April 12, 2014 – Audio, photo and story by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio, Race Chaser Online and USCS Racing – GASTONIA, N.C. – They say blood is thicker than water,but Friday night during the United Sprint Car Series Southern Thunder regional opener, bloodlines ended up being thicker than the Carolina clay.
Moss Racing Engines driver Johnny Bridges, out of Cherryville, North Carolina, held off his cousin, Lance Moss, also out of Cherryville, to score the USCS vs. URC outlaw sprint car victory at Carolina Speedway as part of the “Spring Speed Xplosion” on Friday night. The win was the first USCS triumph since September 2012 at Carolina Speedway for the 2010 Southern Thunder regional champion and snaps a 19-month winless streak.
“Holy cow, I can’t believe it,” Bridges exclaimed in victory lane. “It’s been a long time. It’s been so rough on us because last year was the first year I’ve ever not won a race and it was so frustrating. Means so much to go back to victory lane in front of my home crowd!”
Moss was looking for his first-career USCS triumph, but had to settle for second at the finish after leading the first 17 laps of the 25-lap A-main from the K&N Filters Pole Position.
“Man, I want to say a huge thanks to my crew for everything they did to make this car go fast today,” Moss said after the event. “They did an outstanding job and I was having a lot of fun out there. If felt like back in 2009 when we were running well and finished top five in points; that’s how good this car was tonight. It sucks to get beat by family, but you know, we’ll go to the next one and try to get them there.”
Ten-time USCS national champion Terry Gray, out of Bartlett, Tennessee, completed the podium drivers in third place, taking the championship points lead by 14 markers after defending champion Derek Hagar did not make the trip to the Carolinas. 2012 URC Rislone Sprint Series champion Robbie Stillwaggon came home fourth, and Gray’s teammate Morgan Turpen, the only female racer in the field, rounded out the top five finishers.
Floridian Terry Witherspoon, local driver Jay Dunham, Bob Auld, and Jason Troutman were the rest of the nine drivers on the lead lap at the finish after an attrition-filled feature that saw numerous spectacular moments.
On the start, Moss took the early lead from three-time Carolina Speedway winner and defending North/South Shootout champion Eric Riggins, Jr., with the 18-year-old Charlotte native giving chase early in the going. On Lap 2, however, Riggins would encounter disaster. The 2010 USCS Southern Thunder Rookie of the Year and race leader Moss went three-wide to split the slower car of Joe Larkin, with Moss on the bottom and Riggins up top. Moss got loose on the bottom and pushed up into Larkin, sending the #33 into the Fast 47 of Riggins and causing Riggins to wheelhop over Larkin’s right-rear tire and get airborne.
The ensuing flip sent Riggins end over end and ultimately over the Turn 1 wall and into the woods outside of the race track, drawing a red flag for clean-up and to make sure Riggins was okay. Remarkably though, the self-proclaimed “Carolina Kid” was out of the car by the time medical crews reached his mangled machine and walked away uninjured.
“That was a wild ride,” Riggins said following the accident. “Just real unfortunate, you know, that we’re having to lap guys two laps in who can’t keep pace, and it just put us in a bad spot. What can you do?”
On the restart, Moss was able to escape again briefly over new second-place man Terry Gray, but a caution on Lap 3 for the stopped machine of Tim Perry bunched the field back up once again.
The field went back to green with a furious battle for second shaping up between Terry Gray and Troy Betts, the 2011 URC Rookie of the Year, but on Lap 6, the red flag flew for the second time on the evening when Betts flipped wildly in Turn 3 after hitting a set of bumps in the racing surface. The Delaware native as well was unhurt in the crash, but scored a DNF after finishing second in last fall’s North/South Shootout.
Once the green flag flew again, the field was finally able to settle into a green-flag stretch, and the “Wild Child”, Bridges, began to slice and dice his way to the front, passing Robbie Stillwaggon for third and sliding around Terry Gray for second in lapped traffic before setting his sites on the lead.
A caution on Lap 14 for the stopped car of Bill Moore would bunch the field up and wipe out a near straightaway lead for Moss, but the #23 would again get a great restart and power away from Bridges before the third and final red flag of the night flew at Lap 17 for a wicked crash in Turn 4 when rookie Nick Snyder slammed the outside wall and caught air, barrel-rolling a short way down the frontstretch in his #116 car. He too, walked away from the crash without injury.
On the Lap 18 restart, Bridges made the game-changing move when he went to the middle groove in Turns 1 and 2, using the momentum to power around Moss on the outside to take the lead, a lead he would not relinquish despite two more restarts on Laps 20 and 22 for the stalled cars of Ray Bugg and Tim Perry.
Morgan Turpen kicked off the night by winning the Hoosier Speed Dash over Eric Riggins, Jr. Riggins then won the Engler Machine and Tool First Heat, with URC Sprint Series regular Troy Betts using a last lap pass to win the Butlerbuilt Second Heat. Jay Dunham started 15th in the main event and advanced eight positions to earn the Wilwood Disc Brakes Hard Charger Award.
The USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour and URC Rislone Sprint Series winged sprint cars will conclude the spring edition of the North/South Shootout on Saturday night, April 12th at Lancaster Speedway in Lancaster, South Carolina. For more event information, visit the track website at at www.lancastersuperspeedway.com.
For rules, schedules and more information on the USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour, please visit www.uscsracing.com.
RESULTS: USCS vs. URC North/South Shootout “Spring Speed Xplosion”; Carolina Speedway; April 11, 2014
- #07 – Johnny Bridges, Cherryville, NC
- #23 – Lance Moss, Cherryville, NC
- #10 – Terry Gray, Bartlett, TN
- # 89 – Robbie Stillwaggon, Burlington, NJ
- #10M – Morgan Turpen, Oakland, TN
- #43 – Terry Witherspoon, Jacksonville, FL
- #51 – Jay Dunham, Augusta, GA
- #83 – Bob Auld, Largo, FL
- #4 – Jason Troutman, Vale, NC
- #36 – Tim Perry, Mooresville, NC
- #25 – Ray Bugg, Iuka, MS
- #116 – Nicholas Snyder, Marco Island, FL
- #06 – Bill Moore, Mooresville, NC
- #12B – Brad Franks, Collegedale, OA
- #21B – Brandon McLain, Indian Trail, NC
- #22 – Troy Betts, Newark, DE
- #28H – Matt Hope, York, SC
- #33 – Joe Larkin, Suwanee, GA
- #47 – Eric Riggins, Jr., Charlotte, NC
- #11B – George Blaney, Harrisburg, NC
Audio with race winner Johnny Bridges:
Audio with runner-up Lance Moss:
Audio with Eric Riggins Jr. post-race:
USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour presented by K&N Filters Race Awards:
K&N Filters Pole Award: #23 – Lance Moss
JE Pistons Top Guns Award: #89 – Robbie Stillwagon
K&N Filters Podium (3rd place) Award: #10 – Terry Gray
Keizer Aluminum Wheels Top Five Award: #10m – Morgan Turpen
Saldana Racing Products Super Sixth Award: #43 – Terry Witherspoon
Pyrotect racing Cells Lucky Seven Award: #51 – Jay Dunham
DMI/Bulldog rear Ends Top Ten Award: #36 – Tim Perry
Wilwood Disc Brakes Hard Charger Award: #51 – Jay Dunham