Gary Wright wins Night #3 at Eastbay
by Jean Lynch
TAMPA, FL…..1/31/03…..The night and $1,500 belonged to the tall, quiet Texan, Gary Wright as luck came his way Friday night in the 25 lap feature which served as the third and final preliminary night of the 5th Annual King of 360's event at East Bay Raceway Park.
"Any one of these guys that started in the top ten could have won tonight if they would have started on the pole like I did," Wright stated in his victory lane interview with track announcer Bill Green. As a light fog settled over the track once the feature was over, Wright, the winner of the inaugural King of 360's in 1999 continued, "This track is so fast that once you start up front, no one is going to catch you."
The familiar number "9", owned by Wright, was carrying a yellow paint scheme and sporting sponsorship from Southwest Express out of Louisiana, The Shop in Greenville, Texas, Goodson Farms, Richwood Construction and Attorney Ernest L. Cochran. Luck came into play in two ways for Wright's feature win. Number one was when fast qualifier Sport Allen pulled a ten pill for the feature inversion. Number two was when Erin Crocker failed to advance from the B-Main to the A-Main. The combination of these two things put 11th fast qualifier, Wright on the pole.
The 26-car field showed Wright and Lance Dewease on the front row and Ryan Coniam and Darren Stewart in row two followed by Kenny Adams and Greg Wilson in row three. Freddie Rahmer and Terry McCarl were next in row four, while Jason Sides and Allen started ninth and tenth.
Using a year old Maxim with a fresh Salina engine under the hood, Wright led Stewart and Dewease through the first round. A fast-moving McCarl switched to his favorite high groove and came from eighth up to third by lap three. The top wing supports collapsed on Coniam's car, spoiling his best showing of the series as he was forced to coast to a stop just exiting turn two on lap four, causing a yellow flag.
Wright showed the way around this 1/3 mile clay oval for the next five laps before two more yellows were needed for Larry Neighbors, who lost power in turn two and again for Adams who got caught up in the turn one cushion on the restart. From that point, it was ten laps of green flag racing where Wright pulled away to a five car-length lead and then caught the back of the pack and started padding his lead with lapped cars.
Just before the final yellow came out on lap 20 for a slow moving Red Stauffer, Wright had himself a straight-away lead over Stewart with McCarl still in third, Sides in fourth and Allen 7in fifth. In the chase to the checkered, Sides slid inside McCarl to grab third with two laps to go while Allen got by McCarl to drop Terry to fifth at the finish. Rounding out the top ten it was Dewease, who had crashed in his heat forcing him to progress from the C to the B, Wilson, Rahmer, Joey Saldana and Darren Eash.
Heats went to Wright, Greg Leonard, Jeff Buckner, Eric Vanderploeg and East. The C-Main advanced Dewease, Mike Lutz, Daryl Smith, Brian Thomas, Corey Herring, John Karklin and Phil Mott. The l5-lap B-Main sent Dewease, Coniam, Stauffer, Mike Woodring, Neighbors and Paul McMahan.
The Goodson Farms Strawberry Dash was won by Mike Lutz, who had to rebuild a complete car overnight after crashing hard in Thursday's feature. Finishing second it was Chuck Swenson followed by Erin Crocker, Dan Bennett, Herring, Karklin, Tom Winegardner and Alan Gilbertson.
The Limited Late Model 15-lap feature was won by Roger Crouse over Bill Howard, David Reutimann, David Boerner and John Norris rounded out the top five. Heats to Howard and Crouse.77
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