History was made at Texas Thunder Speedway Saturday night.
In the hallowed oval's 38-year history, never had the American Sprint Car Series Gulf South Region drivers made a tour stop in Killeen, and the 20-car field didn't disappoint the SRO crowd which packed the grandstands.
These cars are similar to the World of Outlaws design, in fact one driver told me that this class is a fertile training ground for the TV favorites. Pure and simple, the cars must be push-started, there's no gear box, you're either in warp drive or stopped. Each car has a wing to help downforce, since they might take off, being pushed by 800 horsepower on a 1,200-pound frame ... and they are LOUD!
After a three-wide salute to the fans, it didn't take long once the field went green for the thrills and even a spill to get folks attention.
On the first turn, Josh Hodges of Tijerina, N.M., flipped his 74X butt-over-teakettle. He was OK, but the car will need some work before racing again.
After that, the feature went mishap-free, turning into a battle between two drivers from Alvin. Travis Elliott got a big jump on the restart, but by lap 14 of 25, he had been reeled in by Michael McNeil, who bounced off Elliott and outlasted the field to pick up his first ASCS main event victory.
It's events like this that have raised the bar at TTS under third-year promoter David Goode. We had the biggest crowd I've seen in a long while. We noticed many new fans and a lot of old faces that haven't been around lately. This place is going great guns.
We always ask the fans to predict how many caution flags will wave during the Street Stock main and we saw as many as 10 fingers raised. It wasn't like that at all this time.
Once Cove's Chris Florio got his car cranked up, it took him three circuits to pull ahead of race leader Cory Stepan, but Florio had to be thinking, "Where's Gary Norman," the master of last-second passes to win.
Going for his second-straight win, Chris saw Norman pull into the second spot with eight to go, but Florio was able to hold his lead and get the win. Only one caution flag, by the way.
It was another two-fer for the Florio family, since Chris' daughter Taylor won the Junior
MiniStock feature a night earlier at Heart O'Texas Speedway in Elm Mott.
When the IMCA Stock Cars lined up and went racing, Waco driver Adam Schwarz had his car fired up under a full head of steam and was running away after five laps. Six circuits later, defending track champion Jason Batt, driving a backup car owned by former TTS driver Matt Guillaume, managed a pass on Schwarz and pulled into Victory Lane.
But, that wasn't the end of the story.
During a post-race inspection, Batt's ride was found to be too light. He was disqualified and Schwarz, who had finished second, was awarded the win.
Later, the only drama involving the IMCA Southern SportMods was who won it.
After the 2011 season was done, Killeen driver Randy Doyle announced he was retiring from weekly competition and selling all his gear. Like Michael Jordan and other athletes who can't shake the competitive bug, Randy has been unretired for three weeks now and drove to the Winner's Circle in a caution-free run.
Two cars with No. 10 on their doors figured in the Texas Twister feature race.
Harker Heights driver Daniel Reed was leading in the 84D early, when he was rubbed by Kempner's Chris Bruner in his silver 10, putting Reed off his line. Bruner led until lap six when the black 10H of Heights racer Ricky Hardcastle took over the top spot and rolled into the Winner's Circle.
In the Outlaw Twisters, Lampasas driver Austin Smith was never challenged from the git-go, winning in a runaway, a nice birthday present for his mom, Joy Smith (age classified).
Temple driver Jarrett Roberts had his car in control during the early-going of the IMCA Hobby Stock main, but watched his lead evaporate on lap six when Belton's Charles Cosper went around him. Lap 10 saw Andy Roller of Bellmead pass Cosper on the outside, and while both drivers were sprinting for the checkered flag, Cosper went way low in turn four and was momentarily tangled up with a lapped car, giving Roller the winning cushion.
As the clock struck midnight, several hundred chilled fans were still in the house, watching the IMCA Modifieds line up.
When the green flag waved, Round Rock driver Mike McCarthy had things going his way for the first eight laps.
Then, coming out of turn three, McCarthy went up and over the banking. It was impossible to tell if he had help from a lapped car he was passing, or if it was a mechanical issue, but the lead was taken over by Lampasas racer Cham Savage Jr. A caution flag with five to go bunched up the field and Savage had to fight off hard-charging Pat McGuire for his first win in several tries.
At night's end, my announcing partner Sarge Masom and I sat there for a minute, totally spent. This was the kind of race program you love to call. The excitement never let up.
Let's do it again ... after all, Demolition Derby I is coming up this week.
See ya at the track!