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Hoefler back on winning track

With the way Gary Grubbs has run this season, breaking track records for consecutive and total wins, its would be easy to forget about Herb Hoefler. But in the last race of the season for the Late Models, he gave Citrus County Speedway fans a little refresher course.

Lest we forget, Hoefler was the defending points champion. And while he hasn't been a regular in the division this year, he is always worth watching.

Hoefler didn't have the fastest car Saturday, but again showed why he is always a favorite as he posted a wire-to-wire victory in a race marred by seven caution flags. In fact, Hoefler's slow qualifying time _ 10th overall _ may have helped in that it placed him at the front of the field after the inverted pill draw.

This helped Hoefler avert the kind of trouble that hit Grubbs on Lap 8 and knocked him out of the race for the next six laps. Still, it wasn't enough to sideline Grubbs' title run, as the winner of a track-record 17 features was able to finish the race and claim the points championship for 1997.

Hoefler, though, did steal a little of the spotlight, holding off Dale Sanders for his second feature win of the season. Tom Hasselmayer, who has run very strong in recent weeks, picked up third place while James "Doc" Batson clinched second place in points with a fourth-place finish. Bruce Gaskins edged Sanders for third in points while Fred Stoner, another victim of that eighth-lap mishap, wrapped up the top five in the points race.

The Late Models weren't the only class hampered by numerous cautions and excessively long cleanup times. The Super Stock and Hobby Stock features both were reduced to 14 laps from their usual 20 and were both won by racers who have made recent charges.

James Cannon closed the gap between himself and Tom Posavec for second in Hobby Stock points with his eighth feature win of the year, taking the lead on Lap 2 and outlasting the field. Posavec, who holds a six-point advantage going into the last race of the season, finished just behind Kathy Ray in third place and was followed by Bob Williams and Mark Gillette. Sport Wilson leads the class with 1,187 points and should wrap up the title next week.

Curtis Flannagan made the most of an early charge, then held off the pack after three cautions caused the Super Stock race to be shortened to 14 laps. Flannagan started in ninth place and moved up six spots in eight laps before taking the lead for good on Lap 10.

Rex Struble finished second while Ronnie Hutton, Kenny May and David Black rounded out the top five. Mike Veltman didn't race, but had wrapped up the points title two weeks ago.

Lenny Brown took home the win in the Mini Stock feature, holding off a serious charge by points leader George Neumann. But Neumann and third-place Frank Coleman were disqualified in tech inspection for having illegal carburetor gaskets. Skip Buchanan and Bob Eldridge moved up to second and third after the disqualifications, and Billy Smith and Donnie Harrod rounded out the top five.

The Thunder Stock feature was unable to run due to curfew restrictions and will be made up next week when the class concludes its season with two feature races.