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'Hollywood' glad to change role


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 9, 2000

It's no wonder Pinellas Park's Ron Davis has picked up the nickname "Hollywood" at Sunshine Speedway.

Davis began auto racing in the exciting but sometimes dangerous Figure 8 class 13 years ago.

His career has provided the kind of drama you could expect to find in the movies. The only problem has been that his role is more like the foil to the ultimate class champion, who in more cases than not usually is Art "The Master" Calkins of St. Petersburg.

Calkins has won so many Figure 8 season championships and mid-season 50-lap title races that he has trouble keeping track of the total. The nearest estimate is a bunch -- a whole bunch.

Frequently, Davis has assumed the role of the guy who can't quite unseat the top dog. He's finished second to Calkins and others so many times, Davis started to view himself as the Rodney Dangerfield of racing -- he just couldn't get any respect.

Early this season, track announcer Bill Green took note of Davis' plight, and gave him the "Hollywood" tag. It stuck.

However, on July 29, Davis gave his nickname new meaning in the drama that unfolded during the 50-lap, Q Auto Accident & Injury Attorneys Figure 8 Championship. He earned his stardom. Davis started the race in the ninth spot, a row and two positions behind Calkins. That's a tough place to begin a big event. Still, Davis had 50 laps to make up the difference.

He didn't need it.

By Lap 5, Davis had surged past Calkins -- who had moved up to fifth -- and into second place. But the leader, Shane Grigsby of Pinellas Park, was in front by at least a dozen car lengths.

Slowly, lap after lap, Davis drew closer and cut it to a car length. By Lap 20, Calkins had shed the field and moved into a distant third.

Two laps later, Grigsby was crossing the Intersection and was just barely clipped in the rear by Clearwater's Jack Boswell.

With no major damage, Grigsby and Boswell continued racing. Unfortunately for Grigsby, the red flag came out when officials noticed a bumper on the track.

It was Grigsby's.

Bumpers are required, which is a good idea considering the nature of Figure 8 racing.

Grigsby was sent to the pits, and Davis took his spot on the hot seat of the lead.

On the re-start, the cars were bunched bumper-to-bumper, and on the back of Davis' bumper was Calkins -- the man who had denied him so many championships in the past.

But Davis had come too far to be denied.

For the next 27 laps, the two separated themselves from the class in one of the cleanest Figure 8 events at Sunshine.

Calkins tried Davis on the right, then on the left, right again, and back and forth, but the best Calkins could do was not quite up to Davis' door.

When they came to traffic at the Intersection, they didn't hesitate. They blew the Intersection and kept on racing. Everybody else gave them room to run.

With no significant contact, the competition was a tribute to two great drivers.

"The two cars were about equal," Calkins said. "I didn't touch him one time. I was driving my butt off. He'll tell you."

To say Davis was happy is an understatement.

"I've waited 13 years for this," Davis said after the race on a humid night.

"It's hot, but I feel wonderful. (Winning) almost brought tears to my eyes. The best part is all of my kids were here tonight and got to see me win."

And yeah, he was worried about Calkins, but Davis was more frightened when Grigsby was clipped at the Intersection just as he had closed the gap.

"That was scary," Davis said. "I thought we were both going to die."

Then, Davis' mind quickly returned to more pleasant thoughts.

"I've come in second seven times," he said. "The last two years, I crashed and came in third. This is beautiful."

The win not only gave him his first 50-lap title, but it ensured his place on top of the points battle with a good shot at wearing the season crown.

NOTES: Last Saturday, Wayne Bowman of Largo moved back into the Winner's Circle by crossing the finish line first in the Late Model feature.

Last season, Bowman came in a close second to Sammy Coghill of Largo for the points championship, but Bowman's ride vaporized at the end of the season.

It took him a few months to get another car and get it dialed in, but he's clearly back in the mix.

Coghill, who leads the points again this year, finished second in the feature. Brian Leverock was third.

In other action, Luke Hill of Fort Lauderdale topped Chet Senokossoff of Clearwater and Allyn Summers of Odessa in the Open Wheel Modified feature. In Figure 8s, Grigsby was first with Joey Catarelli of Pinellas Park second and Ron Veller of Clearwater third. Points leader Jay Zolciak of Pinellas Park won the Mini Stock feature over Doug Hopper of Port Richey and Macky Mongold of Largo.

Roger Welch of St. Petersburg was first in Street Stocks ahead of Ed Kidd of Pinellas Park and Ron Davis. Chuck Boyle won the first Enduro feature, followed by Bill Wilkerson, Rex Hawkins, Lonnie McCurdy and Angie Grant.

Harold Ashley was tops in the second Enduro feature ahead of Pete Cracolici, Dave Cleary, Herman Brame and Ron Reser.

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