If ever a driver appeared in a position to win a race, it was Pennzoil World of Outlaws Sprint Car point-leader Sammy Swindell on Monday at Ransomville Speedway.
Then bad racing luck struck, dashing Swindell's hopes and leaving Andy Hillenburg the benefactor.
On lap 14 of the 25-lap A-Main, Swindell was leading Greg Hodnett by about 10 car lengths. Defending WOO champion Mark Kinser was right behind Hodnett.
As Swindell approached the third turn, he was preparing to lap Mike Lauterborn and Mike Stelter when the latter two's cars came together and spun right in front of Swindell.
Swindell spun up toward the guardrail as Hodnett slid hard into the pile-up. Kinser threaded his way though the mess, glancing off a car. Hillenburg, who was riding fifth at the time, dove to the bottom of the track, avoiding the wreck and inheriting the lead as the yellow flag waved.
Swindell and Kinser restarted at the back of the pack. Hillenburg led the remaining distance, followed by Dave Blaney and Jac Haudenschild. Swindell and Kinser finished 14th and ninth, respectively.
The bad luck that struck Swindell emerged as a double blessing for Hillenburg. He inherited the lead and also overcame engine problems, all during the same caution period for the decisive accident.
"I've seen it all happen," Hillenburg said of the accident. "Earlier in the race, before the accident, I got mud all over the spark plug wires. The motor then was running on just six cylinders. On the yellow, when we slowed down, the motor built up enough heat that it burned the water out of the mud that was left on the spark plugs and it started running on all eight again.
"We needed this win real bad. The wreck was the break we needed."
Swindell was not happy about his twist of fate. After the race, Swindell stomped off through the pits. "I'm not talking -- I'm going home," he said.
Blaney was relieved to finish second, but was not happy with his car.
"I didn't see anything of the accident." Blaney said. "We were terrible. We were lucky they all fell out. We finished second but it would have been eighth if they hadn't fallen out."
"There was nowhere to go," said Kinser. "Sammy was ahead of us and I had nowhere to go. I went into the back of Sammy and flattened our left front tire and bent our axle back."
Kinser was the night's fast timer, posting a 14.365-second lap in time trials on the half-mile oval. Johnny Herrera, Jeff Swindell, and Donnie Kreitz won WOO heat races. Hodnett won the Vivarin Dash For Cash and Craig Dolansky, the B-Main. A field of 28 Sprint Cars were on hand Monday.
Hamburg's Mike Woodring made the A-Main, starting 19th. He was as high as eighth before finishing 12th. Woodring continues to be the point leader on the Empire Super Sprint circuit, where he won a race last Friday in Quebec. Grand Island's Bob Mesmer failed to qualify for the A-Main.
Other Ransomville winners Monday were Pete Stefanski, Pro-Stock, and Chad Brachmann, DIRT Sportsman.
Ransomville hosts Autograph Night during its weekly DIRT card Friday at 7:15 p.m.
Lancaster Speedway hosts a Race of Champions qualifier for the Modifieds Saturday at 6:30 p.m. They highlight the John Oldfield Memorial Super Gas event during drag action at 7:30 p.m. Friday. . . . Holland Speedway hosts the Kendall Challenger Enduro Series at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a weekly NASCAR Winston Racing Series program at 6.