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Inverness' Smith gets fast start

By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003

INVERNESS -- Season openers in racing are not meant to be a show-me session.

Most drivers tend to treat them as a shakedown in preparation for the long, grinding weeks ahead.

Not Jim Smith. If anything, he was certain his new Late Model car had the muscle and might to win its first outing.

He was right. Smith, the 2002 Late Model championship runner-up, enjoyed a dominating performance in his J.D. Smith and Sons Pest Control-sponsored No. 12, taking the 30-lap main in a flag-to-flag run Saturday night. Along the way, the 26-year-old Inverness racer held off all comers, including a dramatic final charge by ace Mike Bresnahan.

Jumping off the pole position, Smith wasted little time in distancing himself from the rest of the 18-car field. For a while, it seemed Lakeland's Perry Lovelady had the power to challenge Smith in the early laps, but by Lap 15 Lovelady started to fade.

Next in line was Scott Grossenbacher, who stuck close to Smith on restarts but could not match the leader's horsepower. Meanwhile, Bresnahan, who started ninth, had begun his march to the front and was within striking distance of Smith by Lap 21. Despite charging Smith from the outside groove, Bresnahan came up short at the finish line.

Defending division champion Rex Struble, who plans to drive his own car this season, placed third ahead of Richie Smith and Grossenbacher.

FIRESTINE SNARES WIN: Nokomis-based driver Jeff Firestine held off the late charge of Jimmy Gills to win the track's first FASTRUCK Series 50-lap race. Eighteen of the stock-engined machines made the start, with Bartow's Tommy King taking fast qualifier honors. Five caution flags tightened the field for a final 15-lap run to the finish by Firestine and Gills.

FAIR BREAK: The speedway will take a three-week hiatus to make way for the Citrus County Fair. Racing will resume March 29, featuring the Sunbelt Late Model Series 125-lap event.

Saturday's feature results

FASTRUCK SERIES: 1. Jeff Firestine. 2. Jimmy Gills. 3. James Wright. 4. Tommy King. 5. Tim Shaffnier.

LATE MODELS: 1. Jim Smith. 2. Mike Bresnahan. 3. Rex Struble. 4. Richie Smith. 5. Scott Grossenbacher.

SPORTSMAN: 1. Bill Oesterreicher. 2. Mike Bell. 3. Mike Veltman. 4. Chris Cross. 5. Phillip Rooks.

STREET STOCK: 1. Travis Nichols. 2. Danny Cretty. 3. Joe Viverito. 4. Scott Guthman. 5. Daniel Webster.

MINI STOCK: 1. Dustin DesChamps. 2. Rob Wheatley. 3. Don Faunce. 4. Phillip Joyner Jr. 5. Chris Thornton.

HOBBY STOCK: 1. Sport Wilson. 2. Richie Smith. 3. Dean Lawyer. 4. Curtis Neumann. 5. Roy Perkins.

THUNDER STOCK: 1.Roy Blotz. 2. Pat Quick. 3. Larry Triana. 4. Jimmy Nash. 5. James Crossley.

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