"This track, of course, growth is killing it. We wanted to run here again before it closes.” — IMCA Modified driver Darin Leonard on making the trip from South Texas with his son to race at Texas Thunder Speedway.
Maybe it was Cody Leonard’s final race at Texas Thunder Speedway.
Maybe it wasn’t, since he expressed the possibility of returning Thursday for the final stop of IMCA’s Lone Star Series, but however it turns out for the youngster from Sinton, Cody will always have an IMCA Southern SportMod feature winner’s trophy from TTS to remind him of a birthday weekend he’ll not forget soon.
Showing skills beyond his years, Leonard, who turned 16 on Friday, watched early as the SportMod main event began with a sibling rivalry starring the Goode kids. Sister Sarah had the catbird seat early, but here came brother David Jr. racing around her on lap seven to take over.
After cooler heads prevailed when a dustup between Bruceville’s Brian Walker and Kenny Ware took both those cars off, Goode Jr., one of the best young drivers out there, lost control of his 7G, allowing Leonard’s 12 car to move out front, where he had to hold off two of the Egbert boys, G.W. IV and George, along with their cousin, Colton Monroe, to claim the victory, which most likely made the long haul back to Sinton feel a little shorter.
Leonard wasn’t the only 16-year- old to make big noise in a feature race on Saturday. Six laps into the IMCA Stock Car final, Killeen driver Tristan Carman, who’s leading both the national and regional rookie standings, pulled off an outside pass around race leader Pat Wilson, taking over the top spot and proceeding to leave everybody else in the dust.
But, what no race leader wants to see, a caution flag, came out to bunch up the field, and shortly after the restart, Jason Batt dove low, trying to edge by Carman in turn four, but the kid was able to hold on and park in Victory Lane.
He’d be back later, too.
After a series of two-lap shootouts, Carman found himself facing off against multitime track champ Eric Jones for the coveted King of the Hill title and it was Carman who netted the final bragging rights to ever be awarded by Texas Thunder in this car class.
Track officials ran the Twister classes back to back and the Outlaw variety started out with a pretty spirited battle up front between Stephanie Henderson and Rick Smith. In the late going, Copperas Cove driver Smith, who’d been trying to get his first victory for more than two years, was finally able to drive his car into the Winner’s Circle.
Things went smoother for Rick Saupp of Killeen in the Texas Twister A-main. Saupp pushed his No. 59 out front off the green flag and, not without some pressure from other drivers, managed to bring it home and pick up the big trophy.
Until late in the IMCA Modified feature, it looked like Belton’s Trevor Egbert had things well in hand, but as the laps began to dwindle, things began to change, since Hewitt racer Dillon Smith mounted a hard challenge, pushing his car as close to Egbert as possible without gaining the edge.
Smith did pull even once, but as the two turned for home on lap 20, a final burst of speed gave Egbert the win.
Another Belton driver brought home the bacon in IMCA Hobby Stock action. Ware, in his second feature run of the night, took the early lead and kept it from flag to flag, holding off closest challenger Paul Scrivner for the win.
Not much about wrecks and other issues so far, right? Don’t fret ... here come the Street Stocks.
A driver whose name is well-known in Hobby Stock circles also brought his other car down from Bellmead to try it out in the Street Stock class.
Andy Roller had a good thing going in his 632 car, until the yellow flag started flying, not once, not twice, but three times in quick succession for minor crashes, spinouts, etc.
Since the 30-minute time limit was approaching, officials lined up the field for a single-file restart and with 14 of the 21 cars which started the race still running, Roller had to hold off the hard-charging 3C of Bertram’s Chris Birmingham for the remaining 10 laps to score his first win in the class.
Don’t forget about the IMCA Lone Star Series finale Thursday night. All the big guns from around Texas and a few from surrounding states are expected to show up for some big money. The modifieds will be going for $2013 to win and the other classes, including the locals, all have a shot to score big. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing at 8, and we’ll stop to watch the Fort Hood fireworks display.
Time is running out on TTS, which will be no more after Aug. 31.
Only nine race nights left for you and me to feel the Thunder.
See ya at the track!