In a tangle of bizarre circumstances and drama that played out through the very last lap, William Thornton and Eddie Chesser emerged the big winners in Sunday’s Budweiser Spring Classic swamp buggy races at the Florida Sports Park east of Naples.
Thornton came from third place in the points standings with his four-cylinder machine called Cold Duck to claim the 2007 Budweiser Cup Series world championship. The king in 2002 as well, Thornton edged out Roy Ortega’s six-cylinder called Terminator by just one point.
Chesser, meanwhile, claimed Big Feature honors for the day, gunning his Pro Modifield four-wheel drive monster called The Outlaw II to victory over second-place Tyler Johns’ Patriot and Ortega’s Terminator. Chesser is the seven-time world champion.
The Big Feature finale was a crowd-pleaser as Johns’ Patriot lost its right front wheel early in the race – unbeknownst to Johns, who kept the gas pedal mashed down and fought the steering wheel with reckless abandon in order to complete the lap. Several times, he nearly collided with the outside retaining wall.
En route to the finish line, Johns’ buggy also had lost a left-front aluminum ski that helps the vehicle skim across the soupy Mile-O-Mud track.
Had Johns not been able to complete the lap, Ortega would have tied Thornton with 19 points and a runoff to determine the champion would have been necessary.
Barring mechanical problems, Ortega mostly likely would have emerged the champ because his six-cylinder would have been faster than Thornton’s four-cylinder in a head-to-head showdown. Thornton also had experienced starter problems that kept him from going to the starting line for the Intermediate Feature after winning the Little Feature.
A crowd of about 6,000 attended the season-ending competition that began in October of 2006 and also included the Winter Classic in January.