East Bay Raceway Park
Locals on front row for $10,000 East Bay event
By Roby HelmNeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
GIBSONTON, Fla. (Dec. 11) — Local favorites Shan Smith of Dade City, Fla., and Jeff Matthews of Dover, Fla., earned front-row starting spots Friday for Saturday’s fifth Annual NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series World Championship Race at East Bay Raceway Park.
Smith set fast time overall among the 60 entries with a lap around the third-mile clay oval in 15.946 seconds and then won the first of six 20-lap heat races in the Seckman Fire Sprinklers TNT to earn the pole position for the main event. Smith turned the quick lap as the first qualifier on the first lap of group qualifying.
Matthews started third in the second 20-lap heat race and went on to win to earn the outside front row starting spot for the main event, a 100-lapper paying $10,000 to the winner. National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., also started third and won the third heat race to earn the inside second row spot for the main event.
Mike Pegher Jr. of Wexford, Pa., will start the big show from the outside of row two after driving to victory in the fourth heat race. Stacy Roberts of Sylvester, Ga., won the fifth heat race to earn the inside third row starting spot for the big show on Saturday night.
The 2009 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series National Champion Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss., held off Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., to win the sixth heat race in the 78 Towing and Recovery Victory Circle By Moyer, and earn the outside third row starting spot for the $10,000-to-win main event on Saturday night.
The top three finishers from the six 20-lap heat races on Friday night transferred into the main event on Saturday night. Drivers that finished fourth on back in the heat races will have another opportunity to make the main event with a top finish in one of three consolation races on Saturday night before the big show.
Two-time NeSmith Chevrolet Series champion David Gentry of Lewisburg, Tenn., and Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., transferred to the main event out of the first heat race, and will start seventh and 13th respectively.
Doug Horton of Bruceton Mills, W.Va., and Bryan Bernhardt of Clearwater, Fla., transferred out of the second heat race to earn the eighth and 14th starting spots respectively for the big show. Bernhardt finished third after starting ninth in the heat race.
Bernhardt was one of 13 drivers that were not permitted to attempt a qualifying run because he failed pre-qualifying technical inspection due to the detection of illegal additives either in, or on their tires. The 13 drivers were allowed to buy new tires at the track and start on the tail of their group heat race.
Steve Francis of Ashland, Ky., will start the main event from the ninth starting spot after driving to a second-place finish in the third heat race. The 2006 race winner, Randy Korte of Highland, Ill., finished third after starting ninth in the Kehrer Brothers Roofing Rocket, and will start the big show from the 15th starting spot.
Korte was also not allowed to qualify due to a tire violation. Bernhardt and Korte were the only two of the 13 drivers ticketed for a pre-qualifying tire violation that came from the back of their respective heat races and transfer into the main event.
Rodney Wing of Meridian, Miss., and Rodney Melvin of Benton, Ill., finished second and third respectively in the fourth heat race. Wing will start 10th and Melvin will start 16th in the Saturday night main event.
Josh Holtgraver of Pittsburgh, Pa., will start the main event from the 11th starting spot after driving the D&T Auto Body Rocket to a second-place finish in the fifth heat race. Third-generation driver Wayne Reutimann Jr. finished third in the fifth heat race, and will start from the 17th starting spot in the big show.
McCreadie and 2008 NeSmith Chevrolet champion Chip Brindle of Chatsworth, Ga., transferred out of the sixth heat race and will start the 100-lapper from the 12th and 18th starting spots respectively.
The other 11 drivers ticketed for a pre-qualifying tire violation were Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn.; Todd Morrow of East Ridge, Tenn.; Josh Peacock of Dover, Fla.; Travis Varnadore of Dover, Fla.; Steven Roberts of Sylvester, Ga.; Wallace Peacock of Dover, Fla.; Gregg Satterlee of Rochester Mills, Pa.; Aaron Heck of Mount Vernon, Ill.; Kenny Compton Jr. of Bland, Va.; David Pollen Jr. of Tampa, Fla; and Tanner English of Benton, Ky.
The car of Russell Brown Jr. of Valdosta, Ga., was disqualified from the event during the pre-event technical inspection because of tampered sealing bolts on his engine.