Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SPORTS >> Slick track is handled by Kirby in Comp Cam

Special to The Leader

A slippery, locked-down track was of little consequence to Jon Kirby on Friday.

The Russellville pilot led a 20-car pack around the bottom lane of Beebe Speedway’s dry-slick surface for all 35 laps of the Comp Cams Super Dirt Series feature to claim his first victory of an otherwise gloomy season full of parts failures and on-track mishaps.

Kirby, fifth in the Comp Cams season standings, won the second heat to earn top qualifier for CCSDS second appearance at Beebe in 2011, and set sail in the early portion of the A-main. He shook off an early challenge from Walnut Ridge driver Jeff Floyd, and finally overtook the stubborn lapped car of Jon “Catman” Mitchell in the late going to lead every lap.

“That’s the way we like to do it,” Kirby said. “It’s kind of a one-groove track, but hey, we’ll take it – it’s a win. We drew a good heat, and just thought we needed to be aggressive there at the front to get all we could get.

“We did all we could to get up there as fast as we could. Things went our way, and we were able to move to the front. That definitely set it up for us.”

Batesville’s Billy Moyer Jr. finished second when he took advantage of Floyd’s difficulty passing the lap-down car of Mitchell. Mitchell ignored several waves of the blue courtesy flag from series director Chris Ellis once Kirby and the other leaders got to him on lap 25.

Kirby eventually slipped by Mitchell five circuits later, but when Floyd tried to follow suit, Mitchell door slammed him coming out of turn two and got his F1 car sideways, which allowed Moyer Jr. by for the second spot.

“We got lucky with a lapped car,” Moyer Jr. said. “I’ve been lapped a lot, and I get out of the way. I just don’t know why these guys can’t comprehend it. But either way, we’ll take a second gladly. We should have run third, but that’s just part of it.”

The track began taking rubber early in the heat races, as high humidity and sweltering heat took its toll on the quarter-mile, mixed-clay oval. Cars were racing freight-train style around the bottom halfway through the heats, and conditions steadily deteriorated further throughout the night.

But the drivers handled it well, as the 35-lap feature ran caution free, the third time in series history to have no yellows at Beebe.

Floyd recovered from the incident with Mitchell to finish third while Floral’s Brandon Smith finished fourth in the 115 car. Smith, last year’s CCSDS rookie of the year, went on to win the following night at Northeast Arkansas Speedway in Harrisburg with a flag-to-flag run of his own.

Russellville driver and Kirby teammate Dewaine Hottinger completed the top five. Louisiana pilot Jay Brunson was sixth while home-track favorite and rookie points leader Curtis Cook of Vilonia finished seventh. Trumann’s Ian Samuel was eighth, Shane Harris of Sheridan took ninth and series points leader Kyle Beard rounded out the top ten.

For Kirby, it was his second victory at Beebe, and the third of his career.

“I have no idea; it just feels like I have a little bit of confidence here,” Kirby said. “Seems like we run well here. The car is the same as it always is, I don’t know if it’s me driving a little bit different here or what, but I like the slick. Stop-and-go slick racetracks, I really seem to do pretty decent at.”

The victory could not have come at a better time for Kirby, who has suffered more than his fair share of disappointing finishes during the first half of the season with crashed cars and blown engines, as well as transmission and suspension malfunctions in his Kirby Electrical 11K machine.

“We really needed this,” Kirby said. “We’ve struggled hard getting use to our new Rocket (chassis) car. It’s taken a little while to get it going our way. Hopefully this is a turning point for us.”