Dan Greenling made his run through the swamp buggy season look easy, but the driver said his cruise to a second straight championship was anything but.
As was the case throughout the 2018-19 season, Greenling had no close competitors Sunday at the Swamp Buggy Races Bud Cup Championship at Florida Sports Park. In his pro-modified buggy Roll On, Greenling won the Big Feature, the final race of every swamp buggy weekend, and took home the season-long points title, the Bud Cup.
Greenling drew the coveted inside position against Eddie Chesser’s pro-modified The Rapture in Sunday’s Big Feature. Greenling led start to finish and won by more than four second, circling the Mile-O-Mud in 55.47 seconds.
“It might have looked like we had an easy day as far as the buggy running good, because it did when I got on the track,” Greenling said, “but every time I pulled off we had to rip into the carburetor, the fuel pump – we had issues back there.
“My pit crew is unbelievable. I owe all of this to them, that’s for sure.”
Greenling thanked his main mechanics, cousins R.J. and A.J. Greenling, for keeping his machine together.
One of Greenling’s closest competitors couldn’t race on Sunday. Tyler Johns was two seconds faster than Roll On in Saturday’s time trials, but his pro-mod Patriot broke a valve seat in his final run and Johns couldn’t fix it in time for Sunday.
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It was Greenling's second straight Big Feature victory. The only race Greenling lost in the three events this season was in the final race of the Fall Classic, when he had a big lead coming down the final stretch but blew a rod on his motor and did not finish.
Greenling is the first driver to win back-to-back Big Features since he did it in 2014. He could have won four straight if he didn’t break down in November – Greenling won the final event of the 2017-18 season to take home the championship last season.
Greenling took home his second straight Bud Cup and the fourth in his career. He also won the title in 2008 and 2014.
“They always get better,” Greenling said of the title. “You realize the older you get the harder it is to get up here, and who knows when you’ll be back? So they always get better.”
Before Sunday, Chesser was the only person to have won back-to-back Bud Cups. The swamp buggy record holder with 11 season titles, Chesser won six straight Bud Cups from 1995-2000 and then won two in a row in 2010-11.
“It’s difficult to do now because there’s so much competition,” he said.
Chesser had a strong season when he could get onto the track. He missed the Fall Classic in November because he had recently had shoulder surgery. In the past two events, The Rapture lost just twice – both times to Greenling.
Rodney Batcher Jr., in the 6-cylinder buggy Barefoot Florida Sunshine, finished second in the Bud Cup standings in his first season as a driver. He won his class again on Sunday.
Though he’s new to swamp buggies, Batcher owns a racing truck he competes in. The 28-year-old Naples native also owns a customizing auto shop, All Out Automotive, in town.
“We worked hard for it,” Batcher said. “I knew we had a lot of work cut out for us to keep it in first place (in the 6-cylinders). Without my team I wouldn’t be here.”
Josh Malloy, driver of the air-cooled buggy Tonka, took third in the season points standings. He won his class on Sunday and advanced to the Intermediate Feature by winning the Small Feature when the faster 4-cylinder Rat On broke down and couldn’t finish.
Andy Sims, the 2017 Bud Cup champ, won the V8 Sportsman class in Pressure’s On. He won the Intermediate Feature to advance to the finals.
Greenling won $3,275.50 for winning the pro-modified division. Sims won $1,699.50, Batcher won $1,030, and Malloy won $847. Tommy Elmer took home $1,250.60 for winning the Jeep class in Son Ova Ditch, while Josh Van Wagner won the one-race Jeep scramble for $500.
The payout was not available for 4-cylinder champ Scott McCandless in Rat On.