Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SPORTS >> ‘Smooth’ sailing at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

Batesville’s Billy Moyer, Jr. avoided an opening-lap pileup and overcame stubborn lap traffic to hold off Memphis driver Dane Dacus on the way to a $2,000, first-place payday at Beebe Speedway in the first round of the 2010 Comp Cams MSRA tour Friday.

The defending series champion known as “Kid Smooth” began his title defense in dominant fashion with a flag-to-flag victory in Heat 4 before pulling ahead of Dacus on the third circuit of the feature to claim his first career triumph at the quarter-mile bullring.

“On the first lap, you just hate to see something like that happen,” Moyer, Jr. said of the seven-car fracas on Lap 1. “But that gave me a chance to take advantage of it, and for once, I capitalized on it. Once we got clear of traffic, we got away from them.

We’ve got a really good piece here.”

A total of 23 entries battled for the 20 available spots, with Broken Bow, Okla., teen driver Gary Christian winning Heat 1, Dacus winning Heat 2 and Jon Kirby winning the third heat while Moyer took the third starting spot in the feature by claiming the last heat.

Wynne driver Charlie Cole won the ‘B’ main consolation feature while Terry Henson, Joseph Long, Shane Stephens and Jeff Sloan took the remaining four transfer spots. Driver Austin Rettig took the series provisional to send Stormy Derryberry, Wesley Crutchfield and off-the-pace Little Rock driver Eddie Provence home.

Moyer, Jr., son of late-model hall of famer Billy Moyer, set a fast pace once the field took a complete restart. The first attempt to restart the race resulted in bedlam between turns one and two when front-row drivers Dacus and Jon Kirby of Russellville made contact and were piled into by most of the first four rows.

Dacus did not receive significant damage and was able to retain his polesitter spot for the restart. Kirby was not as fortunate, as his car had to take the wrecking hook back to his hauler and was credited with a 20th-place did not finish after starting second on the grid.

Also involved in the dustup were Bill Frye, last year’s winner Wendell Wallace, Jack Sullivan, Dewaine Hottinger and two-time MSRA champ Joey Mack.

But Kirby’s car was the only one to sustain any real damage while the rest of the cars were able to rejoin the field for the restart.

The brief red flag and subsequent yellow were the only times the race was slowed. After the complete restart, the race went flag to flag with Moyer, Jr. and Dacus side by side for the first three laps.

Moyer, Jr. was able to make his way around Dacus’ outside down the backstretch and claim the point on Lap 3, but had little time to put any space between the top two spots with backmarkers quickly approaching.

The 21 JR car of Moyer caught up to the 94 of Sikeston, Mo., driver Rettig on Lap 13, but Rettig, the rookie-of-the-year candidate, did not initially respond to flagman Chris Ellis displaying the blue-and-yellow leader flag as he passed under the stand ahead of Moyer.

It wasn’t until Lap 17 that Moyer, with Dacus close in tow, was able to clear Rettig and begin to put a few lengths on the 54 car of Dacus. The leader lapped up to 12th place driver Stacy Taylor of Cabot before the finish and eventually outpaced Dacus by nearly a straightaway.

“I’ve been lapped a lot,” Moyer said. “I know to move over. A lot of people don’t know, so that needs to be preached and preached. I won; I’m the fastest car here tonight, but tomorrow, I might be getting lapped. I know to get out of the way, because I’ve been around this. There’s nothing more irritating than catching a lapped car like that.”

Further back in the field, Greenbrier veteran driver Frye took the hard-charger award by moving up from his 13th starting spot to finish eighth. Five-time MARS late model champion Frye battled with Hottinger and Trumann driver Kyle Beard in the early going and moved from 10th to eighth on Lap 10, when he finally cleared both drivers.

Moyer, Jr. backed up his victory at Beebe on Friday by winning the second night of the MSRA doubleheader at Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis on Saturday for the weekend sweep and an early points lead.

But while a repeat as series champ is on his radar, Moyer also has his sights set on Eldora Speedway in Rossberg, Ohio, home to the two biggest late-model races in the country every year.

“I’m not committing to this deal,” Moyer, Jr. said. “I’m going to start, and I’m going to run it for a while. I want to go to Eldora and run up there, so I’m going to have to go. But, if they’ve got a race scheduled here, we’ll fight that debate.

“If we’re leading, it’s going to be hard to leave. I don’t know, it would be awesome to go back to back, I hope I can do it. We’ll just have to play it by ear; I really want to go to Eldora, is the main thing.”

Dacus finished second while Christian had a quiet third-place run. Sullivan was fourth and Wallace completed the top five. Mack finished sixth, followed by Jon Mitchell, Frye, Hottinger and Jeff Floyd.

MSRA will be back in action at Malden Speedway in Missouri on April 23 and back to Arkansas at I-30 Speedway in Benton the following night.

Beebe Speedway will host the show car of NASCAR Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman this Friday from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., with a regular race card scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Newman’s No. 39 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet will display the Tornados burritos sponsorship with an identical paint scheme to the car Newman won with at the Sprint Cup race in Phoenix, Ariz., on Saturday.