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IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY

East, Meseraull Split USAC Mopar Twin 25s

March 28, 2004|Tony Solorzano

Bobby East came within a second of winning $50,000 as he and Thomas Meseraull split the USAC Mopar Twin 25s 'Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway in front of about 5,500 fans.

"I really hated to keep him [East] from the win, but we needed this," Meseraull said. "We had a bad set of tires in the first race, but the second set were perfect."

Despite the absence of veteran USAC driver J.J. Yeley, who had to drop out of the race because of a scheduling conflict with his NASCAR Busch Series racing commitments, the race provided some of the best sprint car racing since the annual Turkey Night Grand Prix last November.

In the first race, East and his teammate Dave Darland battled for the lead through the final 14 laps, with East pulling away in his Ed Pink-powered Beast from Darland's car, holding on for the victory.

Pole sitter Dave Steele had led the early when an accident on Lap 8 involving Scott Thoman and Johnny Rodriguez brought out the yellow flag. Steele lost his left rear wheel as he slowed down for the yellow flag, sliding backward into the wall along Turn 1, ending the night early for the reigning Turkey Night Champion.

In the second race, East began at the back of the field, but quickly passed eight cars on the first lap as Jay Drake spun out crossing the start/finish line, bringing out a quick caution. Four laps later, East broke into the top 10, passing Teddy Beach for eighth. Two laps later, East was in fourth, then passed Jerome Rodela for third one lap later, but then had to close a large gap held by Brad Kuhn.

With 10 laps left, Kuhn held an 0.6-second advantage, but East finally overtook him with four laps left, but Meseraull, who finished in 13th in the first race, started on the pole, and led all the way, holding off East by 0.8 seconds, denying him the second victory and the $50,000 bonus.

"I knew were good for the whole race, but we needed a late caution," said East.

In the 25-lap USAC Ford Focus Midget Series feature, former Olympian Josh Lakatos needed nine laps to pass Ryan Pace, the current Turkey Night champion of the Focus Series, and pulled away for the rest of the race, holding off Pace and Matt Triplett for the victory.

-- Tony Solorzano

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