As Mark McFarland and Mike Bryant continue their dominance in the Late Model and Mini-Stock divisions, the Grand Stock leader board has grown more crowded with each passing week.
Saturday night proved no different, as Mark Cropp became the sixth driver in eight weeks to win a Grand Stock race. The victory was Cropp's first in eight years of racing.
The win could not have come at a better time for the Fredericksburg resident. This season has provided one disappointment after another for Cropp. Cropp's motor twice has broken in mid-race, and another time his muffler fell off while he was challenging for the lead. Saturday night was the first time Cropp finished a race on the lead lap.
"It's been a long time coming," said Cropp, who is currently 14th overall. "It's really been frustrating. It's [been] hard to keep your chin up and keep going. I've been plucking at it, and finally it's paid off."
Cropp crossed the finish line just ahead of Jeff Callihan -- who worked his way from the ninth starting position to challenge in the 50-lap race.
Tight races have been the norm this season in the Grand Stock division, where talented drivers making their way from last season's Mini-Stock division are racing against a number of veteran Grand Stock drivers.
The leader board reflects the competition. Defending track champion Tom Dyson is atop the division with 374 points and two victories. But he leads Mike Darne by just 24 points, and only 90 points separate the top seven drivers.
Dyson and Callihan, who have been driving Grand Stocks for a combined 11 years, agree this season is the toughest they have seen.
"There is about six or seven of us in Grand Stock that, depending on where we start . . . any one of us can win," said Callihan, who is fourth overall, 60 points behind Dyson. "It is hard when everybody is so equal, and the cars are about equal. But that is what people like to see."
Strategy seems to differ among drivers on how to approach the increasingly competitive races. Dyson said his goal is to finish near the front, but Callihan said he is always gunning for first place.
"Our goal is to finish in the top five every week and win the championship and hopefully somewhere in there win a few races if we are lucky," said Dyson, who thus far has carried out his plans, finishing in the top five every race this season.
Callihan's approach is slightly different: "I just look at it as trying to go out there and win and finish. If you can't win, you've got to finish, that's the key. But ColorCraft and those guys that help me out, they like that winning."
McFarland Wins No. 6
After finishing out of the winner's circle for the first time last week, McFarland did not take long to find his way back. The Winchester resident beat out Dion Ciccarelli to earn his sixth Late Model win in seven races. Mike Colabucci, currently second in points, broke an axle midway through the race and finished in 10th position. . . .
Doug Freeman knocked Mike Bryant out of the winner's circle for the first time this season, edging Jason Lineweaver for the Mini-Stock victory. Bryant still holds a 20-point lead over Lineweaver. . . .
Scott Lunceford won his third Speedway Sportsman race of the season, edging out Ted Queen and Dennis Tobin.
Late Model (75 laps): 1, Mark McFarland, Winchester; 2, Dion Ciccarelli, Severn; 3, Dale DeLozier, Alexandria; 4, Ricky Exline, Lake Ridge; 5, Mark Plows, Canberra, Australia. Grand Stock (50): 1, Mark Cropp, Fredericksburg; 2, Jeff Callihan, Fredericksburg; 3, Stan Owens, Haymarket; 4, Tom Dyson, Manassas; 5, Mike Darne, Manassas. Mini-Stock (30): 1, Doug Freeman, Fredericksburg; 2, Jason Lineweaver, Stephens City; 3, Mike Bryant, Midland; 4, Ed Zbignewich, New Windsor, Md.; 5, Rick Bowman, Catlett. Speedway Sportsman (25): 1, Scott Lunceford, Burke; 2, Ted Queen, Manassas; 3, Dennis Tobin, Stafford; 4, Walt Keel, Clifton; 5, David Monteaux, Dale City.
Late Model: 1, McFarland, 348; 2, Mike Colabucci, Waldorf, 316; 3, DeLozier, 296. Grand Stock: 1, Dyson, 374; 2, Darne, 350; 3, Owens, 334. Mini-Stock: 1, Bryant, 324; 2, Lineweaver, 304; 3, Zbignewich, 286. Speedway Sportsman: 1, Jim Todd Jr., Casanova, 334; 2, Jeff Sisak, Linden, 312; 3, Lunceford, 306.