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Disappointing 2003 finish fuels Figure 8 driver

Robbie Hage's story was one of frustration.

Leading the Figure 8 points race most of 2003 at Sunshine Speedway, the driver of the black and gold Free-Lance Auto Body No. 74 car appeared at season's end to be the solid pick for the division title.

Hage raced consistently, kept a level head. Competitors drew close yet always fell behind. The St. Petersburg driver seemed on the road to his first championship.

But Hage's hope for numbers supremacy fell flat.

Part of an early collision in the final event, Hage was set far back in the field and eliminated from contention. Shane Grigsby, No. 28, emerged from the dust to claim the prize.

Hage, nevertheless, wiped clean all 39 weeks of last year with 50 solid laps and a first-place finish Sunday in the fifth annual "Wild Bill" Revard Memorial Figure 8 Race.

"I was a little upset about last year," Hage said. "You know, you lead it all year and lose it at the end. But this makes up for it."

Hage was the third driver in five seasons to win the event.Donnie Thomas, No. 40, and Art Calkins, No. 11, split the four previous races.

Due to a technical difficulty, the customary time trials were canceled and a lottery system was utilized to determine the starts.

Hage drew the pole position and never looked back. Wayne Calkins, driver of the red and yellow Rick's Auto Air No. 14, started on Row 2 and took second place at the drop of the green flag.

Calkins never gave up more than one car length to Hage throughout the 50-lap competition.

Demonstrating nearly perfect technical driving, Calkins was glued to the leader's bumper but couldn't pass Hage. Ron Davis, No. 89, followed Calkins to place third.

"It was a hard race. A hard, long race," Calkins said. "I had a good push at the beginning, but I didn't have enough at the end.

"I didn't want to spin him out or anything," he said of Hage. "That's not my style of racing."

Another driver spurned at the close of the 2003 schedule, Calkins had risen and subsequently fell from points contention.

Despite his bad luck, he has put it behind him.

"I'm not at all (burned out)," Calkins said. "If anything, it'll pump me up more for this year."

Hage plans to take it easy.

"I'm not running for points this year," he said. "It really took up a lot of time last year, really took a lot out of me.

"My wife wants to play softball, so I'll play softball. But I'll be here when I'm not doing that."

NOTES: Calkins compensated for his second-place finish in the Memorial with a School Bus Figure 8 victory. He drove No. 14.

Frank Hill, No. 45, captured the runner-up position. Jack Boswell crossed the line third in No. 59.

+ In Outlaw Late Models, Scott Holly (No. 1) beat Wendell Overstreet (No. 78) and Steve O'lone (No. 20).

+ Dave Ochsenwald, No. 61, held on for the top spot in Street Stocks. Rex Hawkins trailed in his No. 99, and Harold Ashley (No. 72) rounded out the top three.

+ Reigning champ Ronnie Larson (No. 88) claimed victory in the Mini Stock division. Following were Jay Zolciak (No. 69) and Matt Rotkis Sr. (No. 3), respectively.

+ John Stewart, No. 02, took the 20-lap Enduro feature. Al Ballard (No. 8) and Bob Lawrence (No. 01) placed second and third.

+ The Open Wheel Modified drivers did not race.