Duane Cleveland hangs on to take All Star win at Ocean Speedwayracepmg
By Sean Stanish
Watsonville, CA – With six rounds of the 2017 IMCA All Star Modified Tour in the book, the series headed to Watsonville’s Ocean Speedway for their first of three appearances this season. Last time out in Hanford, Bakersfield’s Robby Sawyer came out on top of Olivehurst’s Ryan McDaniel by 0.002 seconds. That narrow margin would be tied, and unfortunately for McDaniel, he would be on the losing end once again.
Track regular Todd Hermosillo and former track champion Tim Balding led the field down to the green flag in the 25-lap A-Main, with Balding jumping out to the early lead. Duane Cleveland started fourth but followed Balding around the high side and found himself in second at the end of one lap. The first yellow flag flew on lap three for Hercules’ Robert Montalvo, who spun in turn one.
On the restart, Tim Balding led Cleveland and Robby Sawyer back to the green flag. The trio went three wide for the lead in turns three and four, with Duane Cleveland leading the fourth lap. The group went three wide again, with Tim Balding and Robby Sawyer not giving up the fight. The battle for the lead would be halted momentarily when Rohnert Park’s Jeff Faulkner spun in turns one and two. The caution flag came right back out for Montalvo and Faulkner, who spun together on the restart and both were done for the evening.
On the restart, Duane Cleveland continued to lead, but just barely over Balding and Sawyer. Sawyer was able to clear Balding for second and then challenge Cleveland for the lead. The pair traded racing lines, going high in one corner and then dropping low in the next. Cleveland continued to lead until the caution came out once again, this time for Freedom’s Kyle Bryan on lap nine.
The race would stay green for the next ten laps allowing other contenders to make their presence known. Cleveland and Sawyer continued to run first and second, but ninth-place-starting Ryan McDaniel passed several cars on the restart and was up to third, with seventh-place-starting Martinez’s Troy Foulger running fourth. Meanwhile at the front, Robby Sawyer continued to stalk Duane Cleveland, but didn’t quite have enough to make a move for the lead. With six to go, the battle for fifth would be the sight of the final caution, with Salinas’ Alex Wilson and Martinez’s Nick DeCarlo colliding, sending both of them to the rear of the field.
With the field bunched back up, Duane Cleveland led the field back to green flag. On the restart, Ryan McDaniel made the move around the outside of Robby Sawyer for second, while Cleveland pulled a slight gap on the pair. Cleveland would opt for the low line in turns 1 and 2 and then go to the top in 3 and 4. McDaniel, meanwhile, would take the high line the whole way around. On the final lap, Cleveland decided to change it up and take the low line around the speedway and it nearly cost him the victory. McDaniel, who was still hammering the outside, was able to pull alongside Cleveland. As fans rose to their feet, Cleveland and McDaniel crossed under the checkered flag side-by-side, with Cleveland edging McDaniel to the line by two thousandths of a second. Robby Sawyer, who thought about making three wide in the waning moments down the backstretch, had to settle for third. Troy Foulger finished fourth and hard-charger Cody Burke of Salinas finished fifth after starting 17th. Ryan McDaniel leads the point standings by 19 markers over Robby Sawyer. Round 1 winner, Cody Burke, still has a shot at the championship as he sits in third, 23 points behind McDaniel. Troy Foulger and Duane Cleveland are fourth and fifth in the standings, 31 and 32 points behind, respectively.
The series next event was scheduled for Tulare’s Thunderbowl Raceway July 22nd, but that event has since been cancelled, citing necessary wall and light repairs at the track. Therefore, the next IMCA All Star Modifed Tour event will be right back at Ocean Speedway on August 5th as the headliner for the 20th Annual Mike Cecil Memorial. All divisions racing that night (Modifieds, SportMods, and American Stocks) are $1,000 to win as the track honors one of its longtime supporters.
Photo Credits to Paul Trevino.