Wayne Anderson celebrates the win in the 10th Annual Powell Memorial atOcala (FL) Speedway
There are many, perhaps too many, races that carry the designation of"memorial." It reminds us that there were many who have passed on whomade contributions to the sport. A majority of the tracks will have aspecial event on the schedule. Some series include these as well. Often,these races carry a special meaning to fans and racers who remember theindividual whose name appears in the title.
It was a Tuesday evening in Ocala, Florida. That's not the usual racedate for Ocala Speedway. It is one of the hundreds of tracks that goesracing on Saturday night, but this was special. This was different. Itmarked the return of the Powell Memorial race to the track where theevent had started.
Cloudy skies gave way to a rainbow before the start of the Street Stockfeature. The pot of
The race is named for James Powell, a former promoter of Ocala Speedway.Powell, along with a number of family members, died in a plane crash. Itwas a tragic time for Florida racing and one that no one wants toforget. The idea of a Powell Memorial started soon after the tragedy.The race was held at Ocala and then, due to a change of ownership, theevent moved off the calendar. A nearby track picked up the torch, butthe race was set to return to its original host.
This race is a Super Late Model event, unsanctioned by any organization.It carried no points, no large prize fund, but a healthy payoff for apavement Super Late Model race. Conventional wisdom would say it wasenough enticement to bring plenty of cars. In the end, only 21 enteredthe 125-lap main event.
James Powell III addresses the crowd. The memorial event is named inhonor of his family me
One of those cars in the field was being piloted by James Powell III.He's the son of the man for whom the race is named. James Powell III waslooking for his first win in the race at Ocala, and he had a stoutentry. The Armstrong Homes backed effort with a Dan O'Connell engine wasone of the pre-race favorites. There were plenty of others who couldn'tbe counted out. Fain Skinner won a FASCAR Super Late Model race at thetrack in 2004. Rich Pratt always ran well at this track. Jason Boyd wasdriving a local entry backed by a local builder. Wayne Anderson wasfour-time champion of the Powell Memorial with two runner-up finishes toboot.
What the field lacked in quantity was made up in quality. Qualifying onan overcast and threatening night would prove to be a challenge, but thefield packed their times tightly within a span of about one secondthroughout the field.
The 21 cars in the night's 125-lapper are gathered on the frontstretchfor opening ceremoni
As the Street Stocks finished their heat races, the rains finally came.A brief shower dampened the action, but the track announcers worked hardto entertain, offering prizes thrown from the roof of the tower. Arainbow appeared behind the back straightaway, and the track dryingefforts brought the surface back in short order. Soon, the Street Stocksreturned for a special race.
The Street Stock race itself, a fun feature that carried no points, butsome decent pay for the winner, was a bit of an experiment. The 12-carfield took the green for the first 10 laps and the checkered flew. TheEleventh-Place car received the Third-Place trophy and retired to thepits along with the Twelfth-Place finisher. The 10 remaining cars wereinverted, and the green reappeared for another 10-lap bout. This time,the Sixth-Place car got the Second-Place trophy. Those who finishedSixth to Tenth were sent off the track, leaving five cars to shoot itout for the eventual win. It was a bit like explaining Chinesearithmetic in the driver's meeting, and many didn't even understand theconcept after they had watched it play out. While it may not have been apopular way of doing it, track management offered up an added valuewhile giving the class more track time in the process.
The field for the Powell Memorial was brought to the front stretch. Eachdriver was given a Frisbee to autograph and fling into the stands. Somewere more successful than others while some drivers simply spotted ayoungster along the fenceline and delivered the Frisbee in person.
Each driver threw an autographed Frisbee into the crowd. Mike Frittssigns his disc. Fritts
The race got off to a rocky start as Scott Grossenbacher and Ryan Fostertangled on the frontstretch, necessitating a red flag. Neither driverwas injured. Polesitter Jay Middleton had been snookered on the start,but didn't bite to the ploy on the eventual restart and held the lead inthe early stages. A two-car spin in the very early stages brought thefield back under caution. While the original plan called for cautionlaps not to count, a decision was made to score the circuits during thefirst 100 laps, especially with the looming rain. After seven yellowflag laps, the race was on again and Mike Fritts worked on Middleton.Fritts made the pass on Lap 30, bringing Wayne Anderson along. Theinside line was the land of opportunity as drivers who found themselvesout of it were going backward. Middleton fell in line in Third. KevinDurden spun to bring out the yellow, but a red was needed to allowclean-up efforts. On the restart, Anderson kept working on Fritts, andthe lead duo moved away from the rest of the field. Brian Finney andJeff Choquette made contact but kept going, opening an opportunity forRich Pratt. Michael Williams slid by as well. Contact was frequent onthe tight track, but few cautions came. A multi-car incident on Lap 65again brought a red for cleanup. As the field went green, more beatingand banging was obvious. When Finney hit the wall, there was concernabout fluid on the track and clean-up crews worked hard to get thesurface right. In the meantime, the field paced through the infielduntil stopping to allow the job to be completed.
On Lap 75, Anderson was finally able to make the pass for the lead asFritts moved up the track and lost momentum. Middleton regained Secondwith James Powell III now becoming a factor. Powell benefited from carsmixing it up, moving to Second to chase Anderson, who had stretched outa five-length lead. As the leader approached a 10-car pack of imminentlapped traffic, Jason Boyd spun on the frontstretch, saving those carsfrom going a lap in arrears. The front five cars broke away on therestart, and the last caution flew with five laps left. It bunched thefield together with Anderson, Powell, and Fritts at the head of thepack. Anderson got a solid restart and cruised to his fifth PowellMemorial win. It was a heartbreaking Second for Powell while Frittspicked up Third.
Despite the weather and the non-traditional racing night, a good crowdcame to witness the event. Powell had earlier thanked the trackmanagement for the opportunity to bring the race back, and it's certainthat the drivers in the '05 event (as well as others) will be on thelookout for the '06 date.