• August 1, 2014

Opening night at Texas Thunder marks debut of dynamic duo

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Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013 4:30 am

No, Batman and Robin weren’t there, but a couple of down-to-earth, local race car drivers put on a superhero show of their own, delighting dirt track fans on a chilly evening in west Killeen.

Over the winter, I had heard that Belton driver Kenny Stone and Killeen’s J.P. Dowell might team up in the IMCA Modified wars this season. If it happened, that could be the Texas Thunder equivalent of Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick Motorsports, because these boys can drive.

That rumor panned out Saturday when Stone battled Dowell, piloting the Stone-owned 95K, with the two fighting it out side-by-side, going back and forth for 17 laps of the 22-car modified feature race.

When Stone took the lead with three to go, not even a car length separated the teammates, while close behind was the hard-charging, Little River-based car of defending national champion Keith White.

As the checkered flag fell just after midnight, it was Stone who got the win, an extra $1,000 in his pay envelope from race night sponsor Kempner Iron and Metal, plus an invite to the Fast Shaft All Star Qualifier to be run during IMCA Supernationals in Boone, Iowa, in September. In case you were wondering, White was second, followed by Dowell in third.

What a show! It was an exciting end to one top-notch racing card, but there was a lot more where that came from.

Earlier, the IMCA Southern SportMod main event was a demonstration of domination by defending track champ Sid Kiphen. The Gatesville driver started on the pole of a 20-car field via the luck of a draw for position and ran away with it, sporting a full straightaway lead by race’s end.

Fans saw another flag-to-flag win in the IMCA Hobby Stock feature, when Waco-area racer Andy Roller spurred his No. 63 off and away early. Pressure came from David Bissonette of Stephenville, but Roller was not to be denied.

Things were different in the IMCA Stock Car A main with 21 cars on the grid. When you talk TTS I-Stocks, do the names Eric Jones and Jason Batt sound familiar? Well, you might want to add Charles Cosper to the list. Why?

As the race got going, “Shipwreck” as he’s now known,

after being on that ill-fated Carnival cruise where the ship broke down not quite 20,000 leagues from nowhere, pushed his Belton-based 33c into the lead, where it stayed until halfway done. Then, what no driver wants to see while leading — a caution flag — came out, bunching up the field.

Harker Heights driver Batt and Jones, racing out of Killeen in his newly washed and painted 84x, who had been chasing the leader, got their chance, with Batt taking over on lap 11. Then, as we’ve seen before, Jones maneuvered around Batt with two to go and pulled into Victory Lane. There was one consolation for Cosper, who is up to I-Stocks after many years in the Hobby class. He won a few extra dollars for turning the race’s fastest lap of 16.680 seconds. Watch this guy.

In the 22-car Street Stock feature, we lost count of how many times Copperas Cove driver Chris Florio passed for the lead, only to be returned to second place by a caution. When the yellow flag waves, the field is frozen and reset with all cars in the same spot they had on the last green-flagged lap.

It was either three or four times that Florio had gotten around leader and Bertram resident Chris Birmingham, but that last pass stuck and Florio picked up the victory.

One note ... condolences to Paul Kohl’s passenger, who didn’t come out of the race in one piece.

It seems that during a single-file restart, Kohl’s car somehow snagged the orange rubber boundary cone, like the ones you see in construction zones. It was caught up in Kohl’s left rear wheel well, where it rode for several laps before, well ... you get the picture.

Both Twister classes also featured flag-to-flag winning runs. In the Outlaws, Kempner’s Chris Bruner held off Taylor Florio of Copperas Cove to take the checkered flag.

The original Texas Twisters saw a first-time winner when Michalla Beatty of Belton drove to Victory Lane.

You couldn’t have asked for a better dirt-track racing program. Seriously.

On top of everything else, track promoter and resident “mad scientist” David Goode unveiled his latest invention.

During the street stock feature, one of the cars lost the rubber covering off its rear bumper. The offending part lay on the racing surface, but no caution was called since it was not deemed a hazard.

Presently, a wind gust blew the piece over the back berm, prompting the boss to run up to Ken Essenburg and me, exclaiming, “Did you guys see our newest innovation? I think I’ll call it the ‘self-cleaning’ race track.”

Everybody wants to be a comedian. Take it on the road, dude.

See ya at the track!

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