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Gearhart avoids wall ride and head-on crash to finish seventh

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Jeff Gearhart would have preferred a higher position in the Pure Stocks main event Saturday, June 10, at Barona Speedway, but the Fallbrook driver was happy with seventh place given the circumstances.

"I'll take it," Gearhart said. "Sometimes you get involved in situations you can't control."

Minimizing contact with the wall and avoiding a 180-degree spin in front of him were situations Gearhart was able to control.

"The fact that I came in seventh was pretty good," he said.

Barona Speedway had 24 Pure Stocks drivers June 10, so four eight-lap heat races were held. The drivers who finished in the top three in each heat automatically qualified for the main event. The remaining drivers competed in a B main with the top eight advancing to the feature.

Gearhart was in the third Pure Stocks heat June 10, and began the race on the outside of the second row. He was fourth after the completion of the first lap and third at the end of the second lap. A fourth-lap spin caused a yellow flag caution and a "Delaware restart" in which the leader is lined up by himself and the remaining cars are lined up two-wide.

Gearhart was lined up on the outside of Ramona driver Cameron Broe and passed Broe on the restarted lap. Murrieta's Edward Finger passed Broe on the fifth lap to move into third behind Gearhart.

On the sixth lap, Gearhart was in danger of spinning on the far straightaway but avoided the spin and stayed ahead of Finger.

"That's just me figuring out the track and the car," Gearhart said. "I was trying to push the car into the corner a little bit hard."

The temporary loss of control taught Gearhart the lesson he desired.

"I found the point I don't want to get to," he said.

Gearhart explained that assessing the car's limits in the heat race rather than the main allowed him to avoid problems in the feature.

"If I do that in the main event I'm probably going to lose three or four positions, probably get hit," he said. "The heat race is like you're learning the track for the night. You've got to figure out where the track is, where the car is, where you can push it, where you're fast, where you're slow."

Broe had started the race on the pole. El Cajon's Joe Malone began on the outside of the first row and won the heat race. Gearhart opted for the automatic transfer into the main event rather than to challenge Malone for a potential victory.

"You don't want to push it too hard in the heat race," Gearhart said.

With a transfer to the feature and the testing of the car, the heat race was a success for Gearhart. "The car ran real good. The track is real good tonight, a little slicker than normal, but that's fast," he said.

Gearhart was on the outside of the fourth row to start the 20-lap main event. He was 12th after two laps and gained a position during the third lap. He lined up ninth after a driver hit the track entrance gore point and a red flag was thrown to investigate that driver's safety, but Gearhart fell back to 10th.

Nicole Carleton of El Cajon and Gearhart were battling for ninth place and were alongside each other, with Carleton on the inside and Gearhart on the outside, when Poway's Mike Rumbaugh spun and was facing Gearhart and Carleton.

"I narrowly avoided that. That would have totaled his car and mine," Gearhart said.

Gearhart had to avoid Carleton as well as Rumbaugh, so he took a modest turn rather than a hard turn to avoid the other drivers. Carleton also avoided contact with Rumbaugh and was able to finish the race, although in 13th place.

The visit to the track wall involved body damage but no operational impairment.

"I went on top of the wall," Gearhart said. "We never stopped. The side of the car was scraped."

Gearhart gained one additional position during the main event.

"I believe if I had more laps I could have got a couple of more positions," Gearhart said. "You've got to take the good with the bad."

 

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