Taking the point and trying to protect your lead with a pack of challengers in hot pursuit is not as easy as it looks.
There simply isn't much room for error. Especially driving an open-wheel modified race car. And especially with a hot driver like Sammy Solari leading that pack of challengers.
Gary Swim was up to the task Saturday night, however, and the Elverta, Calif., driver protected his lead for the better part of 40 laps to win the 12-car Western Modified feature race at Champion Motor Speedway.
It was a special occasion for Swim, who also won his heat race and watched his son, Craig, win the other Western Modified heat race. Oh, and by the way, the main event victory was a first for the elder Swim at the Carson City track.
"This is my first win ever in a modified," he said, flashing a wide grin. "I won a few Street Stock races and I set a track record at Roseville, but this was my first in a modified."
Solari, the division points leader who has posted five main event victories at Champion this season, settled for second-place. The driver from Salida, Calif., moved up into the runner-up position with 27 laps to go, but never could quite reel in Swim.
"Sammy was all over me," Swim said. "There were a couple of times when I thought he was going to get me. One time I got sideways a little (on the home straightaway), then another when I thought lapped traffic was going high, instead, he came down and pinched me, but I came out of it all right.
"It isn't easy in these cars. There's lots and lots of strong competition, but I had my heart in it tonight."
Dan Jinkerson, Craig Swim, Chris Mays and Matt Collier were part of the pursuit pack that chased him to the checker in a race that saw the caution flag drop three times (two of those restarts came on Lap 1). Jinkerson finished third, followed by Craig Swim, Chris Mays and Mark Tompkins.
Solari outran Collier to win the trophy dash. Gary Swim held off Solari to win his heat race, and Craig Swim finished ahead of Collier to win his heat.
Gary Swim shared credit for the evening's success with his son, Craig.
"I've got a motor in my car with 4 1/2 seasons on it," the elder Swim said. "My son built this motor when he was at the School of Automotive Machinists in Houston, and it's done well for me."
Chet Danburg also took advantage of an early opening and went on to win the combined Late Model/Street Stock main event later in the evening.
Danburg took the high line for a restart on Lap 7, surged from fourth-place to take control of the race within four laps and basically never looked back the rest of the way in the 30-lap race.
"It all comes down to who makes the first move, whether it's me, Al (Goss), or whoever," Danburg said. "I knew I wanted to do something, and looking at the lineup, I kind of knew the outside was my best chance. (Turns) 3 and 4 are better on the outside anyway."
Goss worked his way past Ken Crome and Vince Malone and moved into the runner-up spot on Lap 17 when he split between two cars in front of the homestretch grandstand.
It's a move Goss jokingly said he learned from his younger days driving on the 680 Freeway in San Jose.
"I saw the opening and I was going to back off, but (Street Stock driver) Rick Miller saw what was happening and gave me plenty of room, so I went for it," said Goss, who made a run at Danburg on the last lap but ran out of time in the race.
Added Danburg, "The Street Stock drivers, Rick Miller and those guys, they were pointing you to go up or down. It was really nice of them to do that; they don't have to do that, but it helps save a lot of problems."
Crome, who stayed in the race after colliding with the homestretch wall at the start of the main event, finished third behind Goss. Malone was fourth, Ed Goss fifth and Frank Sanfilippo sixth. Crome won his second trophy dash of the season plus he finished second behind Al Goss in the heat race.
Danburg gave further credit to his crew chief Kris Keller for work in the pits after the heat race.
"My sway bar was not set right. Some of the bolts were loose, and once Kris took care of that, the car was a lot tighter coming off the turn," Danburg said, adding a word of thanks to sponsors Darrel and Patti Page.
Meanwhile, Miller posted his ninth straight Street Stock main event victory by holding off John White in a duel between drivers battling for the season points championship. White won the trophy dash and heat race.
Rick Parmelee won his fifth Legends main event in six tries this season, as he outdistanced a 13-car field in a 30-lap race that saw three cars towed off the track, including season points leader Wayne Estes on Lap 15.
Jack Randall set the pace early before Parmelee worked his way through the field and seized the lead on the backstretch after a restart on Lap 15. Parmelee led to the checker, followed by Denny Hadler, Richard Malugani, Terry Madjeski, Bill Brown and Bob Cose. Hadler won the trophy dash, Parmelee bested Randall to win the first heat race, while Estes outdueled Katie Crome to win the second heat race.
Chuck Beaty won the 25-lap Hornet division main event, ahead of Andy McCool, Steve Moore and Jason Bilek, Anthony Cozzi and Kim Robbins. Robbins won the trophy dash and finished second in her heat race behind McCool. Moore won the other heat race.
Sandy Clark won the 15-lap main event and completed a sweep of the Queen Beez/Junior Hornet division. Joy Coleman finished second and Chris Walton third. Clark also used an outside move coming off Turn 4 to get past Coleman and Clark and take the checker flag in an exciting heat race. Clark won the trophy dash.
Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.