PORT HARDY — Daniel Hovey was running on only six of his eight cylinders when he took the track for the main event Saturday evening at Tri-Port Speedway.
By the end of the night, none of them were working.
Still, Hovey got just enough from his stock car to pick up the victory in the 10-lap event main event and split a series of two-lap “grudge match” races with fellow driver Donnie Lawrence on opening night of the Tri-Port Motor Sports Club’s Dust Bowl weekend.
“I don’t know, it seemed like I was dropping (cylinders) the whole time,” said Hovey, whose car finally died in the pits as he was preparing to join driver Brock Shore in a tire burnout against the wall fronting the track’s main grandstand. “I think it’s done now. It won’t start.”
Then Hovey turned away with a shrug. “I’ve got another motor.”
Hovey will have time to install it, if necessary. Sunday’s second Dust Bowl session was rained out, and will be run at Tri-Port Speedway Sunday, Sept. 4 at 1 p.m.
The split event could work out for the better, as Saturday’s racing drew a small field of drivers and one of the smallest crowds of the season at the track.
“We’re not closing the book on the Dust Bowl yet,” organizer Theresa Weeks said. “The guys want to run the second day of races, and we had a rain make-up date available on (Sept.) fourth.”
Several of the club’s regular drivers were missing Saturday due to travel or broken cars. But Weeks said all of them are expected to return in early September to vie for the Dust Bowl perpetual trophy, other keeper trophies and prizes.
The drivers will be chasing Hovey and Lawrence, who finished Saturday tied in Dust Bowl points.
Lawrence, appearing on the track for the first time since piloting Robbie Robbins’s car to the main event win on opening day this spring, claimed the opening trophy dash and the first heat race, with Glen Day placing second in each race.
But as the two resumed their duel in the second heat, Lawrence suffered a flat and spun in front of Day coming out of turn two. The front left edge of his bumper punctured Day’s grill, pushing the radiator into the fan blade and opening a gash that quickly led to Day overheating and missing out on the main event.
Hovey took advantage, holding off Lawrence and Shore after a restart to win the second heat. Hovey then passed Lawrence early in the main event and nursed his sputtering engine to the checkered flag, despite a competition yellow flag that allowed Lawrence a restart with three laps to go.
“When Glen hit me I bent the A-arm about three inches,” Lawrence said of his left front steering assembly. “After that, it handled like a tank. Otherwise, I felt pretty good about today. The car felt strong.”