OCALA, Fla. — Donny Schatz parleyed a controlled charge from seventh on the grid with some great tire management to claim the opening round of the Bubbas Army Winternationals Thursday night at Bubba Raceway Park.
Schatz’s win in the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned 30-lapper came at the expense of Kerry Madsen and Tim Shaffer, who waged a crowd-pleasing duel throughout the event.
But Madsen lost a right-rear tire with the white flag in sight and limped to the pits while Shaffer saw Schatz’s Arctic Cat No. 15 blow by for the win in the scramble following Madsen’s demise.
Shaffer recovered to show second at the stripe ahead of polesitter Kraig Kinser, Ian Madsen and Caleb Armstrong.
Cole Duncan, Greg Hodnett, Danny Dietrich, David Gravel and Chad Kemenah rounded out the top 10.
All of the lead pack cars finished with totally bald right-rear tires. Torrential rains Wednesday led to lengthy track prep sessions before and during the program that extended the finish to near midnight and produced a hard, black surface that was tough on tires.
Kinser’s front row companion Hodnett prevailed on the initial break, but Kerry Madsen and Shaffer, who shared the second row, were on him immediately. Shaffer led the first attack, but Hodnett held him off until they caught the tail of the field on lap seven. Madsen then shot down Shaffer on lap ten as they negotiated errant lapped cars and the next time around got alongside of Hodnett. It took him another lap to get all the way by and take the lead, with Shaffer then duplicating his move to claim second.
From that point on, Madsen would repeatedly shoot out to a lead when the track was clear, then Shaffer would reel him in when he too broke loose from the constant traffic. By the early 20s, Madsen had finally managed to open up a substantial advantage, with the crowd turning their attention to Schatz’s steady charge from seventh, but then Madsen began slowing on lap 26 and Shaffer made another run on him. He got by with two to go as Madsen’s tire exploded, but his time on the point was short-lived.
“I got tied up in traffic again and lost my momentum,” said Shaffer. “That’s all it took for Donny to go sailing by.”
As for Schatz, his post-race comments were directed at pacesetter Madsen. “They don’t pay on lap 28. When you’re leading, go as fast as you need to. He went beyond that and it cost him.”
The extremely disappointed Madsen said he “got bit by their foolish tire rule,” though Kinser noted that “it was tough on Kerry but we’re all on the same tire” before adding, “I wasn’t good at the beginning. I was too free and fell back to fourth, but then I got going. And I got another spot when Kerry got his flat. That’s racing.”
Danny Dietrich in the Buch No. 13 edged Schatz and Kinser for fast time in the 37-car field, while Kinser and Hodnett shared wins in the twin dashes. Chad Kemenah, who got turned around in his heat, came back to win the B main with series owner Tony Stewart second.
Stewart finished 17th in the feature.
Donny Schatz, Tim Shaffer, Kraig Kinser, Ian Madsen, Caleb Armstrong, Cole Duncan, Greg Hodnett, Danny Dietrich, David Gravel, Chad Kemenah, Rico Abreu, Carson Short, Mark Smith, Danny Smith, Steve Buckwalter, Kerry Madsen, Tony Stewart, Caleb Helms, Joey Saldana, Max Stambaugh, Paul McMahan, Jacob Wilson, John Garvin, Brent Matus, Tyler Clem, Ryan Smith.