Tyler Erb Scores East Bay Opener
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will provide six nights of exciting competition as the next round of the 43rd annual Winternationals will get underway on Monday, February 4.
The series moves into town after a pair of season-opening races at Golden Isles Speedway. Florida’s Earl Pearson Jr. comes into East Bay with the series lead after capturing the Saturday night event. Tyler Erb scored the opener, which was moved from Friday night to Saturday afternoon due to weather.
Neither driver was able to secure a win in last year’s visit to the Clay by the Bay. Both managed a pair of top five finishes through the six nights of competition. Pearson’s best run was a third-place finish on opening night while Erb had fifth place efforts on nights #2 and #4.
Last year’s events saw the field top 50 cars for the first time in seven years with the car count eventually reaching 54.
The 2018 visit of the series started rocky when the scheduled Sunday practice was scrapped due to weather. On night #1, it took a last lap pass to get Brandon Sheppard to Victory Lane. The following night, Jonathan Davenport chalked up the victory leading from start to finish. Davenport held the late race lead despite the best efforts of Brandon Overton. The following night would be vindication for Overton, who grabbed the lead on lap 25 for his first East Bay win.
With the fourth night of competition, the first repeat winner surfaced as Sheppard backed up his Monday win, despite starting deep in the field. His work saw the 21st place start matter not as he grabbed the point on lap 21 for the second win of the week. Not to be outdone, Davenport became a two-time winner on the following night, locked in a late race battle with Josh Richards that saw the lead change hands numerous times.
The 2018 Saturday finale gave local racer Kyle Bronson his first Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory and his biggest payday of $12,000. Bronson was the last of six different leaders that held a share of the top spot through the race.
Davenport would go on to win the 2018 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points championship. His 2019 run in Georgia has resulted in a second-place finish behind Pearson on Saturday night after a third-place effort in the earlier main, putting him a good position to contend once again.
Race time for the six nights of action is 7 p.m.
Due to unforeseen weather circumstances and an untimely electrical issue, the Saturday night February 2 racing program at East Bay Raceway Park has been cancelled and will not be made up due to the full schedule of events.
Tickets can be traded in at face value for any remaining Winternationals event (Ticketholder will pay difference between face value of Saturday, Feb. 2 ticket and event price where applicable). The tickets may also be used for regular season events in the month of March.
For those unable to exchange and use their tickets, mail your ticket and/or armband to East Bay Raceway Park, Attn: Winternationals, 6311 Burts Rd., Tampa, FL 33619. If associated with a Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Model, please provide car number in correspondence. All refunds must be requested no later than March 31, 2019.
Night #2 of the second week of the 43rd annual Winternationals saw the warmer weather return and the track responded with fastest lap times across all divisions, to the delight of the fans.
Keith Nosbisch set the fast time in Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Models by posting a 15.483 lap, a full ½ second faster than the previous night’s quick time. In fact, 10 drivers were able to slip below the mark in their qualifying effort.
Once again, the top five finishers in the heat races would get a pass into the night’s 30-lap feature event. Heat events were won by Kenny Monahan, Devin Dixon, Thursday feature winner Steve Mathis Jr. and Nosbisch.
The final four spots went to the top finishers in the B-main, which was won by Thomas Burnside.
Monahan took the early lead with Mathis in tow. Mathis would slip past on lap 5 while Nosbisch moved up to second a lap later. The lead duo encountered lapped traffic two laps later, which forced them to abandon the low line and move to the middle of the track. Once Nosbisch was able to get back to the bottom, he slipped ahead of Mathis on lap 13.
Position battles behind the leader were frequent. Travis Varnadore jumped into the top four and stayed there until making a move to second with four laps to go. In the meantime, Nosbisch had established a clear distance, rolling on to the victory.
The win vindicated the misfortune of the night before as the veteran had to wrestle an ill handling car on Thursday due to a broken power steering belt. The victory marks the return to Winternationals Victory Lane after winning the opening night in 2018.
A.J. Maddox was once again the class of the field in the 25-lap Top Gun Sprints feature. Maddox opened the event in the ninth starting spot, right behind a trio of drivers who were racing with additional incentive. Robbie Smith, Brandon Grubaugh and Luke Hill had won their heat races and stood to gain an additional $600, thanks to the Jeff Barfield Clean Sweep Award, given to the racer who wins a heat and the feature. Hill’s heat win was significant because it was his first in a Sprint Car in just his third race night in the division.
Billy Bridges was the one to beat early on, but Bridges and the rest of the field couldn’t get momentum due to several stoppages. The red flag appeared after Johnnie Alexander spun in the middle of the pack, sending cars scattering into each other and the turn four wall. A lengthy clean-up gave some a chance to get back in the race, but attrition was going to be a factor throughout.
Brandon Grubaugh went to the high side in his attempt to move through the pack. The plan worked to a point, but a turn four spin moved him from challenger to the rear of the field. Maddox had moved to second place by lap 5 and Justin Webster was on the move, coming up to fourth before exiting the race as the field was under caution. On the lap 8 restart, Grubaugh appeared out of nowhere, passing nearly a dozen cars in less than three laps. Bridges encountered lapped traffic on lap 10 and that provided the opportunity for Maddox, who took the lead a lap later. Grubaugh was able to climb to second, but could not catch the repeat winner.
John Bradley charged through the field to take the 15-lap V-8 Warrior race. Good efforts by Tommy Hill, Nick Brown, Scott Bane and others made the quest for the lead a bit more challenging, but Bradley came on strong to claim the top spot.
The final night of week 2 rolls out on Groundhog Day, Saturday, Feb. 2. The Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Models will battle in a 50-lap feature that will see $5,000 going to the winner. Top Gun Sprints and V-8n Warriors round out the week’s racing.
STINGRAY PERFORMANCE CRATE LATE MODELS
A-MAIN: Keith Nosbisch (02), Travis Varnadore (95V), Steve Mathis Jr. (95), Phillip Cobb (03), Clay Harris (6), Devin Dixon (313), Ronnie Cooper (10), Logan Roberson (17), Chad Stapleton (32S), Walker Arthur (87), Trever Taylor (7T), Mike Franklin (74), Kenny Monahan (311), Thomas Burnside (13B), Joe Mike (4), Todd Cooney (30), Troy Frazier (0), Megan Rae Meyer (11M), Matt Cooper (18), Adam Ray (2), Jim Couch (41), Doug Horton (46), Austin Burns (22), Tommy Prince (71)
B-MAIN: Thomas Burnside (13B), Megan Rae Meyer (11M), Austin Burns (22), Tommy Prince (71), Dustin Golden (14A), Waylon Haynes (11), Jimmy Waldrop (9)
TOP GUN SPRINTS
A-MAIN: A.J. Maddox (3A), Brandon Grubaugh (20), Keith Butler (19), Robbie Smith (6S), Harley Zimmerman (00), Dylan Colding (23D), D.J. Peeples (30), Johnnie Alexander (1L), Mark Cole (6X), Tim Fricke (43MB), Billy Bridges (11B), Aileen Collins-Love (17C), Travis Bliemeister (3), Nikki Voisey (96), Tim George (1*), Justin Webster (21), Bryan Eckley (12B), Luke Hill (41), Garrett Green (82), Billy Boyd (4), Jeff Parks (7). DNS – Frank Beck (89)
A-MAIN: John Bradley (X), Tommy Hill (5H), Shan Smith (99), George Handy (105), Scott Bane (23B), Trent Wilson (68), Gary Lucas (23), Raymond Vann (1), Jessica Robbins (09X), Justin Meeks (10), Jason Burnside (12J), Wayne Kissam (07), Nick Brown (12), Kalen Maynard (2), B.J. Feiden (115), Wayne Haynes (52)
The opening night of the Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Models and Top Sprint Series brought feature wins to familiar names who have visited East Bay Raceway Park in the past. Steve Mathis Jr. prevailed in the 30-lap Crate Late Model main after a series of lead changes throughout the event. A.J. Maddox dominated the open wheel 25-lapper.
The Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Models brought 31 cars to the pit area, but only 24 would be fortunate enough to make the feature. Fast qualifier Phillip Cobb, the only driver to record a lap below 16 seconds, drew an inversion of four in the heat races, which qualified five cars to the A. The remaining spots would come from the B main. Heats were won by Kenny Monahan, Walker Arthur, Travis Varnadore and Cobb.
Arthur, winner of a Satrday feature last year, would serve as early leader, but it didn’t take long for Monahan to jump up to the top spot. The new leader set a torrid pace, catching the back of the field by lap 7. After a lap 10 restart, Travis Varnadore blasted past Monahan in turn two to move out front. Monahan was not done, pick up the lead again a lap later. Varnadore came right back and trouble hit Monahan, who spun from second and was collected by four cars. This turn of events put fast qualifier Cobb on the back bumper of the leader. Those two were bypassed by Devin Dixon, who grabbed the lead from the high side. Dixon’s lead would be brief as Varnadore found his way back to the front. Dixon came back, but as quickly as he grabbed the lead, he lost it, this time to Keith Nosbisch. All the while, Steve Mathis Jr. was quietly gaining positions until he found himself behind Nosbisch on a lap 21 restart. While Nosbisch pulled away, Mathis was able to chip away to grab the lead in just three laps. From there, it was all Mathis to the checkered, despite late race cautions and restarts.
A field of 19 Top Gun Sprints presented for their 25-lap finale. A trio of heat races, won by Billy Bridges, Nebraska racer Tim Fricke and Keith Butler, set the lineup with the three preliminary winners at the front of the field. If any of those winners could win the feature, there would be an additional $300 in the Jeff Barfield Memorial Clean Sweep.
Bridges would be the first to be eliminated with a turn four spin and contact with Bruce Durden that saw Bridges tip over. Both cars were eliminated from competition. Butler held the early lead, but a torrid charge by A.J. Maddox was not to be denied. Once Maddox was able to lead, he was never passed again. Frank Beck was about the only one holding onto hope, but Maddox built up a seven-second lead before a lap 23 caution. When the checkered waved, only Maddox, Beck and Brandon Grubaugh were on the lead lap.
Two-time defending V-8 Warrior track champion George Handy was able to take the early race lead to win the division feature on night one. Handy and Jason Burnside won their heat events.
Racing action continues for the Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Models, Top Gun Sprints and V-8 Warriors on Friday and Saturday nights. Race time is 7 p.m.
STINGRAY PERFORMANCE PARTS CRATE LATE MODELS
A-MAIN: Steve Mathis Jr. (95), Keith Nosbisch (02), Travis Varnadore (95V), Doug Horton (46), Devin Dixon (313), Matt Cooper (18), Kenny Monahan (311), Clay Harris (6), Chad Stapleton (32S), Shan Smith (32), Todd Cooney (30), Troy Frazier (0), Ronnie Cooper (10), Logan Roberson (17), Adam Ray (2), Trever Taylor (7T), Mike Franklin (74), Daniel Woody (29), Megan Rae Meyer (11M), Austin Burns (22), Walker Arthur (87), Phillip Cobb (03), Andrew Hopkins (13H), Jimmy Waldrop (9)
B-MAIN: Top 4 transferred. Joe Mike (4), Thomas Burnside (13B), Tommy Prince (71), Waylon Haynes (11), Jim Couch (41), Dustin Golden
TOP GUN SPRINTS
A-MAIN: A.J. Maddox (3A), Frank Beck (89), Brandon Grubaugh (20), Robbie Smith (6S), Keith Butler (19), Johnnie Alexander (1L), Mark Cole (6X), Luke Hill (41), Garrett Green (82), D.J. Peeples (30), Tim George (1*), Tim Fricke (43MB), Dylan Colding (23D), Kyle Connery (91), Aileen Collins-Love (17C), Travis Bliemeister (3), Billy Bridges (11B), Bruce Durden (71D), Bryan Eckley (12B). DNS – Justin Webster (21)
A-MAIN: George Handy (105), Trent Wilson (68), Nick Brown (12), Tommy Hill (5H), Scott Bane (23B), Michael Hart (99), Wayne Haynes (52), Jason Burnside (12J), Wayne Kissam (07), William Doyle (09W), Kalen Maynard (2), Gary Lucas (23), Raymond Vann (1), B.J. Feiden (115), Justin Meeks (10), John Bradley (X)
Winternationals Racing action continues Thursday, Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 with Stingray Performance Crate Late Models, Top Gun Sprints and V-8 Warriors. Racing begins at 7 PM