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Jeff Matthews takes opening night win at Ocala Speedway

Jeff Matthews
Jeff Matthews

As the UMP Modifieds made their way onto Ocala Speedway for their feature race, the fans were well aware that a contingent of Florida racers were well positioned in the field, and that they had ample experience with the odd layout and sticky clay that makes Ocala so tough to tame. But earlier the out of town bunch had held the locals at bay, as Mike Spatola of Manhattan Illinois, and Todd Sherman of Chuizubusco Indiana, nabbed heat race wins.

But that was as much hospitality as the Florida gang was ready to extend, as Kyle Bronson jumped to an early lead in the 20 lap feature and Jeff Mathews quickly fought his way to third place. A mechanical issue caused Bronson to struggle, then retire, which moved Todd Sherman into the lead with Mathews right behind him. Todd Neiheiser of Panama City, Florida, held the third spot as Alachua, Florida’s Dave Barber advanced himself within the top five. Barber would also fall victim to a mechanical issue later in the race, as other Florida racers moved up to fill the gap left when Barber turned into the infield.

Jeff Mathews had spent the previous week struggling at the other end of the Ocala National Forest during modified racing at Volusia Speedway Park, and the two time modified champion at Ocala had something to prove to everyone who was watching. Mathews found his way around Sherman and began to stretch his legs, and Leesburg, Florida’s Garret Stewart battled his way to third place.

Despite some cautions that slowed the field and took away his sizable leads, Jeff Mathews made the trip from Tampa worthwhile by scoring a convincing victory at Ocala. Garret Stewart claimed the second spot and was followed by Todd Neiheiser to make it a one-two-three Florida finish for the night. Liberty Illinois’ David Weitholder was fourth, followed by Todd Sherman.

The Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals continue on Friday night as both the USAC sprints and the UMP Modifieds will again challenge Ocala Speedway to the delight of excited race fans. The grandstand gates will open at 4PM with racing slated to begin at 7:30PM, and fans will again have the option to visit the working pit area pre race by getting and presenting a special pass out card at the gate. For more information on the Bubba Army Sprint Car Nationals, or to see the complete early season schedule for America’s Dirt Track, please visit www.OcalaSpeedway.com, or call the track at 352-622-9400.

Ocala Speedway Results for 2/17/11
UMP Modifieds, Night 1
1- 33 Jeff Mathews
2- 67 Garret Stewart
3- 72 Todd Neiheiser
4- 05 David Wietholder
5- 65 Todd Sherman
6- 89 Mike Spatola
7- D4 Dave Jamison
8- 12 Jason Miller
9- 1S Keith Smith
10- 07 Jeff Thomas
11- 11 Chuck Gustafson Jr.
12- 1K Scott Kurtzner
13- 56 Dave Barber Jr.
14- 21 Gary Brooks
15- 99 Jim Passino
16- 40B Kyle Bronson
17- 18 David McWilliams
18- 271 Rich Pratt