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Rain washes out Sunshine

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001

The old saying, "Be careful of what you wish for because you may just get it," proved true for local racing fans Saturday night.

For months, people in Central Florida have done everything from prayers to rain dances to hair pulling in hopes of wringing a bit of moisture from a dry sky. Finally, relief came Wednesday and Thursday, when we received twice as much precipitation as we had for the entire year.

Friday came and the skies cleared. All that water had a chance to soak into our parched lawns, and the prospects for the weekend looked bright.

Should have known. Late Friday, I saw some darn fool out washing his car. I should have gotten his name and address and published it in the paper, because that obviously was just enough to get the drops falling once more.

A little after 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunshine Speedway promoter Bonnie Hill called: "We've canceled racing tonight."

She said it had rained heavily earlier in the day, and they were about to open the pits when it started again.

"The pits are underwater, and the track is wet," Hill said.

Before racing was called off, Hill said they found a possum wandering around at the speedway.

"We decided not to call Bubba The Love Sponge (Clem)," Hill said, so the possum was spared.

Regardless, the Tampa Bay Area Racing Association's Winged Sprints were scheduled as the main attraction, which was one of only three appearances they were to make at Sunshine this season.

That event has been rescheduled for April 14, when the track will give double points to all of the regular professional classes.

To be safe, please do not wash your car after April 12. Do it April 15, when it won't matter.

With five weeks of the 36-week points season behind us, it's time to take a look at who is leading in the various classes. However, the final standings Nov. 10 may be somewhat different.

In Sunshine Speedway's new top class, Open Wheel Modifieds, 1999 division champion Darren Jackson, No. 73 of Lakeland, is on top -- 18 points ahead of No. 66 John Moore, who has 146 points.

Jimmy Houle, No. 80 of Pinellas Park, has 143, No. 8 Randy Rhodes of Pinellas Park is at 137, and No. 88 Chris Robbins of Indian Rocks Beach is fifth at 123.

In the new Outlaw Late Model class, Clearwater's Robert Crisp, the Street Stock king last season, owns a 163-162 lead over Pinellas Park's Ed Kidd.

Rick Haugh, No. 69 of St. Petersburg, is third at 142, No. 69 Tim Henault is fourth at 137, and No. 56 Robby McAuliffe of Kenneth City, who won the last two features, is fifth at 131.

In the new Auto Trader Street Stock class, No. 1 Dan Rieger has a 155-135 advantage over No. 98 Roger Welch. No. 61 Dave Ochesnwald, who missed the last feature on March 24 and got no points, is in third at 131. No. 18 Larry Brannon is at 122, and No. 17 Tom Phelan has 118 points.

The points battle for Figure 8s has a familiar look.

Art "The Master" Calkins, No. 11 of St. Petersburg, is on top with 132 points. No. 28 Shane Grigsby and No. 89 Ron Davis, both of Pinellas Park, are tied for second at 130. No. 31 Donnie Thomas of Pinellas Park is fourth at 124, and No. 21 J.R. Meyer, who recently returned to Sunshine, is fifth at 122.

It's close and likely will stay that way throughout the season -- if fans are lucky.

No. 55 Tom Zimmerman of Largo owns the lead in the Mini Stocks, 148-128 over No. 12 Eric Cuchta of Largo. Hard-charger Joey Catarelli, No. 65 of Pinellas Park, is third at 127, No. 16 Glenn Kelley of New Port Richey is fourth at 119, and No. 70 Marty Neikens of St. Petersburg is holding on to fifth with 118 points.

Although Unlimited or Super Late Models will run just once a month at Sunshine, they will collect points. But instead of the top 10 drivers sharing the purse at the end of the year, only the top driver will get any money.

Right now, that's No. 5 Brian Leverock of Seminole, who has 44 points from the first race and qualifying.

No. 2 Wayne Bowman of Largo, who won the first event, is tied at 42 points for second with No. 1 Wayne Jefferson of Pinellas Park. Gulfport's Richard Kelley Jr., No. 61, is fourth at 38 and tied with fellow S.A.R.A. driver Dwayne Dempsey, No. 15 of St. Petersburg.

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