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Jefferson is head of class at end of event

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 18, 2002

In a night of bumps and bruises, Pinellas Park's Wayne Jefferson led a pack of zealous Open-Wheel Modified drivers through 50 laps of short-track racing Saturday to become the champion at Sunshine Speedway.

For the most part, the only competition Jefferson saw was confined to the rearview mirror.

He started the event on the pole and never left after logging the third fastest qualifying time. The driver of the No.1 car matched his lap performance of last season, 13.90 seconds, which was a record until Saturday.

Billy Mowery, in his No.55m, set the track mark at 13.87.

While not packing as much power behind the pedal as some, Jefferson was able to fend off the No.12 maneuvered by Corky Craver.

Craver proved to be unshakable in capturing second. So too did third-place finisher Darren Jackson. The Lakeland racer, No.7, knuckled his way into contention after starting sixth.

"I don't think I had the fastest car tonight," Jefferson said. "The qualifier proved that.

"My biggest advantage was starting on the inside. I had to hustle, had to be smooth.

"I had to work for it," he said. "But that inside track, that's the best way to run it at Sunshine."

Though Jefferson seemed to have things under control at the head of the field, drivers fighting for position farther back had difficulty staying out of trouble.

It took less than one lap for a major disturbance to bring out the yellow flag, a nine-car spinout exiting Turn 3 that prompted a complete restart.

Jackson's car nearly was removed from contention in the ninth lap after tangling with an errant racer.

Jackson, who had the inside lane, came in contact with the car's rear wheel, and had no time to slow or alter course.

As the machine was subducted under Jackson's red No.7, the former lost control and spun left toward the infield. With nowhere to go, Jackson monster-trucked a path over the hood of the car, spouting flames from his undercarriage as he passed.

For a moment, it appeared Jackson would be counted out of the running. But the sound of tires screeching in acceleration at the first touch of asphalt signaled his intent, and he was off.

Jackson spent much of the race involved in a three-way mini competition with Mowery and St.Petersburg's Dwayne Dempsey, No.6x.

The three remained locked in struggle from early in the event until Lap 30.

That is when Jackson was able to sneak his car's nose inside Mowery's No.55m in Turn 4, edging completely through the opening before another revolution was in the books.

From there, it was a game of catch-up.

Jackson made efforts to close the gap between himself and the lead duo of Jefferson and Craver, who had pulled away from the field.

Multiple yellow flags beginning in the 38th lap gave Craver and Jackson opportunities to advance. Yet Jefferson's explosive acceleration out of the restarts stunted attempts by rivals to overtake him.

Jefferson maintains third place in the Modified series. The S.A.R.A. has 50-lap features at tracks throughout Florida.

NOTES: Largo's Bobby "Zeebo" Moctezuma, driving his No.17 car, took the victory in the Figure 8 class on Saturday night.

He was trailed by St.Petersburg's Darryl Hage, No.8, and Ron "Hollywood" Davis, No.89 of Pinellas Park.

Mark Nelson, No.11, posted the Outlaw Late Models win.

Wendell Overstreet, No.78, captured second, and Pete Coon, No.27, finished third.

Mini Stock points leader Mike Birk Jr., No.5 of Pinellas Park, won the division's feature.

Ronnie Larson, No.88, and Macky Mongold, No.11, rounded out the top three.

Gulfport's Jackie Ashley, No.72, took the checkered flag in Street Stocks.

The No.8 of Chris Escott, St.Petersburg, and Tampa's Bryan Rogers, No.77, placed second and third, respectively.

Steve Elder won the Enduro feature in his No.42 machine.

Pete Miley, No.91, and Randy Spicer, No.98, followed.

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