Leesville 171 Speedway
Stuart grabs SUPR victory at 171 Speedway
By Bryan WimberleyO'Reilly SUPR
LEESVILLE, La. (July 1) — Home-track driver Robbie Stuart of DeRidder, La., led all 40 laps Friday at 171 Speedway for his first O'Reilly Southern United Professional Racing since 2007. He earned $2,000 in the first of three holiday weekend races on the SUPR tour.
A lengthy delay for area thunderstorms that produced dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning didn't hamper Stuart's momentum as he claimed a front-row starting spot. Stuart then raced to a one-second victory over third-starting Kevin Sitton of Baytown, Texas.
Stuart survived bouts with lapped traffic in capturing his fourth career victory on the Louisiana-based tour.
"Luckily we made some right decisions passing them and we made it through," Stuart said. "It was nail-biting at one time and we almost got sandwiched in, I just went with my gut instinct and went for it."
Knowing Sitton runs strong on the bottom of the track, Stuart kept his closest pursuer in check late in the race.
"There was an instance where one lapped car bottled me up real good and I thought that was going to be it," Stuart said. "I went to the high side and just turned it and luckily it stuck. Once I seen the flagman put five fingers up, I said to myself 'Oh, it is on now; it will not be long!' "
Behind Stuart and Sitton, series points leader Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, finished third while polesitter Timothy Culp of West Monroe, La., and 10th-starting hard charger B.J. Robinson of Blanchard, La., rounded out the top five.
Stuart beat Culp to lead lap one with Sitton, Bagley and Rob Litton giving chase. Sitton dropped Culp to third, but a same-lap caution for Chad Dupont making contact with the wall erased Sitton's efforts.
With existing damage from the first caution, Dupont would again hit the wall after contact with Paul Joyner, to bring out a second consecutive yellow. The race would struggle to get going again when a turn-four, two-car incident on lap three drew yet another caution.
On the restart, Stuart resumed the point and began to open up a small advantage in the next several laps. The field started to settle in for a green-flag run of 15 laps with most of the field single file.
Sitton again closed and stuck a nose under Culp for second, but Culp fought off the challenge. Stuart caught lap traffic on the 11th circuit, enabling Culp to close within four lengths.
Culp looked underneath Stuart for the lead change on lap 14, but he too would be denied. Two laps later, Culp chose the wrong line negotiating traffic, losing four spots.
Stuart, now trailed by Sitton and Bagley, began feeling the pressure at the halfway mark. Sitton never lost sight of Stuart, but getting around him proved a far more difficult task. Again the field lined up one behind the other as the laps clicked down to 15 to go.
On lap 30, the top five cars had built a full-straightaway advantage on the sixth-running Litton. Battles began breaking out the final seven laps, as Sitton put his front end under the No. 6R car in first. Sitton couldn't make it stick long enough to claim the spot, but two laps later, he was under the gun by Bagley himself.
After shutting the door on Bagley, Sitton would make one final attempt to pass Stuart. Like every other occasion, Stuart fought off the challenge with three to go and crossed the line first in front of a capacity crowd, making it well worth the 14-year wait of the return of the tour to 171 Speedway.
Notes: Stuart's MasterSbilt by Stuckey race car is powered by Collins Engine Works and sponsored by Stuart Timber, Century 21 Steve Delia & Associates, X-Treme Graphics, MavTV and Stuckey Enterprises Racing. ... Stuart's previous series victory came in April 2007 at Houston Raceway Park. ... Stuart thanked his family and crew members Richard Rougeou, Michael Long and Josh Morgan. ... The checkered flag waved on the 30-minute feature at 1:28 a.m.; the race was slowed by five cautions. ... Stuart claimed an unsanctioned victory in May at the newly re-opened facility in Leesville. ... Three-time SUPR champ David Ashley won the only other series visit to 171 Speedway in August 1997. ...ï¿½ Runner-up Kevin Sitton moved past Allen Tippen of Minden, La., to third in SUPR points. Tippen was 16th after breaking a tie rod as a result of contact with Timothy Culp. ... Within the last two weeks, 171 Speedway removed 42 loads of dirt and hauled in 54 loads of red clay dirt, giving the track new turns. ... Brock Williams of Alexandria, La., returned to a Late Model for the first time this season, driving a freshly wrapped and familiar No. 4x car. The Mike Lowe Race Car is owned by Horton Racing. Williams, originally from Leesville, started 18th and finished 12th. ... Doug Begnaud of Cypress, Texas, had a battery cable come loose in heat race and again in the feature. He dropped out in 20th. ... Derek Perkins of Oakdale, La., blew an engine in hot laps and scratched for the night.
O'Reilly SUPR @ 171: (1) Robbie Stuart, (2) Kevin Sitton, (3) Morgan Bagley, (4) Timothy Culp, (5) B.J. Robinson, (6) Rob Litton, (7) Jody Prince, (8) Jeff Chanler, (9) Curt Lipsey, (10) Jay Brunson, (11) Chris Holley, (12) Brock Williams, (13) Eric Neal, (14) Jim Bryant, (15) Keith Strother, (16) Allen Tippen, (17) Jason Ingalls, (18) Brett Frazier, (19) Paul Joyner, (20) Doug Begnaud, (21) Chad Dupont. Scratched: Derek Perkins. Heat race winners (among 22 cars): Sitton, Culp, Stuart.
Correction: Adds Doug Begnaud in 20th.