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Short Track Roundup (01/22/98)

22 January 1998

Mobile, AL - The calendar is now in the second half of January and as we head towards next month’s celebration of speed that is known as Speedweeks, the action is heating up on the short tracks around the country. This past week saw action on both the pavement and asphalt, with Late Models and Open Wheels, and from coast to coast.

The Silver Crown cars made their season debut at Walt Disney World and it was Brian Tyler who took the win with John Heydenreich in second spot and Chet Fillup rounding out the top three. Tyler’s first win in the Silver Crown cars came about when Jason Leffler ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap in the first appearance for the cars at the Mickyard. A little further north in Indianapolis they were racing inside the RCA Dome and Jim Hettinger put on display that was awesome as he cam from the rear of the semi-final to take that win and then lapped all but two cars in the 100 lap feature for the midgets. Michael Land, also a semi-final winner finished second with Nick Fornoro taking the third spot.

Out west at Tuscon Raceway Park, it was the final event of Winter Heat as the Southwest Tour cars took to the track for their season opening race. This one was a slam bang affair and when the dust settled it was Derrick Gilchrist who emerged the winner. M.K. Kanke finished the event in second and Patrick Lawler nailed the third spot at the line. On the other side of the country at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL it was Johnny Kay taking the victory in the second leg of the Florida Race of Champions Triple Crown. Tim Harrington wound up in second after apparent second finsher Shane Sawyer was disqualified for an illegal Carb. This moved Phil Antonio into the third spot in the final standings.

There were two big races on the dirt for fans of the Late Models. At the 7th Annual Ice Bowl, held at Talladega Short Track in Alabama, Kenny Merchant took the win when fast qualifier and early leader James Dean lost a driveshaft early on. Randle Chupp came home in second place and John Jones was third. The win was the second for Merchant in the annual event. In Jacksonville, FL the MidWinter 200 drew an overflow crowd to JAX Raceways and they witnessed Cecil Eunice take the win in the feature over Gary Spivey. Earl Pearson Jr, the 1997 Hav-A-Tampa Rookie of the Year, ended the 75 lap event in third.

The American Speed Association has announced the revisions to their 1998 schedule, brought on by the closing of Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola and the inability of USA International to come to terms. The new look has the ASA making their first ever appearance at Langley Speedway in Hampton, VA on April 25, and then moving on to Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, FL on May 2. The first five races of the season will all be Saturday night affairs to accommodate Television.

This coming weekend might well be called the lull before the storm as there is only one big race on the schedule and that takes place at Golden Isle Speedway in Brunswick, GA. The Groundhog 100 will draw many of the top dirt Late Model drivers to the fast 5/8 mile facility where lap speeds near the 125mph mark can be expected. There are other tracks in the southern half of the country that are open and running, so if you are lucky enough to be near one of those, head on out and take in an exciting evening of racing. It is great family entertainment and doesn’t cost and arm and a leg. Have a ball, Ya’ll!

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel