Leader Blues

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SPORTS >> Competitive races open season at Beebe Speedway

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

E-mod driver Dallas Everett was the only one determined to stink up the show on opening night at Beebe Speedway. On a first night full of surprises and good, close racing, the young hometown pilot spanked his competition in the night’s first feature.

The sandy clay, quarter-mile oval kicked off its 28th year of operations on Friday under new management. Harold Mahoney took over the speedway from former promoter Kenny Morden late last season, and Friday was the beginning of the first full season with Mahoney at the helm.

Special shows at other area tracks kept the car count down, particularly in the modified class, but the chilly temperatures did not deter a fair number of race fans from coming out for opening night.

The E-mod feature was the first of six feature races on the night. Everett started on the outside pole alongside Allen McElroy, and took the lead on the opening lap going into turn one. He checked out by lap 3 with Robert Woodard five car lengths behind in second.

Fast qualifier McElroy fell into a good battle for the third spot with former class champ Kevin Conway in the 100 car and Beebe’s Blake Jones. McElroy held court and even pulled away from the pair briefly, but Conway and Jones caught up in the final two circuits.

The racing got close coming to the checkers, as Conway and Jones made contact entering turn four. Everett had already taken the checkered flag at that point with Woodard finishing second, with McElroy, Conway and Jones completing the top five.

The old saying that it’s just as important to be lucky as good proved true for one of the most sucessful drivers in the mini-stock class on Friday. Paul Shackleford took the win in the mini-stock division when fast qualifier Parker Sellars cut down a tire while leading with two laps to go. Shackleford, who had spent most of the 15-lap feature in the fourth spot, benefited first when second-place driver Doyle Blankenship of Cabot jumped a restart and was sent to the back, then moved up to second before misfortune struck for Sellars in turn four.

Blankenship showed muscle in his OFR number 4 car by making his way back up to second, while Sellars had to settle for third.

Former speedway flagman William Essex proved his move to the drivers’ side was a smart one in the hobby feature. The driver from Hazen, known throughout the area as ‘the Pizza man’ — he owns a pizza parlor — battled hard with Brandon Oliver for the lead until Oliver got out of shape exiting turn four with three to go.

The two had already traded the lead once before a restart, and Oliver continued to put pressure on Essex in the final laps despite showing some smoke in his number 14 machine. Essex held on for a popular win, while Oliver took second.

Jacksonville’s Brandon Capps took the win in the factory-stock division over Gage Raines and Thomas Payne. The 15-year-old, second-generation driver, who is also the defending class champ, took the early lead and never looked back.

Young Capps added a bit of humor to his win after the race by repeatedly honking his car horn while pulling up to the winner’s platform for the celebration and pictures. It was his second straight year to take the checkered flag in the factories on opening night.

Veteran driver Todd Greer took his first win in nearly a year in the modified division by putting a quick end to the Jayson and Jason show at the start of the race. Cabot drivers Jayson Hefley and Jason Flory started the race on the front row, but rear-end problems for Flory brought out the yellow on lap 1. It didn’t take long for Greer to make his way to the front with Searcy driver Robert Davis in tow for second. Davis’ night also ended early due to mechanical problems, as Greer held on for the win with Hefley taking second and the 53 car of Dale Armstrong in third.

Al Bradshaw took the win in the mod-lites division over Charles Chapmon and Tex Myers. The mod lites are now a semi-regular class to the track.

Points racing for all classes will start on April 3, with the first special show on April 17 featuring the MSRA late models.