ECKERT WINS IN ATOMIC THRILLER
KNOXVILLE, TN - Defending United Dirt Track Racing Association Pro DirtCar Series Champion Rick Eckert of York, PA took a close win on Friday night in the opening race of the 3rd Annual UDTRA Southeastern Triple Crown at Atomic Motor Speedway.
Eckert took a half car-length victory over Duayne Hommel of Newport, TN in the 50-lap main event to post his fifth win of the year.
While collecting the $10,000 top prize in the Raye Vest Rocket/Cornett Taurus, Eckert also took over the UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series point lead over Dale McDowell of Rossville, GA by 72 points. McDowell had a mechanical problem with his Larry Shaw Race Cars Rocket/Custom Grand Prix and finished 20th.
The last ten laps of the race saw the top six cars battling for position. Eckert had his hands full of Patrick Duggan of Lenoir City, TN in the D&R Construction GRT/B&B Grand Prix and Hommel in the Miller Brothers Coal Warrior/Pro Power Monte Carlo.
Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN in the Goddard Performance Warrior/Custom Grand Prix had an earlier battle with Hommel for the third spot, and Earl Pearson Jr. of Jacksonville, FL in the Lucas Oil/Dunn-Benson Ford Rocket/Eatmon Taurus battled with Scott Sexton of Pigeon Forge, TN in the D&S Builders Mastersbilt/Custom Grand Prix for the fifth spot.
With two laps to go, the top three cars raced into turn one three-wide with Duggan on the inside, Eckert in the middle, and Hommel on the outside. Duggan's right-front clipped Eckert's left rear, which slowed Duggan's momentum enough for Hommel to take the second spot.
Hommel tried to battle Eckert on the outside, but the lapped car of Randy Korte of Highland, IL kept him behind the leader. On the last lap, Hommel was able to squeeze between Eckert and Korte's Mid-Continental Fuel Rocket/Pro Power Grand Prix in turn three.
As they came off the fourth turn for the checkered flag, Eckert and Hommel banged sheet metal all the down to the checkered flag, with Eckert taking the win by less than a half car-length.
As Eckert pulled his car into victory lane, members of Hommel's pit crew rushed in and started a confrontation with Eckert, which UDTRA officials quickly disbursed. UDTRA officials will review the situation next week and could possibly issue a penalty to Hommel for the actions of his crew.
Following Eckert and Hommel under the checkered flag were Duggan in third, Johnson finished fourth, Pearson ended up fifth, and Sexton settled for sixth.
"These local guys know this track well, and gave me all I could handle all night long," Eckert said. "Duggan raced me clean for the whole race, but Hommel must like to beat and bang because it always seems like we trade sheet metal every time we race him."
One of those tough local drivers Eckert eluded to was Mark Douglas of Knoxville, TN, who finished seventh in the Smooth Cut Lawn Care GRT/Vic Hill Grand Prix. Skip Arp of Georgetown, TN took the eighth spot in the Charter Communications GRT/Gaerte Grand Prix.
Steve Francis of Ashland, KY was ninth in the Valvoline/Mopar Parts Rocket/Stanton Intrepid, and Jimmy Mars of Elk Mound, WI rounded out the top ten in the Jimmy Mars Racing Mastersbilt/Pro Power Monte Carlo.
The evening started out with a two-hour rain delay just before hot laps, but when the main event got going, Eckert took the lead at the drop of the green flag, followed by Duggan, Douglas, Johnson, and Randy Weaver of Crossville, TN in the Weaver Racing Warrior/Cheek Monte Carlo.
Duggan scraped the frontstretch wall on lap three, but kept going, and Johnson passed Douglas for the third spot on lap six. The first caution flag of the race came out on lap nine when Steven Harrison of Spring City, TN stalled his Volunteer Trucking GRT/Cornett Taurus in turn three.
Duggan tried the inside line on Eckert to challenge for the lead on the restart, but Eckert kept the point, as Duggan's car picked up a push in the middle of the turns. Behind Eckert, Duggan, Johnson and Douglas, a four car battle for the fifth spot was being waged among Weaver, Pearson, Hommel, and Sexton on lap 10.
Pearson and Hommel raced past Weaver for the fifth and sixth spots respectively on lap 14, as Weaver faded and dropped out on the 18th lap. Pearson and Hommel next raced past Douglas for the fourth and fifth spots on lap 22, and Sexton dropped Douglas back to seventh on lap 24.
The second and final caution flag of the race came out on lap 27 when Randle Chupp of Mooresville, NC in the Biscotti's Restaurant and Winery/Park Ohio Rocket/Draime Grand Prix tangled with H.E. Vineyard of Powell, TN in the Alan Poyner Warrior/Vic Hill Monte Carlo in turn three.
On the restart, it was Duggan again trying the inside of Eckert for the lead, while Hommel worked to the inside of Pearson to battle for fourth. Eckert was able to keep Duggan behind him, but Hommel and Pearson got together in turn three on lap 29, which knocked Pearson sideways, and Hommel took over the fourth spot. Pearson gathered up his car and only dropped to fifth.
Hommel chased down Johnson by lap 34, and began to challenge him for the third spot on lap 34. On lap 37, Duggan pulled along side Eckert down the backstretch, but Eckert was able hang on to the lead in lapped traffic. With ten laps to go, it was Eckert and Duggan battling for the lead, Johnson and Hommel battling for third spot, with Pearson and Sexton battling for fifth.
With five to go, Hommel cleared Johnson for third spot, and began to chase down Eckert and Duggan. They were three wide with two laps to go, when business picked up for the exciting finish with sheet metal flying and tempers flaring.
Four driver shared the $150 Advance Auto Parts Hard Charger of the Race Award. Arp started 14th and finished eighth, Marshall Green of Dalton, GA started 17th and finished 11th in the Barto Enterprises Rocket/Hatfield Monte Carlo, Anthony White of Clinton, TN started 22nd and finished 16th in the Stone Plus Warrior/Vic Hill Grand Prix, and Korte started 24th and finished 18th.
Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville, TN was the Lucas Oil Rookie of the Race finishing 12th in the Calhoun's Restaurant GRT/Clements Monte Carlo. Ogle moved ahead of Shane Tankersley of Morganton, GA in the Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year points chase by 21 points.
Sexton was the fast qualifier among the 48 entrants, turning the 1/3-mile high-banked clay oval in 12.278 seconds for an average speed of 97.736 miles per hour. Duggan won the first 12-lap heat to earn the pole position for the main event, and Eckert also picked up the Scott Performance Wire $50 Bonus Award with a second heat race win.
Douglas won the third heat, and Johnson took the $100 JE Pistons Bonus Award with a fourth heat race victory. Green won the first 12-lap Polaris ATVs Consolation Race, and the 1996 UDTRA Champion Freddy Smith of Knoxville, TN won the second 12-lap Polaris ATVs Consolation Race in the Christenberry Trucking and Farms Warrior/Custom Monte Carlo.
The next event for the Pro DirtCar Series will the second jewel of the UDTRA Southeastern Triple Crown on Saturday night at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, GA. The pit gate opens at 3 p.m., the front gate opens at 4 p.m., and UDTRA hot laps are scheduled for 6 p.m. The Dixie Speedway A and B Sportsmen, Super Bombers, and Econo Bombers will also be in action this Saturday night.
For race day and ticket information call Dixie Speedway at (770) 926-5315, or visit their web site at www.dixiespeedway.com. Dixie Speedway is located two miles west of I-575 on State Road 92.
The next UDTRA Dirty Thursday will air on August 1 at 11 p.m. ET with the 4th Annual Masters 75 from Cedar Lake Speedway. For the complete UDTRA SPEED Channel schedule and a direct feedback link, visit the UDTRA web site at www.udtra.com.
OFFICIAL RESULTS OF ROUND 24 AT ATOMIC MOTOR SPEEDWAY IN KNOXVILLE, TN ON 7/19/02:
POS STRT CAR # DRIVER HOMETOWN CAR LAPS $ WON
1. 2 24 Rick Eckert York, PA Ford 50 $10,900
2. 7 h2 Duayne Hommel Newport, TN Chev. 50 $6,000
3. 1 15 Patrick Duggan Lenoir City, TN Pont. 50 $3,000
4. 4 5 Ronnie Johnson Chattanooga, TN Pont. 50 $2,600
5. 5 1p Earl Pearson Jr. Jacksonville, FL Ford 50 $2,600
6. 9 52 Scott Sexton Pigeon Forge, TN Pont. 50 $1,800
7. 3 52d Mark Douglas Knoxville, TN Pont. 50 $1,600
8. 14 31 Skip Arp Georgetown, TN Pont. 50 $1,437
9. 12 1 Steve Francis Ashland, KY Dodge 50 $1,800
10. 11 28 Jimmy Mars Elk Mound, WI Chev. 50 $1,700
11. 17 89 Marshall Green Dalton, GA Chev. 50 $1,037
12. 10 201 Billy Ogle Jr. Knoxville, TN Chev. 50 $950
13. 13 53 Ray Cook Brasstown, NC Ford 50 $1,500
14. 19 4v Mark Vineyard Powell, TN Chev. 50 $875
15. 20 88 Petey Ivey Union, SC Chev. 50 $850
16. 22 2 Anthony White Clinton, TN Pont. 50 $862
17. 18 00 Freddy Smith Knoxville, TN Chev. 50 $1,400
18. 24 00k Randy Korte Highland, IL Pont. 49 $1,387
19. 23 99 Donnie Moran Dresden, OH Chev. 37 $1,300
20. 16 17m Dale McDowell Rossville, GA Pont. 35 $1,400
21. 15 114 Randle Chupp Mooresville, NC Pont. 32 $700
22. 8 24v H.E. Vineyard Powell, TN Chev. 26 $700
23. 6 116 Randy Weaver Crossville, TN Chev. 17 $700
24. 21 84 Steven Harrison Spring City, TN Ford 7 $700
PROVISIONALS: Moran (3) and Korte (7)
LEAD CHANGES: None
LAPS LED: Eckert, 1-50
ADVANCE AUTO PARTS HARD CHARGER: Arp, Green, White, and Korte
LUCAS OIL ROOKIE OF THE RACE: Ogle
TIME OF THE RACE: 19 Minutes and 21.430 Seconds
HARDEE'S SHOOTOUT INVITEES: Duggan, Sexton, Douglas, Ivey, H. Vineyard, and Weaver (Promoter's Choice)