Fred Stoner has had his share of bad fortune during the first half of the season at Citrus County Speedway. But thanks to the charity of defending Late Model champion James "Doc" Batson, Stoner's luck finally seems to be taking a turn for the better.
Stoner was out of action for several weeks after exploding an engine eight weeks ago, but has rebounded since Batson loaned him the motor from his Sportsman machine. On Saturday, the combination worked to near perfection as Stoner posted his second victory and ninth top-five finish of the year in the Late Model feature.
Dale Sanders, who had won two races in a row, continued his strong effort with a second-place finish, and Mike Bresnahan, Terry Cater and points leader Danny Johnson rounded out the top five.
After seeing Victor Stanley slowly carve into his Figure 8 points lead in recent weeks, Robert Aaron came out a determined man on Saturday and led from start to finish for his second feature victory of the year. Gary Swing was the only driver who stayed on the leader's bumper for most of the race, but had to settle for second ahead of Tommy Malicoate and three-time winner Scott Knight. Stanley, who now trails Aaron by 20 points, staged a late charge to salvage fifth place.
Stanley had better luck in the Street Stock feature, where he posted his third victory of the season over a 21-car field. Combined with a disappointing 19th-place run from former leader Joe Gill, Stanley was able to build his lead from a mere two points to 38 and now seems in good position to secure the championship. Travis Nichols moved to within 16 points of Gill with a second-place finish and was followed by Herb Hoefler, Ernie Reed and Herb Ballien.
George Gould got his first win of the season in the Limited Sportsman feature after surviving a few encounters with hard-charging points leader Mike Veltman, who was sent to the back on two occasions. Robert Pilkinton, who also had a run-in with Veltman, managed to hold on to second place while Johnny Gann, Veltman and Johnny Sanders rounded out the top five.
John Coleman led the Mini Stock field for 19 of 20 laps, but lost out to Steve Griffin by inches at the checkered flag. Griffin stayed on Coleman's bumper for the final five laps, got Coleman out of shape coming out of Turn 4, and nailed down his third win of the year at the finish line. Frank Coleman moved to within eight points of leader Jim Smith with a third-place finish, while two-time defending champ George Neumann held off Smith for fourth place.
Chris Hooker broke in a new engine and picked up his second feature victory and fourth heat win of the year. Jim Hand had the early lead, but lost it on Lap 10 to the 15-year-old rookie. Dwayne Carter held off Roy Perkins and Mike Ruff in the race for third place.
Glen Davies dominated in the 10-lap Street-Legal Junkers race. Dwight Carter looked to be on his way to a win in the Pro Street-Legal Junkers race, but gave way to the pressure of defending Hobby Stock champion Jody Daniels, who went on to take the win. Southern Pro Trucks regular Bruce Gaskins and veteran driver Billy Hooker had a memorable battle for second, with Gaskins outrunning Hooker to the line.
_ CAREY FREEMAN