Friday, June 04, 2010

SPORTS>>Veteran tops field at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

There’s no substitute for experience.

It certainly made the difference in the USCS Speedweek 360 sprint-car feature at Beebe Speedway on Thursday night when veteran driver Tim Crawley, of Benton, got around Lee Sowell on lap 19 to claim the $2,000 first-place payday going away.

Sowell, of Nesbit, Miss., put some space between his car and Crawley’s Boater Sports Maxim after overtaking fast qualifier Terry Gray on the fifth circuit, but Crawley’s better management of tires and lap traffic allowed him to catch up and take advantage when Sowell washed up in turn four on lap 19.

Crawley, who began his career at Beebe over 25 years ago, started third on the grid behind Gray and Sowell. Gray appeared to be the one to beat early when he won the dash and his heat, but the Bartlett, Tenn., driver and current USCS national points leader could not keep pace with Crawley or Sowell once the feature got going.

“I knew tire choice was probably going to be an issue,” Crawley said. “I think just about everybody went with a soft tire. It almost could have bit us. I pedaled; I took it easy unless I saw a hole. When I saw a hole, I charged at it.

“Then I went back to easy, because I knew tire management was going to be an issue. Both of mine are slick, so I guess it paid off.”

The track developed a dry-slick condition early in the heats and got progressively worse as the features began. But Crawley, in true veteran fashion, got faster compared to his competitors as the night went on.

Of all the front-runners, Gray was most affected by the track changes and quickly lost touch with Sowell shortly after falling from the lead to second place on lap five. Gray lost second place to Crawley on lap ten, and spent the rest of the race trying to hold off Bryant’s Zach Pringle for the third spot.

Sowell built up a five-car-length lead shortly after passing Gray, but gave up that distance once he hit traffic on lap 11. It took less than a lap for Crawley to catch up and begin to pressure Sowell until he finally forced a mistake.

“If you got up too high and got out of the rubber, you were in the dust,” Crawley said. “Luckily for me, that’s what the two cars in front of me did, and I capitalized both times they did it.”

Sowell could not catch back up to Crawley and settled for second with Gray finishing third and Pringle fourth. Alexander driver Eric Sandage rounded out the top five.

Jerrod Hull was sixth, while former series champion Marshall Skinner, of West Memphis, was seventh. Anthony Nicholson took eighth, Tommy Wurley ninth and female racer Morgan Turpin completed the top ten.

Coldwater, Miss., driver Chris Moore won the USCS topless modified feature with a flag-to-flag sweep over locals Mike Bowers, Randy Weaver and Curtis Cook. Moore earned the pole in qualifying, won the dash, led his heat from start to finish and continued his domination into the 25-lap, $1,200-to-win feature event.

Moore was also the only non-regular to finish in the top five.

Beebe driver Dallas Everett started fifth and moved up to third on the complete restart when Little Rock’s Patrick Linn went around in turn one on the initial start. Everett, 16, kept pace with the leaders until Cook got around him for the fourth spot on lap four, followed by Bryant’s Robert Baker a lap later.

But those were the only spots Everett gave up on his way to a solid sixth-place finish. Linn recovered and made his way back to eighth in the 17-car field before his car began to fade again in the final laps.

Moore led the field around the inside line in freight-train fashion with little passing throughout the field. Bryant’s Joe Long was the only driver able to advance significantly, finishing 10th after starting 15th.

Bowers finished second in front of Weaver, Cook and Baker. Searcy’s Robert Davis finished in the seventh spot behind Everett with Buck Reid, Casey Findley and Long completing the top 10.

In support-class action, Jeff Porterfield added to his points lead with a victory in the hobby stocks and McRae’s Blake Jones won his second E-mod feature of the season over Beebe’s Ryan Redmond.