Bubba Raceway Park returns this Saturday with the RaceCar Engineering Late Models, Buddy’s Home Furnishings Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, 1-800-ASK GARY Thunderstocks, and the Rent-N-Roll Gladiators but let’s take a look back on the season so far.
The RaceCar Engineering Late Models started 2012 off much like 2011 ended- Ivedent Lloyd, Jr. smiling in Coors Light Victory Lane. This race held on March 3rd would also be Lawton Minchew’s final race at Bubba Raceway Park before his untimely passing just a few weeks later. The next week Mark Whitener struck back in his Barry Wright chassis with a big win while Jason Fitzgerald surprised with a runner-up finish. Lloyd held the points lead with a 6th place finish. After a break they returned on the 31st and Richard Ferry put his Snow Bros. 17 in Coors Light Victory Lane by holding off ‘Dent in a magnificent race. April 13th and 14th was dominated by Lloyd who led most of the 2 50-lap events that made up the Mike Peters Open while Mark Whitener struggled for consistency with a runner-up finish and a 15th. A 1 month break occurred before they returned on May 12 and Lloyd struck again. He took the May 26th race off that Mark Whitener dominated and Christian Augspurger returned to top form in. The following week was the Florida State Late Model Championship that would average 2 50-lap and $5000 nights together to determine a champion. Keith Nosbisch dominated the first night on a very wet track after storms dominated the early part of the week. Rich Pratt was finally flying in his #0 but the engine quit early on ending his shot at the title. It was a tough race as only 6 cars finished and 5th place Mark Whitener was 2 laps down! Whitener vs. Shan Smith vs. Randy Weaver in the final 15 laps of the Second Night was possibly the greatest battle so far as Weaver briefly nosed ahead and Smith actually led 2 of the final 8 laps. Whitener won and also got the ring for the Championship (after Nosbisch only finished 8th, he could have finished 2nd to Smith and still won it). A break was taken and the off week saw Ivedent Lloyd, Jr. travel where he had a major accident injuring his wrist and ankle. He has not returned yet but can’t wait to get back in a car. Mark Whitener pounced on the 23rd but only took 3rd last week as Jeff Mathews earned his first ever Late Model win and it was well deserved after a few 3rd place finishes and a couple of runner-up finishes. Whitener has Big Frog Motorsports on top with Bo Allen, the top Bubba Army Performance Engines driver, 2nd in his Palmer Toyota car. Christian Augspurger has his Unlimited Turbos 35 in 3rd with Richard Ferry 4th and Bryan Bernhardt now in 5th.
The Scorpion Racing Products UMP DirtCar Open-Wheel Modifieds have belonged to Kyle Bronson and Hammond Motorsports so far in 2012. Bronson won the first 4 events in 2012 while drivers like Ron Burgess, Barry Sheffield, and Scott Mooers took big top-5 finishes. “4-Time” Jeff Mathews missed a few events early on for personal reasons but is back and fighting hard. Wayne Hammond ended “The Killer’s” Perfect Season with a big win on May 5th. Of course, Bronson blew the motor half-way through that race while leading. A couple weeks later Bronson had another dismal night as Buzzie Reutimann charged to Coors Light Victory Lane with Dalton Lanich right behind. Lanich, the young driver out of Bunnell, is doing plenty with just enough as they are behind the 8 ball in terms of horsepower. Bronson returned on June 2nd with the 2 Mathews Motorsports cars behind in a ‘tide-has-shifted-my-way’ night. Throughout 2012 many young drivers have shown their skills and Tyler Clem is no exception. He has 5 top-10s in his very young career (8 starts) with a best finish of 8th twice. On the 23rd as NASCAR visited the road course on the West Coast David Reutimann, driver for Tommy Baldwin Racing’s #10, visited and showed Bronson how things are run. Behind Bronson that night was ‘The Gunslinger’ Garret Stewart who has aligned with the Chris Williams #2 team; top-5s are expectation from both driver and owner and wins are around the corner. Mark Whitener won the last time around when Bronson broke in a back-up car (while leading) and the 58 was fast! A brilliant season is up ahead as young Bronson must hold off Rich Pratt, Lanich, Jim Passino, and Mathews. Oh, by the way, those 4 are still winless in 2012.
The new division at Bubba Raceway Park, the Buddy’s Home Furnishings Limited Late Models (former Sportsman), is all new. Well, almost. Kevin Mills opened up the season in spectacular fashion as he held off Eddie Gainey in a thrilling finish for his first ever win on the 1/3 mile in Ocala. JO Nobles put the 18 back in Coors Light Victory Lane at the end of March as Gainey was again bridesmaid. Gainey would not be denied 2 weeks later as he held off Adam Higginbotham and Bubba Clem in what is both driver’s career best. Nobles won the Saturday night race as 2 young drivers, Caleb and Christian McGillivray, made their debuts and impressed with solid nights. Nobles again won 2 weeks later. Gainey got back to the top on May 12th by beating Forrest Gough as Caleb bested brother Christian in the Battle of the Brothers. Nobles could not let Gainey go unanswered and struck back in a 2-man fight that has lasted so far. Gainey won June 1st but couldn’t buy a break on the 2nd (he finished 8th by sheer will) as “Budda” Kyle Chappell put his 66 in Coors Light Victory Lane over Gough and David Showers, Jr. Nobles won last time around as he beat Carter Stokes, a first-timer on dirt, with a last lap pass in turn 3. It, however, is Gainey with the last laugh as he leads Nobles by over 50 points. These 2 will duke it out to the end as Forrest Gough, Higginbotham, and David Showers, Sr. try to get back into the hunt.
Hobby Stock racers Trevor Gamble and Rodney Wright know each other. They pass each other in Coors Light Victory Lane because they keep going back and forth. Gamble wins 1 so Wright has to win 1. Wright started the season off in 2nd place because Josh Bedenbaugh won as Gamble was out early. Wright was off pace the next week as Gamble was runner-up to Tim Gay. Defending champion Tim Powers could only muster up a 3rd place on that night. Gamble struck gold on the 17th with a big win; Wright got points with 4th. Tim Gay won the April 7th event with 4 hungry drivers behind him in Howard O’Steen, Mike Stalnaker, Brian Shea, and John Clark. Shea and Stalnaker, rookies after a couple years in Thunderstocks, have impressed so far and could break through with big wins. This night Gamble and Wright both retired early. Gamble won on the 14th with Gay and Wright behind making it 2-2-0 on wins between the 3. That lasted all of 2 weeks when Gamble stole the show again on the 28th with ringers “Shady” Grady Christian and Kevin Durden in tow. “Ragin Rodney” would not be denied for much longer- May 5th- for that big win as he made a statement by dominating Gamble for a win. He won a non-points event the next week with step-father Mark Maresca right behind him as both drove masterfully. Rodney became Mr. May as he won on the 19th. At this point Gamble led by 1 point over Wright. That changed on June 1st as Wright finished 2nd to Tim Powers with Gamble in 3rd. On June 16th Kevin Durden made the trip out and won in an odd race. Wright and Gamble had a tussle out of turn 4. Long story short- Wright was DQ’d; Gamble had a flat tire. Durden had a flat very early and was slowly making his way up through the pack. Later in the event Gamble and Howard O’Steen led with under 5 laps to go. Long story short- O’Steen was DQ’d; Gamble had a flat tire. With 2-laps left the order was: Durden, Maresca, Josh Hughes (in Don Woosley’s 81), and Mick Kulak. Maresca would spin moving the other 2 up in a big finish for all. Josh Byrd and Mike Stalnaker duked it out last time out as Gamble had an engine problem and Wright flattened a tire half-way through. Byrd won, Wright rebounded, and Stalnkaer finished 3rd in a Michael Jordan-flu-game type effort. Part of the youth movement is Hunter Gustafson. He is coming off of 2 consecutive top-5s and looks very strong in the 15 machine. Gamble now leads by just 11. Stalnaker is well off the front in 3rd, Maresca (who has been traveling from Minneapolis, MN the past month) is 4th, and Shea is 5th even after missing the past few weeks of action.
In a division that will run around 35 events in 2012 it’s Brian Mullins leading the way. The 1-800-ASK GARY Thunderstocks have been interesting, to say the least, so far. Chad Scranton took Cheater Racing to the top early on in 2012 winning races 1, 3, and 5 (he did not race in the other 2). Shane Nichols and Jason Gamble would strike in those 2 as the veterans made Coors Light Victory Lane their’s early on. Mike Stalnaker and Donnie Dobbins took rare top-3 finishes early as 1 moved out of the division and the other has had more bad luck than Dale Earnhardt in the late 90’s. On the 14th Jason Gamble made a late race pass on Eddie Kilbury, Jr. for the win. Hold on, though! Gamble’s Certified Auto Repair #21 was found illegal as was 2nd place finisher Scott Haas’ #3. Kilbury had slipped to 3rd but left the winner after troubles for Gamble and Haas! The next race saw the same as Brandon Elwood crossed the line 1st after a crash that forced a yellow flag finish. ‘Popeye’ Mark Trexler took his first top-5 and win the same night with a great run after Elwood’s 28 was found illegal. Shane Nichols ended the DQ’s as he passed Justin ‘Bubba’ Durbin and blocked the rest of the race. “Flash” Jonathan Appleby joined Trexler as a first-timer on May 12th in a dominant performance. Chad Scrnaton would win the following week after “Flash” was found illegal. On the 26th they would run 2 features- “Shady” Grady Christian won the first with Gamble 2nd. Christian would lead lap 19 of the 2nd but spun in turn 1 as Scranton and Gamble flew by. Scranton won and Gamble would have to settle for 2nd again. On the 2nd of June, Appleby returned to Coors Light Victory Lane. “One Shot” Mike Tovet beat Scranton in a thriller as he went from B-Main winner to A-Main winner and brought B-Main runner-up Dean Jarvis up to 3rd. Since lap 4 on June 23rd Jonathan Appleby has led across the stripe- a run of nearly 40 laps! Appleby hopes to run this streak forever as Brian Mullins, John Thorpe, and Brandon Elwood look for their first wins in quite a while. Mullins leads the standings by 34 over Gamble and 55 over “Flash.” The 2 trailing are winning big but “Bubba” Durbin and John Thorpe are flying through the field and could catch them in what is set to be a wild finish to the 2012 season!
Barfield Law Group Mini Stocks have had a rough year but Buddy Pope hasn’t when he’s on track. Pope started 2012 off with 3 wins-in-a-row before he had troubles which let Shirlene Hammond win a feature. Hammond would go back-to-back before Nick Kerr took a big win. Kerr’s win was a feel good story and the picture of him with his son in Coors Light Victory Lane tells all. Hammond returned and made it 3-for-3 so far before Kerr and Pope each took 1 more win. Reid Christensen in a car that looks like a Daytona Prototype leads the standings while Charlie Staats is 2nd by 16 and Pope sits just 30 back. Nick Kerr and Travis Staats are just over 100 back and round out a tough top 5. This division has been exciting and nothing less is expected in the run to a title!
Rent-N-Roll Gladiator drivers have been exciting the fans so far in 2012. A brilliant run saw ‘Terrific’ Tony LaPorta beat the S&S Roofing boys on the first night but Steve Cox “The Old Fox” returned to Coors Light Victory Lane the next week. Randy Harless would take his maiden win on April 7th and “Scooby-Doo” Steve Johnson took his first ever checkered flag a week later (though he had won by DQ before). On the 5th it was LaPorta who bested Billy Holmes near the end and “Rockin” Reid Christensen would make the pass for 2nd. Just 2 weeks later Holmes would hold on while LaPorta would slip to 3rd! “Rockin Reid” would settle, again, for 2nd. Holmes won again at the non-points event on the 26th leaving Christensen winless into June. “Rockin Reid” didn’t even go 1 winless day in June as he took the trophy on the 1st. LaPorta would dominate on the 16th as well as just last week when the rest of the top 5 barely beat him out in combined age- a testament to LaPorta’s fight and the ability of the Youth in the Rent-N-Roll Gladiators. LaPorta leads the fight with Reid Christensen 40 back. Christensen has declared for Mini Stock points meaning Steve Johnson, 76 out of 1st, may inherit 2nd later on. Brandon Haseleu is 4th and Jordan McMillon completes the top 5. Both drivers have yet to win in 2012 or receive their driver’s license and both hope the win comes first.
The Twisted Tea Top Gun Sprints saw a big shake up as Danny Martin, Jr. did NOT win. Okay, he finished 2nd with a new team as Matt Kurtz took a huge win. The following race Martin struck big. Stephen Darvalics, driver of Martin’s old car, was runner-up. On May 5th Gene Lasker led 24 laps and Kurtz led just 1 but it was the 1 that pays as he became the first 2-time winner in a Sprint Car in the Bubba Clem Era not named Danny Martin, Jr. Kurtz would go back-to-back a couple weeks later but on the 16th Mark Ruel, Jr. put 150% of himself on the line and it worked as he used lapped traffic to pass Robbie Smith. Ruel leads the Twisted Tea Top Gun Sprint Cars BRP Points by 8 over Kurtz. Ryan Partin sits 22 out of 1st which equals 11 finishing spots. Andrew Griffin and Tony Agin complete an unexpected top 5. Who will collect that trophy and celebrate in Coors Light Victory Lane at season’s end?
You will not want to miss the second half of the 2012 season at Bubba Raceway Park! Championship fights start getting hotter every week. For more information check out www.bubbaracewaypark.com or call the Speedway at 352-622-9400!