With the laps dwindling down Saturday night at Twin City Raceway, Sterling driver Brent Roumagoux was slowly reeling in Legends rival Bryan Barber’s No. 88 car, and a victory seemed possible.
But as unpredictable as the one-third-mile dirt oval can be, a late spinout from another driver brought out the caution flag, and Roumagoux knew his chances had changed.
“I started reeling him in and getting in my groove,” Roumagoux said. “Then the caution came out.
“There was nothing different I could’ve done.”
Driving a blue No. 6 Legends race car styled after NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin’s famed Valvoline Ford of the 1990s, perhaps it was fitting that Roumagoux finished second to Barber in the 30-lap feature race. Martin was dogged by close shaves in his stock car career, as five second-place finishes in the NASCAR Cup points race would attest.
Barber ultimately came away with a three-race sweep of the Legends races Saturday at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, collecting the checkered flag at the end of the night to cap a successful season-opening weekend at the track.
“I was superconfident in this car,” Barber said. “I knew the people behind me may spin out, but I had more confidence than ever.”
The car count was down at the track. Instead of a potential five classes racing on the dirt, only two classes put on timed races, while a third class of sprint cars also turned laps. Several officials and drivers pointed to the popular one-third-mile paved Alaska Raceway Park oval in Palmer as a big reason for the lack of entries in Kenai, as drivers are taking their vehicles up north.
In the A-Stock division, Sean Endsley swept all three races driving for his family owned Fraction Racing team in the 1/2 Chevy Monte Carlo.
Endsley led a slew of fraction-numbered cars across the line in each race, including a top-five sweep in the first heat. Van Raden finished second in the 2/3 car, Jackson Kahn was third in the 1/4 car, Sean’s father, Chris Endsley, was fourth in the 1/8 machine and Jeremy Herr was fifth in the 1/5 car.
“This is the first time in this car,” Endsley said, pointing to his dirt-covered Monte Carlo.
In his fourth year racing at TCR, Endsley said Saturday was the first time he went from the usual Chevy Nova to the Monte Carlo model, and the switch helped him win. His dad ended up taking the Nova out to race, and nabbed finishes of fourth, third and third.
“Dad wasn’t comfortable changing cars, what with the chassis and stuff,” Endsley said. “You can feel this car lean more (in the corners). It was a lot of fun.”
Endsley said the team is named so after a dispute that dates all the way back to the 1950s, when great grandfather Jim Stevens raced cars down in Texarkana, Texas. Endsley said Stevens painted the 1/2 number on his car for a race, but officials wouldn’t let him compete with a fraction on the side of his car.
Eventually, Stevens made his way to Alaska and in the 1970s, when TCR was still a new track, he competed with the fractions.
Endsley said Saturday’s events provided a good test session for his car.
“Usually we race the Nova, so this was fun,” he said.
The A-Stock racers had to also deal with a slick racetrack for the 20-lap feature, as the water truck that usually wets the track down made a few extra laps, soaking the surface. The feature races were delayed by more than an hour as A-Stock cars turned laps at a slower speed to help dry the surface up to a suitable level.
It made for an interesting few opening laps.
“It was probably a little too wet,” Endsley said. “Each lap we were searching for traction, and it took me about five laps to figure it out.”
In the sprint car races, Geoff Clark, Jimmie Hale and Elton McGahan put on a show for the fans by turning the fastest laps of the night on the tacky surface.
The Legends races kept things interesting. In the first heat, Roumagoux took second with Ty Torkelson third in the No. 44 machine.
In the second heat, it was David Kusmider’s turn to finish second to Barber, as a late move by Roumagoux’s car put the No. 55 into the runner-up spot before a two-lap dash to the end decided the race. Roumagoux had been leading that heat before spinning out on the front stretch following a brush with the outside wall.
Barber said after taking his car down to Las Vegas in October for a national series of races, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to shell out the $5,000 for another motor for the 2018 racing season, but a little persuasion from the track helped him decide.
“They called me up Thursday night and said, ‘We can’t have you in town and not racing,’” Barber said.
In the feature, Barber did not have to deal with the race traffic that Roumagoux did, as he kept his No. 88 out in clean air. Once he took second, Roumagoux was keeping pace with Barber before the last caution.