Joe Aramendia could’ve put it in cruise control Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
Behind him, though, was where all the beating and banging was happening in the second 50-lap Modifieds of Mayhem race in Pensacola this season.
Aramendia took the lead on Lap 5 and never relinquished his advantage en route to his first career victory at the famed half-mile asphalt oval in front of a standing-room only crowd at Pensacola’s high banks.
Six cautions highlighted the aggressive brand of racing that took place from the 15 cars behind Aramendia, a veteran short-tracker from Seguin, Texas.
“I was lucky enough that I didn’t see a lotta that rough driving,” the 52-year-old Aramendia said. “The boys standing in the pits behind the wall and in the spotter’s stand did a heckuva job for me. All I was doing was riding and guiding.
“I’ve always loved this track. Thank the Lord for finally giving me my first win.”
The best racing all night came from teenage Texan sensation Ryan Luza and seasoned Alabama driver Jim Wall.
The two raced in the top three most of the night, hooking up several times and nudging the other driver out of the way.
As they came out of Turn No. 4 on the final lap, Luza attempted one final pass under Wall.
Instead of getting by, though, Luza spun Wall down the front stretch and the two drivers came to a screeching halt against the outside wall, less than four car lengths from the flag stand.
They watched Doug Moff and Billy Melvin assume the runner-up and third-place finishes, respectively, that would’ve been theirs.
“We had a real good car,” said Moff, a Fort Myers native. “We came back from the tail end and the car’s in one piece. I really enjoy racing up here.”
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Victory Lane was such a foreign place for Corbitt Moseley, he missed his turn.
It was unclear if the Panama City native had ever won at Five Flags Speedway before Friday night.
It matters little now. The veteran driver enjoyed a wire-to-wire win in the 25-lap feature Friday.
“We were real loose tonight,” Moseley said. “When we first started out this year, our tail end kept walking out on us. Tonight, though, I was like a scared rabbit — I was just running.”
Moseley was getting all he could handle from Gary Sutton for the first half of the race. But with 16 laps complete, Bubba Winslow plowed into Sutton’s left side and sent him barreling toward the outside wall.
The wreck ended Sutton’s night. Winslow, meanwhile, returned to the track after undergoing some cosmetic adjustments in the pits to finish third.
Youngster Dave Nolen of Cantonment finished second.
Shanna Ard was a testament to perseverance Friday at Five Flags.
Brannon Fowler led 24 of the 25 laps, but a lapped car doomed the Cantonment driver on the final lap.
Fowler’s misfortunes opened the door for Ard, who went from third to first as the defending Sportsman track champion collected his second win in 2015.
Ard first passed Connor Okrzesik for second and them wedged his way by Fowler and beat the two to the checkered flag.
“I don’t know how that happened. I just know the car was hooked up,” said Ard, a Milton resident. “I’m glad the lapped car slowed them down. I never checked up.”
Fowler finished second and Okrzesik rounded out the podium.
Fowler just absolutely dominated the feature until Okrzesik began inching closer down the final stretch.
When the two leaders reached the back bumper of Dale Peaden, dead last at the time, they had nowhere to go. It was the opening Ard needed to seal the deal.
“I guess (Peaden) didn’t see the flagman waving him to get out of the way.” Fowler said. “But that’s part of racing. You have things that’ll interfere with you. We came close and it was a good night overall.”
Geno Denmark and Robert Loper came an hour to settle their differences.
A budding rivalry between the two Mobile-area drivers broke out during the Butler U-Pull-It Bombers 20-lap feature Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
The lead seesawed between the two for the second half of the race until Denmark’s last-gasp move paid off much to the delight of the delirious packed house.
Denmark, a Dauphin Island, Ala., native, collected his sixth victory of the season after starting dead last in the 10-car field.
“This car is amazing,” Denmark said. “It’s the fastest thing I’ve ever sat in. It’s just white lightning and it’s running hot. This is awesome.”
He hooked Loper several times in the closing laps, but when the two leaders came to the final turn, Denmark floored the throttle.
He slammed into the left side of Loper and Denmark kept coming until he had pulled ahead by a radiator as they came out of Turn No. 4.
Loper fought back, but Denmark crossed the stripe first.
“What comes around goes around,” a hot Loper said after his runner-up finish.
Robert Balkum, who eventually finished third, started on the pole and led for the first five laps until giving way to Loper.
Denmark was like a rocket ship coming from the tail end of the pack and blew the doors off those next to him in the back of the pack.
He was up to fourth by the end of the opening lap and climbed to third a lap later.
When Denmark finally got past Balkum for second, business quickly picked up for Loper and Denmark.
The pair began a door-to-door battled for the lead with Loper doing a magnificent job to hold his position despite the onslaught from Denmark.
They banged into each other repeatedly until Denmark sized up Loper for his final pass.
-Five Flags Speedway Press Release. Photo credit: Jeff Garvin/Thunderhill Raceway