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After just missing out on a Big Feature win last time out, Greenling earned redemption by winning the 2019 Winter Classic Adam Fisher, adam.fisher@naplesnews.com; 239-403-6135

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It might have been an anticlimactic finish to the Swamp Buggy Races Winter Classic, but after his last time on the track, Dan Greenling isn’t complaining.

Greenling was the fastest drive in November during the Fall Classic, but his Roll On pro-modified buggy broke down before he could cross the finish line in the Big Feature championship race. Thanks to a mechanical problem for his closest competitor, Greenling cruised to victory Sunday in the Winter Classic.

Tyler Johns and his pro-mod Patriot were set to take on Greenling in the Big Feature, a rematch of April when Greenling won to win the 2018 Bud Cup season championship. But the Patriot suffered damage in its final heat race, which Johns won to advance to the Big Feature.

More: Barefoot Bobby Williams wins Fall Classic when Greenling stalls

With his only competition a 6-cylinder buggy with a much smaller engine, Barefoot Florida Sunshine driven by Rodney Batcher Jr., Greenling’s powerful Roll On machine won the Big Feature by 100 yards.

“I’ll take it however I can get it considering last time we had a mishap right at the end,” Greenling said. “I was real nervous coming around that final turn. I had flashbacks. I was real nervous.”

More than 1,200 people came out to watch the rescheduled races on a warm sunny day. The Winter Classic originally was scheduled for Jan. 25-26 but was moved because of heavy rain last weekend.

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Sight and sounds from the Swamp Buggy Races' at Naples' Florida Sports Park on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Jon Austria, jaustria@gannett.com; 239-227-7803

 

Greenling has been to the Big Feature, the crowning event of each racing weekend, both times in the Swamp Buggy Races' 70th anniversary season. The third and final event of the 2018-19 season is the Spring Classic on March 3.

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In November, Greenling ran the fastest time during time trials. In the Big Feature, his engine broke down about 100 feet from the finish line. Bobby Williams raced past to win the Fall Classic title in Barefoot Florida Living, and Greenling did not finish.

More: Greenling beats Johns to win 2018 Bud Cup championship

Sunday was the fourth consecutive time Greenling qualified for the Big Feature. He won it in April, when he beat Johns to win his third Bud Cup.

“We’re running real good,” Greenling said. “Holding it together is the big thing. We’re happy the way (the buggy) is running. My pit crew, my cousins, they’re awesome. I owe it all to them.”

The Winter Classic featured a surprise runner-up in Batcher.

Normally the faster pro-modified take the two top spots in the Big Feature, with a V8 Sportsman in third. Hoewver, Batcher beat out Lorrie Johns’ V8 Lady Liberty in the Intermediate Feature to claim a spot in the final race.

“I knew I had to be quick on the flag and beat her at the line,” Batcher said. “Luckily getting the inside (lane) gave me a little bit of an advantage.”

Batcher, 28, is in his first season as a driver, racing in his second event Sunday.

Though he’s new to swamp buggies, Batcher isn’t new to racing. He has a personal racing truck he competes with at Florida Tracks and Trails in Punta Gorda. Batcher also owns an auto shop in Naples, All Out Automotive, so he knows engines.

“I’m ecstatic to bring a 6-cylinder this far,” he said. “I’m happy. I’m on a cloud right now.”

Batcher needed to win just one race to take his class and get into the Intermediate Feature. The 6-cylinder division featured just two buggies. Batcher beat out Scott Marcotte in Mudd Bone.

More: Swamp Buggy Races: Winter Classic could go down to the wire again

The Little Feature, for the winners of the three smallest classes of engines, included 4-cylinder winner William Thorton, air-cooled winner John Weeks in Toxic Mullet, and Jeep winner Mark Birkenmeyer in Kryptonite.

Thorton won to advance to the Intermediate Feature with V8 Sportsman winner Lorrie Johns in Lady Liberty and 6-cylinder winner Batcher in Barefoot Florida Sunshine.

Lorrie Johns won the V8 class after missing the Fall Classic with an injury. The mother of pro-modified driver Tyler Johns, she has won her division the past three times she’s competed.

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