[an error occurred while processing this directive]
By BOB BOYLE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001
Running in third place with only five laps remaining in Sunshine Speedway's first 50-lap Super Late Model feature, Largo's Wayne Bowman went where no man (in the race) had gone before -- to the outside of the leaders.
It was a gutsy move for the No. 2 car. Only one other driver was trying the outside groove -- No. 15 Dwayne Dempsey of St. Petersburg. He had been demoted from third to last on the seventh lap after accidentally taking out the No. 19 of Tommy Schnader of Largo.
Running behind No. 61 Richard Kelley Jr. of Gulfport, who had led the race on all but one lap, and second-place Brian Leverock of Seminole, Bowman made his move to the outside coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 44.
Bowman scooted around Leverock on Lap 45 and went to work on Kelley. By the end of the next lap, Bowman had taken the lead for good.
"I thought it was probably not a good idea to go, but I had to take a chance," Bowman said after his win. "I had a little less horsepower, and that probably helped."
Otherwise, his tire might have spun too much coming out of the turns. "I loaded up with five laps to go, because there were cars coming up," Bowman said.
While Bowman had a little less under the hood than several of the other fast cars, Kelley had a lot less.
Kelley was driving his S.A.R.A. Limited Late Model, while everyone else had a Super or Unlimited Late Model. Keeping the lead was a tough trick only a top-notch driver could accomplish.
"I was down about 60 horsepower from the others, and I was 150 to 200 pounds heavier," Kelley said. "I got to run a line, and it was working good but, about halfway, the car started pushing bad."
Bowman's inspiration to take a chance on the outside probably was Dempsey.
After being sent to the back of the 20-car field on Lap 7, Dempsey went to work. By the time Bowman rolled the dice, Dempsey had passed 15 cars to take over the fifth spot -- mostly by passing on the outside. By the end of the race, he was in fourth.
"Tommy (Schnader) lifted (his foot off the gas) sooner than I expected," Dempsey said of an accident that sent him to the rear. "I would have won easily if I hadn't done that, but it was a good run."
Agreed. However, Bowman had some help from the man above -- promoter Frank Hill, who was sitting in the officials tower.
On Lap 31, the lead cars were running only inches apart when No. 1 Wayne Jefferson of Pinellas Park, who finished fifth, hit Bowman in the rear and spun him to the infield.
According to the rule, Bowman and possibly Jefferson should be sent to the rear for bringing out the yellow flag. Drivers have argued for years that shouldn't be the case in close racing accidents.
After a prolonged discussion, officials decided Bowman should be sent to the rear and Jefferson could keep his spot because he had nowhere to go.
"I don't feel good about this," Hill said as the cars readied to race again.
After agonizing another long moment, Hill picked up the radio phone and called the flaggers stand. "Laverne (Patrick, head starter), give Bowman his spot back."
After hanging up the phone, Hill turned and said, "I'm going to take heat for this, I know it."
He went on to explain. "Everyone checked up and I just couldn't blame anybody. I don't think it would have been fair to anyone."
Most of the drivers thought Hill was right, but Leverock, who was third, said, "Sometimes they make up the rules as they go along. They should be consistent and they wouldn't have that problem."
But then Leverock said, I wouldn't want the race track's job of making that decision."
NOTES: Several car classes at Sunshine have been under- represented early this season, but that apparently is changing.
Although Unlimited Late Models no longer are a weekly class at the speedway, 21 showed up for the race and 20 actually ran, which is an improvement from when they were a weekly attraction last year.
For the first time in memory, Open Wheel Modifieds, which are the track's top regular class, fielded a full 24 cars for their feature. The replacement Street Stock class has become the most competitive with 34 cars vying for the 24 starting spots on Saturday.
The new Outlaw Late Models are growing slowly but reached nine cars this week, and the number of new Enduros climbed from only three the week before to seven Saturday. Track officials expect those numbers to continue to increase as more drivers complete work on their new cars.
Figure 8 driver Randy Larson of Pinellas Park, who is recovering from kidney failure and is on dialysis, will get a new kidney from his best friend and wife, Marlene.
Larson said he and Marlene will enter the hospital on April 20. Marlene should be out within three days, and Randy in about a week. Larson continues to drive his No. 42 on a weekly basis. Talk about tough guys.
In the Figure 8 feature, No. 59 Jack Boswell Jr. of Clearwater was tops, with No. 7 Wayne Calkins of St. Petersburg second and legend Charlie Meyer of Pinellas Park third. Larson was 10th in the 17-car field.
Last year's Mini Stock season champ, Jay Zolciak of St. Petersburg moved up to Open Wheel Modifieds and scored his first victory Saturday night in his No. 61. He was followed across the line by No. 80 Jimmy Houle of Pinellas Park and No. 66 John Moore II of Lutz.
No. 56 Robby McAuliffe of Kenneth City pulled off his second straight victory in the new Outlaw class. Ed Kidd of Pinellas Park was second, and No. 69 Tim Henault was third.
Marty Neikens, No. 70 of St. Petersburg, continues to look strong in Mini Stocks. He picked up another feature win Saturday. No. 12 Eric Cuchta of Largo, who recorded his first feature win last week, was next across the line, ahead of No. 55 Tom Zimmerman of Largo.
In Street Stocks, No. 98 Roger Welch earned his first victory in the new class by finishing ahead of No. 77 Brian Rogers and No. 56 Jim Kelly. The racing was tight, and the drivers are getting better by the week.
No. 88 Bobbie Mathews was the winner of the amateur Enduro feature, beating out No. 81 Mike Crooks and No. 66 Mike Breske.