MARATHON RACE DAY ENDS IN WILD FINISH by Glen Harness NASHVILLE, TN - 03/16/96 - Nashville Speedway USA kicked off its 1997 racing season today with racing action in 6 divisions. Fans were ...
MARATHON RACE DAY ENDS IN WILD FINISH by Glen Harness
NASHVILLE, TN - 03/16/96 - Nashville Speedway USA kicked off its 1997 racing season today with racing action in 6 divisions. Fans were treated to two new divisions in the weekly program with the addition of the ADT Legends cars and the Ryder Integrated Logistics SuperTrucks. In all, a total of over 245 laps were run on the high banked .596 mile track, while 70 laps were run on the inside quarter-mile track.
In preliminary action on the quarter-mile track, the ADT Legends cars ran two features. In the 25-lap B-main for the Legends, Buddy Sanford took the win after starting on the outside pole. Matt Kirby, Steve Ladd, Ron Allison, and Jeff Jones filled out the top five. In the 25-lap A-main, fast qualifier Clay Hair came from the seventh starting spot to get the win. Eric Sartin, Jack Winter, Juston Houston, and Kevin Newell rounded out the top five.
The Pure Stocks ran a 20-lap feature on the quarter mile, with Mike Fredricks taking the win. J.R. Beckett came from 10th starting spot to grab second, with James Ross, Bobby Rippey, and Richard Theoret filling out the top five.
Next up was the first ever running of the Ryder SuperTrucks. Pole-sitter Ricky Sanford made history as he led the first lap of the 50-lap event. It didn't take long for the first caution to fly in the new division, as Bobby Ray Baucom spun going into turn 2.
That first caution proved to be a taste of things to come, as the race had two more cautions and a red flag before the third lap was completed. After the race finally got restarted, the drivers seemed to settle down to racing with the top three of Sanford, Valentine, and Dale Buskill pulling away from the field. Valentine flirted with the lead for a couple of laps as Sandford got loose and lost several spots, but Buskill was later able to get by Valentine. A spin on lap 19 brought out the caution again.
By the mid-point of the race, fast qualifier Roy Binkley (the 1996 Limited Sportsman champion) had moved into 4th behind Sanford and around Tandy Marlin. Buskill had built up a 1.1 second lead over Valentine by lap 32 when caution came out again. Caution came out again on lap 34 and when the trucks took the green to restart the race, Valentine got a run on Buskill and powered by. Valentine and Buskill broke away from the pack but caution came out again on lap 40. Sanford got a bad start and dropped back to 6th which let Binkley, Marlin and Baucom get by. The final caution on lap 47 didn't deter Valentine from going on and getting the win.
Valentine, driving a Dodge, goes in the history books as the first ever winner in the division. Buskill, Binkley, Marlin, and Baucom were the remaining drivers in the top five.
Mitchell Vickers took the win in the 20½-lap Street Modified feature. Stacey Smith was second, followed by Greg Adcock, Ernest Patterson, and Sam Owens. The Phillips 66 Pro Modified four-cylinder cars took to the track next, and a familiar name showed up in front. Jimbo Vance won the 50-lap event with Gary Dixon second, former division champion Johnny Thoni, Jr. third, Mike Ritter fourth, and Andy Johnson fifth.
The Budweiser Late Model Stock Cars were up next to finish out the day's racing action with their 125-lap feature. It's a good thing the speedway has lights, because the length of the other races, plus the length of the Late Model race caused the Late Model race to end under the lights.
In a rehearsal for the three TNN Friday night Motor Madness events to be broadcast this year, a special format was used for the race. After lap 65, the caution flag is thrown for a 10 minute break. During the break the cars can do anything that would normally be done in a routine pit stop. The cars start the race straight up, but after the half-way break, the leader pulls a pill to determine if 7, 9, or 11 cars are inverted for the second half.
It didn't take long for the crash-fest to start. As pole-sitter Chad Chaffin brought the field down to take the green flag, David Littleton's car took a sharp left just as he came off of turn four. That brought out the first of 13 cautions for the night. When the race restarted after 9 caution laps, Joe Buford, who started fifth, was able to get by Andy Kirby and Jerry Coble to get behind Chaffin.
Caution came out again on lap 14 for a single-car spin in turn 4. Buford was able to get a good start and took the lead from Chaffin when the green flew on lap 19. Buford and Chaffin raced side by side with Chaffin eventually making the pass on lap 21. The top three of Chaffin, Buford, and Kirby ran that way until Chaffin slowed on lap 32 and fell to third.
A huge multi-car pile up in turn 2 on lap 34 brought out the red flag. A total of twelve cars were involved in one way or another, including Casey Atwood and Craig Wilson. Atwood's car sustained front end sheet-metal damage while Wilson spun to avoid the other cars. The race got the green again on lap 41 but another spin by Wilson brought out the caution again on lap 42.
As Buford led the field to the green on lap 45, the third-place car of Andy Kirby suddenly slowed. As the rest of the field was going into turn 2, Billy James and Rodney Edwards got together in turn 1. When the field got the green again on lap 47 Chaffin challenged Buford for the lead. Chaffin and Buford battled back and forth for the lead for a few laps with Buford getting the front spot on lap 51. Coble was able to get the lead one lap later as Buford slowed down and dropped to third.
On lap 53 James and James Frank Reed tangled going into turn 2, with James taking a hard hit into the turn 2 wall. The caution waved until lap 61 which gave the teams a 4-lap shootout till the half-way point. Coble led at half way, with Mark Day second, Buford third, Ricky Bolden fourth, and Chaffin fifth.
Coble drew a seven for the inversion which put Russell Winstead out front, with Jerry Underwood second, Chaffin third, Bolden fourth, Buford fifth, Day sixth, and Coble seventh. Day dropped out with drive train problems just before the green flew start the second half. Winstead held the lead for three laps until Chaffin assumed the top spot on lap 69. By lap 75 it was Chaffin and Buford running one-two again.
A two-car spin in turn 4 brought out the caution again which erased the 10 car length advantage that Chaffin and Buford had over Bolden. Incredibly, Wilson, who'd earlier gotten caught up in the multi-car crash and then spun by himself, had moved back up to fourth by this time. By lap 90, he'd moved into third place behind Chaffin and Buford who were slowly pulling away from the field. On lap 91 caution flew, again erasing the big lead that the two Fords of Chaffin and Buford had.
When the green flew again on lap 95, Chaffin and Buford again started pulling away from the field. Buford and Chaffin swapped the lead several times, but by lap 113 Buford had gotten in front of Chaffin for the lead. By lap 115 they had a four second lead over Wilson, who was three seconds in front of Coble. With two laps to go, Chaffin took his car to the outside of Buford in turn 3, and by the time they had exited turn 4, was beside Buford. Buford's car went high, pushing Chaffin into the front stretch wall. Chaffin's car rebounded into Buford's, which put Buford's right front into the wall. Both cars came to a stop at the inside of turn 1 and caution came out for the final time.
The crash by the two leaders put Craig Wilson in the lead. The race restarted on lap 130 with a green, white, checkers finish and Wilson holding off Coble to get his first career Late Model win. Bolden was third, Michael Green came from the 31st starting spot to get fourth, and Casey Atwood survived the multi-car crash to grab the fifth spot. Winstead was the last car on the lead lap in sixth, with Edwards seventh, Jeff Higdon eighth, Todd Morris ninth, and Tommy Owens tenth.
An emotional Craig Wilson dedicated the win to his cousin who was killed last week. "Brad Wilson was shot and killed this last week at his home in Murfreesboro," said Wilson. "He came to the races just about every week. We were late getting to practice because we went to the funeral yesterday," Wilson said.
Next week will see racing action again on Sunday at 1:00, with 50-lap features for the Late Models and SuperTrucks.
Copyright 1997 by Glen Harness, All Rights Reserved.