Ray Takes DuQuoin Indoor Focus Debut Former Midwest Ford Focus Midget Car Series champion Robbie Ray of Davenport, Iowa held off a resilient Brad Loyet in Sunday afternoon's 40-lap "Pepsi Mid America Ford Focus Midget Nationals" ...
Ray Takes DuQuoin Indoor Focus Debut
Former Midwest Ford Focus Midget Car Series champion Robbie Ray of Davenport, Iowa held off a resilient Brad Loyet in Sunday afternoon's 40-lap "Pepsi Mid America Ford Focus Midget Nationals" feature at the Southern Illinois Center on the grounds of the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
Ray, who returned to his father Mark's No. 3 Calico Coatings/Simpson Beast/Ford Focus after running another car in the Carolina/Virginia Ford Focus Midget Car Series in 2004, led all 40 laps in USAC's first Ford Focus race of 2005.
It wasn't easy for the former Midwest series champion though. Despite starting on the pole and moving to the front in Turn 1 of the opening lap, Ray endured Loyet's consistent pestering for more than half the feature.
"It's hard to do," Ray said of his flag-to-flag win. "I never knew how close third was to Brad and myself, so I didn't know how hard to run it. I know I made some mistakes, but we were able to pull it off."
As Ray stepped to the front, Loyet sliced through the field. Starting sixth, he gained three spots in the first six laps and took advantage of an error by Tony Main. A first-timer in USAC Ford Focus competition, Main was battling for the point on lap seven but spun in Turn 2.
From there, Loyet could only bang on the back of Ray's car, with Ray gaining minimal track space following several cautions. The lead duo hugged the bottom groove and stretched its lead over the rest of the pack, with Ray rarely giving Loyet an inch.
Ray, who admitted he made mistakes during the event, slid just high enough in Turn Two on lap 49, allowing Loyet a final chance. But Ray closed the door as they entered the backstretch of the 1/6-mile temporary dirt oval, and held on to pass underneath the twin checkered flags about a car length ahead of Loyet.
Ray credited Loyet with his clean driving style on the slick track, admitting Loyet, in a faster car, could have taken him out at any time.
"Brad drove one darn good race," Ray said. "He had every chance in the world to take me out. He got into me a few times, and that happens indoors. You've got to expect that. But he let off; he didn't keep shoving and spin me out. My hat's off to him."
Stephanie Mockler, Ryan Litt and Ronnie Wuerdeman rounded out the top five.
Jimmy Light and Kyle Robbins each flipped on the front straightaway, but both drivers emerged from their cars unscathed. Heat winners included Loyet, Mockler and Adam Kramer.
The second of the two events in the indoor series championship is scheduled for Feb. 19.