Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SPORTS>>Beard fights Frye for MSRA victory

Leader sportswriter

Kyle Beard may be known as “The Silent Assassin,” but the Trumann driver is starting to make a lot of noise.

Beard won his second straight Comp Cams MSRA super late-model series race of the season with a flag-to-flag victory over strong-running veteran driver Bill Frye in action at Beebe Speedway on Friday.

Greenbrier’s Frye challenged Beard for the lead with a persistent charge on the low side entering almost every corner, but Beard kept his No. 86 GRT by Frye on the outside and rode the momentum the entire 30-lap distance to earn a $2,000, first-place payday.

“Every restart we had I think he pulled up beside me,” Beard said of Frye, a veteran car builder who constructed Beard’s winning car. “He had me pretty nervous. You get nervous every caution and then you finally get it out when you take off.

“And then another caution comes out and you get nervous all over again. I wish it could have just went green; I felt like I was better after I had run a few laps.”

Beard also led his heat race from start to finish and earned top qualifier for the feature. The 24-year-old used his good track position to claim the lead out of turn two on the first lap and survive a record seven caution flags for MSRA at Beebe.

He entered the event as the most recent series winner after dominating the field at NEA Speedway in Harrisburg to take over the season points lead two weeks earlier.

Frye also finished second to Beard in that race, a straightaway behind the leader at the finish, but he did not go as quietly at Beebe on Friday.

The five-time MARS series champion put his years on the national circuit to use with a fast, steady line around the bottom that prevented Beard from pulling away.

Frye pulled alongside Beard on lap six and again on lap 22, and worked his way right behind the leader after many of the late restarts only to have another caution slow his charge.

Russellville’s Jon Kirby was the only driver to interrupt the duel between Beard and Frye when he worked his way from a seventh-place starting position to overtake Frye for second on lap 19.

A caution was waved before Kirby could get his number 11 GRT up to Beard and contend for the lead, and Kirby’s chances ended when he became the reason for the next caution after his car got sideways on the front- stretch wall entering turn one and slid over 50 feet before bouncing violently back onto the track and coming to a stop.

Kirby was okay but his car appeared to be completely destroyed and needed a tow hook back to the pits.

Beard and Frye’s mostly clean battle up front was not indicative of the rest of the field, as series director and flagman Chris Ellis waved the caution flag seven times to break a streak of one caution or less in the previous four series events at Beebe’s quarter-mile, clay oval.

Several two-and-three-car incidents slowed the pace, but a seven-car melee with three laps left ruined the night for a number of competitive drivers, including local favorite Curtis Cook from Vilonia making his super late- model debut.

The close racing and more closely contested restarts finally backfired on lap 27 when Beard, Frye and third-place runner Shane Stephens bunched up at the front on a restart, causing a chain-reaction accident in turn four that involved five cars initially.

The carnage also spread to the front stretch where two-time MSRA champ Joey Mack was slowed because of a broken transmission and hit Cook’s 601 car.

That led Cook to an early exit from his impressive maiden voyage and left 11 cars on the track from the 20 that started.

The lineup went single file for the final restart as Beard and Frye duked it out over the final three laps. Frye made his strongest assault on Beard in that stretch, crossing the line for the white flag with his nose a few inches behind Beard’s and staying beside him for the entire final circuit.

Beard got the run he needed out of turn four of the final lap to hold off Frye by a just over a car length.

“He had a good car,” Frye said. “He was better than me around the top. I couldn’t even keep up with him on the top, but I really didn’t plan on running up there when the deal started, so, I think I just needed some more laps.”

The staff at Beebe went with a different approach to prepare the track for late-model racing. There was a flat area on the outside of turn one leading up to the pit entrance that allowed a deeper cushion of loose dirt to build and gave the racing surface a more competitive upper groove.

“The track was so much better than the last two times I was here, so I’ll take it,” Frye said. “It was good — you could race on it tonight. The last couple of times we’ve been here, it’s been one lane around the bottom, so they did a great job on the racetrack.”

With his second straight victory that helped him increase his margin in the championship standings, Beard said he was aware early in the night he could add even more momentum to his 2010 campaign.

“I had a pretty good feeling — the car felt good in the heat race,” Beard said. “The slicker it gets, the better this car gets. I had a good feeling about it.”

Stephens gained ground in the MSRA rookie points battle with a third-place run while Jon Mitchell of Texarkana, Texas, recovered from two early spins to finish fourth. Flora driver Brandon Smith completed the top five.

Mark Stephens, of Arlington, Tenn., was sixth while Eddie Provence of East End made the most of a 20th place provisional start to finish seventh and earn hard charger of the race. It was the highest finish this season for Provence in his first year back in a late model after six years of modified racing.

Jeff Floyd bounced back from a mid-race spin to finish eighth while DeWitt’s Clay Fisher and Daniel Waters of Hoxie filled out the top ten.

Mack and Cook were credited with 12th- and 13th-place finishes after running in the top five most of the way, while local driver Wade Johnson was 15th after retiring from the race early.

Kirby ended up 16th and North Little Rock’s Terry Henson was the first retiree from the race and listed 20th when his engine expired shortly after the start. Bryant’s Joseph Long, Wesley Crutchfield and Bobby Derryberry did not qualify for the feature.

Jeff Porterfield won the hobby feature while Lane Cullum took the checkers in the E-mod feature race. Paul Shackleford was the winner of the mini-stock feature and Beebe’s Ricky Wilhite won his second straight factory feature.

Randy Weaver added to his points lead in the modified division with a flag-to-flag victory over Curtis Cook and Donnie Stringfellow.