• September 23, 2014

Backseat Driver: Old friends return to Texas Thunder for reunion

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Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 11:45 am, Mon Nov 5, 2012.

We all know the reason that former Texas Thunder Speedway IMCA Modified champions P.J. Egbert and Keith White came home Saturday night.

It was because they needed a place to race. Both drivers are competing at Kennedale Speedway Park this year, most

likely because the car count is higher and that helps bonus points-wise when you're chasing the national championship, or it might be because that's where their sponsors want them to race.

It certainly can't be that TTS is considered inferior, because no one in their right mind could think that.

But, whatever the reason, once Kennedale rained out along with many other Texas tracks, there were murmurs we might see them.

Neither driver won the modified feature race or posed a threat. White, racing out of Academy and leading the national standings, had his 1 car bumped off turn four and didn't return, while

Egbert, running second nationally in his Kempner-based 707, stayed the course and wound up no. 13 of a 20-car field, gaining seven points on White.

Rounding out the top gun triad was Pflugerville's Ben Ketteman, who was cruising along when his engine let go, causing him to coast into the infield, his night done. To add insult to injury, third-ranked Ketteman saw his 37 car's driveshaft lying in the dirt.

Up front, it was a see-saw battle between Taylor's Hardy Henderson, who had led since lap four, but gave up his advantage momentarily to both Round Rock driver Mike McCarthy and Cham Savage, Jr. of Lampasas, who was racing on a pillow after suffering a broken tailbone last week.

After reclaiming his lead for the final time, Henderson, a former track champion, outlasted Savage to the finish line, for his first win "in about a year and half," he said.

That's how Works of Arts Cakes night ended after starting with a bang.

Once the green flag waved to start the main event, the top three running up front were Jacob Sakhnini and Chris Florio of Copperas Cove, followed by Kempner driver Dave Meadows. Lap six saw Florio take his car to the outside of Sakhnini, but then everything stopped.

Taylor driver Duane Toyne, making his first appearance at TTS this year, had something go terribly wrong, because his car flipped and came to rest wheels down. Toyne was okay after being checked out by paramedics and was seen hauling his scarred ride out the gate.

On the restart, Florio jacked it up and ran away to win his third straight.

Next out were the Automax IMCA Southern SportMods and what began as a Michael Guenat runaway turned into the night's closest finish in more ways than one.

After Guenat pulled off with mechanical issues, David Goode, Jr. had spurred the 7G car to an eight-length lead after passing the leader seven laps in. Goode was hard pressed by points leader Trevor Egbert and when the two came down the home stretch, they were dead even. Goode found a little extra and edged Egbert by .064 of a second, or about the thickness of a silver dollar.

The winner's euphoria was short lived, though, when the tower radio crackled with a message that David Jr. had been disqualified for not reporting to the tech stand to undergo post race inspection. Egbert was declared the winner and adds 40 points to his bank.

In the Texas Twister main, it was another runaway win for the 10H of Harker Heights driver Ricky Hardcastle, but a little drama showed up later when the Goode Towing Outlaw Twisters hit the track.

Act 1: Austin Smith of Lampasas, only won by five car lengths over Killeen racer Brian Bagent, instead of his usual 20 or so.

Act 2: Kempner driver Tommy Hultz, who, if it wasn't for bad luck would have no luck at all, didn't catch on fire, but did wind up in a hard crash at the turn four fence, leaving with its front wheels hooked on the guard rail halfway up in the air. Apparently, a spectator was shaken up by the impact, but was okay.

There's a reason why we harp all the time about not being close to the fence during a race. Maybe that will get people's attention.

Another old friend made it back for the Dan Corbin and Associates IMCA Stock Car action and we also made a new acquaintance.

Once the lineup was announced, it was another 1-2-3 setup, with national points leader J.C. Howell showing up from the Dallas area, trying to hold his lead over second-ranked White, the defending national champion. It was a homecoming for Matt Guillaume, a former TTS regular, who now races at Kennedale after a job-related move to north Texas.

All that being said, the feature race turned into what it often does ... a duel between Jason Batt and Eric Jones.

Batt, competing in Guillaume's backup car after destroying his 9J at Boyd a few weeks ago, had the lead after five circuits, but Jones was methodically reeling in the leader and by lap 13, the two were running side by side without a paint flake being disturbed.

That went on for three laps until Jones took over and brought the 84X to a stop in Victory Lane, followed by his usual fence-climbing high fives for friends and family.

White wound up in second, with Batt taking third, Guillaume fourth and Howell finished in 11th place.

The IMCA Hobby Stock feature race found Waco-area driver Robert Scrivner parking his car in the winner's circle after a flag-to-flag run to pay dirt. That was it for the points-paying races, but we can't forget another group of drivers who competed.

At intermission, the annual Kids Power Wheels races continued a Texas Thunder Mother's Day tradition with three separate age groups. In the three and under bunch, two-year old Liam Egbert took the checkered flag, while Daphne Batt, 4, won the 4-6 feature and Jeffrey Bauser, 7, was tops in the 10 and under age group.

Want to bet we'll see these kids racing for real in the future? Events like this make me feel very optimistic bout the future of stock car racing in Killeen. See ya at the track.

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