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Memories linger during Revard memorial race

They _ the universal "they," that is _ say that if you fall off a horse or a bicycle, you're supposed to get back on and do it again in order to get over it. But what happens if the fall is really serious?

That kind of sums up the way the drivers felt before the first annual "Wild Bill" Memorial Figure 8 race at Sunshine Speedway's WinterNationals on Saturday.

Less than 90 days earlier, William "Wild Bill" Revard, who was popular with both fans and drivers, was killed at Sunshine when his car slammed into the front wall during the last Figure 8 race of 1999.

It was stunning and tragic then, and almost everybody involved is still feeling the pain _especially the drivers who were in the race when it happened.

"I was very nervous. I was scared," said No. 89 Figure 8 driver Ron Davis of Pinellas Park with a shake of his head. "I've been worried about driving again. It (the accident) has been going through my mind. In practice (on Thursday), I was better, but tonight I'm nervous. It's a tough thing to get over."

On the parade lap before the green flag fell, the pole position was left open in honor of Revard, who had achieved the unheard-of feat of winning the 50-lap WinterNationals Figure 8 race the last three times in a row.

While last season's class champion, No. 11 Art Calkins of St. Petersburg, picked up the victory, Davis was biting at his bumper at the end after having started far back in the 14th spot. No. 81 Chet Senokossoff of Pinellas Park was third.

However, it was No. 32 Shane Grigsby of Pinellas Park who provided the most thrills with repeated close crossings at the intersection _ often to the dismay of fellow drivers.

"It wasn't as hard for me to get back into the car as I thought it would be," Calkins said. "I wasn't there that night (of the accident), so it probably didn't hit me as hard as it did a lot of people who saw it. During the race, I just kept telling myself not to think about it.

"It's definitely great to win the race, but I wish Bill could have been there."

NOTES: The race most of the 5,000 or so fans came to see was the School Bus Figure 8 contest, and they weren't disappointed. The big battle quickly shaped up between No. 44 Bonnie Henry, who has won twice, and No. 5 Cammeron Hill.

With Hill in the lead, Henry charged hard to close the gap. Perhaps a little too hard. As she drew closer, she began hitting the gas hard going through the Intersection and didn't let off much as she came into the turns.

Midway through the race, the wheels on the passenger side kept leaving the asphalt as she made it around the turns. That went on for three or four laps until on Lap 13, the bus tilted a little too far and it flipped on its side.

The crowd roared.

At almost the same moment, No. 28 Frank Hill, who is also the track's promoter, got hit and his bus flipped onto its side, then began rolling over on its top. Just as it appeared it would roll over to the other side, something strange happened. The bus rolled the opposite direction, back onto its side, and then back up onto all four wheels _ kind of like sailboats are supposed to do. Nevertheless, Hill called it a night and pulled off the track.

On the restart, the No. 69 of Teresa Pelo did the flip thing. Although Pelo and Henry tried to rejoin the race after their buses were righted, both had to pull out. That left only five of the original 17 still in the race.

Cammeron Hill won and picked up the $1,000 first prize, with Figure 8 driver Senokossoff second, No. 00 Brian Hayn third, No. 95 Steve Trizis fourth and No. 25 Calkins fifth.

Asked what plans he had for the money he won, Cammeron Hill replied, "I'm going snowboarding in Salt Lake City. I had the reservation, but winning the race was the deciding factor."

Then he hesitated and continued, "Either that, or I'm going to use it to pay rent. My parents (promoters Frank and Bonnie Hill) are my landlords and I haven't paid rent in a few months, so I guess it's up to them."

"It was a great race," one fan said afterward. "With all those buses flipping, it was really great, but the best part was no one got hurt."

Amen.

One of the highlights of the WinterNationals, and of the first few races of the season, is seeing the cars before they earn their first racing stripes: bright paint and sharp colors, crisp clear lettering, and no dents. But it never lasts.

In Mini Stocks, the No. 05 of Pinellas Park's Rick Sirmans not only offered the most flash, but he also took the feature race. No. 15 Doug Hopper of Port Richey, the 1999 class champion, came from far in the rear to get the best view of Sirmans' bumper, with 1998 class champion Macky Mongold, No. 22 of Largo, in third.

Mini Stocks will be competitive again this season, but only pretty for awhile.

In Street Stocks, Ron Davis powered his way to victory in the No. 40 and, officially, No. 51 Mike Hinegardner of Seminole was second and No. 21 Greg Groover of Tampa was third. Two cars, the Nos. 0 and 00, were disqualified for having illegal suspensions, which amounted to having spacers in the shocks.

In the 50-lap Enduro race, No. 49 Mark Cooper quickly separated himself from the field and held on to the lead for the win. No. 1X Bob Hall was second, No. 75 Mike Gamache was third, No. 02 Pete Cracolici was fourth and No. 40 Earl Bowman was fifth.

In the Florida Legends Touring class feature, No. 9 Jimmy Walker won with No. 57 Doug Longwell second and No. 25 Ed Brown third.

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