June 3rd, St. Augustine, FL â€“ Florida Speed Parkâ€™s 8 Ball Challenge was claimed a record three times Saturday night, as Scott Lagasse, Jr., Todd Ponce, and Robert Deal each took care of their respective division opponents en route to...
June 3rd, St. Augustine, FL – Florida Speed Park’s 8 Ball Challenge was claimed a record three times Saturday night, as Scott Lagasse, Jr., Todd Ponce, and Robert Deal each took care of their respective division opponents en route to victory in front of stands filled with children as part of Kids Night at the Races.
Lagasse challenged 1999 division champion Larry Osteen down to the wire in the night’s Late Model event, sneaking past the wily veteran on lap 19 and holding on for the victory. Jeremy Fitch, who took the lead on the first lap from a sixth place starting position, lead the first half of the race before Osteen, starting seventh and tailing Fitch through the field, took the lead. Lagasse would prove too much for Osteen in the end. Fitch would go on to finish third, with Donnie Oden and Dustin Chambers completing the top five.
Todd Ponce continued his dominant streak in the Sportsman division, rocketing through the field and easily taking the lead by the third lap. Ponce, who had only 20 laps to attempt his charge from the 8th spot due to time constraints, quickly seized an opportunity to pass his nemesis Jason Garver early in the feature, as Garver and Bo Allen made contact on the second lap, slowing the two and allowing Ponce an alleyway through to the front. Joey Haslauer, who gave up the second position to Garver on lap 9, reclaimed second with two laps remaining as Garver’s car faded slightly at the end. Garver would go on to finish third, with Bo Allen and Davey Cline rounding out the top five. Ponce’s bounty increases to $500for the next Sportsman race, when he is eligible to collect the money himself with another victory.
Robert Deal capped off the night with the third 8 Ball prize, grabbing the top spot by lap five and cruising to victory in yet another race shortened to 20 laps due to time constraints. Deal, whois third in the national ARA points championship battle, claimed his fourth perfect 10 score of the season. Chuck Cumby placed second, while Marc Kinley, who battled Jason Lowe down to the wire, would grab third. Lowe and Larry Osteen, driving a Modified for the first time this season, finished fourth and fifth.
“My hat’s off to Chuck,” said Deal. “My car wasn’t real good tonight and Chuck drove me a good, clean race. We were just good enough.”
The highlight of the night was definitely the rides in race cars offered the children in attendance. With drivers from most divisions participating, kids hopped in the passenger compartments and were treated to a lap around the 1/2-mile track.
“This is what it’s all about,” said speedway manager Louis Smith. “Those kids had a blast, and the drivers may have had even more fun doing it.” Todd Ponce got into the spirit, pulling off his steering wheel midway through one trip and handing it to his passengers, to their dismay, while piloting the car using the steering column. Several drivers had erected special passenger seats for the little riders.
In other action, Ricky Cooper made it three in a row in the Thunder Trucks, though not in the fashion he would have desired. Racing Mike Ponce for first, Cooper ducked down in turn 3 to avoid contact with the race leader. Cooper’s truck got loose and swiped Ponce, who was driving a truck owned by Cooper, sending Ponce into the wall.
“I’m sorry about what happened to Mike,” said a dejected Cooper. “It’s my truck, and he’s the driver, and he takes good care of it. I hate it.”
Ron Thomas nearly capitalized on the altercation but had to settle for second, while Les Burl finished third.
Mickey Leth also won his third consecutive race in the Tattoo Dee’s Old Rooster Mini Stocks, besting Troy Kruse and Jay Farris. Jason Miller and Jake Hartley rounded out the top five.
A Victory Lane pledge by Jody Stratton following the Alpha Communications Hobby Stock feature set the stage for a long night in tech, as race winner Brad Pilinko’s motor was protested. After a thorough inspection lasting into the morning, Pilinko’s car was found legal, earning him a perfect score for the evening.
“Well, his motor isn’t why he’s beating us, I know that,” said Stratton, following the outcome of the protest. Stratton would finish second on the night, with rookie Glenn Nedrow in third. Randy Wilkes and L.H. Davis made up the rest of the top five.
The Sportsman have the night off next week as the speedway welcomes back the Daytona Antique Racing Association, in addition to the other five local ARA divisions.