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***REWIND*** – BOND CLAIMS CHAMPIONSHIP, LEVEA TAKES LIMITED FEATURE WIN

By – Chris Porter
August 28, 2004

While Mike Bond sealed the deal on his 2004 limited track championship, Fulton’s Lou LeVea captured his first limited supermodified win Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway. It was a winning combination of both passive and aggressive approaches that earned each a pose in victory lane.

Storm cloud-darkened skies threatened the racing action all evening and the humidity only added to the already hot tempers on the track.

Jack Patrick and Mike Barnes led the field to the start of the 25-lap regular season-finale. Patrick nosed out in front, but before the pack could record its second lap in the books, a multi-car tangle occurred in the third turn.

Nine different drivers were involved, including Tony White and Mark VanLuven, who needed to be separated as tempers erupted. However, the most key victim of the carnage was Chris Proud. Proud went into the night’s racing action just 25 points behind Bond for the track championship. The accident not only ended his hopes of winning the race, but winning the title as well.

Andy Noto, Brian Sobus, LeVea and Dave Gruel followed Patrick on the restart. LeVea was able to slide past Sobus before the second caution flag of the evening flew for the Greg Davis No. 89. Davis had spun alone in turn No. 3. Davis was pushed away and would later recover to finish 11th.

Noto took a look around Patrick on the second restart, but Patrick’s No. 9 confidently held its ground. Gruel and JJ Andrews shuffled Sobus out of the top five, moving into fourth and fifth place respectively. Two laps later, LeVea continued his charge, disposing of Noto and setting his sites on the leader.

LeVea may have set his sites a little too close on the No. 9’s bumper, as the two came together in the first turn.

“Somebody drove right into the back of me,” Patrick said. “I never saw them. I didn’t hear them or anything. They hit me so hard they bent my rear end. I don’t know what the track is looking at up there, but when somebody drives into you so hard that they bend your rear end, they’re not the brakes.”

LeVea admitted that he may have headed into the first turn too hard, but said there was no intention  involved.

“I was on the brakes hard,” LeVea said. “I got into him. I probably came into it a little late. I though he saw me underneath him. I really feel bad for Jack. It’s not the way we like things to happen.”

Patrick insisted that it was going to be his night.

“I was fast tonight an somebody who wasn’t faster than me didn’t hit the brakes hard enough an drove right into the back of me,” the Fulton driver said. “There’s no doubt about it. We were flying tonight.”

LeVea was allowed to keep the top spot and never lost it the rest of the way.

Gruel slipped past Noto and into the runner-up spot on the 11th lap. Andrews followed his track, bouncing Noto back to fourth.

With five laps to go, LeVea was enjoying a 15-car length advantage over Gruel when the caution lights flashed for the final time. Chris Natoli had stuffed his No. 33 into the fourth-turn foam.

LeVea held the top spot. Gruel, Andrews, Shawn Walker and Noto filled out the top five. Russ Brown, Bond, Steve Austin, Kris Meyn and Russ Bartlett completed the top 10.

Gruel was able to stay with LeVea on the restart, even giving the leader a few taps the final few laps, looking for a way around. However, the No. 96 car was ale to hold on to the lead and pick up it’s first win.

“The car was really awesome tonight,” LeVea said. “It’s been awesome for the past couple of weeks and we hoe it stays that way for the Classic. The car’s been working good on the inside and outside.”

Gruel settled for second place. The Weedsport native said that things are just now coming together and that he’s optimistic about next weekend.

“We finally got the car hooked up,” Gruel said. “This is the last week heading into Classic Weekend. I’m just happy we were able to get it set up good going into next weekend.”

Andrews brought home his fourth top-five finish of the season.

“The night went pretty well,” Andrews said. “I stayed out of trouble. Third place is always good. Hopefully, this can put us in a good position for next week to keep the momentum going. It’s been off a little bit lately, but I think the car is fast.”

Walker got his second top-five finish of the 2004 season, putting him eighth place in the final points standings.

“It was a little loose tonight,” Walker said, “but nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ve got a lot of work to do … . I think we’re going to change some stuff in the rear end. The rear end keeps kicking out and making it loose. I think we’ll be pretty good for the time trialing tough.”

Noto rounded out the top -five finishers., his fourth of the year.

“It’s the worst it’s been all year,” Noto said. “It was loose in, loose in the middle and loose off. It was like driving a dirt car. Anytime you can finish in the top five with a car that’s this bad and this loose is absolutely amazing.”

Noto added that not only will teammate Start Matteson be back, but his No. 19 will have an entirely new outward appearance to it.

“We’ve got a few things up our sleeve,” Noto said. “It will not look the same. Stay tuned.”

Playing what he said was a conservative role in the feature, was 2004 Track Champion Bond. The Mexico driver said that though he came into the evening with a small point advantage over Doug Cliff – who finished a distant 13th and  Proud – who came back to finish 16th, things first appeared as if they were going to fall apart right in front of him.

“It started off not looking too good,” Bond said. “In warm-ups, the fuel pump went. The car wasn’t handling right and we found out we had a bad shock. I was thinking that I hope this wasn’t a sign of things to come. But, everything worked out pretty good. We ended up changing a shock for the feature and that got the car back handling again. That’s why I thought I’d better run conservative with the way my luck was going tonight.”

“It feels good to win this two times in a row. It’s been a long season this year. I wrecked more times this year than I think I have in the last three years.”

Cliff, Proud, LeVea and Davis rounded out the top five in the final points standings. Meyn, Andrews, Walker, Austin and Kevin Knopp completed the top 10.

Rookie of the Year honors went to Oswego’s Ryan Coleman.