Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SPORTS >> Topless racing makes initial stop in Beebe

Leader sportswriter

Topless season will hit Beebe Speedway this Friday when the O’Reilly Mid South Racing Association late-model series makes its third and final appearance at the quarter-mile clay oval.

Racing begins at 8 p.m.

All cars will compete with their roofs removed. The MSRA will race in Greenville, Miss., the following night in its first annual Topless 40 event. Many of the drivers already had the roofs removed for last week’s Topless 100 at Batesville, and series director Chris Ellis decided to also make the Beebe race a topless event as a convenience to the drivers.

The race was originally scheduled for the following Friday, but when the annual Topless 40 event at Monticello ran a month earlier than scheduled, Beebe was able to get in on the topless action.

“The people at Monticello didn’t want to run a Friday race with the first week of school and everything else going on,” said Ellis, who also serves as series flagman. “That’s not their usual night. So we ran it last month. We’re running topless at Greenville the next night, so we just decided to let them run topless at Beebe, as well, to make it a little easier on everyone.”

The first two MSRA races at Beebe went caution-free for 40 laps, with veteran Batesville driver Wendell Wallace taking the win at the first race in April, and Russellville’s Jon Kirby winning the July 17 event.

Wallace and Kirby are two of 10 drivers that have MSRA wins under their belts this season in a year of parity. With 15 races run so far, Wallace, Greenbrier veteran Bill Frye and MSRA points leader Billy Moyer, Jr. of Batesville are the only drivers that have more than one win in the series.

Moyer, Jr. will be looking to extend his lead in the season standings over Trumann driver Kyle Beard this weekend. Moyer holds an 80-point lead over Beard heading into Friday’s race, and is 110 points ahead of third-place driver Jeff Floyd of Walnut Ridge.

Moyer, 21, and Beard, 23, are two younger drivers who have made their marks on the local late-model circuit since 2007. With young rookie-of-the-year contenders Michael Murphree of Little Rock, Oklahoma driver Gary Christian and Missouri pilot Austin Rettig also becoming more competitive in the series, the future of late-model racing in the area is more secure than was anticipated only five years ago.

“You look at the guys that are big names now; they had to start somewhere,” said Ellis. “One of the promoters said I didn’t really have any names, but I told them that when Wendell Wallace started out back in the 80’s, he wasn’t a name. You make a name by getting out there and winning races and putting on a good show.”

Ellis is also in the process of getting things in line for next season. He hopes to expand the schedule to 28 events, and already has eight dates set up for Friday nights. There are also new sponsorship opportunities in the works, which could improve driver purse payout for next year. Ellis also wants to implement electronic scoring for 2010.

Track conditions have been good for the first two MSRA events at Beebe. Ellis said that how the track does this Friday is mostly up to Mother Nature herself.

“We need some humidity,” said Ellis. “If it’s dry and windy and sunny, you can water the track all week and it’s still going to dry out. There are a lot of variables involved. Running too many classes is the most common thing we’ve seen this year. When you run six other classes besides late models, that’s a lot of laps to put on a track in a single night. But it’s up to the promoter, and he has to run the classes that he thinks will help make a profit for the track.”