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Long Wait Pays Off as Harper Flags Down a Victory at Saugus

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Four yellow flags extended the 40-lap Sportsman Division main event into a short-track version of the Indianapolis 500 before a crowd of 3,219 Saturday night at Saugus Speedway.

“Man, that was about 100 laps of driving crammed into a 40-lap race,” Keith Spangler of Northridge said.

Spangler, who entered the evening second in the points standings and with a division-high two main-event wins, still needed a few extra laps to catch pole-sitter Will Harper of Tarzana.

“Even then, I wouldn’t have caught him,” Spangler said. “I couldn’t take Will. He did a good job.”

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And so, Harper, 34, in his fourth year at Saugus, survived the extra laps to bag his first career main-event win.

“How many yellow flags were there?” Harper replied when asked. “Too many! And they weren’t short yellows, they were long yellows.”

And hardly were they mellow yellows. On Lap 36, with Harper enjoying a comfortable lead over Spangler, who started second, Jim Kent of Canyon Country slammed into the wall in Turn 2, scattering debris and delaying the race by 15 minutes while track crews worked on towing his car from the track.

That enabled Spangler to close the gap on Harper for a four-lap trophy dash to the finish. Harper, however, resisted the challenge.

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“You just gotta start again,” Harper said.

In the 25-lap Hobby Stock oval main event, Thad Friday of Reseda, grabbed the lead on Lap 13 and maintained a half-lap margin over Lee Bowers of Los Angeles until the checkered flag.

It was the first career main-event win for Friday, who began racing at Saugus last season.

Steve Reynolds of Sylmar, in his debut at Saugus, held the lead from Laps 3 to 13 before pulling into the infield with engine trouble.

Pole-sitter Todd Conrad of Arcadia was forced from the race on Lap 3 because of a flat rear tire.

In the 15-lap Hobby Stock figure 8 main event, points leader Brian Kelley of Arleta stole the lead from Friday on the final lap and beat him to the checkered flag.

In other races, Michael Ayers of Canyon Country won the 15-lap Sportsman semi-main event to lead four drivers who advanced to the main event.

Bowers won the 15-lap Hobby stock semi-main.

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Eight-lap Hobby Stock oval heat race winners included Rick Bonifield of Pamldale, Bowers, James Kusch of Sepulveda and Conrad.


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