WATERFORD – Ray Downing Jr. has the nickname “Problem Child” on his racecar.
“I’m going to leave that on the car,” Downing said. “It’s good for me to remember that. I know where I don’t want to go back to.”
Where Downing did want to go back to was victory lane at the Waterford Speedbowl and Saturday night he accomplished that feat.
Downing, of Westbrook, led every lap on the way to victory in the 25-lap Street Stock feature at Waterford.
It was the seventh career Street Stock victory for Downing at Waterford, but first at the track since the 2000 season.
Downing was suspended from the track indefinitely during the 2000 season after he purposely rammed fellow driver Ed Gertsch Jr. under caution during a Street Stock division race. That suspension was lifted last season. But after participating in five events last year, and having disciplinary issues in three of them, Downing was again indefinitely suspended by the track.
Over the winter he pleaded with Waterford racing director Scott Tapley to give him another chance.
“It was heartbreaking,” Downing said of being suspended again in 2011. “It taught me a lot. It taught me to have patience. I don’t have to rough people up to go by them. I want to thank [Tapley] and [track owner Terry Eames] for letting me back. I’m glad they gave me another chance.
“There’s no going back because if I go back what’s the sense in doing it? I’ve just got to keep going forward going for a championship. I’ve changed my style a little bit. I’m a little smoother. Ten years ago it was checkers or wreckers for me. I can’t do that anymore.”
Downing had built a huge lead on the field before the first caution of the race flew with three laps left. He held off the charges of Joe Arena and Phil Evans over the final three laps.
“It was rough,” Downing said of seeing the late caution. “I was thinking ‘Please nothing break on the car.’”
Arena, of Bristol, ended up second and Evans, of Uncasvile, was third.
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