Zolciak keeps rolling along at Sunshine
By BOB BOYLE
© St. Petersburg Times,
Pinellas Park's Jay Zolciak seems intent on making the winner of the annual 50-lap Mini Stock Championship races a one-man club with himself as president.
Saturday night at Sunshine Speedway, Zolciak was first in the One Stop Auto Parts event. He has won four of the past five 50-lap races.
It wasn't that Zolciak couldn't cut it in 1999, when he received his only loss.
"Two years ago, I was leading the race on Lap 40 when I broke down," Zolciak said. "At that point, I was feeling like it was over."
Dan Smith, No. 72, of St. Petersburg nursed a recently broken right hand and set a new Mini Stocks track record by qualifying for Saturday with a 15.583 second-lap time. He beat the previous mark of 15.691 established by Zolciak, whose No. 1 started on the third row inside.
Sitting on the outside pole was another seasoned driver, 17-year-old Mike Birk of Pinellas Park. Although this is his first season in Mini Stocks, the Gibbs High School student has eight years under his belt as a Go Kart driver and was the 1998 Grand National Champion.
Birk took the lead on Lap 2, after front-runner Michelle Mongold, No. 6, of Largo was bumped and spun at Turn 2 by No. 16 Glenn Kelley of New Port Richey.
Head starter Laverne Patrick ruled Mongold had brake checked, leaving Kelley with no option, so Kelley was not penalized.
By Lap 10, the three had distanced themselves from the pack but were encountering heavy-lapped traffic, which continued for about another 15 laps.
When the traffic began to clear halfway through the race, Zolciak went to work on Kelley. On Lap 28, Zolciak moved into second and began chasing Birk.
"I stayed behind him (Birk) and waited for him to make a mistake, Zolciak said. "When he did, I went under him."
"My car doesn't have the horsepower his (Zolciak's) does," Birk said. "I don't like for people to hold me up, so I moved up and let him go."
That was on Lap 30, and the only thing that changed after was the order of the drivers behind Zolciak and Birk. Smith was third, No. 55 Tom Zimmerman of Largo fourth and No. 15 Doug Hopper of Port Richey fifth in the event that started 25 cars.
Next year, Zolciak and Birk will be back with new machines. The car Zolciak used Saturday actually belongs to fellow Mini Stock driver Gary Roebuck of Tampa.
Perhaps nobody knows how to set up a Mini Stock like Zolciak, proud owner Roebuck said after the win.
"It's not horsepower that wins races," Roebuck said. "It's the set up and the driver."
Despite his continued success, Zolciak will stick with Mini Stocks.
"Modifieds are too expensive, and there is too much beating and banging," he said. "Mini Stocks are something I can afford."
NOTES: From his 12th-place starting spot, No. 55 Herman Brame of Pinellas Park took the victory in the Open Wheel Modified feature, ahead of Lakeland's Darren Jackson, who started just ahead of Brame.
Pat Grimes, No. 00, of Largo was third. Pinellas Park's Jimmy Houle, No. 80, continues to lead in season points.
Outlaw Late Model points leader Robby McAuliffe, No. 56, of Pinellas Park helped cushion his advantage with a win.
Safety Harbor's Tim Henault, No. 69, finished second, and No. 20 Steve Lone of Clearwater was third. Henault's performance was enough to push him into second in season points. Pinellas Park's Ed Kidd, No. 6, dropped from second to third after ending the race in 13th.
In Figure 8s, No. 17 Bobby "Zeebo" Moctezuma of Largo was the survivor when the checkered flag fell.
He was followed by No. 89 Ron "Hollywood" Davis and No. 15 Joey Catarelli, both of Pinellas Park. Davis continues to lead the points.
The top five in Street Stock season points were scrambled Saturday night.
Harold "The Duck" Ashley, No. 27, of Gulfport, was on top of standings but could not make the feature after an accident during his heat race.
St. Petersburg's Mike Hill, No. 22, claimed the victory in the feature. Roger Welch, No. 98, of St. Petersburg was second, and No. 75 Craig Robinson of Pinellas Park finished third.
With Ashley earning no points for the night, Welch -- third in the standings -- leapfrogged No. 1 Dan Rieger of St. Petersburg and took over as the points leader. Ashley dropped to second and Rieger to third.
In addition, Hill moved to fourth, switching places with No. 77 Brian Rogers of Tampa.
In the 15-lap Hornet feature, which is a special amateur class for drivers 16-19, No. 71 Derek Molloy was tops.
He was trailed by No. 27 Rick Blair, No. 84 Ronnie Sorenson, No. 13 D.J. Clark and No. 96 Issac Montero.
James Bogart, No. 05, won the Street Stock consolation race.
Mike "Captain America" Leacock of Seminole hasn't found his favorite No. 13 much of a lucky charm since he moved up to Open Wheel Modifieds.
In the other classes he has run, Leacock said he always earned his first feature win within a few weeks of beginning the new class. In Modifieds, it took him more than four months.
Three weeks ago, Leacock won the heat and feature event. But a week later, he was involved in a wreck that cost him $900 to get back into competition.
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