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Gearhart wins heat race

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Jeff Gearhart won his Pure Stocks heat race Saturday, May 27, at Barona Speedway. The Fallbrook driver took the lead in turn two of the first lap and maintained the lead for the remainder of the eight-lap race.

"I felt fast in the heat race," Gearhart said.

Gearhart drives a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria. During the off-season Ramona driver Mike Pridgeon provided Gearhart with a new 351-cubic-inch Windsor motor. Gearhart finished second Saturday, April 29, in his heat race, although he did not finish the main event. Gearhart also took second place in his Saturday, May 13, heat race.

If a class has enough cars, a B main determines which drivers who didn't finish high enough in their heat race advance to the main event. This year the Pure Stocks have had a B main each night. The drivers who finish in the top three in their heat automatically qualify for the main event while the top eight finishers in the B main also compete in the main event.

A heat race driver in second place thus is usually willing to settle for automatic transfer to the feature rather than risk a crash to gain another position. Gearhart opted against trying to pass Arizona driver Nathan Deragon for the win in the May 13 heat race.

Gearhart finished fifth in the May 13 main event. "That was a good clean race," he said.

Unless red flag stoppages or yellow flag cautions shorten the race or unless a sponsor induces an extended race main events are 20 laps on Barona Speedway's quarter-mile dirt oval.

The Pure Stocks were the featured class May 27, so they were the first to race and also had a six-lap "Dash for Cash" involving the top eight heat race drivers.

Gearhart began his heat race on the inside of the second row with Jake Griffin of Valley Center and Gearhart's brother starting on the pole and Robby Norris of San Diego taking the original green flag on the outside of the first row.

Gearhart made the pass for first early in the race. Griffin was second after one lap with Descanso driver Jimmy Villa holding the third position.

Villa, who had started behind Gearhart, eventually moved into second. He opted for the second position rather than to challenge Gearhart for the lead.

"A win's a win. I'll take it," Gearhart said.

Second place was sufficient to put Villa into the Dash for Cash. He started on the inside of the third row with Gearhart beginning on the outside of that row. Curtis Reiter of El Cajon began on the pole and won the race. Ramona's Chris Evans finished second after starting on the outside of the second row. Gearhart obtained third place.

"I was happy to make the dash," Gearhart said.

The Pure Stocks class had 26 drivers, May 27.

"To be top eight and get into that race says a lot," Gearhart said. "There's a lot of competition out here."

With a sixth-place start Gearhart wasn't disappointed about not winning the Dash for Cash.

"I was able to make my way up to third," he said.

Gearhart began the May 27 main event on the outside of the third row. He moved into fourth prior to the first yellow flag. Barona Speedway uses a "Delaware restart" format after a yellow flag in which the lead driver is by himself and the other cars are lined up two-wide. The main event had three yellow flags and restarts. Gearhart lost positions on the first two restarts. He fell back to tenth before gaining two positions to finish eighth.

"I was happy but disappointed at the same time. I know I can finish better," Gearhart said.

The Crown Victoria was fast enough for a higher finish.

"I have plenty of power," Gearhart said. "It's not getting the traction."

Gearhart is sponsored by Dependable Alarm Systems, Griffin Design, Ingrained Woodworking, Mike Pridgeon Race Engines and Sam's Alignment. Polo Zetina is Gearhart's only crew member as well as Gearhart's crew chief.

Gearhart plans to upgrade the car's suspension but is pleased with his May 27 results.

"Didn't wreck it. No flat tires. Finished all three races. I'd call it a good night," he said.


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