May 3, 2014 — story and audio by Jacob Seelman for Speed77 Radio, Race Chaser Online and USCS Racing — Chris Seelman photo — SEYMOUR, TN — This win meant more to Terry Gray than most any other win he’s ever had in his career.
It was redemption. It was heart. It was teamwork.
Gray, the ten-time United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour filtercharged by K&N National Champion from Bartlett, Tennessee, took the lead from K&N polesitter Eric Riggins, Jr. on Lap 15 of the 30-lap “Thunder in the Smokies” USCS main event Friday night at 411 Motor Speedway and never looked back, masterfully skirting lap traffic over the final 14 laps to extend his lead and roll into www.rockauto.com Victory Lane.
The win was Gray’s first USCS win of the season and came after a massive opening lap crash that saw his teammate Morgan Turpen flip wildly into the catchfence in turn 3.
“This one means a whole lot tonight,” Gray said after the race to the crowd that stayed around for the finish. “Especially after what happened to (Morgan), I wanted to win this bad for her. For both of us, really. I lost one earlier this season at Hohenwald (Tennessee National Raceway) and I wasn’t gonna let that happen again.”
Speaking of his teammate and crew chief, Gray expressed how thankful he was not only that Turpen was okay, but that she came back to cheer him on after her race-ending incident.
“She’s a tough customer,” Gray said of his longtime teammate. “She’s been through a lot tonight, but I’m glad to have her around here, and real glad she’s okay. She took a hard spill.”
That spill was sparked after Turpen and high passing points driver Lance Moss were battling hard for the fourth position on the opening lap behind Riggins. The pair went down into Turn 3 and Moss drove in and clipped the right rear wheel of Turpen’s number 10M car, sending her around and launching her into the catchfence in front of the whole field.
Turpen’s car came to rest between turns 3 and 4, and she was gingerly extricated from her car complaining of knee pain and a sore neck, but she was able to exit her car with minor assistance and spoke after the event about her wild ride.
“I don’t remember a whole lot, to be honest,” Turpen said following the feature. “I jsut remember sailing it down into turn 3 and then the next thing I knew we were in the air. I just thought to myself, ‘oh, this is bad’ and then we were pinned against the concrete wall.”
“I’m sore right now; my knees are pretty banged up, and I want to get my neck checked out (Turpen has a stent in her carotid artery after a 2009 crash) but if Terry can get the car fixed and we’re cleared for tomorrow, we’re gonna do our best to race. I want to as long as I can,” a steely Turpen added.
Turpen made the choice to head to a local hospital for evaluation after feature action was over to ensure she would be clear to race tomorrow night.
Numerous other cars were involved in the fray, with eight of the 22 starters being unable to return after a nearly hour-long red flag halted the racing action for extensive cleanup.
In addition to Turpen and Moss, Shawn Murray, Terry Witherspoon, Tim Perry, Greg Merritt, and Ray Bugg were collected in the melee. Bugg’s involvement was particularly scary, with his throttle hanging after the incident and his car doing doughnuts wildly out-of-control in turn 4.
When the car came to rest, safety officials quickly came to the 76-year-old sprint car veteran’s aid, with Bugg being transported to the University of Tennessee medical center for further evaluation. Bugg was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae in his neck, but was awake and alert speaking with both doctors and series officials at the hospital.
After the red flag, 14 cars took the green flag for a complete restart and polesitter Riggins again leapt out in front of the field, leading the first half of the event before Gray came calling at halfway to snatch the top spot away.
After a caution at lap 16 for the spinning car of rookie driver Lukas Smith, Gray surged back to the point on the restart and held off the charges of fellow Bartlett, Tennessee native Anthony Nicholson over the final fourteen laps to take the trophy and the checkered flag.
Nicholson finished in second, with Cherryville, North Carolina’s Johnny Bridges completing the podium in third and notching the K&N Filters Podium Award.
Former World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series winner Danny Smith (Chillicothe, Ohio) came home in fourth and Riggins, from Charlotte, North Carolina, faded to fifth at the finish.
Largo, Florida’s Bob Auld had a solid night to post a sixth-place effort, with 2012 Carolina RaceSaver Sprint Series champion and Indian Trail, North Carolina driver Jake McLain finishing in seventh. Jake’s brother Brandon (Indian Trail) came to the checkered flag in eighth position, with USCS rookie Freddie McCall, Jr. (ninth; Brewton, Alabama) and 2012 USCS Rookie of the Year Jeff Willingham (Ripley, Mississippi) rounding out the top ten drivers at the finish.
Gray kicked off the evening’s racing action by winning the six car, six-lap Hoosier Speed Dash. His teammate Turpen then won the Engler Machine and Tool First Heat. Johnny Bridges charged to victory in the Butlerbuilt Second Heat, and Lance Moss came from dead-last to take the win in the Schoenfield Headers Third Heat. After first heat winner Turpen pulled a six in the inversion draw, Eric Riggins Jr. started the main event from the K&N Filters Pole Position. Brandon McLain advanced the most positions (six) in the A-Main to earn the Wilwood Disc Brakes Hard Charger Award.
The next event for the United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour will be Saturday, May 3rd at the Smoky Mountain Speedway (www.smokymountainspeedway.com) in Maryville, Tennessee.
For rules, schedules and more information on the United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour, please visit www.uscsracing.com or call 770-460-7223 or 770-865-6097.
RESULTS: USCS Outlaw Thunder presented by K&N Filters; 411 Motor Speedway; Friday, May 2, 2014:
Hoosier Speed Dash: Terry Gray, Johnny Bridges, Morgan Turpen, Lance Moss, Eric Riggins Jr. and Brandon McLain
Engler Machine and Tool First Heat: Morgan Turpen, Eric Riggins Jr., Danny Smith, Freddie McCall Jr., Brandon McLain, Don Smith, Lukas Smith, Don Ryder
Butlerbuilt Second Heat: Johnny Bridges, Bob Auld, Jake McLain, Greg Merritt, Jeff Willingham, Joe Larkin, Johnny Petrozelle (DNS)
Schoenfield Headers Third Heat: Lance Moss, Anthony Nicholson, Terry Gray, Shawn Murray, Terry Witherspoon, Ray Bugg, Tim Perry (DNS)
USCS presented by K&N Filters at 411 Motor Speedway Main Event: 30-laps
- #10 – Terry Gray, Bartlett, TN
- #16 – Anthony Nicholson, Bartlett, TN
- #07 – Johnny Bridges, Cherryville, NC
- #4 – Danny Smith, Chillicothe, OH
- #47 – Eric Riggins Jr., Charlotte, NC
- #83 – Bob Auld, Largo, FL
- #67 – Jake McLain, Indian Trail, NC
- #21B – Brandon McLain, Indian Trail, NC
- #1 – Freddie McCall Jr., Brewton, AL
- #28 – Jeff Willingham, Ripley, MS
- #61 – Don Smith, Lebanon, IN
- #33 – Joe Larkin, Suwanee, GA
- #26 – Lukas Smith, Lebanon, IN
- #12B – Don Ryder, Knoxville, TN (OUT)
- #10M – Morgan Turpen, Oakland, TN (OUT)
- #23 – Lance Moss, Cherryville, NC (OUT)
- #22 – Shawn Murray, Jacksonville, FL (OUT)
- #43 – Terry Witherspoon, Jacksonville, FL (OUT)
- #25 – Ray Bugg, Iuka, MS (OUT)
- #12M – Greg Merritt, Nesbit, MS (OUT)
- #36 – Tim Perry, Mooresville, NC (OUT)
- #59 – Johnny Petrozelle, Denton, NC (DNS)
USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour presented by K&N Filters Race Awards:
USCS Sprint Hoosier Speed Dash: #10 – Terry Gray
Engler Machine and Tool First Heat: #10M – Morgan Turpen
Butlerbuilt Second Heat Award: #07 – Johnny Bridges
Schoenfield Headers Third Heat Award: #23 – Lance Moss
K&N Filters Pole Award: #47 – Eric Riggins Jr.
JE Pistons Top Guns Award: #07 – Johnny Bridges (3rd place)
K&N Filters Podium (3rd place) Award: #07 – Johnny Bridges
Wilwood Disc Brakes Hardcharger Award: #21B – Brandon McLain
Keizer Aluminum Wheels Top Five Award: #47 – Eric Riggins Jr.
Saldana Racing Products Super Sixth Award: #83 – Bob Auld
Pyrotect Racing Cells Lucky Seven Award: #67 – Jake McLain
DMI/Bulldog Rear Ends Top Ten Award: #28 – Jeff Willingham
The United Sprint Car Series presented by K&N Filters would like to gratefully thank its sponsoring partners for their involvement in the 2014 and 18th anniversary USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour: K&N Filters, www.rockauto.com, Engler Machine and Tool, Butlerbuilt, Wilwood Disc Brakes, Saldana Racing Products, Pyrotect Racing Cells, DMI/Bulldog Rear Ends. KSE Racing Products, Schoenfeld Headers, DSR Fuel Systems, Brown and Miller Racing Solutions and Safety-Kleen.