With four titles at the Citrus County Speedway in the past six seasons, including back-to-back wins the last two years, Sportsman driver Herb Neumann Jr. of Inverness has left little doubt as to whom is King of the Road.
With that track record, probably the only one professing surprise at his 600-point lead this season is the unlikeliest source of all _ Neumann himself.
"I honestly didn't expect to be doing this well," he said. "I was driving a new car and I thought I might be chasing the leaders for a while. And if I had known the amount of trouble we'd have with the car, and there's been a lot of it, I would have said there was no way we'd be in the lead."
From the outside, it would appear Neumann is being excessively modest about his prospects. In the years he has been racing at the track he has finished no lower than third, and lost the 1992 championship by a razor-thin 40 points to Dale Sanders.
"That taught me a valuable lesson," Neumann said. "Every race counts and you can't take anything for granted. That year I had another big lead, around 600 points, and then nothing went right and Dale went right by me.
"That's why I'm not about to let up. No one's going to run away with this race. So far, the DNF's have really hurt the other guys. You miss a couple of races and there goes your lead."
As the dominant driver in his class, it's easy to see why he was voted Fan's Favorite two years ago. But what's even more intriguing is the Sportsmanship Award conferred upon him last season by the very drivers he beats on a regular basis.
"The Fan's Favorite means more to me than anything else I've ever won, but the Sportsmanship Award is a close second," Neumann said. "I've always tried to get along with everyone out there, so it was nice to get a nod from the other guys."
The points race: Bruce Gaskins of Inverness (2,975) maintains his edge in the Late Models over Al Lawrence Jr. of Hudson (2,693), who recently moved into second place, and defending champion Lee Blevins of Brooksville (2,622).
Harley Wilson Sr. of Inverness (848) tops the Street Stock standings, but Mike Veltman of Crystal River (828) and Curtis Flanagan of Inverness (789) are well-positioned to make a bid for the lead.
In Mini Stocks, Frank Coleman of Brooksville (764) heads up the class, but threatening to move up are Robbie Yoakam of Hernando (733), Scott Roush of Inverness (708), and George Neumann of Inverness (674).
Sport Wilson of Floral City (370) has the lead in Bombers, but he has the advantage of one extra race on his chief competition. James Cannon of Inverness (340), Randy Crews of Inverness (335), and Joe Gill of Inverness (325) will be in a make-up race Saturday in addition to their regular feature.
Saturday night at the track: $1,200 awaits the winner of Saturday night's Crystal Chevrolet Late Model Firecracker 50, a non-points race that highlights this week's program.
The Citrus 95/JB Country Demolition Derby, a victim of last Saturday's rainout, has been rescheduled for July 15. The Dwarf cars, originally slated to run this Saturday night, will not be in action due to a scheduling conflict. They will make an appearance on Aug. 5.
Speedway gates open at 5 p.m., with warm-ups starting at 5:15 and the races at 7. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and $2 for children 6 to 12. Children under 6 are admitted free when accompanied by a responsible adult.