Who would take the IMCA Modified feature at Texas Thunder Saturday night? You really couldn’t tell, even up to the final turn.
It was that close.
Early drama saw Ben Ketteman scoot his car between Hardy Henderson and his nephew, Jake Henderson, to grab the lead on lap 3, which Ketteman held until the 11th circuit. By then, he had bounced off the 39b of Don Banker, which slowed Ketteman just enough to allow second-place P.J. Egbert to ease into the top spot.
For the next nine laps, Egbert, racing out of Kempner, was in a running battle with his cousin J.P. Dowell, and as the pair turned for home, Egbert put on a burst of speed to barely get under the checkered flag ahead of Dowell, giving the former national modified champion another win.
He wasn’t the only member of one of the top racing families in this dirt- track game to taste victory.
Another Egbert cousin, G.W. Egbert IV, chased down his cousin-in-law, Brittany McElroy, who is P.J. Egbert’s significant other and is driving better than we’ve ever seen her do, as she was leading the IMCA Southern SportMod main event. It took him seven laps to catch up, but overtake her he did. After weathering a caution on lap 13, G.W jumped away again and drove straight to the Winner’s Circle.
In his post-race interview, like so many racers have, the Belton-based Egbert lamented the track’s imminent demise on Aug. 31, promising to make his final season here the best he can and pull together as many wins as possible.
That victory was one of many for Egbert, but another driver got his first of the year at Texas Thunder when the IMCA Stock Cars hit the track.
After 17 laps, Gatesville driver Melvin Burrows was up front in his No. 56, with Jason Batt right on his rear bumper. After a caution came out as a result of John Frydrych hitting the turn four fence, Batt took a momentary lead, but on the race’s final corner, Burrows flew down the front straightaway to edge Batt by 0.164 seconds.
Once the IMCA Hobby Stock feature got rolling good, it turned into the Andy Roller show. Roller, ranked second nationally, got his Bellmead-based car around leader Paul Scrivner midrace and after a restart, jumped ahead and made the win look easy.
It was pretty much the same story for Killeen’s Brian Bagent in the Texas Twister A-main. Bagent started from the pole and that was all she wrote. He quickly increased his lead to a full straightaway, and on circuit six, turned a quarter mile in 17.399 seconds, good enough for an extra $25 in the Fastest Lap contest.
Likewise, Harker Heights racer Stephanie Henderson had no problems at all, as the Outlaw Twisters ran off their feature without a problem. Henderson was out front from the git-go and won going away.
In all my years at Texas Thunder, the Street Stock feature had been first on the feature race card, but Saturday found them in the spotlight slot, running last.
The change was made by officials, who were concerned that approaching bad weather might keep the sanctioned classes from getting their races in. Since several locals are running hard in the national points chase and promoter David Goode didn’t want them to lose points, the call was made.
As so often happens, the race began with a three-car tangle in turn four on the first lap. Once that was cleaned up, Kelvin Harper took over, but was getting pressure from Chris Cockrell’s truck by lap five. One circuit later, Cockrell made an inside pass on Harper for the lead, but was keeping a wary eye on the 21 of multitime winner Chris Florio, but Florio pulled off with mechanical trouble, leaving Cockrell a little breathing room up front, but he was getting hard pressure by now from 65-year old Dave Meadows in the car he’s now calling the “Old-mobile.”
Joking aside, it was Cockrell, who runs arguably the most competitive truck ever seen at Texas Thunder, parked in Victory Lane.
After a day of constant watching the weather and hoping we’d get the races in, our fans were rewarded with some of the finest competition ever at Killeen’s most venerable sporting venue, a place most of us thought would be eternal, like the pyramids or my mother-in-law’s complaints over how I drive.
But the clock has ticked down to 13 race nights left, before Goode pulls that master switch for the last time, plunging the best little race track in Texas into eternal darkness.
Come on out before it’s too late.