Since the green flag dropped on the 2006 campaign at the Kokomo Speedway, two drivers have stood head and shoulders above the rest of the competition and the pair appeared to be staging yet another battle Sunday night.

That was until misfortune and Kent Christian had their say, thus denying the attempts of Shane Cottle and Jon Stanbrough to maintain their stranglehold on the sprint car division at the local track.

On opening night Cottle took the feature win with Stanbrough finishing second. The second race of the season saw the pair once again finish first and second only with the drivers swapping positions.

Sunday night had all the makings for round three of their friendly rivalry — until “Lady Luck” reared her ugly head on both frontrunners.

With Christian starting on the pole and Cottle and Stanbrough sitting outside the second and third rows, respectively, it appeared to be only a matter of time until the pair would once again be running at the front of the pack deciding things for themselves.

Stanbrough’s woes began on the sixth lap while battling for the lead with Cottle and Christian. After cutting a right rear tire slicing and dicing with Cottle, he was forced to the back of the pack after his crew changed the tire. A little more than a handful of laps later, while working his way back through the pack the former track champion was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Just past the halfway mark, Tony Elliott, piloting the Trucker’s 24-Hour No. 10T that Stanbrough drove the better part of 2005, got into the rear of Brent Beauchamp, forcing the teenager to spin exiting the second corner. With nowhere to go, Stanbrough plowed into Beauchamp’s left rear, sending Beauchamp’s left rear wheel into the air, thus ending both drivers night. The accident also collected Josh Spencer and forced him from the race as well.

With cars dropping out due to various gremlins, Christian ran his usual line at the bottom of the track to perfection, continually thwarting Cottle’s bid to claim the top spot. With just three laps to go and Cottle searching virtually every square inch of the track for a place to pass, the two-time defending track champion got a good run off the top in turns one and two and executed a perfect slide job at the other end of the track to take the lead.

Cottle uncharacteristically bobbled a bit in turn one to allow Christian to nose out to a small advantage entering the third turn. Again the Kokomo standout tried another slide job only this time he and Christian got together, nearly wrecking both cars. Cottle’s car came to a stop bringing out the final caution and ending his night. It was later noted that he had suffered engine damage in the tangle.

From there, Christian needed only to run his line and let the rest of the pack battle before becoming the first driver besides Cottle or Stanbrough to stand in victory lane following a sprint car feature this season.

“Naturally I would have liked to have won this thing with those two still on the track,” said Christian. “I saw that Jon had some problems, then Shane and I got together, but that’s just good hard racing.”

Ryan Pace looked solid in just his second visit to the track to earn second over Billy Puterbaugh Jr. Corey Smith and Kevin Briscoe completed the top five. Dustin Smith was sixth, Jason Holt seventh, Adam Byrkett eighth, Ron Dennis ninth after running around the top five until stopping on the track to have mud removed from his right rear wheel in the closing laps. Cottle finished 10th to lengthen his points lead a bit over Stanbrough, who finished 16th.

The modified feature was dominated for the second straight race night by Jeff Bland Jr. The Bloomington driver was never seriously challenged as he waltzed to the win over Lee Hobbs, Steve Ott, Tyler Boggs and Derek Losh. A scary moment occurred early in the feature when veteran Bob Jarrett of Russiaville flipped his car, landing on another car in turn three. Jarrett walked to the ambulance under his own power and was reported to be OK.

Probably the most entertaining feature of the evening was the Street Stock division as James Headley and Randy Lines staged a two-man battle for the ages.

Headley had the upper hand in the early going only to be passed by Lines with five laps remaining. The pair ripped through lapped traffic, exchanging slide jobs and rubs all over the track. Late in the race, Headley reclaimed the lead on a questionable slide job that nearly forced Lines into the wall in turn two. A caution flag, reset the field to the last completed lap and Headley couldn’t muster the momentum to reclaim the lead.

Gary Blackburn seemed to stay back a bit and let the pair bang on each other en route to his third-place showing. Shane Landis and Jerald Owens rounded out the top five.

In the Mini-Stock feature Dale Jackson outran Kevin Carmichael to post the win. Mike Puttman was third, Ron Ogborn fourth and Don Morning fifth.

The track will host the USAC National Sprint Car Series Thursday night in the inaugural running of the Jack Hewitt Classic. Also on hand will be the Racin’ With D.O. Speedcars (Midgets) Series. Dan Laycock, aka D.O., noted that he expected several of the sprint car drivers to unload their midgets as well to compete and that he expected 25 to 30 midgets to be on hand.

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