Lebanon: Race report, Elliott wins

Elliott Earns USAC Sprint Roper Classic Lebanon Laurels LEBANON, Mo. (September 15, 2004) - Tony Elliott raced from the tenth starting slot to put an end to his victory drought on USAC's Valvoline National Sprint Car trail by ...

Elliott Earns USAC Sprint Roper Classic Lebanon Laurels

LEBANON, Mo. (September 15, 2004) - Tony Elliott raced from the tenth starting slot to put an end to his victory drought on USAC's Valvoline National Sprint Car trail by topping Wednesday night's 30-lap Roper Classic main event at Lebanon I-44 Speedway.

"We were good up top the first half of the race, but worked the bottom over the last half to make sure we had enough tire to make it," Elliott commented after his first series victory of the year. "I'd like to thank all the fans that stuck around tonight. I'm not sure why we had such a problem getting this race going, I just hope none of the guys got torn up too much and I'm glad all you fans stuck with us."

Elliott's words rang true, as the 25-car feature field, which was originally slated for 50 laps, needed six attempts to get a lap in the books, thus reducing the feature to 30 rounds due to an excessive amount of laps under caution.

While Josh Wise set a new track standard of 14.532-seconds atop the high-banked 3/8-mile dirt oval in qualifying, it was sixth-qualifier Jesse Hockett who led the feature field to the original green flag with the top six qualifiers inverted.

Fellow front row starter Josh Ford beat Hockett into the first turn on the initial three attempts to get the race under way, only to have the caution fly each time for a variety of tangles.

Hockett got the jump on the fourth attempt, but the red flag quickly waved when Ford spun in the opening corner, with 12th-starter Levi Jones tumbling off the turn one embankment in an effort to avoid Ford's sideways machine.

Abandoning the traditional double-file start for a single-file charge to the opening green, the next attempt failed as well when Dave Darland, who earlier slid into the turn four wall with a broken steering arm, came to a halt in turn two.

The sixth attempt to start the race proved somewhat successful as Hockett took the green and led the first official lap in front of Jerry Coons, Jr., Kaeding, Wise and Marc Jessup, only to see the caution appear once again on the second lap for a multi-car melee in turn four that was triggered when Don Droud, Jr., was tagged from behind by Matt Westfall. The ensuing carnage eliminated Droud, John Scott, Sean Walden and Cory Kruseman, while Darren Hagen made quick repairs to rejoin the chase. After repairs, Jones rejoined the race as well following his earlier flip.

With the shaky start out of the way, Hockett led the way when the green reappeared as Coons utilized the low line in the opening rounds to hold off a rim-riding Kaeding for second. Meanwhile, Elliott wasted little time advancing from his tenth starting position, moving up to seventh by the third lap and then to fourth just two laps later.

Working the middle of the track, Elliott sliced between Coons and Kaeding to take over second on the sixth circuit. Elliott moved to the cushion and put the pressure on pacesetter Hockett, only to have Kaeding surge back toward the front.

Kaeding charged past Elliott for second on the tenth round, then rode the cushion past Hockett for the lead one lap later. Elliott would follow Kaeding's lead, charging past Hockett for second on the 13th lap.

Kaeding's five-car length advantage over Elliott began to shrink on the 17th round as Elliott closed the gap. Moving to the low groove, Elliott pulled alongside Kaeding in turns one and two on the 20th round and edged into the lead as the pair charged down the backstretch.

As Elliott led the way into turn three, Kaeding's victory hopes went out the window as his right rear tire shredded entering turn three. Under the ensuing caution, top-five contender Wise would exit to the pit area with a flat left rear tire. Kaeding and Wise would both rejoin the chase at the tail.

Set for an eleven-lap dash to the checkered flag, Elliott needed a mere three laps to establish a straightaway advantage over his pursuers. Elliott would charge to the checkered flag undeterred over the final rounds aboard Jeff Walker's Claxton-powered Hoosier Tires No. 11 F5-chassis.

Hockett, a two-time winner of Lakeside Speedway's $10,000-to-win NWWC event, posted another strong non-wing outing by taking second at the stripe, while Marc Jessup turned in his best USAC dirt track Sprint Car finish of the season by snaring the show position. Coons claimed fourth in his first outing aboard the Hoffman machine, with Jon Stanbrough rounding out the top five.

Dickie Gaines raced from 13th to sixth, while current series point leader Jay Drake salvaged a seventh place finish after making an early stop. Shane Cottle claimed eighth, with Kaeding rebounding for ninth and Ford completing the top ten.

After Wise topped Jessup's early qualifying effort, Kruseman, Chappell and Darland each captured 8-lap heat race victories.

-lw-

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Series USAC
Drivers Dave Darland , Tony Elliott , Jeff Walker , Jay Drake , Matt Westfall , Levi Jones , Jerry Coons , Josh Wise , Jon Stanbrough , Marc Jessup , John Scott , Shane Cottle , Josh Ford , Jesse Hockett , Darren Hagen