Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

SPORTS >> MSRA returns to Beebe for opener

MSRA 2010 champion Billy Moyer, Jr. of Batesville will begin defense of his crown at Beebe Speedway on Friday night.


Leader sportswriter

The Mid South Racing Association charges into its fourth season of super late-model racing this Friday at Beebe Speedway for a 30-lap event at the quarter-mile, sandy clay oval just off Highway 67/167.

The MSRA series was initially set to begin the year at I-30 Speedway in late March before inclement weather postponed the event, making the Beebe race the inaugural event of the season for the first time in the series’ history.

It is the first of 18 events listed on the series schedule, with up to four more races to possibly be added at various tracks.

The race will also be part of a doubleheader weekend for MSRA along with a race at Riverside Speedway in West Memphis slated for Saturday.

“We’re excited; it was new for us to race at Beebe last year, and we had three big shows,” MSRA series director Chris Ellis said.

“It’s close to home for me, so it’s nice to be able to race two miles from the house. The series seems to have a pretty good following here.”

Ellis has announced several changes to the series, including a new title sponsor Comp Cams.
Auto parts retailer O’Reilly sponsored the series in 2008-09, but when that contract ran out, the Memphis-based engine component manufacturer increased its level of support from its former associate sponsorship.

“The biggest thing that’s happened to us is a new title sponsor,” Ellis said. “You really have to give Comp Cams credit for stepping up to the plate. They’ve been with us from the beginning, and when that came open, they filled the void.”

The addition of the Comp Cams title sponsorship along with a number of new associate and contingency sponsorships has allowed Ellis to increase the purse for 3-6 finishing positions in each event.

The series will also use Raceceivers for the first time. Raceceivers are special radios fitted in drivers’ helmets that allow race officials to give instructions for restart orders and other issues that occur under competition.

The MSRA will also uphold a new tire-testing policy this year in light of recent controversy across the country concerning chemically altered tires.

There have been a number of fines and suspensions over the use of agents to retard the wear process of racing tires. Under the new MSRA policy, each driver’s tires will have small samples taken before each race and kept on record.

“We’re looking for big differences in numbers,” Ellis said. “If a driver’s tire punches numbers that are a lot different from anything they’ve had before, we’ll send it to the lab. If it comes back positive, the driver can either pay their fine or have a second test done at the driver’s expense.”

The 2009 season was the first for MSRA at Beebe Speedway although the series is based there. Three events were run, two of which went caution free and another that featured only one caution.

Batesville veteran Wendell Wallace claimed the victory in the inaugural race in April, while Russellville’s Jon Kirby took the checkered flag in the July race.

But the biggest story of the year happened on Aug. 21 in the third and final event when former national late model champion Billy Moyer, of Batesville, and son Billy Moyer, Jr. battled for the lead throughout most of the race. Moyer, who raced only a handful of local shows with the tour, took the victory over eventual second-place finisher Wallace, but the younger Moyer’s third-place effort helped him solidify his first MSRA season points title.

Billy Moyer, Jr. is expected to return and defend his crown this year, along with former series champ Joey Mack of Benton, Mo., who won the championship during the series’ first two seasons in 2007 and 2008.

Also expected to compete regularly for MSRA are Kyle Beard of Trumann, Harrisburg’s Charlie Cole, Walnut Ridge veteran Jeff Floyd and former I-30 Speedway late model track champion Eddie Provence of Little Rock.

There will also be a strong contingent competing for rookie of the year, including modified standouts Shane Stephens and Brandon Smith.