By Lonnie Wheatley
TAMPA, Fla. (February 23, 2012) – Bixby, Oklahoma native Shane Stewart kicked off East Bay Raceway Park’s 14th Annual “King of the 360’s” Nationals by racing to victory lane in Thursday night’s 25-lap feature at the 36th Annual Winter Nationals.
Stewart worked traffic on the 1/3-mile clay oval to his advantage by racing from third to first on the 11th round en route to victory lane aboard the Gaerte-powered XYZ Machining No. 3g.
While Stewart gridded the feature field inside the third row, pole starter Lou Kennedy, Jr., outgunned fellow front row starter and 2006 “King of the 360’s” Terry McCarl for the lead at the drop of the green flag.
The Canadian racer paced the early circuits in front of McCarl, with Stewart moving past Crawley into third on the fourth round. Kennedy, Jr., reached the tail of the field by the eighth circuit, with McCarl and Stewart closing in to pressure for the lead.
And, when Kennedy, Jr., got out of shape exiting turn four, Stewart took quick advantage by racing past McCarl off of four for second and then circling around the high side of Kennedy, Jr., in turns one and two to take command with McCarl moving into second as well.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” the two-time Lucas Oil ASCS National champion explained in victory lane. “When the 21k (Kennedy) got out of shape, Terry got kind of choked down there and I was able to take advantage.”
With traffic still in play, McCarl kept the pressure on Stewart, nearly pulling along on several occasions before the race’s only caution flew after 21 laps when R.J. Johnson coasted to a stop in turn four.
With open track for the final four laps, Stewart breezed to the checkered flag in front of McCarl to put himself in prime position for Saturday night’s $10,000 winner’s share in the Ronald Laney Memorial. The top six in combined points from Thursday and Friday will lock into Saturday’s 40-lap finale.
Crawley claimed the show position behind Stewart and McCarl, with Darren Long and Chuck Hebing rounding out the top five. Kennedy, Jr., slipped to sixth after a lap 13 bobble in turns one and two, with T.J. Winegardner, Jason Sides, Danny Martin, Jr., and Dustin Morgan completing the top ten.
Morgan, R.J. Johnson, Crawley, Hebing and Stewart topped heat race action for Thursday night’s 42-car field, with Martin, Jr., and Alex Shanks winning the twin 12-lap “B” “Mains.
Fourteenth Annual “King of the 360’s” action at East Bay Raceway Park’s 36th Annual Winter Nationals continues with another full card of heat and feature events on Friday night, with the green flag flying at 7:00 p.m.
East Bay Winter Nationals “King of the 360’s” Thursday Results:
Heat Races (Top 12 in passing points to “A” Main – Top 6 Redraw for feature starting position; Balance to Twin “B” Mains):
First Heat (8 Laps): 1. 2-Dustin Morgan, 2. 7s-Jason Sides, 3. 0-Dain Naida, 4. 24-Terry McCarl, 5. 94-Derek Hagar, 6. 67-Brian Thomas, 7. 40-Caleb Helms, 8. 01-Mikey Kruchka, 9. 52-Mark Broughman.
Second Heat (8 Laps): 1. 9-R.J. Johnson, 2. 41-Jason Johnson, 3. 7-Darren Long, 4. 11T-T.J. Winegardner, 5. 3-Blake Feese, 6. 20-Frank Carlsson, 7. 8x-Chris Williams, 8. 38x-Ryan Moore, 9. 422-Etienne Girard.
Third Heat (8 Laps): 1. 24-Tim Crawley, 2. 00-Danny Martin, Jr., 3. 28h-Hud Horton, 4. 66-Alex Shanks, 5. 3b-Brad Greer, 6. 2m-Dallas Hewitt, 7. F37-Kyle Moffit, 8. 3a-A.J. Maddox.
Fourth Heat (8 Laps): 1. 45-Chuck Hebing, 2. 80-Morgan Turpen, 3. 20k-Thomas Kennedy, 4. 19-Klint Angelette, 5. 10-Terry Gray, 6. 4m-Michael Miller. DNS: 00-Jim Nier, 02-Gene Lasker.
Fifth Heat (8 Laps): 1. 3g-Shane Stewart, 2. 21k-Lou Kennedy, Jr., 3. 13-Todd Fayard, 4. 38-Tony Agin, 5. 32m-Derek Hastings, 6. 82-Sport Allen, 7. 10-Jeff Cook, 8. 6s-Robbie Smith.
“B” Mains (Top 4 from Each Transfer to “A” Main):
First “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 00-Danny Martin, Jr., 2. 10-Terry Gray, 3. 28h-Hud Horton, 4. 3b-Brad Greer, 5. 0-Dain Naida, 6. 94-Derek Hagar, 7. 4m-Michael Miller, 8. 6s-Robbie Smith, 9. 8x-Chris Williams, 10. 67-Brian Thomas, 11. 10-Jeff Cook, 12. 38x-Ryan Moore, 13. 422-Etienne Girard, 14. 19-Klint Angelette. DNS: 02-Gene Lasker.
Second “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 66-Alex Shanks, 2. 80-Morgan Turpen, 3. 2m-Dallas Hewitt, 4. 3-Blake Feese, 5. 38-Tony Agin, 6. 40-Caleb Helms, 7. 3a-A.J. Maddox, 8. 01-Mikey Kruchka, 9. 52-Mark Broughman, 10. F37-Kyle Moffit, 11. 32m-Derek Hastings, 12. 20-Frank Carlsson, 13. 13-Todd Fayard. DNS: 82-Sport Allen, 00-Jim Nier.
“A” Feature (25 Laps): 1. 3g-Shane Stewart, 2. 24-Terry McCarl, 3. 24-Tim Crawley, 4. 7-Darren Long, 5. 45-Chuck Hebing, 6. 21k-Lou Kennedy, Jr., 7. 11T-T.J. Winegardner, 8. 7s-Jason Sides, 9. 00-Danny Martin, Jr., 10. 2-Dustin Morgan, 11. 41-Jason Johnson, 12. 10-Terry Gray, 13. 2m-Dallas Hewitt, 14. 80-Morgan Turpen, 15. 28h-Hud Horton, 16. 3b-Brad Greer, 17. 9-R.J. Johnson, 18. 66-Alex Shanks, 19. 20k-Thomas Kennedy, 20. 3-Blake Feese.
Lap Leaders: Lou Kennedy, Jr. 1-10, Shane Stewart 11-25.