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    Sunshine weathers the storm

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 20, 2002

    Sunshine Speedway, a track widely known for its temerity in the presence of opposition, held true to its reputation Saturday.

    The speedway delivered one of its more entertaining School Bus Figure 8 features while facing a familiar summer antagonist: rain.

    Much of the night passed without interference from the weather.

    A spectacular lightning show that encircled the oval after dark and increasingly amber-hued skies entering nightfall were the only indicators of the downpour in much of the surrounding county.

    Precipitation made its appearance shortly before 9 p.m. during the Figure 8 feature, and the race was yellow-flagged at the close of the 12th lap.

    The drivers followed the pace-truck slowly around the course until the rain stopped, and the surface was safe to continue after a short drying period.

    With more inclement weather looming, the decision soon was made by officials to move the School Bus event forward to run directly before intermission.

    The usual slot at the end of the night, a scheduling must necessitated by the mass-destruction that generally results from such races, was traded for the chance to delay the announcement of a rainout.

    The 16-19-year-old drivers in the Hornet class were able to complete their 15-lap feature before trouble again fell from the sky, and the buses were called back to the track as the rain returned.

    The shower intensified as 16 of the scheduled 18 buses (2 wouldn't start) ambled to the line, but no move was made to put the feature on hold.

    "We'll run the buses rain or shine," speedway promoter Bonnie Hill said.

    "This was the second one we've done in the rain. We'll do it if we have to," she said. "The fans just want to see it that much. They will actually sit out there in the rain and watch."

    That is exactly what spectators under umbrellas did.

    It was evident as the field entered the first turn that this would not be an average School Bus race, if such a thing exists.

    The drivers entered the turns at a high speed. The tail end of the 70-passenger buses swung wide as they lost traction roaring through the arc of Turn 1 and 2 and back down the straight-away.

    The more patient competitors quickly made it to the front of the field as wrecks began to fill up the track. Some of the buses came to rest in the infield, a few on the oval portion, and some stopped right in the path of travel.

    Cameron Hill won in his No. 5 bus after starting at the rear of the pack.

    He first saw the light of victory in Lap 11. Hill lost hold briefly when Jack Boswell's No. 95 headed off Hill and front-runner Art Calkins, No. 25.

    Hill and his bus dubbed "Chill" recaptured the lead for keeps in Lap 14.

    "It was crazy out there," Hill said from a dry pit office. "You had to watch for everybody. Everyone in front of you, everyone one behind you, they were all over the place.

    "I couldn't go as fast as I wanted to. The rain made a big difference. I didn't want to over drive and spin out."

    Hill's quick thinking and careful driving earned him the event's usual six-foot trophy and $1,000. Calkins took second. Frank Hill, Cameron's father and a Sunshine promoter, finished third in his No. 45.

    NOTES: The night was called before three of the final features could run.

    The 50-lap Super Late Model race, Street Stocks and Open-Wheel Modifieds were rescheduled for this Saturday. The features will be double-point races.

    Art Calkins (No. 11) of St. Petersburg won the Figure 8 feature.

    He was followed by Pinellas Park's J.R. Meyer (No. 21) and St. Petersburg's Cliff Rousseau (No. 3).

    Points leader Ed Kidd (No. 6) of Pinellas Park trailed Clearwater's Robert Crisp (No. 2) across the finish line in the Outlaw division's event.

    Scott Holly (No. 1) of Dunedin rounded out the top three.

    St. Petersburg's Jay Zolciak (No. 61) beat out points leader Mike Birk Jr. for the Mini Stock win.

    Largo's Macky Mongold (No. 6) took third place.

    Pete Miley (No. 91) of Pinellas Park finished behind Pinellas Park's Gordon Ross (No. 87) and winner Jody Butler (No. 7) of St. Petersburg in the Enduro feature.

    Pinellas Park's Richie Shepherd (No. 48) exploded from his sixth-place start to capture the Hornet class title.

    Derek Molloy (No. 71) of Pinellas Park and Jason Keene (No. 1) were second and third, respectively.

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