East Coast U.S. National Speedway Championship Qualifier
Story by Jason Bonsignore
Photo by Brian Walsh
OWEGO, NY, JULY 20, 2013
East Coast Speedway icon Tuff McBride rolled back the years with an unbeaten, vintage performance to win the U.S. National Qualifier at Champion Speedway and, along with 10-year British League veteran David Meldrum, now of Lakeland, Florida, who took second, earned a direct berth in this year’s $20,000-plus Monster Energy U.S. National Championship in Costa Mesa, California, this October!
As the Youth and Amateur heats were in progress, a torrential downpour of rain hit the track, and the program was halted. Approximately 30 minutes later, the track was nearly a pond, with standing water all the way around. Several people worked feverishly with brooms to push water off the corners of the track. Then a tractor tire was dragged around, followed by a beam, and then, lastly, the track drag was employed for about an hour. Miraculously, the surface was saved, and although it was slightly challenging for the first round of speedway, it actually went on to become an excellent race surface!
Brian Hollenbeck kicked off the heats with an outside pass on and a win over Corey Brookes. Andy Crawford edged out Shawn “Steamboat” Engel for third.
Dave “Shark” Clark rode well to take heat two after the second start. Dave Oakden made an excellent gate in the first try, but everyone got tangled up in turn one and went down. Jerry Harman would get second and Keith Hawkins third, while Oakden slid out while going good on the outside.
Jesse Diem passed Gene Bonsignore on the outside to grab three points in the next heat. Bonsignore held down second, with Jeff Garlinghouse in third and Josh Carr coming home fourth.
Meldrum appeared to have the final run of the opening round in the bag after two laps, but his clutch went away and McBride was able to sneak through, along with Ron “Reaper” Walker. Meldrum sneaked across the line for one point, and Russ Cornell was just behind.
In the second heat-race round, Meldrum got in the winners’ circle in the next outing with a good win, over Hollenbeck.
Harman then went on to a good battle with Bonsignore, in which he eventually got the nod on the great outside-line that the track was producing.
McBride showed fine form for three points in the third heat of round two, although Crawford put some good pressure on him from the outside for two laps.
Clark rode strong to hold off Diem in the last heat.
Harman continued to be impressive in round three, with a win against Hollenbeck, who was going fast.
McBride kept his string of wins alive with a solid gate and a smooth ride, getting to the finish ahead of Diem.
Clark was also having a good night and handily won his next heat.
Meldrum was getting better each race, and he won again to close out the round, but a great shoulder-to-shoulder race between Bonsignore and Oakden went on behind him for second, with Oakden just getting it.
The final series of heats began with a good three-point haul from Diem, against Hollenbeck, on the second try. Hollenbeck was leading the first attempt but hooked up violently and crashed. He came from the penalty line to nail second.
Meldrum ended Clark’s winning ways in the following race.
Bonsignore jumped out in front in the second-to-last event but was called back for anticipating the start but then got mistakenly sent to the penalty line when the rules only called for a warning. Hawkins made a nice start and led from wire to wire, and Crawford got second.
McBride finished up with a fairly uncontested win, over Harman, and Garlinghouse was third.
The top five riders of the evening in points went to the grand final, and McBride clearly led on 12 points and chose the inside gate. McBride led into the first turns, and it appeared that Clark’s front wheel got into McBride’s footpeg as McBride was leading while exiting turn two, which brought them down and stopped things.
A full restart was ordered, and McBride again leapt into the lead on his Scott’s Headers/ Arai/ Polito/ Justice Brothers/ Oury/ Silkolene/ Joker/ Tripp-backed Jawa and rode the inside line hard. Meldrum, on his Advocare/ Cobra’s Mahal/ Gulf Coast Hurricanes-backed GM, had also made an excellent gate and was now challenging McBride on the grippy outside, and he nearly got by on lap two! Meldrum just couldn’t quite get him and dropped in for second while McBride took the checkered flag! Meldrum and Clark concluded tied on 14 points for second overall, but the final and earlier head-to-head win for Meldrum were used to decide the tie breaker fairly in Meldrum’s favor, as is done often in one-night championships.
Brian Bailey impressively scored the victory in the Division Two final, as up-and-coming rider Roger Roberts did likewise in Division Three.
The next event at Champion Speedway will be held on July 27, followed by another on August 3! The turnout of riders and racing has been excellent this year!
Owego, New York
Results: July 20, 2013
EAST COAST U.S. NATIONAL QUALIFIER: 1. Tuff McBride; 2. David Meldrum; 3. Dave Clark; 4. Jerry Harman; 5. Jesse Diem.
D-2 FINAL: 1. Brian Bailey; 2. Alex Heath; 3. Mike Clark.
D-3 FINAL: 1. Roger Roberts; 2. Jim Sanchez.