PUTNAMVILLE -- It's hard to argue that the first few months of the 2010 USAC Sprint Car season have been magical for Concord, Calif. native, Damion Gardner.
The "Demon" has won four of the eight contested USAC races thus far, and on Saturday night he added a victory at Lincoln Park Speedway to his resume.
Gardner, doing some testing for future USAC dates at LPS, outdistanced the field by nearly a full straightaway as he pulled away from an early battle with Billy Puterbaugh and claimed the win over Shane Hollingsworth and Chase Briscoe.
Nineteen sprinters were on hand in Putnamville and Gardner wasted little time in putting the competition on notice that he was going to be difficult to beat despite not having competed at LPS since 2005. The Demon claimed his heat race over Chris Babcock and Seth Parker, but Puterbaugh, making his 2010 debut at the 5/16th-mile oval, won his own heat ahead of Cole Carter and Justin Marvel.
Puterbaugh and Gardner started on the front row for the feature, ahead of Carter and Babcock.
On the drop of the green, Puterbaugh and Gardner immediately went to work on each other, swapping the lead back and forth in a battle that kept the fans' attention for a number of laps. Gardner was able to nab the point five laps into the 25-lap feature as Puterbaugh settled in behind the west coast hotshoe. Carter and Babcock were locked in a duel behind them with Briscoe and Marvel close behind.
Gardner began to put some distance between himself and the rest of the field as Hollingsworth entered the fray, running the high side above Briscoe with Babcock, Dakota Jackson and Marvel battling for fourth position.
Just past the halfway mark, Puterbaugh's night came to a premature halt as the No. 71p came to a stop with apparent mechanical issues.
While the caution brought Gardner back to the field briefly, upon the restart, he quickly rebuilt his impressive lead as Hollingsworth was set upon trying to hold off Briscoe, Babcock, Marvel, Jackson and Kenny Carmichael Sr.
Gardner continued to stretch out his lead in the Pace Lighting, Romona Oil Co. and Indy Race Parts machine and was on cruise control to the checkered flag.
Hollingsworth locked horns with Briscoe down the stretch, but was able to hold off a spirited challenge for second. Babcock rolled into a fourth-place ahead of Marvel, Carmichael Sr., Jason Holt, Parker, Mark Harden and Jackson.
Greencastle's Paul Bumgardner is no stranger to victory lane in the UMP Modified division. As the defending points champion, the pilot of the Cardinal Contracting, Durabuilt Racing, Bumgardner's Auto and Truck Repair No. 54, has taken the checkered flag pretty regularly. However, on Saturday, not only did he pick up a thrilling win in the modified class, edging out Roger Cary by a matter of a couple of feet, but he also claimed a UMP Super Stock feature win in equally eye-popping fashion.
In the modified main event, Cary and Bumgardner started on the front row and battled the entire duration of the race to the delight of the fans, who braved the chilly temperatures. Cary, the defending track champion at Pierce's Vermilion County Speedway in Danville, Ill., took his talents to LPS and gave Bumgardner all he could handle.
Bumgardner worked his way through some lapped traffic late in the feature and was able to hold off the final challenge from Cary in a drag race to the checkered flag. Craig Conyer put on a show by working his way from a 15th starting spot to a third-place finish as Randy Shuman claimed fourth ahead of Wes McClara. Brad Robinson took sixth ahead of Josh Boller, Dan Lewellen was eighth after starting 19th, Carlos Bumgardner was ninth with Chris Brewer wrapping up 10th.
Bumgardner barely had time to catch his breath between features, as his super stock ride was driven down to victory lane after he climbed from his modified.
This time around, Chris Hillman was the main challenger and was bumper-to-bumper the entire race with Bumgardner.
After a number of early cautions, the two raced side-by-side lap after lap with Scott Carrington battling with Doug McCullough over the first half of the feature. Slick Griffin and Harry Shepherd were close behind McCullough in a three-way battle for third-place.
Down the stretch, Bumgardner had to come off his line at the top of the track and work the bottom around a lapped car with two laps to go. Hillman showed his nose under Bumgardner, but remained in second.
Crossing the finish line with one lap remaining, Hillman got a good run through the final two turns, but Bumgardner was able to hold off the last challenge to win his second feature of the evening. Carrington was third with Kris Starks coming from 17th to take fourth ahead of Griffin. Brett Smedley was sixth ahead of McCullough, Shepherd, Carmichael Jr. and Jim Moore.
The bomber feature was a family affair for Ron Wallen Sr. as he outraced his son and car owner, David, to the finish line for the victory.
David Wallen led much of the race after getting by C.J. Bryan as Lloyd Walls and Josh Fagg settled in behind them.
Wallen Sr. meanwhile had a much more difficult task after winning the B-Main to even get into the feature. He worked his way through the field after starting 16th and entered the battle for the lead late.
On a late restart, Wallen Sr. dove low to challenge David, but couldn't make the pass stick until the final corner.
With one lap remaining, Wallen Sr. made his move coming into turn four, getting under David Wallen and was able to maintain his momentum to narrowly edge him at the finish line in the Specialty Grafix, L&R Roofing sponsored machine. Walls was third ahead of Josh Settles, Fagg, Barry Hicks, Bryan, Frank Cotton, Justin Clodfelter and Blake Cross.
Next weekend will be National Armed Forces Day with a regular slate of sprints, modifieds, super stocks and bombers.
Sprint car feature
Damion Gardner, 2. Shane Hollingsworth, 3. Chase Briscoe, 4. Chris Babcock, 5. Justin Marvel, 6. Kenny Carmichael Sr., 7. Jason Holt, 8. Seth Parker, 9. Mark Harden, 10. Dakota Jackson, 11. Cole Carter, 12. John Irvin, 13. Dustin Waggoner, 14. Billy Puterbaugh, 15. Blair Julian, 16. Kenny Carmichael Jr., 17. Brian Lake, 18. Tim Creech II, 19. Chad Davenport
Heat winners: Puterbaugh, Gardner
UMP Modified feature
1. Paul Bumgardner, 2. Roger Cary, 3. Craig Conyer, 4. Randy Shuman, 5. Wes McClara, 6. Brad Robinson, 7. Josh Boller, 8. Dan Lewellen, 9. Carlos Bumgardner, 10. Chris Brewer, 11. Chris Kerl, 12. Donald Kiger, 13. Garry Ricketts, 14. Gary Hall, 15. Nathan Voorhies, 16. Brian Hayden, 17. Rodney Harris Jr., 18. Josh Edmondson, 19. Josh Webb, 20. Tony Helton
Heat winners: Cary, Bumgardner
UMP Super Stock feature
1. Paul Bumgardner, 2. Chris Hillman, 3. Scott Carrington, 4. Kris Starks, 5. Slick Griffin, 6. Brett Smedley, 7. Doug McCullough, 8. Harry Shepherd, 9. Kenny Carmichael Jr., 10. Jim Moore, 11. Terry Arthur, 12. Joe Starks, 13. Jamie Adams, 14. Travis Heramb, 15. Donnie Shoemaker, 16. Steve Ware, 17. Brandon Engler, 18. Gary Archer Jr., 19. Kenny Carmichael Sr., 20. Matt Jordan, 21. Jake Waggoner
Heat winners: Carrington, Bumgardner
1. Ron Wallen Sr., 2. David Wallen, 3. Lloyd Walls, 4. Josh Settles, 5. Josh Fagg, 6. Barry Hicks, 7. C.J. Bryan, 8. Frank Cotton, 9. Justin Clodfelter, 10. Blake Cross, 11. Josh Presley, 12. Richard Watkins, 13. Dustin Shoulders, 14. Jordan Almanza, 15. Sean Yakel, 16. Chad Nolte, 17. Tim Doughty, 18. Marlin Burns, 19. Dale Lewis, 20. David Bumgardner, 21. Stacey Ford
B-Main winner: Ron Wallen Sr.
Heat winners: David Bumgardner, David Wallen, C.J. Bryan