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Attention turns to less serious Bathtub event

By RYAN BOYLE
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 20, 2002

The Bathtub Challenge on Saturday night at Sunshine Speedway was a lighthearted break from faster, more dramatic short-track action.

First, there was Lakeland's Darren Jackson, in his No. 7d car, who -- after taking over the race early -- pulled farther ahead only to have his machine leveled by a stray car not even in contention.

Then, there was Outlaw driver Ed Kidd of Pinellas Park, who maneuvered his No. 6 from 10th place to win his second feature of the year.

The Bathtub race is a tension-cutter that never flows smoothly, which perhaps is the appeal to fans.

For example, before the end of the first lap, mechanical failure forced three cars from competition, and one tipped over in a T-bone collision while making a sharp turn. Only six bathtubs managed to finish the event.

The No. 14, driven by Mike Kowalke, won the race by exercising showmanship throughout. He spent all 10 laps negotiating turns with only his left hand, keeping his right behind his back to hold his carburetor wide open.

Finishing behind Kowalke was No. 81 Matt Crooks and No. 19 Marvin Henson.

Starting the night was the headlining Open Wheel Modified. Pinellas Park's Mike Leacock, No. 13, started on the pole but was passed by five cars straight out of the box and never returned to contention.

Jackson stayed tight behind Largo's Danny Partelo as Partelo worked his No. 9 into the lead.

Jackson passed Partelo on the eighth lap, pulling away as if he had been saving an extra 2 inches beneath his accelerator for just that moment.

Jackson maintained a comfortable lead until Lap 19, when he was hit from behind by Clearwater's Howard Skaggs, No. 81. Skaggs had done the same to another car in an earlier heat race.

Entering Turn 3, Skaggs exploded into Jackson, causing the 7d's rear to lift several feet. Spinning clockwise, Jackson's back tires didn't touch ground again until the car traveled 180 degrees from its starting point.

Jackson continued spinning another half-circle after, finally coming to a stop in the direction in which he started. He was unhurt, and the damage to his vehicle was not debilitating.

"We just bent the rear frame," Jackson said. "Shouldn't mess us up for next week."

Ironically, Saturday was the first night the owner of Jackson's car had watched him race. Partelo went on to clinch the win.

In Outlaws, Kidd made another strong performance, winning his heat race and second feature in three weeks.

Kidd started in 10th, where he finished last week due to mechanical problems, but seemed to easily claw his way to the top. He passed the No. 112, Dave Cleary of St. Petersburg, in Lap 11, and finished several lengths ahead of the nearest vehicle.

Scott Holley, No. 1 of Dunedin, the points leader until Saturday, stayed close to Kidd but had a run-in with Cleary on Lap 14.

Coming out of Turn 4, a frustrated Cleary made contact with Holley's right rear bumper, forcing the car into a sideways skid. Officials heard Cleary gun his engine a few seconds while in contact with the No. 1, and he was ejected for rough driving. Holley officially finished ninth, a spot above Cleary.

Kidd's win put him atop the points standings. A contender much of last season before falling off the pace, Kidd tries not to focus on the numbers.

"Every time I think about points," Kidd said, "things start going wrong. So, I don't think about that. I'm just here to have fun."

NOTES: The Modified class will have hefty point swings. Only four of the top-10 leaders crossed the finish line Saturday because of collisions and low turnout.

The winners were Partelo, first; Chet Senokossoff (No. 6, Pinellas Park), second; and Ron Campbell (No. 5, St. Petersburg), third.

Rick Haugh (No. 77, St. Petersburg) took second place behind Kidd in Outlaws. Steve O'Lone (No. 20, Largo) came in third. Street Stock winners were Bill Bryant (No. 3), first; Mark Walters (No. 92, Oldsmar), second; and defending champ Roger Welch (No. 98, St. Petersburg), third.

Cliff Rousseau (No. 3, St. Petersburg) took the top spot in Figure 8s. He was followed by Art Calkins (No. 11, St. Petersburg) and Mark Thomas (No. 40, Pinellas Park). Jay Zolciak (No. 61, St. Petersburg) beat Marty Neikins (No. 70, St. Petersburg) in Mini Stocks. Tom Bower (No. 51, Pinellas Park) was third. In the Enduro Buddy Race, first went to Jody Butler and Robert Nappi (No. 99). Pete Miley and Russell Scalf (No. 91) and Ray LaForce and Ken Jones (No. 52) were second and third, respectively.

CORRECTIONS: A previous column reported that Kidd caused an accident in the March 2 Outlaw race. The wreck was caused by Holley (No. 1, Dunedin).

In the same article, Senokossoff's car number was listed incorrectly. He drives No. 6.

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