Lonnie Wheatley, TAMPA, Fla. (February 2, 2007) – Levi Jones saved the best for last in the third and final night of O'Reilly Sprint Bandits Tour 'N Topless Second Annual Wingless Showdown at East Bay Raceway Park's 31st Annual Winter Nationals, leading the final 16 circuits to capture the $10,000 winner's share in Friday night's 40-lap feature.
Monday night winner Jesse Hockett paced the opening 24 rounds, with Jones and Mike Brecht shadowing his every move along the way. But the slightest of hesitations in lapped traffic on the 25th lap was just the opening Jones was looking for.
Jones held off Mike Brecht and Hockett the rest of the way to capture the second major victory in less than a month for the Tony Stewart Motorsports team, as team owner Stewart captured O'Reilly Chili Bowl Nationals honors on January 13.
"You've really got to give a lot of credit to the track owners, Al (Varnadore) and Todd (Hutto), at any other track in the country this race would have been cancelled early this afternoon," Jones commented of heavy rains over night. "I'm glad we got to race and I'm going to enjoy their $10,000."
"The team got off to a good start with Chevrolet by winning the Chili Bowl and now we were able to get this one, it's a great way to get the 2007 season going," Jones surmised.
After the initial attempt to start the race was waved off for a turn two fracas that eliminated four starters (Daron Clayton, Greg Leonard, Cole Whitt and John Heydenreich), the balance of the 40-lapper ran off with just one caution period for Washington's Robbie Vaughn, whose disabled mount came to a stop in turn two.
While Jones gridded the 24-car feature field fourth, it was Brady Short leading the way to the green flag after earning the most points through preliminary action on Monday and Wednesday. But Hockett shot into the lead at the outset, with Jones taking second from Short by the fourth lap.
Following the lap six interruption, Jones kept the pressure on Hockett as Brecht battled past Short for third on the ninth circuit. Jones looked high and low for several laps, but Hockett held steady to maintain the lead as Brecht shadowed the lead pair.
By the 17th round, Hockett opened up a slim three car-length lead. That lead would vanish in short order, as lapped traffic soon came into play. And when Hockett moved up the track entering turn three and tried to thread the needle between a pair of lapped cars, Jones pounced to the low side of the track and charged off turn four with a slim lead.
Brecht followed Jones' lead through turns three and four and, after racing wheel-to-wheel with Hockett for a full lap, took over second place. Brecht and Hockett kept pace with Jones over the final 15 laps, waiting for the error that never came.
as the lead trio approached lapped traffic in the waning lap, Jones never
wavered and took the checkered flag two car-lengths ahead of
While the top three raced together throughout, the trio of Short, Jon Stanbrough and Tracy Hines diced for fourth position another ten car-lengths back. Short held the fourth position at the line, with Stanbrough rounding out the top five.
Hines, Jones' teammate, crossed the stripe in sixth, with Shane Cottle, Kaley Gharst, Zach Chappell and 17th-starter Dickie Gaines completing the top ten.
Cottle, Gharst, Billy Puterbaugh, Jr., and Clayton won Friday night's heat races, with Tom Busch topping the 12-lap "B" Main.
total of 43 different drivers competed in the Second Annual O'Reilly Sprint
Bandits Tour 'N Topless Showdown at
O’Reilly Sprint Bandits Tour ‘N Topless East Bay Wingless Showdown Finale Results:
Locked in from Preliminary Events (Top six in cumulate heat, qualifier and feature races from Monday and Wednesday:
2b-Brady Short (Bedford, IN), 75-Jesse Hockett (Warsaw, MO), 97-Mike Brecht (Beaver Dam, OH), 20J-Levi Jones (Olney, IL), 21R-Jon Stanbrough (Jamestown, IN), 21-Tracy Hines (Greenfield, IN).
Heat Races (Top 14 in Passing Points to "A" Main; Balance to "B" Main:
Heat (8 Laps): 1. 36-Shane Cottle (
Heat (8 Laps): 1. 3-Kaley Gharst (
Heat (8 Laps): 1. 16-Billy Puterbaugh, Jr. (
Heat (8 Laps): 1. 10-Daron Clayton (
"B" Main – Top 4 advance to "A" Main
"B" Main (12
Laps): 1. 4b-Tom Busch (
O'Reilly Sprint Bandits
Main (40 Laps): 1. 20J-Levi Jones (
Lap Leaders: Jesse Hockett 1-24, Levi Jones 25-40.