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Gardner and Mathews Win First Night Races at Ocala

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71 Damion GardnerOCALA FL-  Near perfect weather greeted a huge crowd of excited fans as Ocala Speedway hosted the opening night of the Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals, featuring the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series.  Twenty nine wingless sprint cars took on the southeast's toughest 3/8ths mile on Thursday night, and as expected the D shaped oval claimed a victim or two before it was over.  Fans also saw heated action from the UMP Modifieds, which featured a contingent of Florida racers who were not very hospitable to the visiting racers from other states.

Ocala's track crew provided the USAC National Sprint Car Series with a smooth and fast surface, and Hunter Schuerenberg took advantage by setting a fast qualifying time of 14.801.  Four exciting heats and a hard fought B main set the field for the 30 lap feature race, with Chris Windom, Tracy Hines, Jerry Coons Jr, and Shane Cottle, all claiming heat race wins.  Casey Riggs took the win in the B main, with Blake Fitzpatrick, Bill Rose, Robert Ballou, Justin Grant, and Wes McIntyre, all following to qualify for the A main.  And credit Justin Grant for making the field after tumbling down Ocala's frontstretch in his heat race after hard contact with the turn four wall.

The feature race was anything but disappointing, as Jon Stanbrough jumped out in front and remained there.  But a red flag displayed as Casey Riggs failed to keep the rubber side down brought things to a halt on lap 5.  Riggs was undaunted by his flip and remained in his ride to rejoin the race at the end of the field. And it was after the stoppage that Damion Gardner found a route around Bryan Clauson to claim the second position, then set about making sure that Stanbrough stayed in the throttle in order to protect his lead.

Lapped cars proved to be quite the complication for Gardner as he chased the leader around the speedway, but in the end it was a lapped car that was at the right place at the right time and thus opened the door for Gardner to make his move.  As the cars came out of turn 4 on the final lap, Stanbrough could only watch as Gardner shot under him and pitched a wheel stand down the frontstretch as the checkered flags waved above from the flagstand.

Damion Gardner repeated as the USAC Amsoil National sprint Car Series opening night winner for the second year in a row while Jon Stanbrough claimed the second spot.  Third place went to Bryan Clauson, as Levi Jones and Bud Kaeding rounded out the top five finishers.

33 Jeff MathewsAs the UMP Modifieds made their way onto Ocala Speedway for their feature race, the fans were well aware that a contingent of Florida racers were well positioned in the field, and that they had ample experience with the odd layout and sticky clay that makes Ocala so tough to tame.  But earlier the out of town bunch had held the locals at bay, as Mike Spatola of Manhattan Illinois, and Todd Sherman of Chuizubusco Indiana, nabbed heat race wins.

But that was as much hospitality as the Florida gang was ready to extend, as Kyle Bronson jumped to an early lead in the 20 lap feature and Jeff Mathews quickly fought his way to third place.  A mechanical issue caused Bronson to struggle, then retire, which moved Todd Sherman into the lead with Mathews right behind him.  Todd Neiheiser of Panama City, Florida, held the third spot as Alachua, Florida's Dave Barber advanced himself within the top five.  Barber would also fall victim to a mechanical issue later in the race, as other Florida racers moved up to fill the gap left when Barber turned into the infield.

Jeff Mathews had spent the previous week struggling at the other end of the Ocala National Forest during modified racing at Volusia Speedway Park, and the two time modified champion at Ocala had something to prove to everyone who was watching.  Mathews found his way around Sherman and began to stretch his legs, and Leesburg, Florida's Garret Stewart battled his way to third place.

Despite some cautions that slowed the field and took away his sizable leads, Jeff Mathews made the trip from Tampa worthwhile by scoring a convincing victory at Ocala.  Garret Stewart claimed the second spot and was followed by Todd Neiheiser to make it a one-two-three Florida finish for the night.  Liberty Illinois' David Weitholder was fourth, followed by Todd Sherman.

The Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals continue on Friday night as both the USAC sprints and the UMP Modifieds will again challenge Ocala Speedway to the delight of excited race fans.  The grandstand gates will open at 4PM with racing slated to begin at 7:30PM, and fans will again have the option to visit the working pit area pre race by getting and presenting a special pass out card at the gate.  For more information on the Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals, or to see the complete early season schedule for America's Dirt Track, please visit www.OcalaSpeedway.com, or call the track at 352-622-9400.

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Ocala Speedway Results for 2/17/11

Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals, Night 1

1- 71 Damion Gardner
2- 53 Jon Stanbrough
3- 7 Bryan Clauson
4- 20 Levi Jones
5- 29 Bud Kaeding
6- 36 Brady Short
7- 5 Bobby East
8- 14 Coleman Gulick
9- 10T Bill Rose
10- 35 Hunter Schuerenberg
11- 5X Chris Windom
12- 81 Robert Ballou
13- 69 Jerry Coons Jr.
14- 4G Casey Shuman
15- 39 Dave Darland
16- 1G Scotty Weir
17- 37 Casey Riggs
18- 4 Tracy Hines
19- 83 Wes McIntyre
20- 10 Blake Fitzpatrick
21- 40 Justin Grant
22- 10E Shane Cottle

UMP Modifieds, Night 1

1- 33 Jeff Mathews
2- 67 Garret Stewart
3- 72 Todd Neiheiser
4- 05 David Wietholder
5- 65 Todd Sherman
6- 89 Mike Spatola
7- D4 Dave Jamison
8- 12 Jason Miller
9- 1S Keith Smith
10- 07 Jeff Thomas
11- 11 Chuck Gustafson Jr.
12- 1K Scott Kurtzner
13- 56 Dave Barber Jr.
14- 21 Gary Brooks
15- 99 Jim Passino
16- 40B Kyle Bronson
17- 18 David McWilliams
18- 271 Rich Pratt

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