For a long time, IMCA Modified driver Dillon Smith has been known as “The Thrill Show.”
He’s had the phrase plastered on giveaway items, and at one time, if I remember correctly, it was even painted on his 03 car.
Saturday night at Texas Thunder Speedway, Smith showed why the name fits.
On lap six of a 20-lap feature, Hewitt-based Smith pulled a right-side pass on race leader Eric Tomlinson and took off on what looked like a runaway, while defending national champion Keith White’s No. 1 was a distant second. Of course, race fans know that no gap is too distant for White to overcome.
After a restart, Smith maintained his lead, but by the 18th circuit, White had caught up and moved ahead by a half car length. The pair rounded turn four heading for the finish line with White up by a fraction and you could hear both engines screaming.
Another high-pitched blast of sound came from the 03 and Smith broke the barrier ahead of White by a bumper.
By then, I was almost standing in my chair, yelling the results so loud into the microphone, every word I said was probably garbled beyond understanding.
Fans, I love this sport and, I think, a lot of the people who compete at soon-to-be-gone Texas Thunder Speedway. Why?
After all the pictures, hugs and congratulations for Smith from family and team members, he ran across the track and went looking for Texas Thunder’s No. 1 fan, Robert Marley, and gave him the winner’s trophy.
What a way to end the night.
Fact is, though, it wasn’t over yet.
You’ve heard of the Texas Twister class, the entry-level cars where folks can learn racing’s finer points by making mistakes, which all drivers, even NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson, made in the beginning.
Some of our drivers turned their cars over to significant others and friends for the track’s annual Powder Puff Derby and an old pro, who hadn’t raced in years, showed she remembered how the game is played.
Dana Kuhnau, known in her younger days as “Pinky” because of her pink car in the old Thunder Stock class (and her hair color, too), was in the 42 car of Cori Beatty, trying to chase down her mom, Shelley Cochran, who was driving James Enyeart’s No. 99. If you’ve guessed by now that “Pinky” passed Mom and won, you’re right.
I was just happy that Dana (or “Pinky”) was able to win and not flip her car, since that was something else she was known for back then.
Feature action had started with both Twister classes and the Outlaw version cranked up with Ryan Ellis getting the early lead, but he got loose in turn two, which allowed Brian Bagent to slide by and take the lead. The Killeen driver held point until, with less than one circuit to go, 14-year old Copperas Cove racer Taylor Florio passed Bagent in her 21T and sprinted home to Victory Lane.
Taking off from a European-style standing start, the Texas Twisters had points leader Michalla Beatty leading the first two laps, before she was overtaken and passed by Enyeart. He knew that Cori Beatty and Trevor Hudson were in hot pursuit, but Enyeart held on until the checkered flag waved.
It took a while for the scoreboard to even register a lap when 24 Street Stocks took the opening green flag. Before one was up, there had already been three cautions, including a mashup between Kevin Ashley and Terry Tschoener that saw Tschoener get knocked up in the air.
Once things got settled down, Killeen’s David Dunn got out front, but lost the lead when Scott Blauen spun in front of him, giving the top spot to Temple’s Chris Cockrell on the restart. Cockrell had points leader Gary Norman only inches off his back bumper from then on and was able to hold him off to get the win.
Killeen’s Anthony Otken led the IMCA Stock Car A-Main for two laps until he was forced out of his groove and went high on the back straightaway to avoid a sliding car.
By lap 10, Harker Heights driver Jason Batt was out front, then it was J.P. Dowell’s turn.
Killeen-based Dowell got by Batt, only to give the lead back on a caution, where the lineup is positioned according to the previous green-flagged lap.
Dowell then repeated the process, getting by Batt once again and fast-forwarding to the Winner’s Circle.
The IMCA Hobby Stocks came out next and this one was no contest. Waco-area driver Robert Scrivner, driving his brother Paul’s No. 14, had the lead by lap 3 and it was a runaway by the seventh circuit, and Scrivner won in a caution-free run.
When the IMCA Southern SportMod field went green, Waco driver Kevin Green shot to the front, but watched as Michael Guenat, racing out of Robinson, blasted by on the left and looked like he might win for the first time in this class at TTS.
Guenat, a former Texas Thunder Hobby Stock champion, pushed hard up to lap 18, when Copperas Cove’s David Goode Jr. got out front, holding off Don Painter to the finish line.
Painter’s radiator went up in a cloud of steam as he came across the line just behind Goode, who was running for the first time in a car he just picked up last week.
That was some great dirt-track racing, folks and, sadly, there’s not much left to be seen of it on Stan Schlueter Loop.
There’s only three race nights left before the end of Texas Thunder Speedway, which goes under the wrecking ball after the Aug. 31 races. If those three are as exciting as this one, we’ll have fond memories of a race track that passed into history before its time.
See ya Saturday!