If adversity makes you stronger, then there are race teams at Eastbound International Speedway in Avondale that will certainly gain strength from Sunday’s outcomes.
A trio of drivers all overcame wrecks, two of them on Saturday and one Sunday to earn positions in their respective INEX Nationals divisions later this year.
Both MNR Series Bandolero driver Nicholas Codner and Hanlon Realty US Legends division driver Chad Lawrence had to overcome severe damage to their cars to earn a trip south. And Hanlon Realty US Legends rookie phenom Michael Neary crashed in his qualifying race Sunday and his team had to work diligently to get his car back on the track for the main event.
Codner rallied to finish second in his MNR Bandolero Series car behind winner Owen Groves, who has yet to lose this season. Both drivers qualified for the INEX nationals slated for August in Charlotte, N.C.
Codner is a Bandit division driver and Groves is classified an Outlaw.
Neary rallied to beat the field in his MNR Racing No 23 Legends coupe, passing Lawrence midway through the race and cruising to victory. Neary qualified for the INEX Nationals in Las Vegas in the semi-pro division and Lawrence did so in the masters division.
The Bandolero and Legends divisions at Eastbound had guaranteed berths for the world championships at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October (Legends) and Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina in August (Bandolero).
Neary tore up the entire right front of his car in the qualifying race. He said his father, crew and a few friends on pit road worked diligently to put the car back together and get him back on the track.
“I was confident in the car. I wasn’t sure how good it would be, but I wasn’t that worried about it. Once I got out front, I was able to hit my marks and drive to the win,” the affable 16-year-old said.
“Being this successful early on is something that doesn’t happen very often.
“To qualify for the Nationals in my first year, in my first try, is something. I am grateful for everyone that helps out on this car and the support I get from them and my family.”
Neary isn’t sure if he’ll be able to make the trip to Las Vegas, but said he would seek help from sponsors and if the money is there, he will be going.
But he is travelling outside the province for races. Neary is off to Nova Scotia this week to compete at Riverside Speedway in James River, just outside of Antigonish.
This will be his debut in the Legends Division on the mainland and he said his goal is enjoy the experience and come back a better driver.
He is familiar with a few of the drivers as he ran against them in Florida and others he knows from racing in this area.
Codner, who was visibly angry as he walked back to his pit on Saturday, was a lot more upbeat Sunday knowing his team, like Neary’s, had performed the impossible to be able to get the car fixed and back to racing.
“Yesterday, there was some confusion in the corner (Turn No. 4) and we wound up in an accident. The car was pretty torn up. We didn’t know if we would get it fixed to run today, but my dad worked until 2:30 a.m. to get me back on the track,” he said.
“It was a bit weird in practice earlier, but we got it figured out for the main event. To be honest, I feel like we could have won with that car today. It got better as the day went on.”
Groves, Codner and Lawrence were, like Neary, unsure if they would be able to take advantage of the opportunity to attend the world championships.
Funding is an issue for them, as well. For Groves, so is the fact there is a points race at Eastbound the same weekend as the North Carolina event.
“I am running for a championship, so those points are huge,” he said. “I also have to talk to my sponsors and see if there may be some money there (so) that I might be able to go, but it is way too early to tell.”
Other winners at Eastbound over the weekend were Shane Coffin in both Division 1 races and Shane Collins in hobby stock.
In the 35-lap opening NASCAR Division I segment, Coffin drag-raced past Dean Martin at the start-finish line to take the victory.
Ross Thorne was third and Wayne Walsh finished fourth.
Josh Collins rallied late to finish seventh after he was sent to the back of the field for aggressive driving when he and the No. 74 car of Jason Groves made contact in Turn 4. Groves, unhappy with the altercation, spun away from the accident with a host of safety crew still on the track and was penalized by being parked for the remainder of the segment.
In the second segment, Coffin held off Collins for the win, with Thorne and Walsh again finishing third and fourth, making for a good points day for both of the veteran drivers.
Collins had held off a hard-charging Walsh on the final lap to win the second stage of the Orangestore 75 NASCAR Division I race Saturday night.
Shane Collins added to his large points lead in the Atlantic Dodge Dealers Hobby Stock Series main event as he and Stephen Guest thrilled the crowd with race to the finish, where Collins prevailed to take the checkered flag.
Cody Lake, a teammate of Collins, was third.
This race had a delay of nearly 25-minutes after the No 80 car of Cody Johnson blew up, spewing oil down the front stretch and into Turn 1, leading to some busy clean-up times for the track crew.