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Joe Liguori Holds Off Rising Star Colton Bettis to Win The Children’s Dream Fund 50

After a hard-fought battle, Joe Liguori hoisted the $10,000 winner's check in the Children's Dream Fund 50 at Citrus County Speedway.


hero image for Joe Liguori Holds Off Rising Star Colton Bettis to Win The Children’s Dream Fund 50

The field of Sprint Car stars in the Children's Dream Fund 50 put on quite the show at Citrus County Speedway Saturday night. Fans were taken on a roller coaster of emotions from early cautions to a fight for the win that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

At the end of the 50-lap event, Joe Liguori hoisted the trophy and took home a well-earned check for $10,000 in the event co-sanctioned by the Must See Racing Sprint Series and Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series.

Polesitter Steven Hollinger maintained control of the race for the first dozen laps. It wasn’t until he spun the tires on a restart that the No. 68 of Liguori was able to take advantage and take the lead while Hollinger continued to fall back through the field with an ill-handling car. What could have been a great night for the No. 81 team resulted in a 20th-place finish.

“With this little motor here, I really didn’t want to spin the tires much. I was hoping he [Hollinger] would do that and just drive it off balls deep into one and hope for the best,” Liguori explained after the race. “And the first lap it nearly worked and we got that restart and it kind of gave us a mulligan and we got it done.”

From there, Liguori only had two concerns, maintain the lead and fend off lapped traffic.

An intense wreck on lap 31 between Sport Allen and Brian Gingras, where Gingras’ machine lifted off the ground, stacked the field back up, pitting Ligouri and young-gun Colton Bettis side-by-side on the restart.

As the laps dwindled the two-man show expanded to three, with Aaron Willison in the No. 86 in the mix. All three sprint cars weaved their way through lapped traffic, while the second and third-place drivers hoped an opportunity would come along to take the prized first position.

With five to go, it was up to 14-year-old Bettis to take the win from the veteran driver’s grasp. Bettis set up multiple passes, aggressively diving to the inside of the No. 68 through the corners. Each time though, he was forced to lift, leaving Liguori to withstand every advance the young driver threw his way.

“I didn’t want to junk a race car for 10 grand,” Bettis said after the race. “It’s only 10 grand and the race car is $100,000.”

This is a sentiment the winner of the event certainly appreciates as Ligori praised the rising star on his run during the Children’s Dream Fund 50.

“I’ll tell you right now that kid is really good,” he said about his competitor. “I had to work the most I’ve ever had to, to win a race just for him. And you know what? I’m just really happy we won this thing.”

Aaron Willison finished on the podium, making a late-race surge to the front.

“We just needed track position and clean air, right,” the British Columbia native said. “We were just a little free pretty much the whole main event. So it was just a battle of picking what you could and taking what you can on restarts.”

Race promoter and hopeful driver of the event, JJ Dutton was involved in a crash of the warm-up laps with Dude Teate and Tommy Nichols. Each car sustained significant damage and were unable to take the green flag.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise,” Dutton had to say about the incident post-race. “I had a little fuel leak on the tail tank so maybe the Lord was saying ‘Hey, bring her on in and it’ll be alright, make it another day.’”

Though he didn’t get to race, he was able to take in the incredible event he and many others worked to put on for a great cause.

“I want to thank all the Children Dream Fund Kids over there. I want to thank everybody in the stands and everybody who came tonight,” Dutton said. “I want to thank Aaron Willison personally. I called him and he came from Canada to run this show. You know, Colton Bettis lives two minutes away from me, I love the kid to death, and Joe Liguori, I’ve known him all my life. So, for these three to be right here, I’m ok. I left with a good night."

-Story by Taylor Kitchen
-Image courtesy of Tyler Sontag


168Joe Liguori50---
261Colton Bettis500.155
386Aaron Willison500.884
422ABobby Santos III502.840
55Daniel Miller503.123
614Davey Hamilton, Jr.503.709
724Dylan Reynolds504.124
850MBrian Gerster505.047
967Scott Adema505.607
1032ADalton Armstrong506.177
1125LArie Luyendyk, Jr.507.346
1244Jim Childers5010.734
137Bobby Komisarski473 Laps
1432Ray Bragg, Jr.473 Laps
1525Bruce Brantley3317 Laps
1613Troy DeCaire3119 Laps
1710Brian Gingras3119 Laps
1888ASport Allen3119 Laps
196John Rosploch2921 Laps
2081Steven Hollinger2327 Laps
2102Gene Lasker1139 Laps
2286SJJ Dutton050 Laps
2355Tommy Nichols050 Laps
2493Dude Teate050 Laps
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