East Bay Sees 140 Drivers Participate In Record Setting Week
|East Bay Sees 140
Drivers Participate In Record Setting Week
by Bill Green "From Behind The MIC!"
Tampa, FL (Feb. 13th, 2005) East Bay Raceway Park's 29th Annual Winter
Nationals continued last week with 115 plus dirt Super Late Model cars
in attendance. The NARA Dirt Car Series brought all the big names to the
famous clay-by-the-bay. Kicking off their 2005 season with six night's
in a row of qualifying, heat races, B-mains and wild A-main features
each night. Also, this began the NARA Championship Points run for 2005.
A title every dirt pilot wishes to add the there win title resume.
Night one saw a few mild upsets, as "The Million Dollar Man" Donnie
Moran had to make the A-main through a B-main last chance qualifier. Don
O'Neal out of Martinsville, Indiana set fast time with a respectable
14.850. He would set the tone for the week, following up that fast time
with a wire to wire win of the $5000 dollar to win A-main event. Going
second behind him would be "The Kentucky Colonel" Steve Francis from
Ashland, KY who would come from 12th in one of very few Mopar powered
cars in this record setting field. Third went to Terry English of
Benton, KY, with Vienna, WV driver Steve Shaver fourth and York, PA
pilot Rick Eckert fifth.
On the second night the East Bay Raceway Park fans saw the record car
count bumped up to 117 dirt Late Models signing in. That meant it would
be very difficult to be one of the last 26 cars running in the evenings
A-main finale. On this night it would be the son of legendary racer,
"Barefoot" Bob McCreadie, Tim McCreadie of Watertown, NY in Victory
Lane. Starting on the pole didn't hurt any, but McCreadie had to hold
off a hard charging Terry English for the win. English finished third
last night and improved to second on night two. Third went to last
night's winner O'Neal, with Billy Moyer from Batesville, AR going fourth
and Carpentersville, IL driver Dennis Erb, Jr. breaking into the top 5.
Wednesday night was a magic night for Benton, KY driver Terry English as
he continued to best his previous night's run by winning the $5000 top
prize on the evening. He bested fellow bluegrass state driver Steve
Francis by two car lengths in the end, but Francis was pressuring
English for most of the race. Francis settled for second, with New
London, WI native Terry Casey third and the ever consistent Don O'Neal
fourth on the night. Finishing out the fast five would be Dan Schlieper
all the way from Sullivan, WI. Nice to see local West Palm Beach driver
Jeff Choquette "The Gun Slinger", win heat-2 on the night, but
Choquette's 22nd place finish in the A-main would leave the central
Florida asphalt ace scratching his head.
Night four saw the fourth different winner in Victory Lane as Vienna, WV
driver Steve Shaver bested the field for a flag-to-flag victory and the
increased $7000 winner's share of the purse. Billy Moyer would run
second from his pole position start, followed by Zanesville, Ohio's Rick
Aukland third, with Brady Smith of Solon Springs, WI fourth. Breaking
back into the top-5 would be Rick Eckert in his rocket chassis
Each night the number of fans in the stands increased to an almost
standing room only Friday night program. In what turned out to be the
weeks most exciting finish, it was "The Kentucky Colonel" Steve Francis
besting Shannon Babb and Earl Pearson, Jr. for the win, but not by much.
Babb of Moweaqua, IL nosed out Jacksonville, FL driver Pearson for
second. While Pearson settled for third, Matt Miller of Waterville, OH
held fourth and night-3 winner English took fifth. It was a standing
ovation from the 4000 plus fans that witnessed an amazing display of
driving skills by Babb, Pearson and Francis as The Colonel stood in
Victory Lane accepting his $10,000 dollar check for the win.
Anticipation was in the air as the still strong field of 93 cars
prepared for the Saturday Night ESPN-2 taped Finale. A visit to East Bay
by 2004 Craftsman Truck Series "Rookie Of The Year" David Reutimann had
fans from all over the map standing in line for a brand new Rookie Card
and autograph. But tonight would break the streak of different drivers
visiting Victory Lane as 41 year old Don O'Neal would be the only man on
the week to repeat as a race winner and do it to the tune of a $12,000
dollar first prize. O'Neal would make a remarkable run from his 20th
starting spot for his 11th East Bay victory, tying Billy Moyer on the
all time win list. This run would be made even more dramatic as O'Neal
visited the pits on lap-14 with a flat tire. Restarting in the 25th
position, O'Neal stayed steady and consistent. Working through lapped
traffic like a master of the clay. Finally catching then race leader
Steve Francis on lap-70 of the 100-lap Feature event. Following O'Neal's
amazing run under the checkered flag was "The Million Dollar Man" Donnie
Moran, with his best finish of the week. Third went to Brian Birkhofer
from Muscatine, IA in his best finish of the week. Last night's winner
Steve Francis would fall to fourth after leading, but hold off his arch
rival and friend Rick Eckert over the final laps, leaving Eckert in the
final top-5 spot fifth.
The week low 93 cars for Saturday, made the total of 647 race car
entries an unbelievable record setting week total. Also as important was
the fact that 140 different drivers took to the clay during the week
long event. Really amazing stats!
Next week the excitement begins on Tuesday, February 15th as the Open
Wheel Modified pilots from across the country try their hand at the
world famous clay-by-the-bay. Saturday's finale will see the winner
accepting the lions share of a bank busting $86,215 dollar total purse
payout for the week. Tickets are still available at 813-677-RACE.