By TJ Buffenbarger
Merlin, ONT — (May 20th, 2000) — Andy James from Lima, Ohio was able claim his first sprint car feature with the Sprints On Dirt over a very strong field of 29 cars. James was able to take advantage of early leader Steve Irwin crashing while in lapped traffic, and was able to hold off a charging Craig Keel for the victory at the South Buxton International Speedway in Merlin, Ontario.
James and Jim Payne started the 25-Lap feature event from the front row. James led the field into turn one followed by Jimmy Johnston and Payne. The driver making the best early charge was Irwin, as he moved up from his sixth starting spot up through the field. On lap three James slipped up a bit holding up Johnston, Payne, and John Hawk. This allowed Irwin to take the lead going down the backstretch. Irwin then checked out from the rest of the field, as Aaron Call started making his move to the front and disposed of Payne for the fourth position.
Then on lap eight while Irwin was lapping Jimmy Jackson, the two made contact and sent Irwin flipping into the catch fence in turn one. Irwin exited the car uninjured just as a large alcohol fire broke out. The track safety crew put out the fire, and after a delay to extricate Irwin’s car from the fence the race resumed with James back up front. Then on lap 10 another caution flag came out for second-generation driver Ryan Coniam who stopped on the high side of turn three after hitting the backstretch guardrail.
James once again was able to pull away on the restart, but the driver on the move was Craig, “The Cricket” Keel. Keel, a former regular with the World of Outlaws, moved up picking off cars one at a time from running seventh, and was up to third position on lap 15 and began chasing down the leaders.
Then with three laps to go while running second, Johnston ran out of tear-offs and slowed. This bunched up the field and allowed Keel to move past Johnston, Call, and Payne to move into second. Keel then began eating away at James lead, but ran out of time as James took the checkered flag over Keel, Call, Hawk, and Payne.
Dain Naida and Tim Lowe were involved in a very nasty accident in the Ross Racing Pistons B-Main event when both cars flipped in turn four. Lowe immediately exited his car uninjured, but Naida took several minuets to exit his heavily damaged sprint car under his own power. Naida would also claim the Frankland Racing Supply Hard Luck Award for the evening.
Steve Irwin won the Michigan Engine Pro Heat race, Aaron Call claimed the Vision Graphix Heat Race and John Hawk grabbed the All Pro Cylinder Heads heat. Sean Robinson was able to pass 9 cars from his 15th starting position to claim his first Putnam Hitch Products Hard Charger Award for the 2000 season.
Next weekend the Sprints on Dirt series has two day racing adventure planned for Memorial Day Weekend. On Friday night SOD will be in action at the Hartford Speedway Park where many teams will be tuning up for the upcoming King of Michigan SOD Summer Nationals on June 30th. Then on Saturday night SOD makes their first appearance at the Wilmot Speedway in Wisconsin. For more information on Sprints on Dirt contact Duane Turner at 517-625-5316, or by visiting the SOD website at http://www.sprintsondirt.com
Sprints on Dirt A-Main Event (25-Laps): Andy James ($1000), Craig Keel ($700), Aaron Call ($550), John Hawk ($460), Jim Payne ($410), Sean Robinson($390), John Naida ($370), Eddie Smith ($340), Jeremy Campbell ($310), Gregg Dalman ($290), Jerry Whitney ($270), John Riegling ($250), Mark Irwin ($230), Doug Deuel ($220), Jimmy Johnston ($210), Bill Johnson ($200), Ryan Conaim ($200), Steve Irwin ($200), Jimmy Jackson ($200), Fred Bliss ($200)
Michigan Engine Pro Heat Race #1(8 laps, 5 transfer): Irwin, Campbell, Payne, Keel, Jackson, Lowe, Riegling, Bliss, Kimbell
Vision Graphix Heat Race #2: Call, James, John Naida, Conaim, Mark Irwin, Dain Naida, Hayward, Webster, Fedorczyk
All Pro Cylinder Heads Heat Race #3: Hawk, Dalman, Johnston, Whitney, Deuel, Johnson, Smith, Davis, Morrison
Ross Racing Pistons B-Main(12 laps, 5 transfer): Robinson, Riegling, Smith, Bliss, Johnson, Hayward, Webster, Kimball, D. Naida, Tim Lowe, Morrison (DNS), Davis (DNS), Tom Lowe (DNS) Fedorczyk (DNS)