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Stanley's bid one highlight among many

The veteran driver is in good position right now to claim an elusive double title in Street Stocks and Figure 8s.

Victor Stanley has proven that he is a force to be reckoned with in every race and in the points standings of any class he competes in. However, one big question remains: Can the 41-year-old veteran of the Citrus County Speedway capture an elusive double title?

Well, the odds are looking pretty good these days.

Stanley is riding a streak that has him first in the Street Stock standings and second in the Figure 8 points race. He still has some work to do, but you'll find few doubters of the eight-time champion's ability to pull off the rare feat.

Last Saturday may turn out to be a pivotal night for Stanley, who was able to reclaim the Street Stock lead after turning in a rather disappointing 13th-place finish. As usual, luck _ or bad luck in the case of former leader Joe Gill _ played a role.

Gill, who had started every race of the season and had only one DNF, fell ill with a heat-related condition and was taken to the hospital after withdrawing from his heat race. He would return to watch the rest of the feature in the stands and to watch Stanley snatch away his points lead.

However, as has been the case with Street Stock points leaders throughout the season, Stanley's margin is tenuous. With a two-point cushion and three more months of racing left, he can hardly rest easily. On the same note, don't expect him to fade away. He is just too experienced and his No. 35 car is just too good for that to happen.

Stanley's biggest challenge in claiming a double title is in the Figure 8 class, which resumes its schedule this weekend. Remarkably, he has been able to move from 12th in the standings (on April 16) all the way to second, just 12 points back. But the person he is chasing, three-time Figure 8 champion Robert Aaron, will present a difficult challenge.

Competition like that found in Street Stocks and Figure 8s on an almost weekly basis is a departure from the past few seasons at the speedway. Competitiveness abounds in almost every division.

The Late Model chase, which was James "Doc" Batson's to lose at this point last year, is expected to go down to the wire, with Danny Johnson holding a 22-point edge over Terry Cater and a 34-point advantage over former leader Mike Bresnahan, who lost his lead when his car came up too light in technical inspection a few weeks back. Bresnahan, though, remains undaunted, while Johnson has put plans to run in the Hooters Pro Cup Series aside in an effort to clinch his first title at the speedway.

Then there is the Mini Stock class. It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing division to watch on Saturday nights, but the points race between leader James Smith and Frank Coleman (11 points back) has been breathtaking, with the two exchanging the lead almost bi-weekly.

There also is a strong Jeff Gordon-type angle in the Mini Stock division, as two-time defending champion George Neumann _ a man who seemed unbeatable the last two seasons _ has struggled in fourth place much of the season. Like Gordon, Neumann has seen the rest of the field catch up this year. Along with a couple run-ins with bad luck, Neumann is 113 points out of the lead.

The only race not causing excitement is in the Limited Sportsman division, where Mike Veltman has dominated with eight wins and 16 top-five finishes. Then again, Veltman's performance alone has been worth watching.