(Gibsonton, FL January 29, 2021): Brandon Overton has been a model of consistency in the 45th WInernationals at East Bay Raceway Park. In the first four features contested, the Georgia driver was only off the podium one time, and Friday’s victory more than made up for that. Overton won 26 races last season running an independent schedule. However, he now finds himself atop the point standings for the tour and the Florida mini series, fueling speculation that he just may finish out the season with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.
“I said all along that if I stayed on the podium, the wins would come,” Overton noted. “You gotta be lucky. I just got up there at the right time.”
Brian Shirley and Overton led the field to the green flag. Boom Briggs had a choice starting spot for the second night in a row, along with Jimmy Owens. Row three featured Shane Clanton and Bobby Pierce. Tim McCreadie and Frank Heckenast, Jr. were in row four. Then came Mike Marlar and his partner, Mason Zeigler. Tyler Bruening and Stormy Scott claimed row six.
Although Overton started on the outside of the front row for the 50 lap affair, he did not take the lead until lap 30. Until then, he went back and forth from second to sixth and back to second again. Like several others before him, he was able to catapult into the lead from the outside of row two in the Delaware double file restart alignment.
Shirley, the pole sitter, shot out to the early lead by using the low line around the speedway. The first driver to find the high side momentum was Owens, who thundered past Shirley briefly on lap seven. Shirley dug deep in turn four to regain the lead, however. Pierce used the low line to get up to second before moving to the topside to take his fling at the lead. He was not able to maintain the position for long, as Shirley battled back again.
Marlar flew around the top on a lap 24 restart to take the lead, but Shirley showed his resilience. He powered off turn fourth to regain control shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, Pierce was shuffled back several positions as a line of cars went by on the inside. On lap 26, Pierce brought out a caution, effectively ending his chances of success this night.
McCreadie repeated the process of driving into the lead on the restart. Moving along behind him was Overton, who reached second. A quick caution set Overton on the launching pad, and he followed the script to a T in the ensuing restart.
Overton was only able to complete a lap before a red flag was displayed for the second time in the contest. The first time was much earlier due to damage to the wooden sheets mounted above the concrete wall in turn four. This time, the stoppage was due to a flip by Chase Junghans in turn four. He was not hurt.
On this restart, Overton was able to keep Bruening behind him. He was able to do the same one lap later.
Overton led Bruening the final nineteen laps. Bruening’s car did not like the outside groove, and Overton found the rubber on the inside before Bruening could mount a challenge for the lead. Devin Moran raced along in third, but McCreadie came back in the final laps to regain that position. Clanton logged his first top five of the season.
Mark Whitener was sixth, followed by Hudson O’Neal and Earl Pearson, Jr. O’Neal and Pearson were other racers who had cracked the top five earlier in the race before losing spots on restarts. Billy Moyer, Jr. and Josh Richards completed the top ten.
The top qualifier this night was Shirley, who led Group A with a lap of 14.548. The best in Group B was Overton, at 14.673. This was the first night that Group A was best overall. Heat winners were Shirley, Briggs, Clanton, Overton, Owens, and Pierce. Jonathan Davenport, O’Neal, and Moran won their respective B Mains.
Tyler Erb was disqualified following an incident on the cool down lap of his heat race. He took umbrage at being passed by Mason Zeigler late in the event. Erb lost a transfer spot in the process. Then, he retaliated by driving across the nose of Zeigler’s car.
Timms Takes Ten Grand 360 Sprint Finale
GIBSONTON, FL (February 16, 2024): Ryan Timms, the teen from Oklahoma City, earned the biggest victory of his young career by taking the Ronald Laney Memorial that wrapped up the King of the 360 Nationals at East Bay Raceway Park. The race concluded the 48th Annual Winternationals a day early due to the heavy rains forecasted for the weekend. The staff at the speedway will get a well-deserved break before rolling into the final regular season at the Clay by the Bay.
Timms was excited about his win. “It feels awesome. It’s even better being able to come from fourteenth to win it. God. I had such a fast race car. It was kind of a perfect race for us. The last couple of nights, we kind of struggled. We had a fast car all weekend, we just didn’t have much luck. I’m glad that we could put a whole race together and get up through there and get a win here.” He summed, “it’s definitely extra special being the last 360 race at East Bay.”
It did not take long for Timms to realize that he had a chance to win the finale. “I think it was lap ten, we were up to fourth. I knew that I had the car under me to do it. I just had to be patient enough and I had to wait for the guys ahead of me to kind of mess up. I was waiting to get to lapped traffic and I was able to capitalize on their mistakes.”
Timms added, “this place is cowboy up. It’s just a slide job fest really. You’re cutting it close to everybody.”
Sprint car racing in Florida in February has always been like a gathering of the clans, bringing together racers from all over the country to do battle for the glory and the gold. For the returning veterans, and for the fans, it is like an annual reunion. That theme meant even more for the second place runner, Tim Shaffer, who was reunited with the Demyan-Rudzik race team and with his former crew chief, Brian Kemanah. “We put this thing back together. It’s like the band is back together again, For us, the third night out and it really started clicking,” he said.
“We’re happy with second. We really would have loved to win it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” he added.
Shaffer was disappointed that the race was the end of an era, saying that “it kills me” that the track will be closing. “I really like this place. I’ve been coming down here for a long time. It’s fun. It’s the right time of year. There are really good people here. I’m going to miss it.”
Austin McCarl, who entered the race as a sentimental favorite of many of the fans, was frustrated with the lapped cars that he encountered in his journey to third. “The traffic was really crazy.” He explained that, as the leader, he was not shown proper respect when he came up to lap a former winner of the race. But, he was ready to move on. “We’re excited for the rest of the year. I’ve never started this early and to have two big checks in the lounge is really great.”
Austin McCarl drew the pole for the top six point men based on the two preliminary nights. Next to him was Shaffer, who coincidentally placed second to McCarl in the combined prelim results. A.J. Maddox and Davey Franek started in row two, with Danny Martin and Justin Peck taking the third row. Next came the heat winners, Terry McCarl, Eric Riggins, Tyler Clem, Danny Sams, and Sam Hafertepe, Jr., in that order. P12 belonged to Max Stambaugh, who was second in his heat.
Austin McCarl led Shafffer into turn one, but Franek used the inside line to take over second on the first lap. Peck, Maddox, Danny Martin, Sams, Riggins, Timms (who was already up from fourteenth), and Cole Macedo made for a potent top ten.
Franek handed second over to Shaffer on lap ten, and Timms was up to fifth by the time a red came out for the three-car tangle in turn three. Peck, Riley Goodno, and Wayne Johnson were involved, with Goodno taking the brunt of the impact. All three cars were eliminated, but none of the drivers were injured.
Austin McCarl maintained control after the restart, but Shaffer was stalking him. Unable to find a place to make a pass, Shaffer remained close in second until lap twenty-eight, when Timms went by in traffic. Timms then took up the chase of Austin McCarl.
It only took Timms three more rounds to catch and pass Austin McCarl coming down the front stretch. McCarl remained close enough to try a slider going through turn three, but Timms had better momentum and he retained the lead.
Now Shaffer resumed his challenge to Austin McCarl, but, this time it was for second, as Timms began to stretch his advantage. Shaffer made the pass on Austin McCarl on lap thirty-seven. But Timms was on cruise control by that time.
Shaffer began to close as Timms encountered more lapped traffic. Still, Timms had a comfortable margin over Shaffer.
After the white flag was displayed to Timms and several others, Parker Price-Miller came to a stop in turn two. That set up a one-lap dash for all the marbles.
Timms got the jump on Shaffer and he completed the final lap of the last edition of the Winternationals without incident. Shaffer was second, followed by Austin McCarl, Sams, and Aaron Reutzel, who came from twentieth on the grid. Franek was sixth, ahead of Hafertepe, Macedo, Devon Borden, and Terry McCarl.
There were three B Mains held. The victories went to Macedo, Dale Howard, and Liam Martin. Provisionals were awarded to Mark Smith and Price-Miller.
The DIRTcar United CCC Modified Lites provided support once again. Jimmy Wills, of Dover, DE, returned to the winners’ circle at the end of the twenty-five laps. He was the first racer to pass Tim White under the green flag in the three days of action. Taking second was fellow Delawarean Ryan McKinney. Third went to Justin Williams. White was fourth, followed by Charles Permann. Heat winners were White and Wills. The fastest qualifier was White, with a time of 17.420 seconds.
Courtney and Larson Take High Limit Events at East Bay Raceway Park
GIBSONTON, FL (February 13, 2024): Charles Dickens was not talking about the 48th (and last) Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park when he wrote, in A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” But his famous opening line would have been an accurate assessment of Tuesday’s 410 Sprint Car event presented by the High Limit Racing Series. The races were the first two events of the newly formed national tour (best of times), and Clay by the Bay said farewell to the division that helped to make the Winternationals a major event (worst of times).
Tyler Courtney and Kyle Larson were the last two 410 racers to etch their names into the record books. Courtney took the thirty lapper that ended the twi-night doubleheader, and Larson scored in the twenty-five lap feature that was carried over from Monday’s rain-shortened program.
Courtney was unable to say why he has been so consistently fast at East Bay Raceway Park. “We’ve been fast ever since the first time we came here. We have a pretty good package for here.” He added, “it sucks that this is the last 410 race here. I know that they have 360s here at the end of the week or next week. Sad to see it go.”
Courtney summed up his performance as “a 50/50 day.” He explained, “earlier wasn’t the best feature but to come back for the win shows the grit these guys have.”
Corey Day, the latest California phenom to go onto a national Sprint Car stage, remarked “the track was badass. I wish that the top was there in one and two, I could have made some more speed.” Despite that, he was able to mix things up with two accomplished veterans, Courtney and Brad Sweet.
Sweet thought that he missed the set-up just a bit. “It was tough. I got the lead early and was running the bottom, then I got to lapped traffic and tried to move to the top, and that wasn’t the right place to be. It felt like we didn’t have the car quite right there to maneuver through lapped traffic or to make enough speed.”
Sweet had the pole for the nightcap, with Courtney to his right. Dominic Scelzi and Spencer Bayston were in row two, with Larson and Corey Day in the third row. The final Dash cars were Brent Marks and Cole Macedo. Then came Zeb Wise and Jacob Allen. Row six paired Kasey Kahne and Austin McCarl.
The initial start was waived off due to a multi-car incident that happened in turn four. Courtney got sideways, but kept going, and chaos ensued in his wake. Larson and Connor Morrell got the worst of it with flat left rear tires requiring trips to the pits for replacements, and they were able to restart at the rear of the field. No other racers required any remedial measures.
The second try was successful, putting Sweet in control. Courtney settled into second in the early going, with Bayston, Day, Marks, Wise, Macedo, Rico Abreu, McCarl, and Chris Windom fighting for positions behind them.
Sweet stayed out front for approximately a third of the contest. By then, he was into lapped traffic, and he was having difficulty maintaining his pace. Courtney, Wise, and Day were challenging Sweet, and Courtney emerged with the lead by lap twelve. Before the next round was completed, however, the action was interrupted by a caution for Larson.
Courtney, Day, Wise, Sweet, Bayston, Marks, Abureu, Macedo, Windom, and Anthony Macri made up the top ten for the restart. Abreu used the high side to gain several positions when the green light came on again.
After just three more laps, a three-car tangle off turn two involving Morrell, Kahne, and Larson led to another caution. Damage to Larson’s machine eliminated any hope of a second victory for him.
While Courtney continued to lead the way after that stoppage, Day and Wise were locked in a battle for the second spot. Abreu was up to fourth, with Sweet and Marks following.
Another shunt, involving Danny Sams and Kahne, set up a restart with ten to go. Abreu went to the high side again to try to pick off Wise and Day. He climbed Wise’s wheel approaching turn three but somehow he managed to keep the car under control. He did lose one position to Sweet however.
Courtney continued to lead Day, Wise, and Sweet as the laps counted down. Meanwhile, Macri was challenging Marks for fifth. Macri spun in turn three with two laps remaining, ending his inspired drive from twentieth on the grid.
Courtney had the point for the final restart, with Day, Wise, Sweet, Abreu, Marks, Parker Price-Miller, Windom, Bayston, and Allen lined up behind him.
The remaining two laps were hair-raising, as drivers throughout the field looked for any opening to move ahead.
After Courtney and Day took the checkers, Abreu flipped wildly in turn four. Most of the pack made it by his wreckage, but Cory Eliason clipped Abreu’s machine as he rounded the last turn.
Sweet checked in as the third place finisher, with Wise and Marks rounding out the top five. Price-Miller, Windom, Bayston, Allen, and Ryan Timms were sixth through tenth.
Wise blasted around the track in 12.229 seconds to set the mark in Group A, and Bayston turned in a lap of 12.544 seconds to top Group B. Davey Franek led the way in the non-qualifiers race. Courtney, Marks, Bayston, and Sweet prevailed in their respective heats. Brandan Mullen won the C Main, and Tanner Thorson captured the B Main. Sweet won the dash from the pole. Brenham Crouch and Cory Eliason were afforded series provisionals.
Larson Leads Off
The champion of the abbreviated 2023 High Limit schedule, Kyle Larson, was the matinee idol. He started on the pole and led wire to wire to get the first checkered flag of 2024 for the new national series. Along the way, Larson had to fend off challenges from Justin Peck, Tanner Thorson, and Cole Macedo.
A mid-race challenge from Tanner Thorson spurred Larson to victory. “I got kind of blocked, well, not blocked, but just my momentum kind of stalled out there in traffic. I saw Tanner’s nose in one and two. I was getting nervous because Jacob (Allen) was down there and he was inching away from us.
Then I saw Tanner and at that point I had to get up on the wheel and get past (Austin) McCarl pretty quickly. Once I did that, I was able to get going again.”
Series founders Larson and Sweet were on the front row, with Thorson and Macedo in row two. Abreu and Peck were matched in row three, with Sam Hafertepe, Jr. and Macri in the fourth. Price-Miller and Timms covered row five. Then came Day and Wise.
On the opening lap, Wise looped it at the entry to turn one. Remarkably, the fourteen racers behind him avoided contact. Larson led lap one, followed by Peck, Macedo, Thorson, Sweet, and Macri. Brenham Crouch brought out a yellow with one complete.
When the race resumed, Peck was shadowing Larson. When the leaders got to lapped traffic, Larson was picking his way through, while Peck was riding the rim to stay close. On lap eight, Larson split two lappers between turns three and four. Peck could not follow him through the hole. As he ran through turn two, Peck saw an opening between the lapped car of Chris Windom and the outside wall. Peck tried to sneak by, but Windom drifted up the track, pinching Peck against the wall and collapsing his front end in the process.
Larson completed the remaining sixteen laps without incident. Thorson gave chase most of the way, but Macedo made a slick move in traffic to take that spot away in the waning laps. Thorson held on for third. Sweet and Macri completed the top five. Day, Abreu, Marks, Hafertepe, and Baystonwere the next five across the scoring loop.
Sweet stopped the clock at 12.550 seconds to top Group A. Macri was the best of Group B with a time of 12.612 seconds. Chris Martin prevailed in the non-qualifiers race. Larson, Thorson, Macedo, and Abreu captured heat wins. Martin also won the C Main, and Tim Shaffer scored in the B Main.
Larson was the Dash winner. Series provisionals were awarded to Crouch and Morrell.
Mod Lites Do Double Duty
Support was provided by the DIRTcar United CCC Mod Lites. The wins went to Jimmy Wills in the afternoon race, and to Jimmy Smith in the final event of the night for the class. Following Wills across the line were Smith, Tim White, Logan Lewis, and Ryan Dodd. Wills chased Smith home in the finale. Then came Zach Sobotka, Ryan McKinney, and Teddy Williams, II. Smith and Todd Brennan took the honors in heats held on Monday before the rains came. White and Wills won the heats for the Tuesday contest.
Austin McCarl Gets Emotional Win in Round Two
GIBSONTON FL (February 15, 2024): “The Big Unit,” Austin McCarl, captured the second round of the King of the 360 Nationals at East Bay Raceway Park. He chased down and passed Danny Martin and Davey Franek in heavy traffic to become the third and final leader in the thirty lapper that went non-stop. The victory, coupled with misfortunes on the part of some of his prime competitors who did not qualify, should lock the third generation driver into the Ronald Laney Memorial that will close out the 48th, and final, Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park.
Austin McCarl was extremely emotional in victory lane. “Thank you so much,” he said acknowledging the fans who were celebrating his win. With his voice cracking, he added, “we were struggling so bad. This means so much to my family. I am so glad to be going home with a trophy from East Bay Raceway Park before it closes.” Austin joined his father, Hall of Famer Terry McCarl, on the list of racers who have won in the prestigious event.
Austin McCarl explained that a member of his team gave him a hand signal with five laps to go. “I said to myself, ‘Please, God, no yellows. And, then, I was looking for the nose of somebody trying to get under me.” He added that the significance of the win did not hit him until the cool down lap, and he almost lost control of the car due to his excitement.
Martin nipped Franek at the wire for second. The two had battled throughout the race, even after McCarl went by them in traffic. “We made some changes to the car, it was totally different,” Martin commented. He explained that traffic was really difficult. “When there are long greens like that, you get behind those lapped cars. They were three wide. It was like a wall.”
Franek was pleased with his performances in the preliminaries, saying “we were good tonight, we were OK last night.” He was hopeful his sixth place run, followed by a third, should lock him into the top six for the Saturday finale.
The starting lineup was determined by passing points earned from the heat races. Danny Martin had the pole, with Franek as his dance partner. Chris Martin and Brandon Grubaugh made up the second row. Adyn Schmidt and Austin McCarl were in row three. A.J. Maddox and Sam Hafertepe squared off in row four, followed by Tyler Clem and Dale Howard. Cole Macedo and Justin Peck were in row six.
Three former winners of the Laney Memorial were sprinkled in the second half of the starting grid. Tim Shaffer was thirteenth, Terry McCarl was twentieth, and Wayne Johnson was twenty-first.
Two former champions were absent. Mark Smith and Aaron Reutzel failed to transfer into the A Main.
Danny Martin led Franek on the opening lap. Grubaugh, Austin McCarl, Maddox, Hafertepe, Clem, Shaffer, and Macedo followed. Austin McCarl and Hafertepe cracked the top five in the early going.
Franek took control by lap ten, but Danny Martin came storming back to regain the lead on lap twelve. While working through traffic, Franek passed Martin once again. However, Austin McCarl was gaining on them both.
McCarl claimed the lead, for good, by lap twenty. Meanwhile, Franek and Martin continued their contest for second.
With five laps remaining, McCarl had several car lengths over Franek and Danny Martin. Hafertepe was fourth with Peck in fifth. Chris Martin was holding off Shaffer and Macedo. Ryan Timms and Parker Price-Miller made their appearances in the top ten.
The top three did not change until the final lap, when Danny Martin slipped inside of Franek coming to the checkered flag. Peck was fourth, ahead of a fast-closing Shaffer. Hafertepe, Timms, Price-Miller, Chris Martin, and Macedo completed the top ten.
Fifty-eight cars competed in six heats, which were won by Franek, Shaffer, Grubaugh, Schmidt, Austin McCarl, and Eric Riggins. The four B Mains winners were Danny Sams, Max Stambaugh, Timms, and Terry McCarl.
In the undercard for the DIRTcar United CCC Mod Lites, Tim White went wire to wire for the second night in a row. Dylan White and Jimmy Wills made it an all Delaware podium. Ryan McKinney, also from the First State, was fourth. Justin Williams was fifth. Jeff Teeters and White claimed the heat wins. Teeters was best in the timed hot laps. His lap of 17.806 seconds was .003 better than White qualified.