Mauriello Puts Barney Racing 14 Back in Victory Lane
Mauriello 14 showing victory wasn't easy
Larry Thompson back in Victory Lane after a long absence
On a night when Wall Stadium Speedway was celebrating the past with 50's Night in the grandstands there was also a return to the past on the speedway. Two young drivers renewed their past rivalry, a former top driver, who spent many years in the grandstands, completed his return to the driver's seat with a win, and a former champion showed the dominance which led him to a championship in the past.
When Eric Mauriello made the move up from the Sportsman division to the Modifieds there were many expectations. Not only was he a two-time champion, but he would be behind the wheel of one of the most famous cars in New Jersey racing history, the Barney Racing number 14.
Andrew Krause, Mauriello's top rival in his two championship campaigns, also made the move up to the Downs Ford Modifieds, but with a little less fan fare. Maybe it was because he didn't grow up at Wall, or the thoughts that he received some favorable treatment racing at the track his family promotes.
This Saturday night, in the 40-lap feature event, the two drivers renewed their rivalry with an exciting battle for the lead that turned out as it had many times in the Sportsman division. Mauriello bringing home the win, and Krause taking what he felt was his best shot at the top spot, only to spin to the infield trying.
Mauriello wasted little time getting to the front from his third place starting spot grabbing the lead from pole sitter Brian Sisco Jr. by the second lap. Several drivers including Adam LaCicero, and Jason Hearne took turns running in second, but weren't serious challengers for the lead.
That serious challenge came around lap 20 when Krause was able to make his way to second. As Mauriello was blocked by a pair of lapped cars racing for position, Krause managed to pull his number 27K alongside the 14. A caution flag eased the anxiety for Mauriello, as he would now have a clear track in front of him.
The calm didn't last long as Krause battled Mauriello hard on the outside for several consecutive restarts due to cautions. The two raced side by side for a few laps each time before Krause settled back into second.
However, Krause was far from done. His car looked slightly faster than Mauriello, and he tried everything he could to get by. He gave Mauriello the bumper, trying to get him loose, he tried getting under him, but Mauriello was determined to not let him by.
Krause made one final attempt as he ducked under Mauriello in turn three, but when his inside tires hit the apron his challenge ended with a spin into the infield.
Mauriello was able to hold off LaCicero on the final restart to pick up the win. Completing the top-5 were Trevor Alspach, Shawna Ingraham, and Zack Alspach.
The Sportsman division also saw a return to the past for a driver who was once the man to beat in his division. Larry Thompson is one of the best Street Stock drivers in the history of Wall Stadium. During his era in the division racers knew he was the top gun, and while several of his competitors moved up to other divsions Thompson seemed to just disappear.
Truth is he was hiding in clear sight spending most of his Saturday night's sitting in the fourth turn grandstands with his family. When the racing itch became so bad it needed to be scratched a return to the track was planned, but he would now be racing in the Sportsman division.
The return wasn't easy, even for someone like Thompson who seemed to know every inch of the historic Jersey Shore oval by heart. He had to learn the open-wheel cars, he had to learn his competitors, and he needed to learn how to win again.
A few weeks of racing under his belt, and a pole position starting spot seemed to be just what the driver from Parlin needed to return to glory. He jumped out to the lead at the drop of the green, and began to look like that driver who was so dominant years ago, stretching his lead with every lap.
As often happens at Wall, however, a caution flag took that lead away on lap 26 of the 30-lap feature. Not only did it take away his lead, but it put Krause, in his Sportsman car, on his outside for the restart, looking for some redemption after his Modified race.
The two raced side by side, even touching wheels, before Thompson was able to seize control and race off to a very popular victory. Krause, Kevin Davison, Ken Matlach, and Kenny VanWickle completed the top-5.
Not to be outdone by the stories in the Modified, and Sportsman division, Scott Riggleman showed a return to the dominant form which made him a champion in the Street Stock division in years past. Riggleman took his beautiful number 09 machine to Victory Lane twice winning a makeup feature to start the night, and repeating that performance in the regularly scheduled feature.
Riggleman spent most of his first win tracking down Tiffany Olejnik, who led until there were only a few laps left in the event. The second one saw him get to the front a little earlier, but the result was the same. Should he go on to win another championship this season, Saturday night's return to previous form will have a lot to do with it.
Rounding out the night's winners were Mike Wahl, in the Four Cylinders, who picked up his first win on his birthday, and 16 year old, Brendon Bock, who was impressive after racing all the way from the back after an early spin.
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