MANATEE COUNTY -- On a night that saw several cars spinning and even more tempers flaring, Travis Roland found himself standing in the winner's circle at the end of Saturday night's J.D. Byrider Open Wheel Modified 40-lap feature at Desoto Speedway.
Devin McLeod started on the pole and paced the field for the first 16 laps. During that time, Nick Hernandez and Doug Moff worked their way to the front of the field. McLeod looked to be holding up the field as the top seven cars ran nose to tail around the three-eighths mile oval.
As the field came to complete lap 17, second place runner Dalton Nelson appeared to make contact with Hernandez coming high out of turn 4. Hernandez caught the wall hard and Moff, who had nowhere to go in the tight pack of cars, also hit the wall. Both cars were seriously damaged and done for the night. Hernandez voiced his displeasure with Nelson as he walked back to the pits.
McLeod held off several on restarts and found himself in a battle with Roland, who was running around fifth before the rash of spins. On a lap 27 restart, McLeod and Roland got together going down the back stretch. McLeod got the worse end of the contact, with the resulting damage sending him to the pits for repairs.
"You have to be there at the end and I know I wasn't cutting Devin any slack," Roland said. "I didn't mean to ruin his night. When it's time to go, it's time to go."
Roland got away on the subsequent restart and was never seriously challenged again for the lead over the final 12 laps. On the final lap, Steve Arnold and Nelson made contact and spun in turn four, allowing Eric Purcell to finish second and Kyle Bookmiller - himself the victim of a couple of spins during the race - finishing third. Bookmiller voiced his displeasure with several drivers after the race, going as far as saying a couple of drivers "were hitting everything on the track" during the race.
Rob Haygood and Joey Logan rounded out the top five. McLeod even parked his car right next to Roland after the event, where a "friendly" discussion ensued.
In the Pro 4 feature, Ronnie Robinson and Randy Johnson staged a fierce battle over the final five laps of the 25-lap main event. The duo swapped the lead three times in the final four laps, but it was Robinson edging out Johnson by less than half a car length at the line. The finish was a payback of sorts for Robinson, who lost a race to Johnson on a last-lap pass a couple of weeks ago.
In other regular racing action Saturday night, Camron Ray won the 25-lap Pure Stock feature that saw Duane Best and Chad Cummings spinning across the line while taking the checkered flag. Best was credited with second place, while Cummings was scored in fifth.
Brandon Morris took the lead from Ryan Pancoast around the halfway point of the 30-lap Take Aim Gun Range Sportsman feature. Pancoast finished second. Ren Wright led all 25 laps of the Mini Stock feature; Jimmy Best won the Rookie 4 main event.
After the intermission, the crowd was treated to a night of crash-and-bash style racing that included school bus figure 8's, flagpole races and a skid plate race where cars race with their rear wheels removed from the car and skid plates put in their place. Mike Gamache won both the school bus race and the 4-cylinder road course race; Joe Lombardi won the V8 and 6-cylinder flag pole race; Chris Larson won the 4-cylinder flagpole race; Josh Widner won the road course race through the track's infield; and Aaron Yahnke won the skid plate race.
Next week, Desoto Speedway will host the Turner Tree and Landscape Super Late Models in addition to a full card of racing.
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