GARDNER SWEEPS “BUBBA ARMY SPRINT NATIONALS” AT TAMPA
Damion Gardner of Concord, Calif. takes an unblemished 2010 record to USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz. this weekend for this year’s 4th Rosemont Copper “Copper on Dirt.” He led all 60 laps in winning the two 30-lap features comprising the “Bubba Army Sprint Nationals” at Tampa, Fla.’s East Bay Raceway Park last week.
Gardner, the 2005 USAC/CRA Champion, leads the Amsoil USAC National Sprint Car standings into the “tripleheader” at the 3/8-mile dirt oval. The program features the USAC Silver Crown, Amsoil National and USAC/CRA Sprints and the USAC Mopar National and Western Midgets. Preliminaries are Friday, with semis and feature events on Saturday. A 40-lap Sprint race will be joined by a 30-lapper for the Midgets and a 50-lapper for the Silver Crown series.
Darren Hagen is the defending Rosemont Copper “Copper on Dirt” Sprint champion, passing Kevin Swindell five laps from the end of last year’s race at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the 2007 inaugural and Shane Cottle won in 2008.
Gardner, who has six Arizona USAC victories to his credit, five at Manzanita and one in 2006 at Tucson, trails A.J. Foyt and Dave Steele by just two wins for the all-time Arizona USAC lead. Mel Kenyon and Jerry Coons Jr. each have seven Arizona USAC wins.
Gardner and his Pace Lighting Eagle/Shaver started alongside pole starter Dave Darland at Tampa Wednesday and grabbed the lead exiting turn two on the opening lap. A yellow for a stalled Robert Ballou on lap 24 bunched up the field but on the restart Gardner again pulled away for the win. Darland took second ahead of fast qualifier Coons, Brady Short and defending series champion Levi Jones, who came from 18th starting spot! On Monday, Gardner took advantage of first-lap spins by both front-row starters and led all the way. He was slated to start fourth but a spin by rookie pole starter Ricky Williams on the first lap and a subsequent spin by outside-front row starter Shane Hmiel on the restart left Shane Cottle and Gardner lined up on the revised front row. Gardner fought off Cottle’s challenge to lead the first lap and stretched his lead in his Pace Lighting Eagle/Shaver to a full straightaway before the field bunched up under the yellow flag at lap 22. Gardner then pulled away in the closing laps to win the race over Bryan Clauson, fast qualifier Short, Cottle and Jon Stanbrough. Jones finished seventh after starting 14th.
Jones is aiming for a record fourth USAC National Sprint Car championship after claiming titles in 2005, 2007 and last year. Mike Spencer of Temecula, Calif. is trying to win a third consecutive USAC/CRA Sprint car title, having swept championships in 2008 and 2009.
Tuesday night’s Tampa race was washed out by rain.
USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT SERIES POINT STANDINGS
1-Damion Gardner-137; 2-Brady Short-122; 3-Bryan Clauson-118; 4-Levi Jones-104; 5-Dave Darland-101; 6-Jerry Coons Jr.-101; 7-Robert Ballou-92; 8-Shane Cottle-88; 9-Jon Stanbrough-84; 10-Henry Clarke-82.