It must have been in the back of IMCA Stock Car followers' minds that things might come down to this.
Each year on Memorial Day weekend Saturday, there's not one, but two events involving these full-bodied beasts during the Willie Palmer Memorial Race observance at Texas Thunder Speedway. As expected by many, it was Eric Jones of Killeen and Harker Heights driver Jason Batt at the forefront of each.
When the I-Stock feature went green, former track promoter Pat Wilson led the first five circuits, but Jones, pushing his 84x like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred, scrambled into the lead a lap later. By lap 11, Batt had pulled into the second spot and the showdown was on.
With no cautions to slow things down, Jones, who brushed a lapped car on lap 19, was able to edge Batt by 1¼ seconds, after last week's tie.
Much later, when several I-Stockers came back out for their annual King of the Hill tournament, the last pair left after a series of two-lap runs was..you guessed it.
After a quick start, Batt kept Jones at bay and collected a year's worth of bragging rights after an exciting two-lap sprint.
Those throwdowns weren't the only excitement on Dan Corbin and Associates night, not by a long shot.
The card's final points-paying race had 20 Harold's Used Cars and Parts IMCA Modifieds lined up, eight of which had to qualify through a B-Main. When the green flag waved, it was Lee Chasse's 49 car and the 19 of George Lamphere, Jr. who were both running their strongest races in a while, running one-two.
Chasse led the first 10 laps and it looked like he might take this one, but the 911 of Abilene driver Josh Magaha, who started 12th, was steadily moving forward and passed Chasse on the inside with eight to go. Magaha weathered a lap 13 yellow, then got a stout restart and went on to win for the second time at Texas Thunder.
In the Automax IMCA Southern SportMod feature, Gatesville driver Sid Kiphen was going for a weekend double, after scoring a win Friday at Heart O'Texas Speedway in Elm Mott. Kiphen's 58, along with the 65 of Killeen's Randy Doyle and the 5R of Waco-area driver Ricky Rodriguez were chasing Salado's George Egbert III for the first 14 circuits.
Kiphen saw an opening on lap 14, diving down to pass Egbert on the inside, then held off the crowd to score his second win in two nights.
Belton racer Charles Cosper also scored a second-straight win, but his were separated by a week, both coming in the Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home IMCA Hobby Stock main event at TTS. Cosper's 33C and the 6 of Temple driver Jarrett Roberts dueled for the first five laps, before Cosper, who was the Grate Photography Driver of the Week, pulled away and rode into Victory Lane.
Two in a row is a great showing, but how about five-straight wins? Could Street Stock star Chris Florio pull that off?
The Budget Wrench-A-Part-sponsored feature race lost five cars to wrecks and mechanical issues before one lap was registered. Florio and points leader Tristan Carman battled for three laps with Florio's 21 car leading.
When the checkered flag waved, only six cars of the 15 which started were still running and Florio had a full-straightaway lead..plenty enough to post his fifth-straight trip to the Winner's Circle.
Another repeat winner turned out to be the no. 10 of Kempner's Chris Bruner, who won the Budweiser Racing Texas Twister main in a runaway.
Kelvin Harper of Harker Heights was top gun in the Goode Towing and Auto Repair Outlaw Twister feature, keeping his 1 car ahead of Brian Bagent's no. 45 by four lengths at the finish.
As race nights go, it was fairly quiet..meaning nobody turned over or hit the fence...a perfect way to head into Memorial Day, which reminds me..
I hope you pick an observance and attend it. They're being held in most area cities. I'm honored to be asked once again to emcee the one at the Central Texas State Veteran's Cemetery. The time has been changed this year to 9 a.m.
This day is to honor those who gave all that we might remain free in the greatest country on Earth.
Please join us.
See ya at the track!