By Jean Lynch
TAMPA, Fla. — I’ve been driving for 27 years and I’ve won some big ones, but it’s been a while,” explained Ray Guss, Jr. standing in victory lane Saturday night at East Bay Raceway Park beside a five-foot trophy and the big check declaring him the eighth different winner of the 8th Annual Open Wheel Modified Winternationals.
The finale to the four-night stand was a 75-lapper and once again in this series, the race played out to a surprise finish, with four lead changes and Guss making his winning move with three laps to go.
Driving a brand new RC (Robert Crump) House Car powered by a used engine, Guss was quick to point out, “I was going backwards early in the race because I was way too tight. Last year, I came here for the first time with a Hoosier A on the right rear and finished fourth. This year I stuck with D’s and that worked out better late in the race.” His crew, Bobby and Joe made very little changes on his Massey Auto Sales sponsored No. 112.
The Peoria, Illinois past track champion had previously won big races at Little Rock and Burlington, but as he sampled the fresh strawberries after his interview, it was clear that he and his friends had waited a long time for a big victory like this one.
Steve Arpin, the only Canadian in the field, who spun out while leading a preliminary race, also came on late and went high entering the turn and used his momentum to take second spot away from Joey Jensen on the white flag lap. Piloting a new Larry Shaw chassis, Arpin had to go with a 360 engine after blowing up his good engine earlier in the week.
Arpin’s long list of sponsors include Shaw Chassis, New Vision Graphics, Afco, BSB Manufacturing, Hess Technology, Fast Shafts, Comp Cams, Schoenfeld Headers, Action Engineering and Reich Concrete. His father Chuck and Joey Galloway made up his pit crew and following the race, the talk was all about heading to Phoenix for the next big race.
The top six in points accumulated during the week were locked in and supposed to draw for their starting order. Ironically, the top six, Kevin Weaver, Raymond Rogers, Guss, Jeff Leka, Jeff Mathews and Jamie Burrows all drew the same order as their points.
It was outside pole sitter Rogers who jumped to a five-car length lead early and started to lap cars by lap ten. He did a masterful job when he came upon two slower cars running side-by-side on lap 18 and actually managed to split them coming off turn four to continue leading lap 19 when the first caution was displayed for flames on William Harrison’s car. Fifth starting Mathews was up to second and took the lead away from Rogers on lap 22. Weaver, who had dropped to third, moved to second using an inside move on Rogers and started to pressure Mathews.
Weaver had a strong run off the inside groove coming off turn four to lead lap 41. With Weaver leading, Mathews in second and Jensen holding off Rogers for third on lap 45, the yellow came out for Stan Donahoo who spun in turn four. This turned into a red flag fuel stop.
When the green replaced the red, Weaver continued to lead despite three more yellow flags before lap 70. However, it was a broken right front suspension that perhaps robbed Weaver of a chance to become the only repeat winner of this event. The incident sent Weaver pitside with Jensen inheriting the lead. After just two laps, Guss made his winning move on lap 72. One lap later Arpin slipped into second and Rogers, despite losing a shock in the first half of the race, charged back into third.
Jensen and Mathews had top five finishes with Dave Groves, Junior Nolan, Todd Gilpin, Nicholas Allen and Shawn Peterson rounding out the top ten.
Kenny Carlson and Chad Ogle advanced from the lst C-Main, while Tyler Ivey and Arby Burton moved up from the 2nd C-Main. Donahoo and Rob Fuqua moved to the A-Main from the 1st B-Main and Shawn Peterson and Harrison earned their way to the A-Main from the 2nd B-Main.
The format called for two provisionals. Devin Dixon was a past champion and started 23rd and Matt Miller was added as the highest East Bay regular that did not qualify for the A-Main. The field was expanded to 26 cars when track owners Al Varnadore and Todd Hutto added two Indiana drivers, Mike Sullivan and Kenny Carlson, who had their cars stolen and by the time the equipment was recovered, they had missed two nights of point racing.
STATS – OPEN WHEELMODIFIEDS – EAST BAY RACEWAY PARK – SATURDAY, 2/17/07
Top 6 in Points are Locked into A Main – 1)Kevin Weaver 2)Raymond Rogers 3)Ray Guss, Jr. 4)Jeff Leka 5)Jeff Mathews 6)Jamie Burrows
1st Heat – 1)Roger Crouse 2)Jesse Bitterling 3)Nate Bregenzer 4)Rob Fuqua 5)Kent Robinson 6)Kenny Carlson 7)Mike Spatola, III 8)Anthony Huber
2nd Heat – 1)Steve Arpin 2)Dakotah Stephens 3)Steven Miller 4)Kurt Allison 5)Jason Jameson 6)Brandon Carlson 7)Bob Johnston
3rd Heat – 1)Joey Jensen 2)Justin Carlson 3)Brad DeYoung 4)Perry Burk 5)Dano Ostrander 6)Chad Ogle 7)Charles Patrick DNS
4th Heat – 1)Wayne Hammond 2)Thomas Sigler 3)Stan Donahoo 4)Shane Cottle 5)Ron Miller 6)Dennis Haven 7)Matt Miller
5th Heat – 1)Denny Schwartz 2)Devin Dixon 3)Mark Whitener 4)Brandon Morrow 5)Asa Hovis 6)Matt Goulden 7)Ron Burgess
6th Heat – 1)Todd Gilpin 2)Shawn Peterson 3)Billy Tuckwell 4)Ken Myracle 5)Rick Hensley 6)Tyler Ivey 7)Tim Rivers
7th Heat – 1)Dave Groves 2)William Harrison 3)Rick Conoyer 4)Mark Dotson 5)Matt Dillon 6)Scott Carlson 7)Frank Marshall
8th Heat – 1)Junior Nolan 2)Dave Cain 3)Nick Nelson 4)Travis Hair 5)Jason Lakey 6)Arby Burton 7)Tex Erskine
9th Heat – 1)Nicholas Allen 2)Corey Conley 3)Brian Hollifield 4)Bobby Bittle 5)David Boerner 6)Bobby Alexander, Jr. 7)Tony Molnar
10th Heat – 1)Brady Short 2)David Schmauss 3)Mike Potosley 4)Marty Hiser 5)Darrell George 6)Terry Haven 7)Mike Sullivan
1st C – Main (Top 2 go to back of 1st B) – 1)Kenny Carlson 2)Chad Ogle 3)Mike Spatola, III 4)Brandon Carlson 5)Bob Johnston 6)Dennis Haven 7)Matt Miller 8)Ron Burgess 9)Matt Goulden DNS 10)Anthony Huber DNS 11)Charles Patrick DNS
2nd C – Main (Top 2 go to back of 2nd B) – 1)Tyler Ivey 2)Arby Burton 3)Frank Marshall 4)Tim Rivers 5)Mike Sullivan 6)Scott Carlson 7)Terry Haven 8)Tony Molnar 9)Bobby Alexander, Jr. 10)Tex Erskine
1st B – Main (Top 3 go to back of A inside row) – 1)Stan Donahoo 2)Rob Fuqua 3)Thomas Sigler 4)Jason Jameson 5)Justin Carlson 6)Perry Burk 7)Jesse Bitterling 8)Dano Ostrander 9)Mark Whitener 10)Kurt Allison 11)Steven Miller 12)Dakotah Stephens 13)Brandon Morrow 14)Kent Robinson 15)Chad Ogle 16)Nate Bregenzer 17)Devin Dixon 18)Asa Hovis 19)Ron Miller 20)Kenny Carlson 21)Brad DeYoung 22)Shane Cottle
2nd B – Main (Top 3 go to back of A outside row) – 1)Shawn Peterson 2)William Harrison 3)Dave Cain 4)Bobby Bittle 5)Billy Tuckwell 6)Mike Potoskey 7)Rick Hensley 8)Arby Burton 9)Nick Nelson 10)Travis Hair 11)Jason Lakey 12)David Schmauss 13)Brian Hollifield 14)David Boerner 15)Tyler Ivey 16)Corey Conley 17)Marty Hiser 18)Matt Dillon 19)Ken Myracle 20)Rick Conoyer 21)Darrell George 22)Mark Dotson
2 Provisionals – 1)Devin Dixon (Past Champion) 2)Matt Miller (Highest in points for East Bay)
A – Main (75 Laps) – 1)Ray Guss, Jr. 2)Steve Arpin 3)Raymond Rogers 4)Joey Jensen 5)Jeff Mathews 6)Dave Groves 7)Junior Nolan 8)Todd Gilpin 9)Nicholas Allen 10)Shawn Peterson 11)James Burrows 12)Dave Cain 13)Thomas Sigler 14)Stan Donahoo 15)Roger Crouse 16)Kevin Weaver 17)Devin Dixon 18)Matt Miller 19)Brady Short 20)Denny Schwartz 21)Rob Fuqua 22)William Harrison 23)Wayne Hammond 24)Mike Sullivan 25)Kenny Carlson 26)Jeff Leka DQ’d