it in with my leg. It fell back out with about five laps to go, and I really had to take it easy through the lapped traffic with no brakes."
That was Gray's explanation of the "brake" he got. The "break" Gray received came when outside front row starter Bryce Vowan of Forest City, AR had a mechanical problem on the pace lap before the race and retired his McDonalds Maxim/High Performance for the evening. That moved Gray from the fourth starting spot, to the outside of the front row for the start of the race.
At one point in the race, the defending and three-time USCS National Champion held a half lap lead over Marshall Skinner of West Memphis, AR, who was looking for his third straight USCS win, and a sweep of the USCS Mid-South Tour. When Gray slowed during the last five laps, Skinner still could not catch him, and had to settle for second in the Parts Plus Maxim/Ott.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Olive Branch, MS put on a show for the packed house at Johnny Stokes' immaculately prepared 3/8-mile high-banked clay oval. The 16-year-old dirt tracing prodigy blasted his Country Ford/South Tire J&J/Dynotech from the eighth starting spot to a third-place finish.
Ernie Ainsworth of Bartlett, TN was another mover and shaker after starting 11th and finishing fourth in the Mr. Cash Pro Lite/Vaughn. It was the third straight USCS top five finish for Ainsworth. Danny Martin Jr. of Sarasota, FL drove a steady race to round out the top five in the Martin Structures, Inc. Schnee/ZRE.
The 18-year-old leader of the Florida "Fountain of Youth Gang" solidified his second-place spot in the USCS National point standings. Martin is sandwiched between the USCS "Top Guns" of Gray and Kenny Adams of Malabar, FL in the USCS points chase. Adams missed the USCS weekend action after being sidelined by an off-track back injury.
Brice Wrenn of Lexington, SC finished sixth in the Stainless Fabricators Hench/Gaerte, and Mike McElya of Bartlett, TN took the seventh spot in the Pyles Paving Maxim/Sykes. Roland Johnson of Wesley Chapel, FL brought the Hill Brothers Air and Hydraulics Challenger/Gaerte home in the eighth spot.
Greg Merritt of Horn Lake, MS was ninth in the Rose Integrated Services J&J/Howard, and the ageless 66-year-old Ray Bugg of Iuka, MS rounded out the top ten in the Ray Bugg Motorsports J&J/Bugg.
Wrenn took the lead after starting on the pole position when the field took the green flag at the start of the race followed by Gray, and Skinner.
The only caution flag of the race came on the first lap when inside row two starter and second eight-lap heat race winner Jeremy Scott of Franklin, GA spun his Vortex Bar and Grill Pro Lite/June Bug in turn four, and collected five other cars. Only Tony Wilson of Paris, TN was able to continue in his Wilson Motorsports J&J/Hampton.
Those unable to make it back for the complete restart were top USCS Rookie of the year candidate R.J. Johnson of Wesley Chapel, FL in the Race Wear/Pin Rings J&J/CRE, Tom Winegardner Jr. of Pierson, FL in the Snap-On Tools J&J/WRP, Kenny Coke of Olive Branch, MS in the Bost Auto Sales J&J/Dynotech, and Buster Dickerson of Caledonia, MS in the LCS J&J/Dickens.
On the next restart, Gray raced Wrenn side-by-side for the lead, and grabbed the point going into the third turn. Wrenn settled into the second spot followed by Martin, Skinner, and Stenhouse. Skinner drove under Martin down the frontstretch on lap three to take over the third spot. By lap five, Gray had stretched out to a full straightaway lead over Wrenn.
Skinner closed in on Wrenn to battle for the second spot in heavy lapped traffic. Skinner had a close call on lap eight when the lapped car of Dwight Kingry of Chattanooga, TN got sideways in turn one, and slid his LRB Shaw/Slowbuilt into Skinner's path on the high side. Skinner made a quick inside move to miss Kingry, and Kingry recovered to continue leaving the green light lit.
Skinner hung on to the third spot, but it took him a few laps to chase down Wrenn to continue the battle for second. By the halfway point, Gray was in a different zip code, while Wrenn, Skinner, Martin, and Stenhouse waged a torrid battle for the second spot. Skinner dove under Wrenn for the second spot in turn one on lap 17, but Gray was a half-lap ahead of him.
Stenhouse and Ainsworth got busy on the cushion running just inches from disaster on the outside of the race track. Stenhouse drove around Martin and Wrenn to move up to the third spot on lap 20, and Ainsworth followed to rim ride around Wrenn and Martin to move up to fourth on lap 23.
Skinner was trying to catch Gray in the last ten laps of the race, but needed a caution flag that never came his way to have chance for his third straight USCS win and a sweep of the USCS Mid-South Tour. By lap 27, Gray came up to lap the sixth-place running Wrenn.
With his brake pedal bolt rolling around in the floor pan, Gray played it safe, stayed behind Wrenn, and took the win for a clean sweep of the evenings events. Gray also won the Air Flow Research six-lap Power Dash, and the first eight-lap heat race.
Joe Spencer of New Albany, MS was the Huggins Cams Hard Charger of the Race after starting his SMI Pro Lite/Dynotech 20th and finishing 11th. Vowan, who won the third eight-lap heat race, was the Weld Racing Hard Luck Award winner.
The USCS Outlaw Thunder Dirt Tour continues next weekend with a stop at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC on June 12, and then at Rome Speedway in Rome, GA on June 13. Both events will carry National, Outlaw Thunder Dirt Tour, and Sunbelt Tour points.
POS STRT CAR # DRIVER HOMETOWN LAPS 1. 4 10 Terry Gray Bartlett, TN 30 2. 6 26 Marshall Skinner West Memphis, AR 30 3. 8 40 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Olive Branch, MS 30 4. 11 8 Ernie Ainsworth Bartlett, TN 30 5. 5 00 Danny Martin Jr. Sarasota, FL 30 6. 1 1w Brice Wrenn Lexington, SC 30 7. 9 58 Mike McElya Bartlett, TN 29 8. 14 4 Roland Johnson Wesley Chapel, FL 29 9. 13 12m Greg Merritt Horn Lake, MS 29 10. 10 25 Ray Bugg Iuka, MS 29 11. 20 12s Joe Spencer New Albany, MS 28 12. 18 12w Tony Wilson Paris, TN 28 13. 15 88 Dwight Kingry Chattanooga, TN 26 14. 3 76 Jeremy Scott Franklin, GA 0 15. 7 11 Tom Winegardner Jr. Pierson, FL 0 16. 12 71 R.J. Johnson (R) Wesley Chapel, FL 0 17. 17 20w Kenny Coke Olive Branch, MS 0 18. 19 86 Buster Dickerson Caledonia, MS 0 19. 2 2m Bryce Vowan Forest City, AR 0 20. 16 1c Scott Christian Valliant, OK 0
ENTRIES: 20 LEAD CHANGES: None LAPS LED: Gray, 1-30 HUGGINS CAMS HARD CHARGER: Spencer (started 20th and finished 11th) ROOKIE OF THE RACE: R.J. Johnson WELD RACING HARD LUCK AWARD: Vowan CAUTIONS: 1
AIR FLOW RESEARCH POWER DASH (6 Laps): 1. Gray; 2. Skinner; 3. Ainsworth; 4. Wrenn; 5. Stenhouse; 6. Coke.
1ST HEAT (8 Laps): 1. Gray; 2. Wrenn; 3. Winegardner; 4. Bugg; 5. Merritt; 6. Christian.
2ND HEAT (8 Laps): 1. Scott; 2. Martin; 3. Stenhouse; 4. Ainsworth; 5. Ro. Johnson; 6. Coke; 7. Spencer.
3RD HEAT (8 Laps): 1. Vowan; 2. Skinner; 3. McElya; 4. R.J. Johnson (R); 5. Kingry; 6. Wilson.
USCS NATIONAL POINT STANDINGS THROUGH 6/5/04:
1 Terry Gray 2004 2 Danny Martin Jr. 1786 3 Kenny Adams 1556 4 R.J. Johnson (R) 1536 5 Brice Wrenn 1336 6 Tom Winegardner Jr. 1140 7 Bill Moore 898 8 Butch Pendergrass 894 9 Chad Allum 754 10 Red Stauffer 750 11 Marshall Skinner 694 12 Brian Thomas 668 13 Jim Raptis 648 14 Ben Basinger 624 15 Jimmy Thomas 620 16 Doug Gold 580 17 Doug Berryman 566 18 Joe Rebman 558 19 Curt Michael 542 20 Will Ragsdale 526
R - Denotes Rookie of the Year Candidate