Going the distance will be challenge
By LOGAN NEILL
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001
In order to win a race such as Saturday's Sunbelt 125 Late Model feature at Citrus County Speedway, a driver must first be able to survive it.
Sure, it takes a strong, fast car to hold up to the demand of 125 laps, but it also requires a certain kind of endurance from the person behind the wheel.
Speedway veterans Mike Bresnahan and Danny Johnson have participated in numerous super features in their careers. Both agree that turning a quick lap time isn't necessarily the key to coming out on top when the checkered flag drops.
"The thing it takes most is patience," said Bresnahan, the 2000 Late Model champion, who jumped to the Florida Pro Series this year.
Bresnahan will be among an estimated 30 drivers expected to compete for a share of Saturday's $15,000 purse.
Bresnahan, who two years ago outran some of the state's top Late Model drivers to capture a 100-lap feature, says the scenario for this week's race seems inevitable.
"Anytime you get that many guys -- especially guys with real fast cars -- on a small track, you can count on a lot of crashes early on. It never fails," Bresnahan said.
"If you're up front at the begininng, you're probably okay. Otherwise, I'd rather kind of hang back for a while and wait till things settle out," he said. "The last 40 laps, that's when the race begins for real."
Johnson, the 1999 Late Model champion, agrees, saying that punishing the car early on rarely pays off with a top-five finish.
"You've got to take care of your tires and try to keep the fenders on," Johnson said. "If you concentrate on hanging, you'll probably have a good shot before it's over."
The event is the second stop on the 13-race Sunbelt Series schedule, and so far, is the only one run on a quarter-mile track.
Expected to compete are cream-of-the-crop pro drivers such as 2000 series champion and current points leader Dick Anderson, James Powell III, Mike Fritts and Jack Cook. Homosassa's Ricky Carlton, who finished eighth in Sunbelt Series points last season, is expected to be one of about 12 local drivers taking part.
But while the well-heeled pro efforts may seem rather daunting to local drivers who compete on a budget half as big, Johnson figures guys such as him have an advantage in that they're more familiar with the track.
"We know where the (racing) groove is and isn't," he said. "And since they've repaved it, it's even trickier. Those guys will probably eat us up at first, but I think we have some good cars that can hold their own."
However, neither Johnson nor Bresnahan think it will be anything less than fast and furious.
"It'll be a blast because these are some of the best drivers in the south," Bresnahan said.
Citrus County Speedway
WHAT: Short-track stock car races featuring the Crystal Motor Car Co. Sunbelt Series 125, plus Street Stocks, Hobby Stocks and Street-Legal Junkers. No Sportsman or Mini Stocks events are scheduled.
WHERE: 2 miles south of Inverness on U.S. 41.
WHEN: Saturday. Grandstand gates open at 4 p.m. The first heat race is at 6:30.
ADMISSION: Adult general admission, $10; seniors and students to age 17, $8; children under 10, $2; under-12 child admission with paid adult, free; pits, $20.
INFORMATION: (352) 726-9339.
LATE MODEL: 1. Herb Neumann, Jr. (46), 2. Billy Bechtelheimer (42), 3. John Chance (41), 4. George Ingole (39), 5. Tim Sharrone (35).
SPORTSMAN: 1. Sport Wilson (128), 2. Mike Veltman (121), 3. Rex Struble (117), 4. Mark Dominique (94), 5. Chris Hooker (91).
STREET STOCK: 1. Travis Nichols (113), 2. Ernie Reed, Jr. (103), 3. Wes Wilson (101), 4. Victor Stanley (97), 5. Danny Cretty (85).
MINI STOCK: 1. (tie) Richey Powers, Rob Wheatley (117), 3. (tie) Don Faunce, Kevin Harrod (102), 5. Jimmy Bartley (97).
HOBBY STOCK: (Points not available) 1. Richie Smith, 2. J.D. Goff, 3. Roy Perkins, 4. Art Brueningsen, 5. Brandon Johnson.
FIGURE 8: 1. Bob Hage (70), 2. (tie) Peanut Higgenbotham, Scott Knight, Robbie Hage, Charlie Meyer. -- LOGAN NEILL
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