Tulsa: "Night before the 100" story

Drake Captures "Night Before the 100" Victory Honors at Tulsa TULSA, Okla. (September 17, 2004) - The checkered flag flew none too soon for Jay Drake in Friday night's O'Reilly "Night Before the 100" presented by Flowmaster 30-lap ...

Drake Captures "Night Before the 100" Victory Honors at Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. (September 17, 2004) - The checkered flag flew none too soon for Jay Drake in Friday night's O'Reilly "Night Before the 100" presented by Flowmaster 30-lap USAC Valvoline National Sprint Car Series feature event at Tulsa Fairgrounds Motorplex, as he crossed the stripe underneath an explosion of rubber from his right rear tire which shredded mere yards from the finish line.

Drake extended his series point lead by collecting his fourth triumph of the season, foiling top USAC rookie contender Josh Ford's potential first feature win. After setting the pace the opening 27 rounds, Ford surrendered the lead with a worn right rear tire little more than two laps from victory lane.

"I was just getting off of turn four when I felt the vibrating, and at that point I hoped just enough pieces could fly off to scare the guys behind me, to get it across the finish line," commented Drake in victory lane. "This is a great race to win, Emmett (Hahn) does so much for this sport and the fans are so good in Tulsa that it's always special to win one of his races."

Leading the field to the green flag, Ford outgunned Drake to snare the early lead, with third starter Cory Kruseman immediately moving into second. Ford paced the early rounds in front of Kruseman, Drake, Josh Wise and Marc Jessup.

After Tony Elliott's turn three spin on the fifth round, Ford held a four car-length advantage over Kruseman and Drake. Ford began to check out from the field after ten rounds however, establishing a twelve car-length advantage.

Ford's edge would be erased at the midway point when Chris Parkinson slipped out of the groove and wiped out a portion of the turn three and four fencing as Ford attempted to put a lap on him.

Back under way, Ford raced away from his rivals, establishing a half straightaway lead by the 20th round. With Ford in full command, Drake had just battled past Kruseman for second on the 25th lap, only to have the pass negated when Larry Neighbors came to a halt in turn three with engine problems.

As Ford continued to set the pace, Kruseman's victory hopes ended two laps later when his right rear tire disintegrated. Wise surrendered fourth position under the caution with a flat tire as well.

Gambling on a soft right rear tire along with others, Ford's landmark first series victory came up little more than two laps short when his right rear tire expired in turns three and four on the 28th round, bringing out the caution.

Drake assumed command and held on to the line, with his tire exploding skyward in spectacular fashion as he took the checkered flag aboard the Tony Stewart-owned Mopar-powered No. 20 Vital Express Eagle.

Nursing a flat left front tire over the final six rounds, Jerry Coons, Jr., gained three positions in the final laps aboard the Hoffman No. 69 machine to snare second, with Dave Darland racing from tenth to claim the show position.

After pitting for a left rear tire change in the early stages then rejoining the field a half lap back, Jon Stanbrough made an impressive charge to finish fourth, with Dickie Gaines rounding out the top five.

Bud Kaeding, who established a new track standard of 25.449-seconds atop the 0xda6ce dirt oval in qualifying, fell to 14th on the opening round before recovering to claim sixth. Kruseman bounced back to finish seventh, with 16th-starter Don Droud, Jr., 20th-starter Jerrod Wilson and Ford completing the top ten.

Kruseman, Neighbors and Sean Walden topped heat race action, with Wise winning the 12-lap B Main.

-lw-

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Dave Darland , Bud Kaeding , Tony Elliott , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Jerry Coons , Jon Stanbrough , Larry Neighbors , Marc Jessup , Josh Ford