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Gamache, Enduros enjoy the spotlight

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 30, 2002

At some point throughout Sunshine Speedway's season, every division has a night for its talents to be featured above the other classes.

The Enduros, the track's lone amateur division, got their chance to shine Saturday in a 50-lap championship race.

While all of the Pinellas Park speedway's classes feature a 50-lap event, the race has added meaning for Enduros.

The division's amateur branding means drivers do not accumulate points throughout the year. Without them, every event must stand on its own and there is no true champion to crown based on points at the end of the season.

But there is the championship competition.

Second-year Enduro veteran Bernie Gamache, driver of No.1x, captured Saturday's title after taking the lead in Lap 26.

Gamache started in eighth place. But he wasted no time making his presence known, busting into the top five in the seventh lap.

A slick move following Scott Mizener's No.70 through a hole created in passing Mike Crook's No.81 landed Gamache in third before the close of Lap 11.

Mizener, now in second, and leader Derek Molloy (No.78) -- running in his first Enduro event -- got into an intense battle immediately after Mizener's entrance to second.

Gamache sat back and watched, figuring he had plenty of time.

"I was playing the field, trying to be patient, trying not to make a mistake," Gamache said.

The tactic paid off. Gamache took to the outside on Lap 24 when the front-running Molloy slowed slightly, pinning in Mizener.

Gamache swung high and wide coming out of Turn 4, pulling side-to-side with Mizener. Gamache held steady down the straightaways and gained ground in the turns, eventually overtaking both cars in under two laps.

Greeted with clear air, Gamache exploded from the pack, running clean and fast and opening a big lead with each turn. He finished nearly a full 1/8th-mile ahead of the second-place car.

With Gamache out of the picture, the battle for the runner-up spot raged between Molloy and Mizener, and it was complicated by Steve Elder (No.42).

Elder had been wrapped up farther back in the field for much of the event. But he broke free of Pete Miley's No.91 near Lap 33, making a beeline for Mizener, who had yet to overtake Molloy.

Mizener made a desperation pass attempt to the outside of Molloy in Lap 45. Elder swooped in to box out Mizener when Mizener couldn't muster the necessary horsepower, forcing him to fall back to fourth.

Mizener would have his revenge in the tech area, however. Molloy and Elder were disqualified upon inspection after the race. Mizener moved up to second, and Miley was third.

Gamache, who has won a handful of features this season, hopes to test his talent by moving into the Street Stock class next year.

"I don't know if I'm a natural or what," Gamache said, "but I'm sure having fun."

NOTES: Darryl Hage, No.8 of St.Petersburg, picked up his first feature victory in the Figure 8 division.

St.Petersburg's Art "The Master" Calkins (No. 1) finished in second place, and Bob Hage of St.Petersburg took third in his No.78.

Outlaw Late Model points leader Robert Crisp, No.2 of Clearwater, increased his overall lead with a feature win over Dunedin's Scott Holly (No.1).

Mike Hinegardner (No.20) was third.

Ronnie Larson (No.88) claimed the Mini Stock win.

Mike Birk Jr. (No.10) led a stunning advance in the closing laps of the race, overtaking several cars in a matter of seconds to finish just behind the winner. Birk was trailed by Tom Zimmerman (No.55).

Gulfport's Jackie Ashley (No.72) won in the Street Stock class.

Rex Hawkins, No.99 of Pinellas Park, and Chris Escott, No.8 of St.Petersburg, rounded out the top three.

On top of his championship triumph in the Enduros division, Gamache was one-third of the winning Train Race team.

The co-pilots of the No.1x were Mike Gamache and Bob Hall.

Joe Cihak took the Bathtub Challenge crown in his No.03.

The Open Wheel Modified class had the week off.

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