Sarppraicone "Jr" Makes Tire Gamble Pay Off, Wins Q Auto and Injury OWM "Race of Champions"
By Rick Anges
Bradenton, Fl. As the season and the temperatures wind down the racing always heats up at “the South’s Fastest Short Track”. This night the best Open Wheel pilots were on hand to vie for the title of the ’06 “Race of Champions” winner.
The twenty-two Open Wheels lined the infield taking two laps to determine the starting positions for the 125 lap Q Auto & Injury Attorneys “Race of Champions”.
John Sarppraicone Jr. was fastest on the track but a post qualifying inspection found the 88 machine was a 1/8 of an inch to low relegating him to the rear of the starting grid. Timmy Moore was the benefactor taking the pole spot. Moore got a late start in the season due to an accident that kept him from behind the wheel.
Behind Moore was the “Rocket Man” Wayne Jefferson in second, third was point’s leader Bobby Baldwin, “The Iron Man” Dwayne Dempsey in fourth and fifth Gulf Coast Modified Champion “The Felda Flash” Lee Collins.
The field was lined up on the front stretch for the pre-race and the fans came out of the stands to meet their favorite drive face to face. The field was inverted six rows by the roll of the die putting Brad Bischoff and Lee Collins on the front row.
Collins got the run and took the lead on the first lap with Bischoff sliding into the second spot. Collins showed his prowess and years of experience around DeSoto as he would pull away from Bischoff on the longer green flag runs. Bischoff in turn would pull away from third place Dwayne Dempsey. The field was nose to tail through the pack behind Dempsey.
Several cautions would bunch the field. Collins would jump out to a two-car length lead on each restart. Just passed the half way point Bischoff’s ride began to smoke and was checked several times under the cautions for leakage but was allowed to continue.
With a mandatory yellow on lap 75 for fuel several teams would come in for fresh sticker tires including Sarppraicone Jr. and Jefferson. Collins, Bischoff, Dempsey and Timmy Moore stayed on the track deciding to go the full 125 laps on one set of tires.
From the drop of the green flag both Jefferson and John Jr. started marching through the field. Both cars were the class of the field in the later stages of the race moving into the top five.
Bischoff was eventually black flagged as the smoke became thicker and Dempsey was complaining of oil on his windshield. After a solid run Bischoff finished the race in the infield finishing fourteenth on the night.
Sarppraicone was able to hang it on the outside and make it work to get around Dempsey for the second spot and began tracking down Collins. Dempsey and Jefferson were at it hot heavy with the newer tires of Jefferson allowed him to get under Dempsey going into turn three, the two made contact with Dempsey looping it in turn four. Dempsey got his spot back with Jefferson being sent to the rear and would finish in the 13th spot.
Collins was unable to hold off the newer tires on the 88 of Sarppraicone. Collins bobbled in turn one with Junior coming out two with lead. Once out front Sarppraicone cruised to the win and became the ’06 winner of the “Race Champions”. “The car was really good all night and the tire change made a big difference,” he said in the winner’s circle.
Lee Collins would hold on for the second spot, third was Timmy Moore, fourth went to Dwayne Dempsey and rounding out the top five was Bobby Baldwin.
1 JOHN SARPPRAICONE JR 88 2 LEE COLLINS 89 3 TIMMY MOORE 57 4 DWAYNE DEMPSEY 6 5 BOBBY BALDWIN 4 6 RALPH BOWMAN 2 7 TATE PIERCE 81 8 GARY SOUTHLAND 39 9 ERIC RUDD 12 10 ROBERT CRISP-R 75 11 PAT NANNEY 60 12 RICHARD SHEPHERD 8X 13 WAYNE JEFFERSON 61X 14 BRAD BISCHOFF-R 53 15 JOHN SARPPRAICONE X90 16 WAYNE BOWMAN 74X 17 ROBBIE COOPER 98X 18 SEAN MCLAUGHLIN 99 19 JOHN ROGERS 2R 20 DUSTIN CHISHOLM 23 21 BARRY CARLSON 3 22 LB SKAGGS 71
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1 JEROME WATLAND 31 2 JAMES CRAWFORD JR 34 3 RICK GERMONY 8 4 JOHN STEWART 02 5 CHARLES STEVENS 74 6 MICHAEL CROOKS 33 7 KENNY GIBSON 23 8 LARRY BRANNON 18 9 TODD JACOBS 44 10 JEFF TAYLOR 70
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