'Texas Tornado' Blows 'em Away in Mobile: Prostar 200 Report and Results

16 November 1997


      Mobile, AL - The "Texas Tornado", Tommy Grimes of San Antonio, TX blew into
Mobile, AL for the Prostar 200 and then whirled his way to the win at
Mobile International Speedway. Grimes picked up $7,000 for the win as well
as $1,000 for leading the race at the halfway point.

        "It's been a long time, we had some seconds and thirds and fifths,
we've just been hanging in there." a very happy Grimes stated after the
race. "The car was fast right off the trailer. We changed some springs, but
it never really made the car any faster, just easier to drive  around the
racetrack."

        Grimes started the 200 lap affair from third position behind fast
qualifier Robert Burroughs of Laurel, MS who blistered the half mile oval
in 18.110 seconds for an average speed of 99.393 mph. Gerald Wilkerson of
Mobile took the outside pole spot with Tim Bryant of Navarre, FL starting
the race on the outside of the second row.

        On the drop of the green Burroughs grabbed the lead as the field
headed into turn one, with Wilkerson dropping into second and Grimes third.
Burroughs would lead the first lap, but on lap two as the cars barreled
into turn three, both Burroughs and Wilkerson spun in tandem in the middle
of the turn. Neither lost a lap, but were now mired back in the field.
Grimes assumed the lead with Bryant running second, Jimbo
Wilson of Mobile in third and Tim Baker of Gulfport, MS and C.W. Sullivan
of Gulf Shores, AL rounding out the top five.

        When the green came back out, both Wilkerson and Burroughs began
making their way towards the front. By lap 17 Wilkerson was back into the
top five as he slid by Sullivan and then a lap later made a move to the
inside of Baker to take fourth. Burroughs was also picking off at least one
car a lap and by the time lap 20 rolled around Wilkerson was past Bryant
and into second with Burroughs right behind him in third.
Nose to tail the two tried to run down the fleet Grimes who had opened up
almost a half lap lead on the field by this point. 

        On lap 29 Burroughs made a move to the inside of Wilkerson in turn
one and emerged from turn two in second place. Wilkerson stayed right on
his bumper for  the next couple of laps, but slowly Burroughs opened the
gap to a car length on lap 35. Then on lap 41, Jeff Dawkins, who had just
been put a lap down by Grimes, spun in the middle
of turns one and two and slid up the track into the path of Burroughs who
was trying to go high. There was contact and Burroughs suffered some damage
to the left front of his car.

        Grimes pace had been so fast that by this point only four cars were
left on the lead lap, and when Burroughs went to the pits for repairs, he
too was put a lap down. Grimes now led Wilkerson with Bryant in third.
Baker was in fourth, but running a lap down. On the lap 41 restart, Bryant
appeared to be very loose, and then lost four positions to lapped cars as
his pace slowed. Grimes slowly pulled away from Wilkerson and then on lap
57 he blew past Bryant to put him a lap down. Grimes was passing cars both
high and low and on lap 58 he sliced between Burroughs and Burt Belter in a
three-wide maneuver as he put both cars another lap in arrears. 

        Bryant finally headed for the pits under green on lap 67 with a
flat left rear, leaving just Grimes and Wilkerson on the lead lap. When
Dawkins' engine let go on the front straight on lap 73 the fourth yellow
flag of the race came out, and grimes decided to head to the pits for some
fresh McCreary tires. Grimes' crew changed the right side rubber and sent
him back out in second place behind Wilkerson. This put the local
favorite in the lead for the first time with grimes riding in second and
Baker third, a lap down. Belter had worked his way into fourth in a backup
car after his Ford suffered front end damage during qualifying while George
Rangel of Casco Township, MI was now running in fifth. Wilson, Nathan
Ingersoll, Bryant, James Hollingsworth and David Hole
rounded out the top ten.

        On the lap 80 restart, Grimes powered to the outside of Wilkerson
and a lapped car and made the move stick as he was able to work his way
around both cars and take the lead coming out of turn two. On lap 103 Ted
Ramsey and Baker spun in turn two forcing Grimes to make a quick move to
the top of the track to avoid being caught up in the incident. When caution
came out again on lap 108 for another spin by Ramsey, Wilkerson headed for
the pits and decided to take on four fresh McCreary tires.

        Wilkerson's choice of taking four tires paid of quickly as he was
able to move inside Grimes on the restart and retake the lead going into
turn one on the restart. Wilkerson soon opened a lead of two car lengths,
but then Grimes seemed to get the rhythm and began to close back in. On lap
126 Grimes was back on Wilkerson's rear bumper and looking for a way to
make the pass. On lap 129 as the two headed into turn one, Wilkerson's
engine, which had been showing some faint smoke for the last few laps,
went away in a puff of smoke. Grimes, right on his rear bumper, tapped him
in the rear and Wilkerson went sailing off the top of turn three. 

        With caution on the speedway, rain began to fall, and with the cars
circling the track at reduced speed the racing surface soon became very
slippery. The race was red flagged and the cars all stopped on the front
straight. It soon became obvious that drying the track would take an
extremely long time, and as the rain continued race officials
decided to call the race and declare it official as it was past the halfway
point. Grimes took the win with Baker finishing second. Ramsey finished the
race in third with Wilkerson in fourth and Rangel taking fifth. Belter,
Dawkins, Burroughs, Hollingsworth and Hole rounded out the top ten.

        "We just lucked out," Baker stated. "We had a clutch slipping the
whole race and we just feathered it around." Baler finished a lap down to
the leader at the checkers.

        "I think we had him covered," Wilkerson commented afterwards. "We
changed four tires and he changed two. I think he messed up the stagger
when he changed two and I decided to take four. Then the engine went and it
was all over."

        In other action Jeremy Pate took the win in the Open Wheel Modified
race with Bubba Hart second and Tim Martin third. Robert Smith beat Roy
Harrison for the Pure Stock win while Jody Hadley took the Pony Stock
victory.

PROSTAR 200 RESULT
pos Driver                      Hometown                         Laps
1.   Tommy Grimes               San Antonio, TX                   135
2.   Tim Baker                  Gulfport, MS                      134
3.   Ted Ramsey                 Birmingham, AL                    130
4.   Gerald Wilkerson           Mobile, AL                        128
5.   George Rangel              Casco Township, MI                128
6.   Burt Belter                Birmingham, AL                    128
7.   Jeff Dawkins               Montgomery, AL                    127
8.   Robert Burroughs           Laurel, MS                        118
9.   James Hollingsworth        Mobile, AL                        118
10.  David Hole                 Atlanta, GA                       116
11.  C.W. Sullivan              Gulf Shores, AL                   101
12.  Tim Bryant                 Navarre, FL                       100
13.  Nathan Ingersoll           Foley, AL                          93
14.  Len Griffin                Pensacola, FL                      78
15.  Catfish Gardner            Grand bay, AL                      66
16.  Jimbo Wilson               Mobile, AL                         21
17.  Pat Cruise                 Deatsville, AL                      0
18.  William Wambles            Mobile, AL                          0
19.  Bob Green                  Mobile, AL                          0

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel



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