What: Budweiser Series swamp buggy race
When: Sunday (race), 12:30 p.m.
Where: Florida Sports Park, 8250 Collier Blvd., Naples
Tickets: Sunday (adults $17, children 6-11 $8)
On-site parking: Free
With mere fractions of a second separating the fastest entries, and only a handful of points separating the championship contenders, the stage is set for Sunday’s season-ending Spring Classic swamp buggy races at the Florida Sports Park.
With a crowd in excess of 6,000 anticipated, the first green flag drops Sunday at 12:30 p.m. About four hours later, the outcome of the 2012-13 Budweiser Cup Series chase will be known.
Will Lorrie Johns repeat as Bud Cup champ with her V8 Sportsman buggy called Lady Liberty?
Or will Pro Modified Fatal Attraction leadfoot Bonnie Walsh make up the four-point deficit to points-leader Johns to add to the world championship she won in 2005?
And don’t forget about Eddie Chesser, the nine-time points champ who lurks in third place in the standings. He drives the Pro Mod called The Rapture.
Even Jeep driver Jeremy White has an outside chance to make history in his orange General Lee.
Sunday’s action will cap a three-race season that included events last November and January.
“I’m looking for some good side-by-side racing,” Walsh said during Saturday’s preliminaries and practice laps at the canal-like oval east of Naples. “That’s what makes the racing fun. When you are side-by-side, you can see the other driver’s eyes. It’s unbelievable.”
And what will she need to overtake Johns in the standings?
“Luck,” Walsh said without hesitation. “These buggies are as competitive as they can get.”
Driver Dan Greenling, who pilots the Pro Mod called Roll On, voiced similar sentiments after barely winning Saturday’s Pepsi Pro Modified Challenge.
“It’s close, that’s for sure. People have really closed up the gap out here. Everybody is good,” Greenling said.
In Saturday’s time trials, Greenling was clocked at 51.34 seconds. Second went to Tyler Johns’ Patriot at 51.52, followed by Steve Dunson’s surprising Pump It Out at 51.62 and Walsh’s Fatal Attraction at 51.81.
Next on the speed chart was 70-year-old Leonard Chesser, who came out of retirement to drive his familiar orange Dats Da One to a lap of 52.40 seconds.
None of Saturday’s racing influenced the points standings. Sunday’s mudslinging will be an entirely different story, however, as drivers will push their homespun creations to the max to try to seize Budweiser Cup Series honors.
Also at stake is a chance to participate in the traditional Queen’s Mudbath with Swamp Buggy Queen Taylor Trew. This will be last of her dunkings. A new queen will be crowned April 6 at the annual Queen’s Scholarship Pageant.
The V8 Sportsman buggies also had time trials Saturday. Johns’ Lady Liberty was best at 57.66 seconds in the Jet’s Pizza V8 Sportsman Challenge. Wayne Harris’ Southern Thunder followed at 1:02.87.
Jumping for joy Saturday was Jeep driver Todd Davis, who won the Jeep Final with his yellow entry called Lunatic Fringe.
“I’ve been trying 25 years to win a Jeep race,” Davis said. “I’ve won heat races before, but not a final. It might be a Saturday race, but in the Jeep class, a victory is a victory. We ran the same races today as we will on Sunday. So this is big for me.”
Drivers on Sunday will compete in various classes, with the winners advancing to a series of feature races called the Little Feature, Intermediate Feature and Big Feature.