Tuesday, May 08, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Baker speeds to Scrapp Fox winner’s circle

Leader sportswriter

Bryant’s Robert Baker proved a good, consistent car, and a willingness to be aggressive at crunch time can pay off as he collected the $3,000 first-place payday in the 10th annual running of the Scrapp Fox Memorial Modified Championship race at Beebe Speedway on Friday.

Baker, now a rookie in the Comp Cams late-model series, proved his modified chops were still sharp with a good jump on fast qualifier Mike Bowers on the initial start of the 35-lap feature, and held off a hard-charging Dallas Everett in the closing laps to claim the biggest victory of his career in modifieds.

In what has so far proved to be a breakout season for the 27-year-old, Baker has now won major events in both modifieds and late models in 2012.

“I knew if we could get the lead on the first lap, we would have a chance to win it,” Baker said. “I was going to do whatever it took to make sure we had a good run.”

Everett came from the seventh starting spot in defense of his Scrapp Fox title from last year, and made up the first few positions quickly before a lengthy battle with Paragould driver Robby Arnold for the third spot. Everett finally prevailed on lap 13 and set his sights on Bowers, but that’s as far as he would get until Bowers’ 12W broke going down the front stretch to complete lap 28.

The restart not only removed Bowers from the equation for Everett, but also put him right on the bumper of Bakers’ 17M machine for the final start. The Beebe pilot moved his 26E car inside and outside of Baker, and appeared to have the line on the leader when the two made contact exiting turn four on lap 32.

That allowed Arnold back to move into second, as Baker led the remaining three laps to take the checkers.

“The car was giving up,” Baker said. “It was awesome about halfway through the race. I think with maybe the cautions, we lost a little rear percent. We didn’t really come prepared. The tires are pretty used up. We were pretty hungry for it; we weren’t going to give it up. They were going to have to get us on the top for sure.”

Everett held on to third at the finish with Floral’s Brandon Smith in fourth.

Cabot driver Jason Flory had a lengthy battle with Tennessee driver T.J. Herndon for fifth during much of the first half of the race before settling into the spot, holding off Conway’s Chuck McGinty in the closing stages.

McGinty finished sixth, followed by Jim Freeman with Jacksonville’s Brad Calhoun in eighth.

Brad Buck was the last car running in ninth at the finish as Bowers was credited with a 10th-place effort despite not finishing.

Baker’s win comes on the heels of a great spring in which he quickly won the respect of competitors in the Comp Cams Super Dirt Series late model tour with a feature win in just his fourth start. He leads both the championship points and rookie points after five of 23 events on the regional tour.

“We definitely work hard for it,” Baker said. “We do R and D 24-7. I sit at home and we work on cars, if you know what I mean. I think it’s paying off and it show a little bit. We’re trying to do what people aren’t, and I think that gives us a little bit of an advantage.”

In other classes, Jacksonville’s Todd Sherrill took the win in the mini stocks, holding off the 99jr of Kenny Loux and the 11 of Paul Shackleford. Doyle Blankenship of Cabot was sixth.

McGinty did double duty with a winning run in the hobby-stock feature over the 7K of Eddie Hoyer and the R1 of Allen McElroy. Jacksonville’s Brandon Capps was fourth and Sherrill finished fifth. Jeremy Tharp won the factory-stock feature by holding off the 5 car of Beebe driver Dakota Mahoney and the 1J of Terry Brooks in third.