Posted on September 24th, by Bob Stephens

Saturday night’s 7th Annual Curtis Burns Memorial at Hattiesburg Speedway was one of those memorable dream nights that every racer strives for. The culmination of busted knuckles, sweat, determination, trial and error, the support of others and the love of dirt oval racing; The ONE perfect moment that comes once in a lifetime and the one that may never be seen again.

Thirty-six modifieds from three states were on hand to do battle on the quarter-mile bullring of Hattiesburg Speedway. The prize was a big cardboard check worth $2,750 plus possible bonus money equaling $3,300.

Hot laps, then qualifying were the first order of business. Ben decided to go early in the qualifying order and as a result turned in quick time with a new track record of 14.938. Six heat races would lock in the top eighteen with the balance of the twenty-four-car field coming from B-Main consolation races.

Ben raced to an easy win in the first heat race, then waited for the other five heat race winners who would make up a six-lap Dash to determine the Main event’s first three rows. Ben won that as well and would lead the field from the pole.

As support-class races dragged from Saturday into the early hours of Sunday morning, Ben made minor chassis adjustments, changed tires and kept a close eye on track conditions.

Although the grandstand crowds had thinned by the near 2 a.m. start of the modified 40-lap race, the enthusiasm of the drivers was still at a fever pitch. Ben and long-time rival Greg Hollingsworth made up the front row and brought the field to the green flag. Ben gained an early edge entering turn one as the field sorted itself out. Numerous early race caution flags kept the field closely packed and the racing extremely competitive. A rough and rutted track surface kept everyone on their toes and made for some interesting aerial acts as cars bounced into and off of one another.

Ben managed to establish as much as a five car-length lead on some of the longer green-flag runs only to have it erased on the next caution. In what seemed like a 100-lap race to weary family and crewmembers, Ben finally received the two-to-go signal, then the white flag and then the checkers.

A PERFECT NIGHT, quick time, a new track record, heat race win, dash win and 40-lap Main event win led from green to checkers! A personal best that may never be accomplished again, but more importantly, a night to remember a fellow racer and friend who left us entirely too soon.

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