Following an eight-month layoff, the start of the swamp buggy racing season looked an awful lot like the end of last season – with Dan Greenling at the head of the field.
Greenling continued his recent dominance Sunday in the Swamp Buggy Races Fall Classic at Florida Sports Park. The two-time reigning Bud Cup season champ bested all competition to win the Big Feature and take a substantial step toward his third straight points title a third of the way through the season.
“It’s a lot of relief knowing that everything went as good as it could have,” Greenling said. “You never know out here what’s going to happen. Things are going good right now. We’re enjoying it because you never know when it’s going to change.”
Driving pro-modified buggy Roll On, Greenling won his third straight Big Feature, which is the title race of each of the three racing weekends in swamp buggy season. It also was Greenling’s fourth Big Feature win in the past five events.
Greenling could be on a streak of five straight titles but his engine broke down in the 2018 Fall Classic when he had a large lead just a few hundred feet before the finish line.
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Though he still hasn’t lost a race since the breakdown a year ago, Greenling had to work for Sunday’s title. He had to beat second-place finisher Reece Gardner in pro-mod Air Head from the outside lane – tough to do on the Mile-O-Mud, especially in the Big Feature when the buggies are closely matched.
Greenling got the jump on Gardner at the start and pulled ahead on the first turn. Roll On held off Air Head the rest of the way in a close race, winning by about a buggy length.
“It was a real good race for the fans,” Greenling said. “It’s always a great feeling when you win because you never know what will happen. A lot of people had mechanical issues and didn’t make it. We were fortunate to be fast enough to win from the outside.”
Terry Palmer driving Mow Power won the V8 sportsman class and the Intermediate Feature, beating the 6-cylinder and 4-cylinder class winners to earn a spot in the Big Feature. Palmer took third in the final race.
Gardner was happy with the way he competed with Greenling and happy to be in the Big Feature for the first time in three years. In his 25th season driving a swamp buggy, Gardner has finished runner-up in the Big Feature six times but never won it.
“It was a really good race,” Gardner said. “We’re getting faster all the time. (Greenling) only beat me by about a buggy length, so we’re coming.”
Gardner said his pro-mod semifinal win over Eddie Chesser in The Rapture was the race of the weekend. Air Head came from behind to pass Chesser, which finished runner-up in the Big Feature at the end of last season, then went up on two wheels and nearly flipped before earning the win.
The next time the swamp buggies will be on the track is January in the 2020 Winter Classic.