Butler Wins Motorsports Race
RIVERVIEW - The South Shore-based KJ Motorsports Team continued its asphalt season by competing in a race at Charlotte County Motorsports Park in Punta Gorda. A total of 11 cars started the day at the Checkered Flag Sprint Series event March 21, including two from KJ Motorsports. Now in its ninth year, KJ Motorsports is based in Riverview and will compete in a select schedule of races in Florida and the southeastern U.S. against national sprint series competition. The 11 cars were broken up into two heat races. Heat races are shorter than feature races and sometimes help determine starting race positions for the main event.Keith Butler - who drives the No. 19 Chevrolet Sprint Car for KJ Motorsports - won the first heat, despite starting fourth. For the second heat, Billy Boyd Jr. - who drives the No. 20 car on the KJ Motorsports team - started on the outside of the front row. Gary Gimmler, driver of the 50M Constructive Solutions car, won the second heat race, and Boyd finished third. Between the two heat races and the main event, the KJ Motorsports crew didn't have to make many changes. It was a good thing, because they were visited by Angels. Five pilots from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels had performed in an air show earlier in the day and were at the track enjoying a night's worth of racing. Each of the pilots climbed into Butler's car to get some perspective of what a sprint car driver's cockpit feels like. "It was a great thrill to have the Blue Angel pilots come over and hang out with us for part of the day," Butler said. "They are great representatives for the Navy and all of our armed services." Ten of the 11 cars were able to make it out for the start of the 30-lap feature race. As the cars lined up, Boyd was in the front row, and Butler started the race in the seventh position. During lap 11, Boyd's car spun out at Turn One, leading to the race's second caution flag. Boyd was able to get going again but had to retire on lap 15. After the second caution had cleared up, the challenge for the lead was on between Butler and Gimmler. On lap 28, Butler made his move and passed Gimmler while they were both going around a lap car. Butler held on for the last two laps for the win, with Gimmler finishing second. After being forced to retire early, Boyd finished ninth. "It's been a good year so far, and I hope we can keep it up," Butler said. This was Butler's second win of the season, and he is currently the Checkered Flag Sprint Series points leader. The Checkered Flag Sprint Series is in its second year. Sprint cars are mostly designed to run on short oval or circular tracks. Butler and his wife Jennifer hope to use the exposure generated from his sprint car races to benefit Operation: Race for Freedom, a charitable organization they created in February 2008. The purpose of Operation: Race for Freedom is to collect and distribute items such as razors, shampoo and deodorant for members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. More than 400 pounds of those items have been collected since the program's inception. They collected throughout the day during racing events. The next Checkered Flag Sprint Series race for KJ Motorsports will be April 11 at the Charlotte County Motorsports Park.
Reporter John Ceballos can be reached at (813) 865-1555.