• December 29, 2014

Sprint cars rattle the hills around Texas Thunder Speedway

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Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:05 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

We knew it would happen. It always does. Every time the American Sprint Car Series comes to Killeen, fans are left drained after a 20-car, 25-lap blowout served up by the outfit’s Gulf South Region drivers and Saturday night was no different.

These cars are faster than me running to the dinner table, turning quarter-mile lap times of under 11 seconds. These cars are loud.Even more so than me celebrating a Copperas Cove Bulldawgs touchdown.

These cars are so powerful that once the entire field got going at 100 miles per hour down the front straightaway, the vibration shook one of the old light fixtures above my head back into full brilliance.

And, as usual, one car took a butt-over-teakettle tumble.

The good news is Garland driver Tommy Bryant wasn’t hurt when his No. 28 came to rest on its left side after a double roll in turn one from being lipped in the left rear. The bad news is he couldn’t continue, since Bryant’s car took a much worse beating than he did.

A couple more crashes of the minor type were cleaned up later, then the feature race turned into an up-front battle between Aaron Reutzel, who races out of Clute and Channin Tankersley, who ran outside the 87 on lap 18 for a momentary lead. Reutzel retook the top spot one circuit later and held it for the checkered flag.

Fans and other drivers I talked to said this was the most exciting sprint car race ever seen at Texas Thunder Speedway.

It was also the last one we’ll watch there, with the track set to close after the Aug. 31 race card. Sad.

As the ASCS cars got loaded up and left Killeen for the final time, it was time for our local drivers to strut their stuff on Mid-Season Championship night, where the points leaders get to start up front, instead of back in the pack.

Brian Bagent of Killeen, who had driven the No. 45 Texas Twister to Victory Lane three weeks in a row, started seventh and by lap five had taken over from race leader James Enyeart and run away to the winner’s circle.

In a post-race inspection, Bagent was found to have illegal engine parts, resulting in his car being disqualified, which moved second-place Enyeart up to the top spot.

Outlaw Twister action saw 14-year old Taylor Florio, an incoming Lampasas freshman, start from the pole and outrun everybody to pick up her first-ever win at Texas Thunder and get a loud ovation from the huge crowd.

It was pretty much the same thing when 14 IMCA Stock Cars hit the track. Give Harker Heights driver Jason Batt the pole position and wave bye-bye. Batt and his 9J had no problems in a caution-free, flag-to-flag win, where his closest`competitor was half a lap behind.

From the Street Stock feature’s opening green flag, Chris Cockrell and Gary Norman were the front runners, continually challenging each other for the lead. Five laps in, Cockrell was ahead by five car lengths and ahead of Norman by a full straightaway six circuits later.

Norman had closed it up to just a few feet difference by lap 15 of 20, but few had noticed a steady surge by Waco-area driver Adam Schwarz until the checkered flag waved and Schwarz was parked in victory lane with his first 2013 win at TTS.

G.W. Egbert IV, who races his 717 IMCA Southern SportMod out of Belton, had the points-leader’s pole and took off on the feature race green flag with David Goode, Jr. and Randy Doyle in hot pursuit. Egbert got plenty of pressure from Doyle in the late going, but was able to hang on for his second-straight win.

Then came the IMCA Modifieds and this had the look of a possible no-holds-barred slobberknocker when fans saw defending national champion Keith White’s No. 1 and former national champ P.J. Egbert in his 707 car lined up side by side on the front row.

It was intense, no doubt, but the two never touched in the 20-lap main event, with White holding a one car-length lead virtually throughout the run. White, of Academy, took the win and with it the weekend double, having won Friday night at Heart Of Texas Speedway in Elm Mott.

As the clock struck midnight, there was one race to go and it starred the IMCA Hobby Stocks, where we again found ourselves wondering what would happen when the two top drivers in America would line up together in the front.

Chilton’s Jeremy Oliver, who leads the national points chase and Andy Roller, currently running second, brought back memories of a few weeks back, when they ran virtually side by side for 10 laps.

This time, Roller led by a little bit three circuits in, then it was Oliver out front on lap seven. Roller’s 63 got behind a lapped car, giving Oliver the top spot, but Andy stayed right with him, until the race’s turning point on the race’s 14th lap.

Roller appeared to lose control in turn two, dropping back in the pack, which gave Oliver the chance to pull away and gather up the victory, his second of the season.

What a night! This had to be some of the best racing ever at Texas Thunder Speedway. It even inspired me to write a song verse.

Want to hear it?

I just hope Willie Nelson doesn’t sue me over this..

“When the Saturday evening sun goes down, TTS is where to be in this town...

“Oh, the racing life is a great life and it’s my life!”

See ya at the track!

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