WILD NIGHT AT ORLANDO SPEEDWORLD – CONLIN, BENNETT AND SINKULA TAKE WINS

Orlando Speedworld LogoThere was no full moon Friday night at Orlando SpeedWorld but it sure seemed like it as the fans saw plenty of slam-bang action that kept wrecker driver Tim Cordell busy most of the night.  A very nice field of Sportsman cars saw their pair of heat races won by Richard Fiore, Jr. and Daniel Conlin, Jr. but it would be pole sitter Ron Gustafson jumping out to an early lead in the 25-lap feature.  Gustafson would lead the first five circuits before Earl Beckner got by to assume the point as he was looking to make it two wins in a row.  Timmy Todd, Jr. spun his brand-new mount coming off turn four to bring out the first caution flag on lap seven.  Beckner continued to set the pace until yellow flag number two was thrown for debris on the track at the completion of lap ten.  On the restart, Gustafson found himself in the backstretch wall, coming to rest in turn three with a badly crunched car and out of the event.  By this time Derrick Wood, who started deep in the 14 car field, had worked his way to second place and looked like he might have something for leader Beckner.  However, Wood’s car suddenly slowed coming off turn two during the 12th lap and he coasted to the infield.  Two laps later Fiore and Roger Blevins collided going into turn one with Blevins’ car in the wall and ultimately done for the evening.  On the restart Conlin, now up to second, got into the back of Beckner’s car going down the backstretch sending Beckner’s machine hard into the wall.  A not so happy Beckner walked back to the pits, done for the night.  It was even more frustrating for the Orlando driver as he and his crew had to thrash for several days just to get here for the action after blowing an engine and crashing the car badly at Auburndale Speedway two weeks ago.

Steve Barnes inherited the lead at this point as Conlin was sent to the back of the restart line-up for rough driving.  Barnes was looking good out front but his progress was slowed by yet another crash on lap 21 that saw Noah Cornman hard into the turn four wall.  The young driver walked away unharmed but his Bramlett Motorsports race car was shortened up considerably.  With just eight cars left on track, Conlin found himself back in the thick of things and he immediately began to pressure Barnes for the lead, taking the top spot on the white flag lap and leading to the finish for his second careerwin here.  A disappointed Barnes held on for second while Fiore rallied to claim third
place ahead of a great drive by newcomer Justin Starr and veteran Andy Nichols who was making his first SpeedWorld start in over a year.  Ted Helmes took sixth trailed by Todd and Brandon Christian, the last cars still running.  Rounding out the finishing order were Cornman, Beckner, Wood, Blevins, Gustafson and Ted Head.

The Modified feature was a much tamer affair and saw just one leader as Bruce Bennett of Belle Isle led from green to checker after starting from the pole.  Bennett had his car on rails and was never seriously challenged, despite two caution periods for minor incidents.  Alan Bruns tried his best to track down the fleet Bennett but it was to no avail and he settled for second in front of Chad Pierce and Matt Wheeler who both made a run back to the front after bringing out the first yellow when they tangled on the sixth lap.  Fifth went to Zach Harris while Austin Howell, Billy Tokes, Beckner and Matt Jarrett completed the finishing order.  Modified heat race victories went to Wheeler and Pierce.

It was a rough start to the Legend Car feature as Joey Langis, making his first start of the season, pounded the turn three wall on the opening lap badly damaging his mount.  Mark Bibeau led the opening pair of laps before being passed by Donovan Ponder.  Keith Sinkula attempted to follow Ponder by Bibeau but got into Bibeau’s car sending him for a spin.  Tony Stanbuck had nowhere to go and hit Bibeau broadside.  Stanbuck’s car had to be towed from the track while Bibeau drove his damaged car back to the pits, but both were done for the evening.  Ponder continued to set the pace but gave way to Darin Coker on lap six with Sinkula following into second a lap later.  From there the race was on as the two Southwest Florida drivers traded the lead over the second half of the race with Sinkula taking over on the 19th lap and holding off a determined Coker
the rest of the way to score his first win of the year.  So far in the very competitive Legend Car class, there have been four winners in four races so far this season.  Coker claim the runner-up spot followed by Ponder, David Owen, William Hindman, Bibeau, Stanbuck and Langis.  Heats were won by Owen and Sinkula.

It was a David vs. Goliath battle in the Strictly Stock feature race that saw the V-8 cars combined with the Four Cylinder Stocks for the evening’s activity.  Zachary Curtis put his Saturn out front for the first two laps but could not hold off the much bigger Chevy Monte Carlo of William Hindman who eventually claimed his third win in a row.  The smaller cars showed their stuff though as Curtis came in second followed by the Ford Escort of Eric Hodge and the Toyota Celica of John Gross.  Fifth went to a Lincoln driven by Rich “Crash” Tyner while Jamie Sullivan, Kevin Ledford, Jim Erb, Megan Metheny, Warren Howie, Paul Cornelius and Rex Carr rounded out the finishers.  Ledford and Hindman won the heat races.

Colton Bramlett dominated the Bandolero action winning both the heat race and feature over Sam Cornman and Brandi Bibeau.  During the evening, over $500 was raised for the family of Niokoa Johnson, the young girl who lost her life in a recent accident at Ocala Speedway.  Race promoter Butch Carr, Sr. will present the donations to Ocala Speedway management on Saturday.

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