BRYANT, Ark. – Fireworks exploded both on and off the race track on Saturday night at I-30 Speedway, and when the dust finally settled, Tim Crawley had every reason to cue the celebration again.
Crawley, the 2012 United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour champion, streaked to the lead in turn three ahead of a spinning Terry Gray after the two banged wheels going down the backstretch during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish in Saturday night’s Hammerdown at Hammer Hill 30-lap event.
Crawley then held off Zach Pringle on the second green-white-checkered attempt to take home the victory after starting the race from the seventh position, completing a weekend sweep of three USCS Arkansas features in front of his hometown fans.
The win was Crawley’s fourth straight USCS feature victory dating back to last weekend at Poplar Bluff, Mo., and his 69th career USCS win overall.
“We’re not gonna talk about the crybabies or (what happened in turn three) right now, we’re gonna talk about that drive,” Crawley said. “I gotta thank Mike Ward; he stepped out of this seat about eight years ago and let me drive this thing and it’s been great. We fought hard for this one tonight; the track was tough around the bottom, and we needed a couple of yellows and got them. We started the year off slow and I had my head buried in the sand; I couldn’t win anything, but this team never gave up and I never gave up, and look where we are now.”
Just before the celebration, Crawley and Gray exchanged a war of words, with Gray extremely frustrated about the way his race ended. Regarding the incident, Crawley was straight to the point after the checkered flag.
“We drove a hard race. I guess (Terry Gray) is a little upset, but you know; if he gets over it, that’s fine. If he doesn’t get over it, that’s fine too.”
Gray left the track without comment after the incident.
Pringle took the lead on the initial start from K&N Filters polesitter Gray on the outside of the race track, but the ten-time series champion would overhaul the No. 14Z of Pringle on lap six to return to the top spot. The race’s first caution flew at lap 10 when 2011 series Rookie of the Year Jordon Mallett spun off the exit of turn four, slowing the pace as Crawley sat mired in the fifth position.
On the restart Gray bolted away from the field as Crawley began to march, and when the field hit lapped traffic on lap 18, Crawley picked off A.G. Rains and Pringle before setting his sights on the No. 10 of Gray. The veteran’s efforts were aided by a red flag on lap 29 of the scheduled 30-lap distance, brought out when the No. 14 of Mallett turned over on the backstretch. Mallett was uninjured in the crash.
That set up the final dash to the checkered flag and Crawley’s last-ditch effort that ultimately won him the event, which was officially pushed one lap beyond its scheduled distance at the checkered flag.
Behind Crawley and Pringle, Arkansas drivers combined to create a Razorback State lockout of the top five finishing positions. 1999 series champion Marshall Skinner came home in third and former USCS feature winner A.G. Rains finished in fourth. Cody Gardner rounded out the top five at the checkered flag.
Tim Crawley, Zach Pringle, Marshall Skinner, A.G. Rains, Cody Gardner, Anthony Nicholson, Justin Sturch, Morgan Turpen, Ernie Ainsworth, Brandon Hahn, Dalton Davis, Andy McElhannon, Howard Moore, Taylor Tidmore, Robert Richardson, Jan Howard, Jeremy Middleton, Joe Young, Greg Merritt, Jeff Willingham, Mark Huddleston, Terry Gray, Jordon Mallett, Justin Webb.