THOMPSON AND MITCHELL SHARE PRO CHALLENGE WINS
AS SPEEDWORLD WINTERNATIONALS OPEN
Orlando Speedworld's 4th Annual Winternationals are off to a roaring start
as the track played host to the Pro Challenge cars, Open Wheel Lites, and
Florida Mini Cup Racing Association Friday and Saturday night.
The Pro Challenge group came to race with 26 machines signed in on Friday
although there wouldn't be that many left to compete on Saturday after a
50 lap event on opening night.
Two young drivers set the pace in Pro Challenge qualifying Friday as Zach
Stroupe, the national points runner-up for 2006 zipped around the track at
14.916 seconds with former Speedworld Bandelero Young Gun champion Ryan Rust
second quick at 14.935 as they were the only two drivers under 15 seconds.
Stroupe immediately took the lead at the drop of the green with Rust in tow
only to see the caution out almost immediately as Ken Nicholson's car slowed
suddenly causing Same White, Dean McIntyre and Logan Ruffin to tangle trying
to avoid him. All but Nicholson continued.
Stroupe and Rust continued to set the pace until caution number two waved on
lap seven as Florida drivers White and Ken Ellefson crashed hard coming off
turn four eliminating both.
Two laps after the restart a turn one tangle between Jason Burchard and
Trevor Cauble slowed the field once again. Then on the restart, something
broke on Rust's car and he dropped out while running a strong second.
Two more yellow flag periods for minor incidents slowed the pace before
half-way, but it was the 25th lap that saw the complexion of the race change
Coming off turn two on the 25th circuit, Florida racing veteran Doug Moff
(making his first start at Speedworld in a Pro Challenge machine) locked
with Jason Treschl with Moff's car taking a solid shot drivers-side first
the back stretch wall. Moff, who had been running in the top five, was OK
the damage to his car would force the tea, to load up and head home.
Then, on the restart, Stroupe's car broke just after taking the green and he
guided his car into the infield. It was almost like deja vu from the
year when he was leading two races only to have mechanical failure put him
2006 National Pro Challenge champion Terry Mathis was the beneficiary of
Stroupe's misfortune as he took over the front spot. A quick caution on lap
28 bunched the field together and Canadian Dennis Thompson began to show his
muscle as he pulled right on Mathis' bumper.
Two laps later though all heck broke loose in turn four with a massive
pile-up involving at least seven cars although most were able to continue.
the restart it was Joe Chafin getting into trouble on the back stretch
knocking his machine from the race.
The race continued to move well past the one hour mark with two more
cautions on laps 33 and 34 before the remainder of the field settled into
would be 15 green flag laps to the checker.
Mathis appeared on his way to yet another win, but his drive shaft broke on
lap 42 and he too was forced to the sidelines as Thompson inherited the lead
and sped to his first ever win in Florida.
Eighth starter Kyle Mitchell dodged several bullets early in the race and
his car got much faster in the final half of the race allowing him to drive
to second at the checker with Rusty McLain coming back from an earlier
altercation to finish third. Terry Horak was the hard charger of the race
coming from 24th on the grid to fourth while Jamie Blanton had a steady run
for fifth. J.L. Snowden was the top finisher among the Florida contingent
coming home sixth while Jason Burchard, Jason Treschl, Steve Standlund and
Duke Furr rounded out the top ten. Malcom McCallister was 11th and the only
other car out of 25 starters still running at the finish.
Completing the finishing field (all DNF's) were Mathis, Dean McIntyre, Scott
Hitchens, Trevor Farbo, Stroupe, Moff, Rust, Trevor Cauble, Sam White, Kenn
Ellefson, Lance Rubink, Ken Nicholson, Logan Ruffin and Joe Chafin.
Saturday qualifying was led by Friday night winner Thompson as five drivers
broke the 15 second barrier. Thompson's lap of 14.784 seconds was just a
of the watch better than Kyle Mitchell's 14.788 while Rust, Blanton and
also were in the 14 second bracket. Stroupe, the Friday quick-timer could
only muster the sixth quick time at 15.014 while champion Mathis had his car
stall while heading out to qualify relegating him to the scratch starting
in Saturday's half-century run.
This race would be totally different than Friday's as there would only be
two slow downs, both requiring red flags, and the dominate car would
stay together and take the win. Plus, the carnage from Friday would leave
just 19 cars to start the race.
That dominate car would be Mitchell's as he sped from the outside pole and
was never seriously challenged.
The two incidents were the only thing that slowed Mitchell down. The first
cam on lap 11 when Terry Horak's Pro Truck burst into flames coming down the
front stretch. Horak guided his machine into the infield in turn two where
the flames were quickly extinguished.
The second red flag came on lap 38 as Blanton and Stroupe were running in
the top five and trying to lap a slower car that would not get out of the
Stroupe tried to dive under Blanton and the lapped car but they tangled.
Rust slid high to avoid them and tagged the wall. Jason Burchard, Logan
Ruffin, Terry Mathis and Trevor Cauble then crashed trying to avoid the mess
with all four being eliminated. The cars of Blanton and Stroupe continued as
did Rust although the young driver's race ended shortly thereafter with a
broken shock as a result of tapping the wall.
The remaining 12 laps belonged again to Mitchell who drove away from the
field. Thompson came home second, reversing the finishing order of the
previous night. Blanton and Stroupe, who were not penalized in the lap 38
incident due to the problem with the lapped car, took third and fourth while
Scott Hitchens had a good steady run for 5th.
Rounding out the top ten were Dean McIntyre, Ken Nicholson, J.L. Snowden,
Duke Furr and Malcom McAllister. The remaining finishers were Steve
Strandlund, Mathis, Rust, Burchard, Cauble, Jason Treschl, Ruffin, Horak and
In Florida Open Wheel Lite action, Mike Belusar grabbed the Friday night win
over Rick Lundeen, Phil Krauthoff, Dennis Diehl and Roger Richmond.
The roles were reversed on Saturday evening as Lundeen held on for the win
over Belusar while Krauthoff was again third over Diehl and Richmond.
Brandon Beach won the Florida Mini Cup Racing Association Pro Division
feature on Friday night in dominating fashion over Stephen Hershey while
McLeaod, Zach Hoyt and Jerry Parker rounded out the top five.
Beach and Hershey were no-shows on Saturday night and that worked to
McLeod's advantage as he drove his Domino's machine to a convincing victory
over Rick Blair, Randy Burris, Don Mays and Chris Witte.
Brady Marshall was running away with the FMCRA Junior Division race on
Friday when his car quit on the last lap allowing Cindarae Irish to grab the
win in her very first Mini Cup race! Corey White was second with Marshall
credited with third.
Marshall had no mechanical troubles on Saturday as he was well ahead at the
finish over White and Irish.
The Modified TQ exhibition races were topped by Jen Crossman both nights
while the Classic car race on Friday went to Jeff Wright over John Smith.
Winternationals racing action now shifts to the afternoons this Tuesday
through Saturday. The Legends Cars, Bandeleros and Thunder Roadsters will be
in action each day starting at 1:30PM.