From Lonnie Wheatley
TAMPA, Fla. (February 24, 2012) – Shane Stewart is rapidly establishing himself as an unstoppable force at East Bay Raceway Park’s 36th Annual Winter Nationals as he raced to victory lane for the second time in as many nights of 14th Annual “King of the 360’s” competition atop the 1/3-mile clay oval.
After winning Thursday night’s opener, the Bixby, OK, native slid past Tim Crawley in turns three and four on the third round and led the rest of the way in Friday’s 25-lapper to make it two-for-two aboard the Gaerte Engines/DDNi/GLR Investments No. 3g.
With a sweep of preliminary feature action on Thursday and Friday, Stewart has earned the pole position for Saturday night’s $10,000-to-win Ronald Laney Memorial. Others locking into the “King of the 360’s” finale include Tim Crawley, Terry McCarl, Lou Kennedy, Jr., Darren Long and Jason Sides.
“This car has been on a rail since I jumped in it, it’s a lot of fun to drive,” Stewart explained. “But you never know about tomorrow, it’s another day. Ronald was a buddy of mine and his parents are friends too, to win this one would really mean a lot to me.”
While Stewart started Friday’s feature inside the second row, Tim Crawley and Thomas Kennedy led the way to the green flag. Crawley gunned into the lead at the outset, with Stewart and fellow second row starter Lou Kennedy, Jr., passing the younger Kennedy for second and third on the initial circuit.
Stewart went to work on Crawley in short order, sliding into the lead in less than three circuits. After a lap six caution for Blake Feese and then a lap nine red flag stoppage for a wild Caleb Helms flip in turn three, Stewart bolted away from the field and held nearly a straightaway advantage when he took the white flag.
But, before the two-time Lucas Oil ASCS National champion could complete the final circuit, one final red flag flew when seventh-runner Terry Gray flipped in turn three as well.
With two lapped cars separating Stewart from his chasers on the green-white-checkered restart, he slipped away to take the checkered flag with a 2.630-second advantage.
Winnipeg’s Lou Kennedy, Jr., battled past Crawley for second on the lap ten restart and kept his No. 21k entry in the runner-up position the rest of the way with Crawley holding off Terry McCarl for the show position.
McCarl was fourth, with Jason Sides rounding out the top five. Darren Long held fourth until the final red flag, slipping to sixth over the final two circuits. Thomas Kennedy was seventh, with Todd Fayard, Morgan Turpen and Chris Williams completing the top ten.
Lou Kennedy, Jr., Crawley, Turpen, Gray and Jason Johnson topped heat race action for Friday night’s 42-car field, with Helms and Fayard winning the “B” Mains. Jason Johnson was running sixth in the main event when forced to the pit area after a fuel leak developed under the lap nine red flag.
T.J. Winegardner was the first flip victim of the weekend when he got upside down in turn two on the opening round of the first “B” Main. There were no injuries.
East Bay Winter Nationals “King of the 360’s” Friday 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. 21k-Lou Kennedy, Jr., 2. 20k-Thomas Kennedy, 3. 66-Alex Shanks, 4. 6s-Robbie Smith, 5. 00x-Jim Nier, 6. 32m-Derek Hastings, 7. 2-Dustin Morgan, 8. 38x-Ryan Moore, 9. J1-Mike Tharpe.
Second Heat (8 Laps): 1. 24c-Tim Crawley, 2. 24T-Terry McCarl, 3. 3g-Shane Stewart, 4. 11T-T.J. Winegardner, 5. 45-Chuck Hebing, 6. 3-Blake Feese, 7. 94-Derek Hagar, 8. 4m-Michael Miller. DNS: 9-R.J. Johnson.
Third Heat (8 Laps): 1. 80-Morgan Turpen, 2. 7s-Jason Sides, 3. 67-Brian Thomas, 4. 40-Caleb Helms, 5. 19-Klint Angelette, 6. 2m-Dallas Hewitt, 7. 38-Tony Agin. DNS: 02-Gene Lasker.
Fourth Heat (8 Laps): 1. 10-Terry Gray, 2. 3a-A.J. Maddox, 3. 10x-Jeff Cook, 4. 7-Darren Long, 5. 0-Glenn Styres, 6. 00-Danny Martin, Jr. 7. F37-Kyle Moffit, 8. 52-Mark Broughman.
Fifth Heat (8 Laps): 1. 41-Jason Johnson, 2. 3b-Brad Greer, 3. 8x-Chris Williams, 4. 13-Todd Fayard, 5. 28h-Hud Horton, 6. 7. 422-Etienne Girard, 8. 01-Mikey Kruchka.
“B” Mains (Top 4 from Each Transfer to “A” Main):
First “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 40-Caleb Helms, 2. 3b-Brad Greer, 3. 00x-Jim Nier, 4. 45-Chuck Hebing, 5. 38x-Ryan Moore, 6. 2m-Dallas Hewitt, 7. 94-Derek Hagar, 8. 28h-Hud Horton, 9. 422-Etienne Girard, 10. 52-Mark Broughman, 11. 67-Brian Thomas, 12. 00-Danny Martin, Jr., 13. 32m-Derek Hastings, 14. 11T-T.J. Winegardner. DNS: 9-R.J. Johnson.
Second “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 13-Todd Fayard, 2. 8x-Chris Williams, 3. 6s-Robbie Smith, 4. 3-Blake Feese, 5. 2-Dustin Morgan, 6. 19-Klint Angelette, 7. 0-Glenn Styres, 8. 10x-Jeff Cook, 9. F37-Kyle Moffit, 10. 4m-Michael Miller, 11. 01-Mikey Kruchka, 12. 20-Frank Carlsson, 13. J1-Mike Tharpe, 14. 38-Tony Agin. DNS: 02-Gene Lasker.
“A” Feature (25 Laps): 1. 3g-Shane Stewart, 2. 21k-Lou Kennedy, Jr., 3. 24c-Tim Crawley, 4. 24T-Terry McCarl, 5. 7s-Jason Sides, 6. 7-Darren Long, 7. 3a-A.J. Maddox, 8. 20k-Thomas Kennedy, 9. 13-Todd Fayard, 10. 80-Morgan Turpen, 11. 21k-Thomas Kennedy, 12. 45-Chuck Hebing, 13. 6s-Robbie Smith, 14. 10-Terry Gray, 15. 3b-Brad Greer, 16. 41-Jason Johnson, 17. 40-Caleb Helms, 18. 66-Alex Shanks, 19. 3-Blake Feese, 20. 00x-Jim Nier.
Lap Leaders: Tim Crawley 1-2, Shane Stewart 3-25.