Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SPORTS >> Teenager cruises, takes checkered flag

Special to The Leader

Dallas Everett gave himself the best graduation present a guy could ask for by winning the ninth-annual running of the Scrapp Fox Memorial modified race with a near flag-to-flag sweep of the top spot to collect the $1,500 first-place prize at Beebe Speedway on Friday.

Everett, a 17-year-old recent graduate of Beebe High School, proved to have the dominant car early on in his two heat races to earn the top-qualifier spot, and forced veteran drivers Mike Bowers and Casey Findley to run his race during the 30-lap feature.

Outside polesitter Donnie Stringfellow of Heber Springs held pace with Everett for the first two circuits, and led the second lap by half a car length before Everett took over the point and cruised to the checkers.

“I was just pretty much holding on to the bottom, and (thinking) don’t gas it too much,” Everett said. “Don’t bobble; keep your cool on restarts and everything else, because they’ll try to rattle your cage. You’ve just got to stay calm and get her done – hang around there on the bottom.”

Everett’s smooth, consistent run in the low line kept Bowers and Findley in constant search of a groove that would pull them back up to the young phenom, with no success. Bowers pushed by Stringfellow on lap 4 and stayed in the runner-up spot for the duration while Findley, who started sixth on the grid, had a lengthy battle with Stringfellow for third place until getting by just before a lap-15 caution for a three-car incident involving Randy Weaver, Keith Craft and Dustin Billingsley in turn two.

As the driver setting the pace on restarts, Everett brought his Marple’s Auto E26 machine to the line slowly and didn’t give in to the pressure behind him.

“They used to, but now, I’m just ready to race with them,” Everett said of being intimidated by more experienced drivers. “I’ve waited for this moment for a long time, and now I’m finally there.”

Greenbrier’s Lane Cullum finished behind the top three drivers with a quiet fourth-place performance. Cullum took fourth away from Stringfellow on lap 21 as a result of a four-car battle with Jon Stinson and Romance driver Todd Greer. Stringfellow finally settled in to finish fifth while Greer ran sixth and Chuck McGinty came on late to take seventh in the final rundown. Brint Hartwick finished eighth while Searcy’s Robert Davis and Cabot driver David Payne completed the top 10.

Five-time modified track champion and 2008 Scrapp Fox winner Weaver appeared to be on his way to salvaging a decent finish after mechanical woes plagued the Fox racing team the entire night. Weaver broke in hot laps and again in his first heat, and his F1 car appeared to have tremendous handling issues despite a third-place run in his invert heat.

That resulted in a B-main appearance where “The Big Show” advanced into the third and final transfer spot before pulling into the infield midway through.

Weaver took advantage of a track-champion’s provisional and entered his backup car shotgun in the 21-car field.

Once the backup hit the track, Weaver took off and began overtaking spots until he tried to thread the needle between Patrick Linn and the lapped car of Brad Buck entering turn three on lap 22.

Linn passed Stringfellow for fifth place on lap 20, and Weaver was close behind after using the outside line to pass McGinty, Stringfellow and Greer in half a lap. Weaver’s abundance of momentum finally backfired, however, as Linn got out of shape coming out of turn three and tried to correct his car in the line Weaver was already committed to running. That resulted in contact between the two cars, and Linn’s already unstable machine tumbled wheels up on the upper banking. He got out of the car alright, but the incident was enough for Weaver to retire himself from the event with what appeared to be minor damage.

For Linn, it was his second scary accident in the last three years after crashing straight into the wall with a hung throttle in the 2009 Scrapp Fox race.

And for Everett, the big victory made up for the disappointment of spinning out while leading the recent USCS modified event at Beebe two weeks ago. But Everett, now with five modified victories to his credit, was quick to point out that mechanical issues played a part in his misfortunes that night.

“Might I remind you that the reason I spun was because I hit a rut and broke the left-rear down,” Everett said. “So, I just wanted to clear that up.”

In other classes, Terry Brooks took the checkered flag in the factory-stock feature over Devon Andrews and Danny Garringer while Cabot’s Mike Burr won the mini-stock feature over Searcy driver Gaige Raines and Mike Millwood of Cabot.

Jeff Porterfield took a thrilling victory over Gravel Ridge driver Mike McDougale in the hobby-stock feature in a race that also had an on-track park and protest by driver Chad Isbell prior to the finish. Isbell disputed a lineup change prior to a restart and let his disgust be known to officials by leaving his 86 machine parked at the entrance of turn one as he walked into the pits.