In a season where he emerged from consistent finisher to winning contender, 20-year-old Myatt Snider finally grabbed a signature victory to highlight his growing résumé.
Snider prevailed in a race-long duel with veteran Tommy Lemons Jr. to win the 23rd annual UNOH Battle at the Beach 400 at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC), outdueling the veteran in a display of tire conservation, patience, and restart gamesmanship. It is the first extra-distance Late Model Stock Car victory for Snider, the son of NBC Sports analyst Marty Snider, coming in Snider’s third full season of racing late models.
“This victory is only because of me in a small way,” Snider said after an emotional celebration. “My guys work so hard, they’ve been giving it their all all year and they definitely deserve it.
“I kind of sat and watched the first 125 laps of the race. I kind of just sat there, watching Tommy and seeing what he did. And then I applied it for the last 75. I wanted to get the lead immediately because it helped me control the race. ”
Lemons had been the dominant car all weekend in Myrtle Beach, setting fast time in both Friday practice and then Saturday’s time trials. Despite having a record 46 talented drivers start the race, Lemons was the class of all of them in the first half of the race, leading all the way until the competition caution at lap 125.
Immediately after that restart, Lemons, whose car bottom out a few times, fell back suddenly to 4th, leaving Snider to assume the lead. Lemons quickly fought his way back to second and then stalked Snider for 40 laps.
Lemons moved under Snider and reassumed the lead at lap 179. But Snider dug down deep and reclaimed the lead for good three laps later.
“Me and him are both great racers,” Snider reflected. “He drove the wheels off of it but it looked like he was just a touch tight in the center. So I tried to capitalize on that and run it slower into the middle of the corner so I could get under him. He’s a great racer and it was really tough to beat him.”
As to be expected in a Late Model Stock season-ending special, cautions and restarts ultimately played a pivotal role in determining the winner. But Snider was as cool as ever during these final few opportunities for Lemons. One restart he started on the outside and fired off exceptionally well while Lemons spun the tires. Then he chose the inside on the subsequent and final restart, smoothly clearing Lemons by two carlengths after the first set of corners.
“It worked out for me both times [restarts]. The first restart I got him because Tommy spun his tires. He was about even with me when we went. I think if he hadn’t, he would have beaten me. So I figured the bottom might work better on the next one. Pulled him and outwheel him from there.”
Lemons put a lot of blame for the runner-up finish squarely on his shoulders, dejected after the dominant car failed to reach Victory Lane.
“Second half, we really didn’t change anything,” said Lemons as he walked back to inspection. “Just put four tires on it. And we had just as good a car. I felt like [early], they ran just a little too hard and I wanted to give up a little bit of ground. Got back to second and I wanted to push him and make him use his car really hard. I don’t want to take anything away from him – their car was really hooked up – just felt like I gave it away to him. Restarts and that last four or five laps I was just way too aggressive in the racecar. I tried to manhandle it when I should have just let it do what it wanted to do.”
3-time and reigning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Lee Pulliam stalked Snider and Lemons the entire second half of the race, but he faltered a bit on the penultimate restart and could merely fight his way back to third by the time the checkered fell. 2015 track champion Sam Yarbrough ran strong most of the night before finishing 4th. Jake Crum eneed a bounce-back year in his career with a solid 5th place run.
|2||27||Tommy Lemons, Jr.|
|42||5B||Dexter Canipe, Jr.|
— Story by Tim Quievryn // Speed51.com Southeast Editor // @thethirdturn
— Photo by Elgin Traylor // Speed51.com Correspondent // @elgintraylor