Dave Westerman, Bithlo, FL – Orlando SpeedWorld began its 40th racing season with some brisk weather that kept fans huddled up all night, but the action they got to see was hot all night long as five racing classes were in action. The Pro Trucks headlined with several new faces in the field that also featured some veterans too. Whitney Poole and Michael Burns grabbed the heat race victories to set the stage for the headliner that would see some great action. Tyler Lau led the initial three circuits before being passed by Becca Monopoli. Burns, who started at the back of the field, worked his way up to challenge and, after some super side-by-side racing, grabbed the lead from Monopoli on lap 12. Becca came right back to lead a pair of laps before Burns used some superior handling in the center of the corners to nab the lead for good. A lap 18 caution for a Kelly Ross spin could not slow Burns as he cruised to the win despite a late charge from veteran Scott Reeves. Monopoli held on for third over Poole and Lau. Rounding out the finishers were Vince Keeler, Eddie Lichtenberger, Ross and Richard Griffis.
The Super Stock feature race was about as crazy as you could get in the late going after young Michael Held led the opening 17 laps and looked like he might be in line for his first big feature win. But veteran shoe Rich Clouser, driving one of three Sanford Auto Dealers Exchange entries, had other ideas as he zipped out front for three laps only to be re-passed by Held, who again led a pair of laps before Clouser regained the lead. With a handful of laps to go, the pair tangled headed into turn one to bring out the caution. After a lengthy discussion, track officials put both to the rear of the field for the restart handing the lead to David Gould. Gould would go on to lead the remaining laps to score yet another SpeedWorld victory as he has been competing here for about 30 of the track’s 40 years. Clouser bounced back to claim second trailed by Brandon Christian, Gino Tuminello, Adam Soukup and Ted Head. Held got into the back of another car on the white flag lap and was disqualified by track officials. Ernie Stickle broke an axle in his heat race and could not start along with Scott Tyler who had a mechanical failure and popped the wall in his heat. Heat race wins went to Held and Clouser.
With some money up for grabs to the top three finishers, the Strictly Stock main event was a wild one that saw five yellow flags and plenty of “rubbing.” After Richard Tyner hit the turn one wall with his Lincoln on the initial start to force a complete restart, Robert Skinner led the opening lap only to see his car quit as he brought out the caution. Jim Barron took the lead on the restart and held on for nine laps but was unable to keep high-flying William Hindman at bay as Hindman put his E&H Car Crushing Chevy Monte Carlo out front and was never headed from that point. Barron took the runner-up spot in front of Neil Kirby, Richard Fiore, Jr. and Charlie King, Sr. Completing the field were Warren Howie, Eddie Moran, Tom Flynn, Michael Hanna, Megan Matheny, Skinner and Tyner. Hindman and Kirby won the heat races.
Donovan Ponder led the first four trips around the track in the Legend Car feature but it was recent Bandolero graduate David Owen who snatched the front spot on lap five and never looked back for his first-ever Legend Car win here. Ponder took a distant second trailed by his teammate William Hindman (in his first Legend Car start), Ted Ruffo and Roger Englund.
The Four Cylinder Stock main event went to Eric Hodge who took the lead just past the halfway mark and breezed from there. John Gross claimed second followed by Charles King, Jr., James Skinner and Shane Sutorus. Hodge also won the heat race.
The Legends, Strictly Stocks and Four Cylinder Stocks return next week and will be joined by the Open Wheel Modified and Sportsman cars for their first race of the year.