Punxsutawney Phil must have been jealous those from Pennsylvania who headed south for early season racing didn’t take him along. His forecast on an early spring just meant rain for Florida. Rain and racing don’t mix.
The weather played a difficult role in many of the scheduled activities in Florida and Georgia as the calendar transitioned to February. Bubba Raceway Park, East Bay Raceway Park, Golden Isles Speedway, Hendry County Motorsports Park, and North Florida Speedway were all impacted, some more severely than others. Hendry County lost its only scheduled event due to rain.
The week didn’t start off bad, with Thursday night racing escaping unscathed. The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All-Star Circuit of Champions would bring 32 cars to compete after a night of practice. Carson Short would set a blistering pace of 11.484 seconds in qualifying. The feature event saw the “Steel City Outlaw” Tim Shaffer add a win to his growing list of accolades. The four-time series champion grabbed the lead on lap 19, only to see it wiped out by a caution. It took nine more laps before he could secure the top spot for good. Shaffer, Shane Stewart, and Tony Stewart were race leaders in the main.
At East Bay Raceway Park, the opening night of the Stingray Performance Parts Crate Late Models saw the pits holding 31 cars for the division, alongside 20 Top Gun Sprint Series entries. Steve Mathis Jr. would fight his way to the front to make a stop in Victory Lane, jumping to the faster high-line to get the job done. East Bay Raceway track champion Phillip Cobb set the fast time in qualifying with a 15.995 circuit. Former series champion A.J. Maddox scored the Top Gun 25-lap main.
The action would start on Friday for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Georgia. Unfortunately, the A-main would be relegated to the following day when rain showers moved in. The same would hold true as UMP Modifieds were preparing to open their run at North Florida Speedway, pushing the main to Saturday.
Rain didn’t hold control of the ASCoC Sprint Car action at BRP. Tim Shaffer backed up the Thursday win, collecting his 66th ASCoC main. Shaffer again started Third, hunting down race leader Jacob Allen on lap 14. Allen had paced the qualifying effort with an 11.763 pass and showed speed at the start of the main. Shaffer credited his own experience as a contributing factor in the win, pointing out that the young drivers who scored good runs will gain that experience by competing in events like this.
At East Bay, the times got quicker as the qualifying efforts clicked off in the Crate Late Model action. After the final car qualified, it was veteran Keith Nosbisch whose time was best. His 15.453 was a half-second quicker than the night before. Ten drivers put up times that would have been good to be fast qualifier the night before.
Mathis appeared to be on his way to a second win in as many nights as he took the lead from Kenny Monahan on lap 5. Nosbisch managed to close in on the leader as they hit lapped traffic. With the slower cars on the bottom line as mandated in the drivers’ meeting, Mathis and Noisbisch kicked it up to the middle of the race track. Nosbisch managed to get back to the bottom before Mathis could react and pulled out to the lead and the eventual win. The victory took a little sting out of the Thursday night effort, which was affected by a broken power steering belt late in the race for Nosbisch.
Maddox would again prevail in the Top Gun Sprints, bringing his third-straight win at East Bay after taking the 2018 season finale.
Saturday, Groundhog Day, was a day of double features and disappointment. The UMP Modifieds were able to complete the Friday show as Illinois racer Will Krup checkered first at North Florida. Tyler Erb made the best of his new ride by coming home on top at the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series contest at Golden Isles. With those completed, the focus could go to the regularly scheduled action.
Hendry County Motorsports Park became the first to feel the effects. The scheduled program was cancelled early and the lone event of the weekend was not held.
East Bay Raceway Park went through the afternoon where it rained everywhere within a 30-mile radius, but not at the race track. However, a Florida pop up shower materialized at 7:45 p.m. and the rain stayed over the race track with no wind to push it away. The show was cancelled since no make-up dates would be available due to the arrival of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series the following day.
Bubba Raceway Park was threatened but relatively unscathed by the weather. A new but familiar name parked in Victory Lane for the ASCoC finale. Tony Stewart scored his first BRP win, leading all 30 laps of the Feature to go along with triumphs in the heat and dash. The pace was slowed in qualifying due to the effects of afternoon rains, but the program went off without delay. The ASCoC will now move to Volusia Speedway Park for racing on Feb. 6-7.
North Florida’s second Feature of the day was won by the “High Side Tickler” Kyle Strickler. A field of 42 cars battled for starting spots in the ultra-competitive field. It would turn out to be the last event, as a doubleheader of UMP Modifieds and UMP Late Models for Sunday afternoon had to be scrubbed when rains came after Saturday racing ended.
The second race of the day for Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series competitors wrapped up near midnight with local favorite Earl Pearson Jr. taking the win, ahead of Jonathan Davenport and Scott Bloomquist.
USAC racing at East Bay Raceway Park can be live-streamed on FloRacing.com on a monthly or yearly subscription basis.