July 4th has always been known for its fireworks of rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air but Saturday 7/3 the Caraway speedway fans saw another type of fireworks on the 3/8-mile speedway with the SMART TOUR modifieds.
Caraway Speedway presented the 5th annual Rusty Harpe Memorial 99 lap race sponsored by Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law.
Seventeen modifieds took time trials with Gary Putnam (Concord,N.C.) topping the speed charts in his beautifully prepared GPR/CURB sponsored #77 previously driven by Max McLaughlin. After the redraw, Putnam drew the 7th starting position with James Civali (Meridan,CT) and Danny Bohn (Freehold,NJ.) bringing the field to the starters green flag.
When the green flew, so did Civali. Running in clean air Civali ran out to a ten-car length lead after ten circuits while behind him Bohn was holding off Jason Myers (Walnut Cove,N.C.) John Smith (Mt,Airy, N.C.) Brian Loftin (Lexington,N.C.) Putnam and Joey Coulter (Miami Springs, Fla). That pack ran nose to tail looking for any advantage to improve their position.
Burt Myers (Walnut Cove,N.C.) who had to start at the rear of the field was a man on a mission charging to the outside, picking off competitors, racing into the top ten after a dozen laps.
A lap thirty caution flag finally slowed the field eliminating Civalis’ comfortable lead. A quick restart and the charging Burt Myers had a right front tire go flat causing the yellow to be displayed again. After Burt Myers hard work he had to pit and start at the rear one more time. This caution also gave the opportunity to some of the other cars to pit for adjustments including second place Bohn and third place Jason Myers.
This restart brought John Smith alongside Civali who again shot out to the lead but Smith was relentless following in Civalis tire tracks until lap thirty six when he gained the advantage on the inside of Civali taking over the lead, bringing Putnam with him and dropping Civali back to third.
Now it was Smith and Putnam breaking away from the rest at the halfway mark while young Caleb Heady, driving the Tommy Balwin owned #7NY, started to flex his muscle picking off Coulter, Loftin and Civali racing his way into third.
By the 66th lap race leader Smith started to slow due to an electrical issue relinquishing the lead to Putnam. Two laps later Smith pitted, ending his bid for a second straight SMART TOUR victory. Heady now found himself in the runner up spot.
On lap 70 the caution was displayed again for a minor spin and the entire field took advantage by pitting for final adjustments and tire changes. The first car out of the pits was Heady followed by the ever-charging Burt Myers. Those two would make up the front row while Putnam and Bohn would follow.
The start was like a high-speed freight train with Heady and B Myers running side by side for three laps until Heady edged ahead. Putnam didn’t want to be left out of the action and shot by B.Myers taking over second place on lap 83.
With the laps running out Putnam wasted no time tracking down the race leader and by lap 88 he worked inside Heady and put him in his rearview mirror.
With nine to go, smooth driving Joey Coulter took over third place from B.Myers but didn’t have the power to catch Putnam or Heady.
With the checkereds waving Putnam crossed the line for the victory followed by Heady and Coulter while behind them Loftin and B,Myers made contact off turn four and Myers spun from his third-place run.
James Civali was the winner of the 602 modifieds. Johnny Baker was the mini stock winner and Dylan Ward led only one lap but it was the last lap to win in the late models.
SMART TOUR returns to action Aug. 28th at the Dillon Motor Speedway.
story by James Snape
Photos by Crystal Snape
Courtesy of RankeeRacer.com
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