American Auto Tires & Service night at New Smyrna Speedway was clear and chilly but the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series action was hot and heavy as point champions were crowned in six classes.
The highlight of the evening was the 50-lap Pro Late Model season finale. Fourteen cars signed in to do battle but hot laps weren’t kind to a pair of drivers as both Michael Atwell of Naples and Gord Vipond of Toronto, ON, Canada were headed home early after developing mechanical problems during practice.
Brandon Morris, in just his second outing in a Pro Late Model, set quick time at 17.856 seconds topping the 17.909 lap of Anthony Cataldi and Tyler Thomas’ lap of 17.937. Five-time Pro Late winner Rich Clouser lost control of his car
coming to take the green flag and smacked the wall but his crew made repairs and got him out for the feature.
Morris drew a four for the inversion placing fourth-quick Daniel Keene, Jr. on the pole flanked by Oklahoma driver Thomas. Keene got the early advantage but before the field could complete the first lap Morris and Cataldi tangled
coming off turn four sending Cataldi hard into the wall right at the base of the flag stand. As the two cars slid across the track they collected the machines of Will Carroll, Ricky Anderson and Ricardo Flores. Cataldi’s car was destroyed while Carroll’s machine needed a hook back to the pits. Morris, Anderson and Flores drove to pit road but only Anderson was able to continue in the event although he would drop out early. Carroll’s crew went to work and got his car repaired, minus most of the right side sheet metal, and back out before the restart.
Thomas assumed the lead on the second start with Keene in tow. Rookie driver Thomas, driving the Tim Russell Driver Development entry, was looking good but Keene continued to apply the pressure and finally gained the point on lap 11.
Michael Lira would be the driver on the move later as he passed Michael Williams for third on lap 27 then drove by Thomas easily for the second spot on lap 40 before slowing with mechanical problems a lap later as he dejectedly brought his car to the pits.
The entire 50 circuits were run under green and Keene maintained his advantage to the end to score his third win of the year, all 50-lappers. Thomas took the checker in second trailed by Michael Williams who would ultimately lose his podium finish due to an infraction found in post-race tech. Clouser, who tagged the back of the field for the start, steadily drove his way to the front and ended up with a third place finish after Williams’ DQ. Zach Jarrell was fourth while Carroll rounded out the top five in his wounded machine, good enough to claim the 2014 Pro Late Model track title for the 19-year-old from Warrambool, Victoria, Australia.
Noah Corman was sixth and the only other car still running at the end as the rest of the field were DNF’s with Lira credited with seventh ahead of Anderson, Cataldi, Morris, Flores and Williams.
Ron Gustafson started on the pole for the 25-lap Sportsman run and led the opening nine circuits before a high-flying Todd Allen breezed past for the top spot. Allen, who started tenth in the 14 car field, zipped to an easy victory, his second of the year, as the race ran green to checker without a caution flag. A last lap altercation between Gustafson and Garrett Hill saw Hill’s car hard into the turn two wall as the field raced to the checker with Daniel Conlin, Jr. taking second behind Allen.
Gustafson recovered to place third trailed by Derrick Wood and Donny Williams who claimed his third consecutive points championship and the eighth of his career at New Smyrna Speedway. Chris Brannon was sixth while Scott Bramlett, Hunter Gustafson, Mike Soukup and Jason Foster rounded out the top ten. Completing the finishers were Jim Rahman, Hill, George Alexander and D. J. Farr.
The E-Modified 25-lap feature also ran from the green flag to the checkered flag with no slow-downs. Junior Beckner grabbed the lead from his outside pole starting spot and led the first 12 laps before Jarrett Korpi made his was to the front and drove away to score his 12th win of the year, the most of any driver at the track in 2014. To go with is dozen victories, Korpi easily topped the point chase for the second straight year.
Beckner came home with the runner-up spot while the show position went to 14-year-old Matthew Green who would finish second to Korpi in points and finish the year with four wins. Fourth and fifth went to Roger Benton and John Hodge while Jim Higginbotham, Jon Compagnone, Gino Tuminello, Mike Dahm, Mike Soukup and George Dahm completed the finishing field.
Caution flags were few and far between on this night as the Super Stock feature also ran green to checker despite a 16 car starting grid. Preston Hunt came off the pole to lead the first eight laps as the action behind him was nothing short of crazy. Bobby Holley put his car out front on lap nine and never looked back as he scored his first win of the year putting a season of frustration behind him. Shannon Kelly made a late charge but had to settle for second while wrapping up his second consecutive points championship in the class.
Third went to Matt Reynolds followed by Cody Blair (driving Robert Pence’s sharp-looking car) and Ernie Tuminello. Hunt ended up sixth at the finish with Mike Amato, J. T. Tippins, Adam Soukup and Dale Sorenson completing the top ten spots. Rounding out the finishers were Mike Dahm, Warren Schurr, Joe Girard, Ed Barber, Becca Samsoe and Gino Tuminello.
The only point championship still up in the air on the final night of the season was in the Mini Stock Division as Pat Wells led David Russell by just six markers going into the evening’s action. Things looked good for Wells as only six cars showed up to race meaning that all Wells would have to do was keep Russell in sight to claim his first track title.
Russell looked strong early as he led the opening seven laps, slowed only by a lap two spin by Brad Blanton off the bumper of Tyler Simpson who went to the rear for the restart. Ted Vulpius took the point on lap eight only to see Blanton go for a spin on his own just a circuit later for the second and final caution of the 25-lap contest.
Vulpius led the remaining distance as “Mr. Mini Stock” claimed his fourth win of the year in just seven starts. Simpson came back to take a distant second trailed by Blanton, who also made a late charge. Wells came home fourth as Russell faded to fifth ahead of sixth place Mark Broat. Thus Wells claimed the Mini Stock championship over Russell and Blanton.
Darren Jackson led the first four laps of the Strictly Stock feature before Zachary Curtis grabbed the lead and looked poised to claim his sixth-straight win and 11th on the year. But after a caution for a blown engine in Greg Bruce’s car, Curtis’ Saturn failed to come up to speed on the restart and he slowed to a stop to bring out the yellow flag again. Curtis got his machine back in gear and he restarted from the tail of the pack as William Hindman took over the point and led the rest of the way for his first win of the season driving his spotless E&H Car Crushing Chevy Monte Carlo out of Orlando.
Curtis blazed a trail back to second at the finish but could not track down Hindman. Shane Sutorus was third ahead of Warren Howie and Jimmy “Spaceman” Barron who claimed the 2014 Strictly Stock points title. Sixth through tenth were Mark Shukwit, Dan Webb, Aaron Overman, Jackson and Bruce. Rich Clouser out-dueled Jerry “The Hammer” Symons to win the special three-wheel bicycle race presented by American Auto Tires & Service of New Smyrna Beach. Late Model drivers Tim Russell, Anthony Sergi and Zach Jarrell also competed in the event but did not fare too well. New Smyrna Speedway will return to action November 21-23 for the 49th Annual Florida Governor’s Cup Weekend. An open practice will be held on Friday evening November 21 from 5-9 pm followed by a BBQ at 9 pm on the grandstand side in front of the “Throttle to Bottle” Pub. Saturday, November 22, will feature qualifying for the Governor’s Cup Super Late Models followed by a big night of racing action. Featured will be a 100-lap contest for the Open Modifieds and 50-lap races for the Pro Late Models and Mini Stocks. The Super Stocks will also be in action racing for 25 laps and the Strictly Stocks will go for 20 laps.
The Florida Governor’s Cup 200-lap event returns to its Sunday afternoon roots on November 23rd starting at 2 pm with a 50-lap affair for the Sportsman cars followed by the big race to see what driver will have his name placed on the Governor’s Cup trophy, first contested for at Tampa’s Golden Gate Speedway in 1965. Augie Grill of Hayden, AL will be going for his third straight win in the prestigious event over a stellar field going for a posted top prize of $15,000.