EAST MANATEE -- On any given Saturday night at Desoto Speedway, crashes, spins and even fire bring the action to a halt.
That was not the case Saturday night as the speedway revived its annual Crash-and-Bash Night, when large fields of cars for unusual events such as enduro races, pole races, road course events, school bus figure 8s, a demolition derby and even the rocket-powered Green Mamba car burning and melting a luxury car thrilled a packed house at the East Manatee facility.
A 50-lap enduro race for eight- and six-cylinder cars, which is an event in which the action on the track does not stop unless there is a serious accident on the speedway, kicked off the night's action. Largo's Kris Rummel grabbed the early lead and appeared poised to run away with the race as all but six of the 18 cars that started the event pulled off the track because of damage or mechanical issues. Four laps before the halfway point, Rummel blew a right front tire and handed the lead to Clearwater's Mark Cooper, who held the lead as officials red-flagged the race at the halfway point.
When the race resumed, Cooper and Josh Widner were two of just four cars remaining on the lead lap. The cars were sent in a clockwise direction around the track, and most of the cars that fell out early returned to race after repairs were made during the break. Cooper led Widner by nearly half a lap before being spun by a lapped car with just three laps to go. Widner, who said he was competing in his first enduro event, got by Cooper as Cooper was trying to get his car started on the track. Widner drove on to the victory, while Cooper took the runner-up spot.
For the night's four-cylinder events, cars used the smaller quarter-mile oval inside the main track. In their 35-lap enduro, Pinellas Park's Ronnie Sorenson appeared poised to run and hide from the other 25 cars in the field and was ahead of teammate Casey Rounds of Largo when the race was red-flagged and the field reversed direction with 15 laps to go. Sorenson could not shake Rounds who eventually took the lead from Sorenson while the pair was stuck in heavy traffic with eight laps left. Rounds led the rest of the way with James Crawford taking second. Sorenson was spun by another car on the final lap but still managed to finish third.
Ten-lap pole races, during which cars race around the track but had to circle a stationary car placed at the start/finish line before completing a lap, were next on the card. Rummel won the V-8/V-6 race while Seffner's Darrell Taylor won the four-cylinder event.
A road course through the track's infield was next, with Lehigh's Cody Benoit taking the V-8/V-6 win and Taylor winning for the 4-cylinder cars.
The night's other winners included Rummel taking the reverse race, where cars were driven in reverse around the 3/8-mile oval for 10 laps; Kayla Jones of East Bay winning the 15-lap ladies enduro; Benoit claiming the skid plate race where front-wheel drive cars had their rear wheels removed and replaced with skid plates; Bradenton's Mark Johnson winning the puck race; and Mike Gamache of Tarpon Springs taking the school bus figure 8. Lakeland's Ed Briggs outlasted teammate Roger Nichols, also from Lakeland, in the demolition derby.