Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SPORTS>>Points leader hits his stride over summer

Leader sportswriter

He might just be the friendliest assassin you’ll ever meet.

But that’s not to say that Kyle Beard of Trumann, nicknamed “The Silent Assassin,” is not a fierce competitor when it comes to racing.

Beard is the season points leader in the Beebe-based MSRA late-model series, and has won two of the last three series events.

His victory at Northeast Arkansas Speedway in Harrisburg on June 12 broke a dry spell that went back almost a year to the day, when he won his last MSRA event at Drew County Speedway in Monticello on June 15, 2009.

He also won this past Friday at Beebe Speedway by holding off a hard-charging Bill Frye, and ran third to veterans Frye and Jeff Floyd at Crawford County Speedway the following night.

“It started off a little slow but I think we’re starting to get in a little bit better groove than we havebeen,” Beard said. “We’re starting to run a little closer to the front, anyways. It’s starting to get a little better.”

The 2009 season was not the strongest of Beard’s career. He suffered through a number of accidents and part failures, which kept him out of contention for most of the season.

He still managed to finish third in the final MSRA standings, but with only one victory for the season, the worst of his six-year career behind the wheel of a super late model.

This season got off to a lukewarm start for Beard until unseasonably high temperatures started kicking in around the middle of May.

Beard had one top-five finish and two more top 10s through five events from early March into May, and also endured six rainouts.

That included a stretch of four straight MSRA events over two weekends at the end of April and first weekend of May, but since the rain has moved out, Beard has moved up.

Beard finished out of the top 10 only once in nine starts since May 7, with six finishes in the top five. His only bad finish came in a SUPR race at I-30 on June 18 when he was spun while moving up through the field and was forced to retire early.

“It just seems when the summer starts, I get a little better,” Beard said. “I guess it takes me a couple of months to get back in my groove. We’re already having a better year than we did last year. We had some motor problems last year, but it’s already a little better than it was then.”

The majority of Beard’s 13 career, super late-model victories have come on tracks with a dry-slick condition. When tracks are not able to retain moisture and become coated with rubber from racing tires, it becomes much harder to pull alongside another car and pass.

But for Beard, who cut his teeth in the weekly street-stock class at Harrisburg in the early 2000s, those slippery conditions have been more of a benefit.

“I was raised at Harrisburg, and it’s the slickest track around pretty much,” Beard said. “I’ve always been used to it, and I think that’s helped me because I grew up racing on a slick track.”

Beard plans on finishing out the MSRA schedule as well as competing in the annual Topless 100 at Batesville in August.

He will also race in the Cotton Pickin’ 100 in Columbus, Miss., in the fall along with a handful of events with the MSCCS and P.R.O. late-model series in that area.

The biggest change for Beard and his race team in 2010 will be a new chassis. They are waiting for the final touches to be put on a brand new Moyer Victory Circle chassis that will soon arrive at Beard’s shop to replace his current GRT by Frye.

The Moyer chassis are built by hall-of-fame late-model driver Billy Moyer of Batesville, and were used by his son Billy Moyer, Jr. to claim the MSRA championship last year. But given the success he has had with the Frye chassis over the years, including two recent victories, the jury is out for Beard when it comes to deciding which ride he will favor.

“I don’t really know, we had been throwing the idea around a little bit,” Beard said. “We’ve been talking to little Billy a lot. He’s kind of talked us into it, I guess. I ordered the car last week, and then I went out and won that weekend, so it’s making me nervous a little.”

Moyer, Jr. and Beard have become friends while coming up through the late-model ranks the last five years, and with Moyer’s recent departure from the local scene and into the national spotlight, there is speculation as to whether Beard will be far behind.

Arkansas is considered a hotbed of late-model racing talent across the country, and Beard would like to add his name to the long list of successful drivers from the Natural State.

“If I can keep in a good groove and do good, I would like to go a little bigger and try some bigger shows,” Beard said. “I guess it just kind of depends on how I run.”