It’s a group nobody wants to join, but occasionally a new member is inducted.
Welcome to Texas Thunder Speedway’s Tumbling Twister Club, Bill Hall.
Early in the Texas Twister feature race Saturday night, Hall, who races out of Killeen, appeared to go high on the back straightaway coming into turn three, and the next thing we saw was his car going over ... and over ... and over again, finally coming to rest wheels down. Word came quickly from the emergency crew that he was fine, which was confirmed moments later when he climbed up on the banking and waved to applauding fans.
Whew! I guess that’s like flying airplanes, where it’s said that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.
Once Hall and his car were packed back to their pit stall, racing resumed and it turned into a two-car run with Rick Saupp and Trevor Hudson going at it down to the final yards, where Saupp edged Hudson by one-thousandth of a second. Any closer and it would have been a dead-even tie.
The Twisters are called an entry-level class ... maybe so, but those two were serious.
Another close finish came in the Street Stock main event. Killeen driver David Dunn led for the first half of a 15-lap show when he apparently lost control going into turn two and wound up stopped at the infield boundary. The resulting caution period sent Dunn to the rear and moved Nolanville’s Gary Norman up front, where he stayed, holding off a hard-charging Chris Cockrell. Norman got the win, with Cockrell coming in only feet behind.
Ryan Ellis, a name you’ll see again later, took the Outlaw Twister win, but had to fight off Brian Bagent, and later, Taylor Florio, who mounted an attack in her 21T, finishing close behind Ellis in second spot.
Next on the lineup board was a 15-car IMCA Hobby Stock
A-main, and it looked like everyone was trying to win on the first lap as they went four-wide through two straight turns on a track where three-wide is scary.
Chad Reedy was leading after three circuits when Bellmead’s Andy Roller passed on the inside and went on to a 12 car-length victory.
In the IMCA Stock Car feature it looked like former track promoter Pat Wilson might pull off a win, since he was out front from the opening green flag, a lead which lasted until the 14th lap.
As the leaders screamed down the front straightaway, Killeen racer Zach Riley, running second, passed Wilson on the right side and went on to park in Victory Lane.
Three laps into the IMCA Southern SportMod main event, Belton driver G.W. Egbert IV got around race leader Don Painter. Egbert appeared to go on cruise control, but here came Gatesville’s Sid Kiphen, running hard and applying hard pressure for 16 laps. He got close, but it was Egbert scoring the win, just barely.
One final feature remained and it starred the IMCA Modifieds, which unspooled without points leader Keith White.
The way International Motor Contest Association season-ending points are tabulated comes from a driver’s best 30 finishes out of their first 56 races. With White still in the mix for national honors, next weekend at Waco and Killeen will wrap up that total and he wants to run his last two points races at the tracks where he is leading the standings.
With White not in attendance, the race began with Mike McCarthy’ and Billy Bachmeyer Jr. in a battle for the lead.
Bachmeyer got the advantage on lap eight, then two laps later, the 12 of Killeen’s Scooter Bates passed to the lead and sped away, winning by a half-lap.
After a minute or two breather, the Outlaw Twisters came out again to compete in one last King of the Hill tournament, a series of two-lap shootouts where the winner stays and the loser goes to the trailer.
There would be no King of the Hill this night, though.
When the final two cars went out for the championship run, it was Bagent against 14-year-old Florio. She won it and the bragging rights that are part of the package ... and we weren’t through yet.
Next up were a series of Mechanic/Employee races, with pit crew members and track workers scrambling to talk drivers into giving up their cars for eight laps, with promises not to tear them up.
The combined Hobby Stocks and Street Stocks were out first and the win was scored by Gary Simmerman Jr. in a car currently owned by Kevin Finsley, which his uncle Robert Simmerman used a few years back to win multiple Street Stock championships.
In the Twister class, Jeremy Vankirk led flag-to-flag in Bagent’s 45 car, then it was Ryan Ellis’s turn again.
Ellis came out in Austin Smith’s No. 313 IMCA Stock Car and went green to checker for his second win of the night.
One more race lined up and it was a combined Modified/SportMod run. After some lead changes and fishtailing down the track, Nate Lemire was victorious in the No. 13 modified of Jerry Frydrych.
It was quite a night. Old friend and race fan deluxe Ricky Smith of “Storage Wars: Texas” was on hand and we saw lots more old friends, some of whom hadn’t been to the track in ages ... and now, there’s one night left.
This week, after 40-plus years as a Killeen entertainment staple, we’ll run it wide open one final time, then turn off the lights and Texas Thunder Speedway will pass into history.
Come on out for The Last Waltz.
See ya at the track!