LAVONIA, Ga. – You can never keep a champion down for long and on Thursday night wily veteran Terry Gray proved why.
The 10-time United Sprint Car Series champion from Bartlett, Tenn., powered to the outside of K&N Filters polesitter Jay Dunham in the opening corner of Thursday night’s “Thursday Thriller” 30-lap feature event at Lavonia Speedway and led the entire distance despite two early-race red flags to bank his second USCS feature victory of the 2014 season.
The win was Gray’s 88th career series victory and broke a nearly two-month dry spell for the perennial championship contender and race winner.
“It feels really good to get back here (to victory lane) tonight,” Gray said. “I got a little nervous when I couldn’t get by the slower traffic ahead of me there late in the race, and I knew (teammate) Morgan (Turpen) was coming behind me, but I figured if I couldn’t get by them that no one was going to have the steam to pass me. Morgan ran a great race though, and this is a great night for our team.”
The race was slowed twice by red flags for on-track flips. The first red flew when USCS 600 Sprint Series regular Kyle Amerson jumped the cushion in turn three and flipped, landing on all four wheels. The second came out when 1998 series Rookie of the Year Johnny Bridges spun coming off turn two and turned over after being slammed into by Johnny Gilbertson, who was unable to avoid Bridges’ spinning machine.
In both cases, the safety equipment did its job and the drivers were uninjured. Bridges, who was second in USCS Southern Thunder Tour points coming into the night, was especially disappointed after his night was over.
“I’m not hurt, but my pride is,” said Bridges. “That’s the first time in years I just plain lost it. Just a tough night all the way around for us.”
Following the crashes, the final 26 laps ran green-to-checkered and Gray streaked away from the field while hometown driver Dunham made a valiant effort to stay in the top five almost the entire distance, having arguably the strongest run of his USCS career over the course of the evening.
Ultimately, Dunham would fade and Gray’s teammate, Morgan Turpen, would close the gap to just more than a car length at the checkered flag, finishing the night as the race’s runner-up. Young gun and 2010 Southern Thunder Rookie of the Year Eric Riggins would complete the podium in third, with Danny Smith crossing the line in fourth. Three-time USCS championship runner-up and perennial feature contender Danny Martin Jr. rounded out the top five.
Mike Magic picked up his third career victory in the companion USCS www.rockauto.com 600 Sprint Series event.
Terry Gray, Morgan Turpen, Eric Riggins Jr., Danny Smith, Danny Martin Jr., Jay Dunham, Collin Cabre, Matt Kurtz, Brian Thomas, Kenny Laureno, Johnny Bridges, Brandon McLain, Johnny Gilbertson, Joe Larkin, Kyle Amerson.