After sitting all season with no racing action, Lake City Speedway roared back into action this weekend with a pair of programs on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  Saturday was cloudy and cool, yet comfortable while Sunday’s
action was head under mostly sunny and warm conditions.

Saturday’s headliner was a 50-lap event for the Sportsman cars which would turn out to be a benefit race for Orlando’s Patrick Thomas as he led all 50 circuits for a dominating victory.  Thomas grabbed the lead at the drop of the green only to see the red flag out for Greg Talley who pounded the turn one wall after tangling with Daniel Conlin, Jr. on lap three.  Talley was unhurt but he was eliminated for further competition for the weekend.  Conlin would be forced to pit with a flat right front tire shortly after the restart and he lost five laps while making the tire change.

Thomas continued to lead at will and was slowed just one final time on lap 35 when Mike Soukup’s engine blew up big time going into turn one to bring out a second red flag to clean up the fluid on the track.  After the restart, Thomas again pulled away to score an easy victory over Wesley Keller, Scott “Suds” Garrity, and Derrick Wood who ran as high as second place before a fuel feed problem slowed him late in the running.  Conlin was the only car still running at the end and he took fifth, five laps in arrears.  Sixth through ninth, all DNF’s, were Soukup, Jeff Prescott, Talley and Robert Ford.  Brian Hull did not start the feature after blowing an engine in warm-ups.

“Diamond” Jim Higginbotham of Summerfield scored a popular win in the 25-lap E-Modified feature race that produced great racing from start to finish.  The only problem to occur in this race would be going into turn three on the initial lap as several cars got jammed up.  When the dust settled, both Matt Bosowski and Matt Darden were out of the event before it even actually got started.

The second start proved better and the race would go green to checker with no yellow flags needed.  Mike Soukup led the opening lap before Jon Compagnone took over for a pair of laps.  Higginbotham snared the top spot on lap four and stayed out front through lap 15 before Junior Beckner drove under him.  Beckner looked to have the car to beat but, after leading just two circuits, his car began to slow quite a bit on the straights and Higginbotham reclaimed the lead on lap 19 and led the rest of the way although Beckner did keep it close in the late laps.  “We broke two rockers in the engine and that slowed us up a bunch.” said Beckner after the race.  “I didn’t want to cause a wreck, so I moved up and let Jim go by although I gave him a good run on that last lap,” he said.
For Higginbotham, a 65-year-old Vietnam Veteran and two-time cancer survivor, it was his first feature win in a little over five years and he was receiving congratulations from everyone after the event.  Higginbotham was quick to credit fellow racer Wayne Anderson who had been making some needed changes to Higginbotham’s car at his Wildwood shop and the winner said he had never had a better handling car than the one he had Saturday afternoon.

Beckner finished a close second in front of Compagnone, Gino Tuminello, Soukup, Darden and Bosowski.  Beckner won the heat race.

Pete Close of Ocala led the first lap of the Pure Stock/Super Stock feature before Josh Wise took over through lap 11 before local veteran Charles Seroki took over to easily lead the remaining distance as he proved he’d not lost his touch on the fast banked half mile.  Wise took second but was set down for an infraction in tech moving Cody Clark up to second place at the end of the 25-lap contest.  Tim Alldredge was third ahead of Close and Preston Hunt.  Rounding out the finishers were Tony Kuhr, Adam Soukup, heat winner Bucky York and Andy Nichols.

Five Hornets showed up to race but three were done for the day after the heat race leaving a feature match race of 10 laps that was won by John Windham over Robert O’Neal.  O’Neal was the heat race winner.

Sunday it was the E-Modifieds turn at going 50 laps and it would prove to be a run-away win for Orange Park driver Kurt Jett who started on the outside pole and led every lap, clearly the fastest car on the track.  The race was slowed three times before the half way mark for minor incidents but Jett drove away with the lead easily on each restart.  Junior Beckner again had a strong car early but the same engine woes from Saturday reared up again and he eventually became part of a great four-way battle for second that ended when Beckner got loose and spun coming off turn four on lap 27.  Beckner’s car clipped the front stretch wall and he was forced out of action.  From that point it was all Jett out front as Derrick Wood made an impressive run to a second place finish that was unexpected earlier in the day.

Car owner Donnie Lewis made a late decision to bring his car to the track but he did not have a driver.  In the meantime, Wood had the engine expire in his Sportsman car during that division’s heat race.  That left the young Orlando driver available to drive Lewis’ Modified and he made the best of it with his runner-up finish.

Third place went to Mike Soukup while Pete Close drove Saturday winner Jim Higginbotham’s car to fourth despite some late race mechanical problems.  Gino Tuminello took fifth while Jon Compagnone had a great run going before suffering an ignition problem that dropped him to sixth.  Beckner and Matthew Green were DNF’s in seventh and eighth.

Jeff Prescott led the first three laps of the 25-lap Sportsman feature but his car slowed abruptly and he headed for the pits handing the lead over to Patrick Thomas who would lead the rest of the way to score a double for the weekend.  Wesley Keller took second for the second day in a row trailed by Daniel Conlin, Jr., Robert Ford and Prescott.  Thomas also won the heat race. Saturday Pure Stock/Super Stock winner Charles Seroki was a no-show on Sunday leaving things wide open for the rest of the field.  Walter Grimes of Quincy, driving the only truck-bodied machine in the field, led the first 17 laps before having to spin as Preston Hunt and Cody Clark had tangled in turn four. Grimes missed the caution light coming on and nearly ran into the stalled pair.

During the ensuing caution period both leader Grimes and second place Bucky York pitted.  Grimes never did stop in the pits while York had to fix a rear brake issue that was smoking heavily.  Both made it back out for the restart but had to start from the back of the field.  Clark also had to pit with a flat right rear tire.

Pete Close took over the lead but it took just three circuits for Grimes to get back to the point and he led the rest of the way to take the victory.  York made his way back to second at the end with Close taking third in front of Hunt, Tony Kuhr, Adam Soukup and Clark.  York won the heat race for the second day in a row.

John Windham swept the Hornet racing for the weekend as he took his second win topping Robert O’Neal, Wayne Risner and Zach Harmon.  Windham also won the heat.

Track PR – Speed51.com photo

Kurt Jett and Patrick Thomas win at Lake City