Wednesday, September 01, 2010

SPORTS>>Wallace bounces back in MSRA feature

Leader sportswriter

Wendell Wallace will most likely look back at 2010 as one of the worst years of his stellar career, but his winning performance at Beebe Speedway in the Comp Cams MSRA late model feature on Friday will not be part of that bad memory.

Wallace blew by fast qualifier Jon Mitchell on a lap 7 restart and cruised to a $2,000 first-place payday during the tour’s final stop at the quarter-mile facility.

Wallace, who started third, made his moves on the high side before settling into the top spot and drove consistently for the duration.

“The racetrack was widening out — it kind of surprised me,” Wallace said. “Those guys were still tucked at the bottom, and I knew it was time to go if they gave me that outside starting third. I knew I had one shot at it, so we rode up there and made it work.”

Friday was also the fourth and final race of the RiceTec Summer Showdown. Defending series champion Billy Moyer, Jr. came into the Beebe race holding the points lead in the mini series, and went on to claim the $1,000 bonus with his second-place run.

The race also had heavy championship implications. Trumann’s Kyle Beard led the season points for most of the summer until a parts failure at I-30 Speedway handed the top spot to Greenbrier veteran Bill Frye.

Beard started fourth in the feature at Beebe and was in position to make up ground with Frye starting in the 12th spot. But Frye worked his way up to third in the final running order to earn hard charger while Beard went backwards during the race to finish 10th.

The weekend result pushed Frye’s lead over Beard to 31 points with only three events remaining.

Mitchell’s lucky run through his heat came at the expense of Russellville’s Dewaine Hottinger, wholeaped out to a huge lead in the first heat and dominated until a problem with his suspension brought him to a halt in turn one just after taking the white flag. That gave the heat victory and pole start for the feature to Mitchell, while Hottinger had to go to the last-chance feature.

Hottinger’s luck soured further in the 12-lap consolation race when his No. 65 machine got caught up in a number of collisions caused by other drivers. Hottinger reached his breaking point late in the B feature when his clean pass on Brian Ritchie ended with the Hottinger’s car spinning on the backstretch after contact with the outside wall.

Hottinger’s frustration was evident before he climbed out of his car, as the steering wheel went flying out onto the ground. He got on the track to salute Ritchie as he went by before exiting to the pits with his car still mangled on the backstretch.

Hottinger was able to start the feature via a series provisional, but his wounded car was not able to make the 30-lap distance.

Mitchell’s lucky draw-in and even luckier run through his heat could not help him once he was added into the mix for the feature. The driver who refers to himself as “the Catman” fell back quickly once Wallace outpaced him for the point.

Moyer was not far behind and overtook Mitchell for second, followed by Frye and Vilonia driver Curtis Cook. Mitchell gave way to faster drivers until he settled into the sixth spot in the final running order.

Cook, the fan favorite known as “Hollywood,” gave the locals something to cheer about with his run from 14th to fourth place in the feature. He struggled in his heat but earned a transfer in the B main.

The track slicked over before the start of the feature, which played into Cook’s hands.

Cook worked his way through the pack methodically in his Lawson Farms/B and B Cabinets car, and appeared to be as fast as the front three late in the race. But with ground to make up and no cautions to bunch up the field, his head-turning run ended with him in the fourth spot.

Cook had a similar run going in his MSRA debut at Beebe back in late June, but a late-race accident took him out of the running.

“It’s a lot nicer than getting taken out in the last couple of laps, that’s for sure,” Cook said. “We first took off, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go or not. The car didn’t really go.

“I got on the outside and found some traction. It kept the car underneath me and it took off.”

For Wallace, 2010 has been a stark contrast to last season when he won five races by early May.

“That ain’t hard to figure out, this is my first win all year,” Wallace said. “We’ve had a terrible, terrible year — probably the worst I’ve ever had, but hopefully this will turn things around.

“We changed cars a couple of weeks ago and got this Victory Circle chassis, and things seem to be working a little better for us.

We’ve got a lot of big races coming up, we’ll see if we can win some more races.”

Two-time MSRA champ Joey Mack completed the top five, followed by Mitchell, Shane Harris, Jon Kirby, Brandon Smith and Beard. Beebe’s Wade Johnson found trouble several times beginning with his heat race and he finished 19th.

Beebe’s weekly winners included Jacksonville’s Mike McDougale in the hobby feature, Beebe’s Jacob Kurtz in factories and Derek Goshien in the mini stocks. Cabot’s Todd Joslin won his third E-mod feature race of the year while Robert Baker got his first victory of the season in the modified division.