Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Curious Case of Josh Richards

I recall a line from the movie The Waterboy in which Momma said "Josh Richards is the devil." Well Momma never said that, but if you would happen to be around the Winchester Speedway on any given night in which Richards is running an event there, you would be lead to believe that there are many people who have feelings very harsh towards Richards and his driving ability, and who may in theory believe that Josh Richards is the devil. Yes i said his driving ability. I know there are plenty of people on the VA Dirt Lovers board, and various other boards who consider Richards to be a silver-spooned racer who has been given everything without earning anything, or who believe that Richards should not run the local shows at Winchester or Hagerstown, but those people are wrong. I feel like Richards should be encouraged to run against the locals. The local racing scene may not be as tough as it was in the mid-80's, but it's still pretty tough with numerous regional drivers who are capable of running well against top level competition on their home turf. Let's examine the facts here. People can say whatever they want about Richards being handed everything because his father is Mark Richards who happens to be the man who builds Rocket Chassis, but the fact of the matter is no matter how you shake it down the kid still has to be able to drive the car, and he drives the car as hard as anyone out there.

There is also no arguing that Richards is a winner. He may not be at the level of a Bloomquist or an Owens, but Richards, especially every time he enters an event at Winchester or Hagerstown in the Ernie Davis owned #25 car is very tough to beat, and the truth is that most people root for underdogs and do not like winners. Plus people don't like to see the same guy win all the time, and most of the time when Richards enters a race around here, he happens to be the winner when he leaves. Look at his record just this year alone, he has won almost every time he has been at Winchester, and he won the Appalachian Speedweek shows at Winchester and Roaring Knob which just so happened to be the only ones he entered. The whole argument that Richards is a cherry picker for running the local events makes no sense whatsoever. Richards is a regular on the WoO tour winning the past two series championships, but when his schedule allows him too I don't see anything wrong with him running Davis' car at special shows at Winchester and Hagerstown. The fact of the matter is that Richards is a racer, and he chooses to race even when the WoO does not have an event scheduled. I don't see a problem with him coming in to run a regional event at Winchester and Hagerstown to add a little competition to the field, and I don't see why fans in this area have a problem with that.

I hear the argument that many people don't like Richards because they say he runs over people to win. Personally I've only seen one instance recently in which Richards drove hard to win. He did run Jamie Lathroum up the track to keep the lead in a WoO race at Winchester, but contact wasn't made and Lathroum said later he probably should have gotten out of it and waited for another shot because he did indeed have a faster car. With that being said, Richards probably could have given him a little more room, but if you don't like Richards simply because he drives a little hard sometimes, then you must not like numerous guys in the Mid-Atlantic area that drive the same way, especially while racing for the lead. I don't really see anything wrong with hard racing for the lead. I mean I thought the point of showing up was to win the race.

So what we have to ask ourselves as fans in the Mid-Atlantic area is this. Is having Josh Richards running bigger paying events in our area really a bad thing? I mean in our free country Richards is obviously allowed to run wherever he chooses, but why all the hatred towards Richards running in this area? There are obviously plenty of guys who have hung with him this year, but came up a little short in beating him like D.J. Myers, Jason Covert, Jeremy Miller, Jamie Lathroum, and J.T. Spence to name a few. The only exceptions I can think of was when Miller passed Richards late to win at Hagerstown, and when Myers won a TSF race at Winchester after starting 9th, but Richards started 17th in that race and was never up front. On any given night any of those guys and a number of others could most likely beat Richards at Winchester or Hagerstown, but they need to be a little faster consistently to do so. Some people may disagree with me, but I feel like people need to embrace the fact that Richards runs races in this area, and that he's very tough to beat when he does, but it's not a bad thing for area racing. There's nothing wrong with adding a little competition to the field.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Myth of Hagerstown vs. Winchester

The last few weeks I have heard way too much about how much better of a field Hagerstown gets than Winchester, and it's just not true. The Winchester drivers don't get enough credit from some people, and it's time that someone stood up for them. It was a shame when Hagerstown promoter Frank Plessinger moved the track to Saturday nights because both tracks used to get awesome fields on a weekly basis when Winchester ran on Saturday nights, and Hagerstown ran on Sunday nights. The first couple of years Hagerstown's field was much better than Winchester's but as time has marched on, the field have leveled out. Don't believe me. Let's take a look at it. Last year, former Winchester regular J.T. Spence won the track championship at Hagerstown, and current Winchester regular Bo Feathers was the fastest car all year and ended up losing the championship to Spence due to mechanical failures throughout the season. Nothing against Spence, his car held together all year, and he won the championship fair and square. The point is that Spence and Feathers are both Winchester guys that who started their careers and blossomed at Winchester, not Hagerstown. A few years ago Ronnie DeHaven Jr. looked to be the fastest thing at Hagerstown on a weekly basis, and he too was a Winchester driver. A few years back Roy Deese Jr. barely beat Allen Brannon (Winchester regular) for the track championship. A lot of people might get mad at me for saying this, but in my opinion the track championships at both Hagerstown and Winchester are a joke compared to what they used to mean to an area driver. The fields that are running for points on a weekly basis just are not as good as they used to be. Feathers is going to end up winning the Winchester championship more than likely and he skipped a points race earlier this year. Roy Deese Jr. is going to more than likely win another Hagerstown track championship and he doesn't even show up for the sanctioned races at Hagerstown. Now, I understand he is not a high dollar team, but when you compare locals to a major field, your points leader should probably be leading the charge against the sanctioned guys. Also, there are not any local drivers who are capable of winning sanctioned shows the way they used too. In the 80's at Hagerstown there were as many as 7 or 8 local drivers (guys that run at the track almost every week) that could win sanctioned races against really good fields at their home track. Those guys included Rodney Franklin, Buddy Armel, Gary Stuhler, Denny Bonebrake, Jeff Robinson, Ronnie McBee, and Tom Peck. Every single one of these drivers either won sanctioned races at Hagerstown, or were up front competing for the win on numerous occassions. The last time I saw a local driver compete for the win in a sanctioned race at Hagerstown or Winchester was when Gary Stuhler gave Rick Eckert a run for his money during a 2004 World of Outlaws Late Model Series race at Hagerstown. Before that, it was probably when Bo Feathers won the STARS sanctioned Winchester 200 in 2001. Now, some people might say that Jeremy Miller and Jason Covert are local guys, but the other day BloomerDaMan pointed out on the VA Dirt Lovers board that those guys really are not local drivers any more and I tend to agree with him. They travel around and run more races on the road than at Hagerstown or Winchester. Heck, Miller doesn't even run at Hagerstown anymore but a selected number of shows due to his American Racer tire deal. When I refer to locals, I am referring to drivers that run at a track not every week, but a lot of the weeks that track runs. Guys like Gary Stuhler, J.T. Spence, Roy Deese Jr., Kirk Ryan, and Nathan Durboraw at Hagerstown. Guys like Bo Feathers, Gerald Davis, Tommy Armel, Wesley Bonebrake, Denny Bonebrake, and Allen Brannon at Winchester. That is what I mean when I refer to locals. The local fields just are not as tough as they used to be, and that's the same throughout the country. Everyone talks about the local field in Tennessee, but they usually run terrible when sanctioned shows come into Volunteer or Tazewell. As a matter of fact, I can prove the point that the local drivers used to compete more. The first ever race that paid $50,000 to win in this country was run at Hagerstown in the Free State 100. Clarksville, TN's Jeff Purvis came home with the win and anybody who was anybody in the early 1980's was at Hagerstown for the biggest payday in dirt racing history at that time. HALF of the field was made up of Hagerstown regulars. The STARS Series started in 1984 and ran a lot of races at Hagerstown the first few years of the series' existence, and they always brought in really good field including legendary drivers like Jack Boggs, Larry Moore, Rodney Combs, John Mason, Charlie Swartz, and Bob Pierce to name a few. In 1984 the STARS ran four races at Hagerstown. Those races were won by Rodney Franklin ($20,000), Rodney Franklin, Bob Wearing, and Jack Boggs. Two of the four races were won by a Hagerstown regular. As a matter of fact, Franklin battled for the lead in an awesome race in the first ever STARS race when he bested Bob Pierce, and you guessed it, a Hagerstown regular by the name of Denny Bonebrake for the win. In 1985 there were five STARS races run at Hagerstown. Rodney Franklin won 4 of those races, and Buddy Armel won the other one. That's a total of all five sanctioned races won by Hagerstown regulars. I just watched the 1985 Miller 85 lapper that Buddy Armel won the other day, and he almost didn't win the race. Another Hagerstown local named Al Shawver charged from the B-Main to almost take the lead before wrecking racing for the lead. Also, local drivers like Franklin and Stuhler have had some great runs in some of the crown jewel races of dirt late model racing. In 1984 Franklin ran third in the Dirt Track World Championship, and in 1986 he ran second in the World 100. In 1988 Stuhler ran second in the Dirt Track World Championship, and in 1989 he ran third in the World 100. One of those years in the mid-1980s Tom Peck has a terrible season running bad almost every week at Hagerstown but mustered an eighth place finish in the Dirt Track World Championship. Look, I'm not saying that the fields at Hagerstown are not tough because there are some good drivers over there. Even some good young drivers like Spence in particular, but the fields are not as competitive as they used to be, and a lot of that has to do with running on the same night. Also, many drivers who were Winchester guys are the guys that have been mopping up the money at Hagerstown in recent years, but all I keep hearing about is how all the Winchester guys suck, and how they can't drive. Trust me, there are plenty of "squirrels" at Hagerstown as well. The last time I went to Hagerstown for a non-sanctioned race earlier this season the B-Main took nearly an hour to run 12 laps becaus there were so many wrecks and spin-outs. Can anyone tell me the last time a Hagerstown regular won a sanctioned race at Hagerstown because I don't remember it's been that long. What used to be a common occurence, much like a Pennsylvania driver winning a World of Outlaws sprint car race at Williams Grove the local used to dominate sanctioned events at Hagerstown. Even as near ago as when Gary Stuhler was mopping up all of the area STARS races in the late 1990's and running a lot of races at Hagerstown. The main point behind this article though if to get some people on VA Dirt Lovers to give Winchester drivers a break and just admit that they are not way behind the drivers at Hagerstown. Look at the special event winners at Winchester this year. The first Shootout race was won by Gerald Davis (Winchester regular), the Stultz Memorial was won by Gary Stuhler (Hagerstown regular), the second Shootout race was won by Josh Richards (WoO), the Paul Johnson Memorial was won by Booper Bare (independent), and the Lucas Oil race was won by Earl Pearson Jr. (Lucas Oil regular). Only one Hagerstown regular has come in and won a big paying event at Winchester. Also, Hagerstown has went downhill over the year when talking about the pay for drivers. In the late 1980's Hagerstown was running 35 lap features paying $2,000 to win. Now, they may run 10 laps less, but I'm pretty sure they are paying $1,300 to win. The last time I checked the cars were a little more expensive to run nowadays than in the 80s. Come on people, give the Winchester guys some credit, they have proven that they deserve it. Look at the success that guys like Spence, Feathers, and Brannon have had at Hagerstown in recent years. The drivers at Winchester are not bad, although there are some people that would lead you to believe that they are terrible.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

August 5 - Gary Stuhler - Hall of Famer

This Saturday at the Florence Speedway in Union, Kentucky, Gary Stuhler will be inducted in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. And everyone would agree with me that the all-time leading feature winner at the Hagerstown Speedway is worthy of the honor. Stuhler's list of accomplishments is as long as any other regional star that has entered the Hall of Fame, and Stuhler will be a tremendous addition to the Hall of Fame in Kentucky. Let's take a look back at the career of "The Beast from the East" who continues to build on his career accomplishments to this day. Stuhler has won the Winchester 200 on an unprecedented ten different occassions. Stuhler first won the 200 in 1986, and then followed with victories in 1987, 1990, 1991 (Twin 50's), 1994, 1995, 1999, 2004, and 2005. No one else has won the Winchester 200 more than three times in their career, and Stuhler has managed to dominate the event like no one else in the event's history. Although Stuhler never competed that many years for track championships he was the Winchester track champion in 1989 and 1990. He won the track championship at Hagerstown in 1990, and 2003. In 2003 Stuhler won the track titles at both Hagerstown and Cumberland when promoters Frank Plessinger and Rick Jones offered a $25,000 bonus if anyone could win both track championships in the same year. Stuhler's single event accomplishments at Hagerstown also are unmatched by anyone else in the track's history. He has won the Conococheague 100 5 times in 1987, 1993, 1997, 1998, and 1999. He has won the Late Model portion of Octoberfest 4 times in 1988, 1996, 1999, and 2003. He won the Hub-City in 2002, 2003, and 2005. He won the Johnny Roberts Memorial in 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1999, and 2002. He won the Stanley Schetrompf Memorial in 1989, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1996, and 1997. He won the Shorty Bowers/Bull Durham Memorial in 1985, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1995, and 1999. He won the Ronnie McBee/Speedy Hays Memorial in 1988, 1992, and 1994. He won the Richard "Boney" Bonebrake Memorial in 1996 and 2003. He also won the Hagerstown Speedway's former Race of Champions event in 1988 and 1989. Enough with the local accomplishments. Let's look at Stuhler's accomplishments on the national level. Stuhler ranks 5th on the all-time STARS win list with 27 victories. He only trails Donnie Moran, Davey Johnson, Larry Moore, and Mike Balzano in that category, all of which were former STARS champions who followed the entire tour at one time or another. Stuhler never followed the entire tour. In 1998, Stuhler had what was most likely his best season ever. When he came to the World 100 at Eldora that year he was the leading feature winner in the nation. Stuhler won an unmatched 8 STARS events that season while only entering 24 of those events. He picked up STARS wins that year at Williams Grove, Cumberland, Winchester, Muskingum County, West Virginia Motor (2), and Hagerstown (2). The West Virginia Motor Speedway victories were Twin 30's that were run the day after the Dirt Late Model Dream race at Eldora was run. All of the countries best Late Model drivers were on hand at West Virginia and Stuhler took both of the Twin 30 features. In 1999, Stuhler picked up STARS wins at East Bay during the Winternationals, and won the Cornett Clash at Portsmouth, along with other STARS wins in the area. Bart Hartman used to refer to the times in which the STARS series visited the Mid-Atlantic region as the Gary Stuhler benefit weekends. There was defnitely a time in which Gary Stuhler was expected to win every single STARS race in this area, and he often did. In June of 1987 Stuhler officially put his name out their nationally when he won a 100 lap race at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway in which he lapped all but the top two cars. The legendary Jack Boggs finished second in that event, and one of the cars that Stuhler lapped was the legendary Jeff Purvis. In 1994, Stuhler won the STARS sanctioned Penn National 100 at PPMS. Perhaps one of Stuhler's greatest accomplishments was in 1998 when he won the 51st Anniversary 100 STARS race at Hagerstown after coming from the rear not once, but twice to re-take the lead and go on to dominate the feature event. The best part of his career came in the late 1990's, and it almost never happened for Stuhler. In the mid-1990's Stuhler was caught up in a wreck at Winchester that fatally injured Mike Clore. Stuhler suffered a broken ankle during that wreck, and during his time away from racing after that wreck seriously considered retirement. Despite the horrible tragedy that took the life of Mike Clore, Stuhler was able to come back from that accident and attain some of the greatest moments of his career. Stuhler has driven for many of the top owners in the history of the business including Bobby Allen, Speedy Hays, Dale Beitler, and currently for Glen Nininger. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Gary Stuhler is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, regional drivers of all time. There should also be no doubt in anyone's mind, including Stuhler's, that he is a Hall of Famer. Congratulations Gary on this tremendous accomplishment, you truly deserve it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

July 28 - Dirt Racing Is Just Better

More boring than the last feature on Octobefest weekend, it's the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, coming to you live from Speedway, Indiana. After I got home from the family reunion yesterday, I sat in front of my television and tried to watch the fiasco that was the Brickyard, I mean the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. This was a perfect example of why dirt racing is just better than NASCAR. I'm sure there are a lot of people on the VA Dirt Lovers board that would agree with me when I say that the debacle that took place yesterday at Indianapolis was nothing more than a fiasco. There were hundreds of thousands of fans in the stands who paid good money to watch a parade. I can go watch the Apple Blossom parade if I want to see that. It would probably be a heck of a lot more exciting than the NASCAR race was yesterday. I'm sure you've heard it by now, Goodyear couldn't put a tire on a car that could last for more than 10 laps. Competition yellows, which are a joke to begin with, were thrown all the time, and one third of the race was run under caution, most of which would not have been needed if Goodyear provided a good tire. Tony Stewart complained last year about how they need to get other tire companies involved in NASCAR for competition and I could not agree with him more. Especially if Goodyear brings the crap that brought with them to Indianapolis. It truly is a shame for people who actually are big NASCAR fans, a label which I do not fit. I have been extremely critical of the races being too long, drivers not being able to say what they want to say, and the overall political correctness that has turned NASCAR into a joke in my opinion. Dirt Racing is just plain better. Take for example this coming weekend. I have a huge week planned as I am going to Lernerville tomorrow night for the Firecracker 100. Lernerville, in my opinion, is the best track I have ever been to, and I've been to a good many. Then I'm going to Bedford, Winchester, and Hagerstown for the Lucas Oil Dirt Series races. That right there is one major reason as to why dirt racing is better than NASCAR, you have different CHOICES. People in this are alone can go to Lernerville, Williams Grove, or Bedford on a Friday night, Hagerstown, Winchester, Lincoln, Port Royal, and a number of other tracks on a Saturday night for regular shows alone. Hesston just ran a $5,000 to win Thunder By The Lake event last night that Gunter's Honey pilot D.J. Myers won. When you sit down to watch a NASCAR race on a Sunday, or more often a Saturday night these days, you are stuck with what you got. When NASCAR goes to tracks that absolutely suck like Indianapolis, Pocono, New Hampshire, and Phoenix you are forced to watch it if you choose to tune into the race. The sheer amount of choices across the area and the country is great for dirt racing fans. Let's face it, there are a lot of great dirt Late Model drivers across the country outnumbering the drivers that can win from week to week in NASCAR. Not all of dirt racing is great, but neither is all of what goes on in NASCAR. People can argue with me on this, but the NASCAR race yesterday was a joke and it continues to prove why dirt racing is better than NASCAR racing, and if NASCAR fans would give dirt racing a real chance, they would realize the same thing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

July 24 - Hoosier vs. American Racer

Sorry I haven't been able to post the last couple of days. I have been really busy, and just didn't feel like posting on here late at night. The Armel-Spence incident is still being talked about almost a week later and that is a good thing, not a bad thing. The topic I am choosing to tackle today is the Hoosier vs. American Racer tire war that is going on here in the Mid-Atlantic area. I say the Mid-Atlantic area because you just don't hear too much about it outside of this area. Yes, Steve Francis and Chub Frank are running American Racers, and Tim Fuller did run American Racers to a WoO Late Model series win a few weeks back. Other than that, most of the good guys throughout the country are still running Hoosier tires. Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, and Billy Moyer have all had better season thus far than anyone else throughout the country and they are running Hoosier tires. The thing is that all the area tracks, Hagerstown included, have a Hoosier tire rule weekly. They are associated with Hoosier Tire Mid-Atlantic and that organization supplies the drivers at the track with the tires they need. A few weeks ago Hagerstown ran the Ernie's Towing & Hauling 25 that had an open tire rule. What happened? The American Racer guys destroyed the field taking four of the top five spots with Jeremy Miller winning in his first start at Hagerstown all season, and Jason Covert coming from 9th to second after starting 17th and winning the night before at Bedford in the IRS race. So, what happens on the VA Dirt Lovers board the next day. A lot of crying about how the American Racer tires are better than the Hoosier tires and it's not fair. In my opinion it's completely fair. What's wrong with a little competition. It's obvious that Hoosier tires are behind the 8-ball in this area right now. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the American Racer tires are faster on the tracks in this immediate area. Anyone who would argue that Hoosier tires are still faster needs only look at the results of that weekend on what Jason Covert did on American Racers at Bedford, and what happened to the field at Hagerstown the following night. The simple fact of the matter is that Hoosier needs to step their game up and create a tire that can compete with what American Racer is putting out right now. Until they can do that, people needs to stop complaining. If you want to win bad enough, you'll run the best stuff you can possibly run. Jeremy Miller and car owner Charles Buckler switched to American Racer from Hoosier at the end of last year. A while back I remember reading about a lawsuit that American Racer was filing against Hoosier for having a monopoly on racetracks. To that I say, make a better product and end the monopoly. It's all about competition. They seem to be doing something about it in this area though, because their tires are clearly faster than Hoosier tires right now. It's no different than during the mid-1990's when Goodyear was dominating the national Sprint Car scene, and along came Hoosier, and now almost everyone across the country runs Hoosier tires in the sprints.

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 21 - Schatz is the Man

Well, my take on the issue between Tommy Armel and J.T. Spence on Saturday at Winchester has seemed to have been agreed with by some on the VA Dirt Lovers board, and disagreed with by others. That's to be expected. Some people are only going to see it one way. I've been a huge Gary Stuhler fan my entire life, but I am seeing this issue Tommy's way. Just my opinion, everyone else has there's, and the hostility I have seen on the VA Dirt Lovers board this week between some of the people on there really isn't needed. Today though, I'm going to tackle the subject of Donny Schatz dominating at Williams Grove. There is no question that for the last 4 or 5 years Schatz has been the man to beat at the Grove. It definitely hasn't been the Pennsylvania cars. On a consistent basis, Schatz is the fastest car every time the WoO come into the Grove to take on the Posse drivers. Years ago, Steve Kinser was the man to beat at the Grove, and today, it's Schatz. For Late Model fans he is the equivalent to Scott Bloomquist. Actually, I would argue that he is a little more successful than Bloomquist on the national Sprint Car scene, but the national Sprint Car scene is not nearly as vast or far reaching as the national Late Model scene. Schatz has absolutely dominated the Knoxville Nationals the last two years, and he has picked up big wins in the Kings Royal, Silver Cup, Williams Grove National Open over those years of domination as well. Not entirely sure, but he has probably won the Gold Cup at Silver Dollar as well. But he has been more dominant at Williams Grove than any other track, which is amazing considering the fact that the Pennsylvania Posse drivers are the best competition the WoO face all season long. Ask any WoO driver and they will tell you the same thing. There are plenty of drivers who do not enjoy facing the likes of Fred Rahmer, Doug Esh, Greg Hodnett, Cody Darrah, Brian Leppo, and Chad Layton. The sad fact though is that there are many Pennsylvania fans that do not believe that Schatz is dominant at the Grove. They always blame the Outlaws for "cheating" for Schatz to win. That's a joke and anyone with any sense would know that the Outlaws are not cheating. Too many PA fans have no clue what the format is for the Outlaw shows, and they just assume that Schatz and the Outlaws are cheating. A friend of mine from PA was irate this past Friday night at the Grove when he found out Schatz was in the dash. Well, I explained it to him. They invert the top 16 time trialers in four heat races meaning that the fast timer starts fourth in the first heat. The top two finishers in the heats, and the top two fastest time trialers that qualified through their heat, but did not run top two also got into the dash. If you did the math you would have found out their are 10 cars in the dash. Schatz timed 13th fastest, won the heat, and thus qualified for the dash. My friend didn't seem to mind though that Brian Leppo was 14th fastest and qualified for the dash the exact same way that Schatz did. They only see things one way and that's for their guys, which is a shame because they are hurting a lot because the WoO guys have owned the PA guys the last couple years. More specifically, Donny Schatz has owned the PA guys at their own race track. I once read where Donny Schatz should be sponsored by Johnson & Johnson baby powder because he spanks so much ass. I couldn't agree more. More people need to start appreciating what Schatz is doing in sprint car racing right now and just watch one of the greats at work. The same way Scott Bloomquist observers need to appreciate what he's doing. Are they going to get beat from time to time, yes, but that doesn't mean the racing can't be good for everyone when they do win. Just a thought.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

July 20 - They Don't Call it the Action Track for Nothing

Booper Bare won the Paul Johnson Memorial last night, but nobody's going to remember that a couple of years from now. That most definitely was not the biggest thing that happened last night. For those of us who were at Winchester for the Paul Johnson last night we saw a good race track that was very passable, and a great race to match. That was until J.T. Spence could not control his emotions and caused a huge uproar on the race track. First, let's start with the race. I would like to thank the Winchester Speedway crew for giving us a good race track last night. The track stayed racey all night long, and the feature was a good one for the fans. Definitely on of the best race I have seen at Winchester this season, and the best I have seen there in quite some time with the notable exception of last year's Winchester 200 won by Steve Casebolt. Now, let's start with the first incident before getting to the Armel-Spence situation. After battling side by side with J.T. Spence for the lead for about 10-15 laps, Tommy Armel fell back to a second place battle with Gary Stuhler who came out of the B-Main to work his way up to the front and contend for the win. Armel and Stuhler got together at about the exact same spot that Armel and Spence would get into it a few laps later. A lot of fans on the VA Dirt Lovers message board that were not in a good place to see the incidents would say that Armel caused everything, but he didn't. I was sitting in the pit grandstands coming off of turn two giving me a good vantage point to see both incidents. For those who do not know, Stuhler broke a rear end coming into turn one. That is why the car was sideways in the middle of the corner. It's not like Stuhler forgot how to drive all of a sudden. At the same time, Armel got a good run on the high side. Stuhler's car shot up the track after be broke a rear end, and while going down the backstrech, Stuhler's car pinched Armel into the fence and Stuhler came to a stop in turn three. Now, I repeat, Gary Stuhler's car broke a rear end BEFORE him and Armel got together. Stuhler didn't cause a scene on the race track because he knew what happened and he knew that Tommy has nowhere to go. Easy enough, problem solved. Now, onto the real issue. When the green flag came back out Spence and Armel began to race for the lead. I'll give J.T. credit. He was running a line through the middle of the track and was sliding up the track to block Armel and was holding the lead because of that. A couple of laps later though it would all fall apart. Going into turn one Tommy got another good run on the high side that would propel him BESIDE of Spence. When they came off of turn two Armel was clearly all the way outside of Spence. Anyone who did not see it the same thing was obviously not paying attention to the battle for the lead. When they came off of turn two, Spence ran Armel into the fence. Once again, that was not Armel's fault. He was completely to the outside of Spence racing for the lead and SPENCE ran ARMEL into the fence, not the other way around. From there, Armel crossed over across the track a little bit of contact was definitely made when Armel got underneath Spence in turn three. Armel took the lead at that point. Then a caution came out. On the restart Spence plowed Armel going into turn one taking him out of the race. Obviously, J.T. was going to be disqualified for these actions. Now, I am not saying that Tommy Armel is not a rough driver, because he is, but that doesn't mean that he caused any of the accidents last night. Stuhler broke a rear end and that's why contact was made between him and Armel so people need to get over that. Spence ran Armel into the wall going down the backstretch the same way Josh Richards ran Gerald Davis into the wall at the Shootout race a couple of weeks back. The only different is that Spence did not complete the job and Armel took the lead in turn three after some contact was made between the two. I thought both of the incidents coming off of turn two and going into turn three could be classified as hard racing. Spence running Armel into the wall was definitely more of a dirty move than Armel rubbing J.T. a little bit in three to take the lead. People can argue with me on that, but that's my opinion. Now, what J.T. did was wrong, and he should be suspended for it. If I were in Calvin Davis and Danny Wilson's shoes I would bar Spence from Winchester for the rest of the season. What he did was dangerous, and he had the intent of taking Armel out of the race. There's no question about it. Does Tommy Armel drive rough? Yes he does, but he did not deserve what happened to him last night. Taking rumors for what they are worth I was told that Jimmy Spence said that he was going to park J.T.'s car for a while after what happened last night. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that J.T. is in the wrong here. Who's to say he wouldn't have actually passed Armel back and won the race anyway. Armel was going to run up high leaving the bottom open for J.T. to pass him back and win the Paul Johnson Memorial, but J.T. screwed that all up by not being able to control his emotions. Anyone who may think what J.T. did was right is most definitely wrong in thinking that. Oh, and by the way, congratulations to Booper Bare on actually winning the race last night. He did pass a lot of cars.