I guess you could say Josh Magaha stole the thunder at Texas Thunder Speedway on Saturday night.
After parking in Victory Lane a week ago, then having his win stripped due to an illegal rev-limiter chip, the Abilene-based IMCA Modified ace said he’d be back, and like Gen. McArthur in World War II, Magaha did return and did win the war.
When more than 24 modifieds show up — and there were 27 signed in — the top three finishers from each of four heat races transfer to the feature, then a 15-lap qualifying race known as a B-Main is run, where 12 more cars get their tickets punched.
Magaha was fourth in his heat and had to come up through the last-chance qualifier, which put him starting the A-main in 13th spot. His odyssey was just beginning, though.
After spinning out with help and causing a caution flag, the Abilene Speedway track champion restarted at the rear and slowly worked his car forward, moving up to second spot with seven to go and overtaking Killeen-based race leader Doug Lorenz two laps later to forge ahead and complete his worst-to-first winning run. It was Magaha’s fifth trip to Killeen in 2012 and third win that counts.
This was one of the most amazing displays of driving skill and patience I’ve seen in my 15 years at the track, which qualifies Magaha for the seldom-given Joey Award for hard-charging excellence.
It was the same deal, same situation when 30 Street Stocks registered, calling for a B-Main in that class as well. Once the field was set and the green flag waved, a four-lap dogfight between Kempner driver Jeremy Adkins and Leander’s Gene Burnett was going on, until the fifth circuit.
That’s when Killeen racer Tristan Carman, who started 10th, passed on the inside and took over the top spot. Carman, recently named Street Stock Rookie of the Year, watched four cars get wadded up, which bunched the field, and on the restart had to contend with Nolanville’s Gary Norman, who had pushed to second after starting ninth and is a master of late-lap heroics.
This time, it was Carman’s show, as he pulled onto the Winner’s Circle for the second time this season, where his crew, family and friends unfurled a banner proclaiming his class championship.
It’s been quite a year for the 16-year-old phenom. Not only has he earned the class title and rookie honors, but he was inducted into the Real Nascar Young Guns Hall of Fame and became the third generation of his family to win the Street Stock championship, alongside his father Tim Jr. in 2009 and grandfather Tim Carman Sr. in the early 1990s. I can’t see any limits for this young’un.
More milestones were etched by the 128 teams in the house and one came in the IMCA Stock Car main event when Lampasas driver Austin Smith showed his stuff.
Smith, who started from the pole, saw Harker Heights driver Jason Batt go around him four laps in, but a lap-nine snozzle involving Pat Wilson, Tony Hamil and Michael Crandall in turn four stopped things in midstream.
On the restart, Smith began reeling in Batt, making a right-side pass with five to go and opening up a straightaway lead, reminding fans of his runaway wins in the Outlaw Twister class. It was Smith’s first-ever I-Stock victory.
Another driver also got his first win, but the ending was bittersweet.
Backed by his loudly cheering fan club, known as the Margarita Mamas, Copperas Cove’s Stacy Robinette battled Michaela Beatty of Belton for early leadership of the Texas Twister feature race. Robinette edged by Beatty on lap six for the top spot, but had to fend off Jesse Johnson the rest of the way.
Robinette got his first career victory, but the cheers turned to dismay once claim court went into session. The first-time winner saw his car bought out from under him for $500, which means he’s got six days to build another. Rumors are that Robinette is moving up to Hobby Stocks in 2013, leaving fans to wonder if he’ll return this week.
All season long, IMCA Hobby Stock action at TTS has pretty much been the private preserve of Belton driver Charles Cosper, who pulled off another gutsy move at the beginning of the class’s main event. He bulled between Temple’s Damian Snyder and Jarrett Roberts going into the race’s third turn and kept the lead all the way to his 12th win of the season and fifth in a row.
Gatesville driver Sid Kiphen showed he can also thread a needle in his IMCA Southern SportMod, making his play on lap four of the feature race. Kiphen was chasing Kempner racer Colton Monroe for the lead, when he squeezed between Monroe and Killeen’s Randy Doyle. That was all it took for Kiphen to gain the point and bring it in for his 10th trip to Victory Lane.
Ricky Hardcastle of Harker Heights led the Outlaw Twister main event after lap four and kept the heat on en route to his second stop in the Winner’s Circle.
There’s just one more points night to go at TTS and that’s this Saturday, when we officially crown our champs.
Speaking of Saturday, there’ll be a Race of Champions and, last but not least, the annual Employees Race, where the track workers try to con drivers into giving up their cars for 10 laps, give or take, so fans can get a good laugh, especially when my partner Sarge Masom tries to show he’s as good at racing as he is at talking.
I’m laughing already.
See ya at the track!