• September 21, 2014

Kirkpatrick returns with a vengeance at Texas Thunder

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Posted: Monday, July 22, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 4:30 am, Mon Jul 22, 2013.

Around 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Texas Thunder Speedway promoter David Goode is known to gather whichever staff members are there that early for a bull session, disguised as “the pre-race meeting,” to talk about what’s going to happen that night.

Through a semi-doze, I came wide awake when the boss let it out that we could expect a racer who had been shown the gate for rough driving almost two years ago to return.

During his days in the IMCA Stock Car and Modified classes, Benji Kirkpatrick of Elm Mott was a take-no-prisoners driver, who, for want of a better way to put it, made people upset.

After a hefty fine from that years-old incident, he quit the IMCA scene, ran in the United States Racing Association modified class for awhile, then resurfaced a month or so ago in the Heart Of Texas Speedway Street Stock wars, where he has been a consistent winner.

Obviously, Kirkpatrick wanted to try TTS again, because he contacted David last week and said, “How about it,” to which the Mad Scientist replied, “Sure.”

When we saw the gray trailer with No. 47 on it roll in, I thought, “Oh, boy, here we go.”

Once the 21-car Street Stock feature went green, Killeen’s David Dunn punched his No. 24 into a big lead, but by a mid-race caution, Kirkpatrick had moved up to second and was going for the lead, when the yellow waved again.

On the restart, “Battlin’” Benji surged ahead and took over the top spot, while a three-wide battle for second place materialized between Chris Florio, Gary Norman and Chris Cockrell. Florio got the closest, but there was too much In Kirkpatrick’s tank on this night.

He got the win, his first in Killeen after that long absence and it came without any beating, banging or paint swapping that I could see. Welcome back, Benji. Hope to see you again before we shut ’er down.

Earlier, the race card kicked off with back-to-back Twister class A-mains. The original Texas Twisters went first and it turned into a good night for Copperas Cove driver Trevor Hudson, who passed leader Rick Saupp on lap five and streaked away to a big lead and the victory.

Hudson added to his laurels later with a two-lap shootout win over Cori Beatty in the class’s King of the Hill tournament.

Chris Bruner, racing out of Kempner, put more metal in his Outlaw Twister winner’s trophy collection, after he built a good lead from the start. Cove’s Taylor Florio pressured hard as the laps counted down and almost snatched the victory, but Bruner got there first, winning by a nose.

In the IMCA Southern SportMod feature, Michael Knight had his Fort Hood-based 32K in the lead for five laps, but couldn’t hold off points leader G.W. Egbert, who took a low-inside move to the front. Egbert had to block a hard charge from Gatesville’s Sid Kiphen, who was right on Egbert’s rear bumper when the checkered flag waved.

IMCA Hobby Stock action saw Waco-area drivers Andy Roller and Paul Scrivner running side by side over the race’s first six laps, but one circuit later, Roller was able to charge ahead and outrun all the others for the remaining two miles and put his No. 63 in Victory Lane.

Two laps into the IMCA Stock Car main event, Killeen’s Zach Riley was going at it up front with Mansfield racer Michael Walter. Riley won the battle on lap seven and stayed there until Harker Heights driver Jason Batt caught up on lap 10’s fourth corner, where Batt ducked low inside to capture the top spot. He was able to keep Riley at bay until the end.

Only two lead changes happened in the IMCA Modified feature race. Round Rock racer Jimmy Tidwell was in command off the opening green flag for five laps, until Pflugerville’s Ben Ketteman edged his car around Tidwell.

Hewitt driver Dillon Smith and national champion Keith White of Academy were trying everything to get by, but Ketteman held on for seven more circuits, until Smith was able to find an opening and take over the top spot. Smith was able to keep command for the remaining eight laps and take the ride down Victory Lane.

During his post-race interview, Smith told the crowd there’s not a better track to race on anywhere and that “It’s a shame it’s going away.”

I couldn’t have said it any better.

There’s only six race nights left and this week, we’ll put on our last-ever demolition derby.

Time is short.

See ya at the track!

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