By BOB BOYLE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001
Perhaps an extra 1,000 people crowded into the grandstands at Sunshine Speedway on Saturday to watch the smash and crash Demolition Derby.
But the best blows of the night were landed in the tech inspection area, which -- unfortunately for the fans -- was out of sight. Oh yeah, the last one running in the $1,000-to-win race was No. 3X Craig Pollett.
Now, on to the real action.
The kettle began to boil during the Outlaw Late Model feature. Ed Kidd, No. 6 of Pinellas Park, took the lead on Lap 11 from No. 85 Jim Billera of St. Petersburg. Shortly after, No. 56 Robbie Mcauliffe of Pinellas Park and No. 1 Scott Holley of Dunedin made their way around Billera as well.
By the time Mcauliffe and Holley got free, Kidd had established a lead equal to about a third of the track, and they couldn't close the gap.
Shortly after in the tech area, Mcauliffe said there was a reason.
Holley "kept hitting me in the (rear end), and I couldn't get any speed up," Mcauliffe said as he stood next to his car near the back gate of tech.
Before Mcauliffe could finish his explanation, the No. 1 rolled off the scales in preparation for parking next to Mcauliffe's car and pulling whatever part tech inspectors wanted to see. As Holley slowly rolled by him, Mcauliffe decided to verbally express his displeasure to the other driver in a loud and aggressive manner. As the car continued to roll forward, Mcauliffe followed and continued to elaborate on his evaluation of Holley's driving, among other things. It was not positive criticism.
Mcauliffe was maintaining a distance of about three feet from Holley's window, until the No. 1 stopped about 15 feet farther.
There, Mcauliffe -- about 5-foot-6 -- found his view blocked by Holley's father, who track officials identified as Laurie. Mcauliffe attempted without success to continue his one-sided conversation with the driver, but the older Holley was taller and Mcauliffe was unable to make his point from either side or over the top.
What happened next was like some of those summer storms we get -- a few clouds form and, wham, the next thing you know lightning flashes, the wind whips and it rains so hard you'd better not look up for fear of drowning.
It was quick, and you can't be sure what happened.
Suddenly, the narrow space between the two cars became mobbed with pit crew members from both sides. As the tempo increased, Holley managed to climb out of his car and stood behind his dad. As the bodies crunched into the small space, pushing gave way to punches.
It's hard to say who pushed first or who threw the first punch. The older Holley pushed Mcauliffe. A tall blond male, who later was identified as No. 56 car owner John Bonin, threw a punch and hit the younger Holley. There was lots of punching after that. Holley's father landed a couple on Mcauliffe's head, which is like trying to use a feather to break rocks. Mcauliffe swung back several times, but may not have hit anyone. Bonin and the younger Holley began to wrestle, and Bonin used a headlock to slam Holley to the ground. All of that occurred in less than a minute, before track officials ran over to break up the fight. "The suspects I'm looking at are all of the people with both cars," promoter and general manager Frank Hill said Monday. "Fines and suspensions are possible."
Hill allowed the race results to stand, so Mcauliffe was second and Holley third.
"I hate to see that happen," Kidd, the winner and points leader, said of speculation that both drivers probably would be disqualified and suspended. "I don't want to win points that way. I'd like to outrun (Mcauliffe, second in points)."
In a sport of tough guys, Kidd said, "I'm one of the nicest guys out here to race against."
Known to help his closest competitors, Kidd said, "And, I won't get into a fist fight."
At least for the time being, one nice guy did finish first. That, too, is a nice change.
NOTES: Figure 8 driver Randy Larson of Pinellas Park suffered a serious setback when the kidney donated by his wife, Marlene, exploded inside his body 10 days after the transplant surgery. Rejection was the problem.
Larson said he received seven pints of blood and will not be able to go through another operation for about six months. On the plus side, he has been offered another kidney. Pinellas Park drivers are dominating the points in Figure 8s.
Shane Grigsby, No. 28, recorded the win Saturday night over No. 17 Bobby "Zeebo" Moctezuma and No. 11 Art "The Master" Calkins of St. Petersburg.
As a result, Grigsby climbed to second in points behind No. 89 Ron Davis, who finished fifth, and just ahead of No. 15 Joey Catarelli, 13th.
Open Wheel Modified driver Chris Robbins of Indian Rocks Beach was reported to be doing well and recovering from open-heart, triple-bypass surgery.
In the Modified feature, No. 80 Jimmy Houle of Pinellas Park moved up from his fifth-place starting position to take the checkered flag ahead of No. 09 Steve Harbuck of Largo and No. 55 Herman Brame of Pinellas Park.
The win was enough to move Houle into the season points lead over No. 66 John Moore, who finished eighth for the night.
In Mini Stocks, No. 72 Danny Smith of St. Petersburg picked up the victory, followed by No. 24 Chris Thornton of Clearwater and No. 65 Catarelli.
In Street Stocks, No. 27 Harold Ashley of Gulfport won the feature, which should move him into third for season points ahead of No. 61 Dave Ochsenwald of St. Petersburg. Ochsenwald was in second but did not make the feature after his car slammed into the wall during the qualifying heat race.
James Ellershaw, No. 50 of Largo, snatched second, ahead of No. 98 Roger Welch of St. Petersburg. Welch moved to second in season points behind No. 1 Dan Rieger of St. Petersburg.
In Hornets, which is an amateur class for drivers 16-19, No. 13 D.J. Clark was tops, followed by No. 5 Kevin Felgenhauer, No. 55 Mike Galvin, No. 4 T.J. Kingery and No. 34 Matt Damoth.