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Drivers awaiting green flag

By LOGAN NEILL

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


Last season, Citrus County Speedway fans saw plenty of action late in the closing weeks as drivers battled for division points.

In two of the track's six regular classes, the top spots weren't decided until the final night of the 36-week schedule.

Beginning Saturday, fans can expect more of the same as veterans and newcomers begin vying for their division's respective crowns.

"It's a long season," said Wes Wilson, the defending Street Stock champion. "You just never know what's going to jump up and bite you on any given night,"

Wilson should know. Although he led the class comfortably at times and won eight races, fate often played a wicked game of cat and mouse with his success. Blown tires, untimely spins and mechanical breakdowns worked to whittle away his margin of comfort, leaving him vulnerable on the final night. He landed the championship by a slim 23 points ahead of runner-up Ernie Reed Jr.

Wilson and the rest of the regulars will see some noticeable changes at the quarter-mile facility, including bigger payouts in all divisions, a newly paved inner-groove surface and promotions geared at putting more fans in the grandstands.

Here's a look at what fans might expect in the major divisions:

LATE MODEL: Veteran driver Mike Bresnahan saw fortune rise early last season, creating the kind of momentum that would lead him to the division crown. With a commitment to run Florida Pro Late Model, Bresnahan probably will run only a limited schedule at Citrus.

STREET STOCK: With more than 50 racers pre-registered, the season could offer one of the mightiest divisions in recent memory. Fans can expect the return of noted veterans such as Victor Stanley, Ernie Reed, Otis Hamilton and Travis Nichols.

SPORTSMAN: While two-time defending champion Mike Veltman will be making his third bid for the crown, he may face some stiff competition from highly-rated newcomers such as Sport Wilson and Terry Cater.

MINI STOCK: Veteran George Neumann will return to try for his fourth title in seven years. Expect some battles from fellow veterans Mark Sowell, Frank Coleman, John Coleman and Kevin Harrod.

FIGURE 8: Like last year, Brooksville's Robbie Aaron looks like the man to beat. With four division championships in 13 seasons under his belt, Aaron is the consummate sage of the criss-cross league. His only real challenge may come from former champions Victor Stanley and Gary Swing.

HOBBY STOCK: On the last night of the 2000 season, J.D. Goff saw his championship chances end before his car completed the first lap of the final feature. This year, fans will view Goff -- who's coming off a nine-win campaign, as a man with a mission.

Citrus County Speedway

WHAT: Short-track stock car racing that features Late Models, Sportsman, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Street-Legal Junkers and the Figure 8.

WHERE: 2 miles south of Inverness on U.S. 41.

WHEN: Grandstand gates open at 4 p.m. with the first heat race at 6:30.

ADMISSION: $10 adult general admission; $8 seniors and students to age 17; $2 children under 10; free under-12 child admission with paid adult; $20 pits.

INFORMATION: (352) 726-9339.

OF NOTE: The track will be closed March 10-24 due to the Citrus County Fair.

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