Once again, the weather was perfect. Once again, the race track and facility were perfect. For the first time, Ross Bailes takes the Skyler Trull Memorial Race at the Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, NC.
The winner of one past Shrine 100 race at Carolina Speedway, one of the Carolina’s most coveted events, Ross Bailes was all smiles and had so many people to thank from victory lane in his fifth Carolina Clash feature win.
Bailes, of Clover, South Carolina, was able to power to the lead in the final three laps and overcome a white-flag caution flag restart to lead the final lap of the event, a race that he has wanted to always win.
“There are so many people that I need to thank,” said Bailes with an apparent quiver in his voice caused by the elation of this once elusive win. “I hope I didn’t leave anyone out, but the one that has stood by me through all of this is this man (Ronnie McCarter), who has been with me forever!” The #87 Longhorn racer is owned by Ronnie McCarter, a Clover-area businessman, who has helped Bailes field late model racecars since the mid-2000s. Bailes Construction and FK Rod Ends also supports Bailes on his team.
However, one of the most significant out-takes of this victory was a strong showing by American Racer racing tires, which were mounted on Bailes car. Scott McAdoo of American Race Tire was equally as excited in victory lane to celebrate the return of American Racer to Carolina Clash victory lane.
26 cars signed up for the event, with the top 8 qualifiers locked into the feature. Two heat races were run and the top 6 finishers advanced into the race. Anthony Sanders and Kevin Wilson each used a point provisional from 2015 points to start 21st and 22nd. The Carolina Clash reduced its starting field to 22 cars, down from 24 in years past.
The Carolina Clash would like to thank all who attended this first race of the season and give praises to the Skyler Trull race committee and Mr. Lowry Trull and family for this great event to begin the season for the Clash since 2009. Also, the Carolina Clash would like to extend thanks to the management and staff of Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, NC for hosting this event annually. Prior to the race, each of the 22 starters were gathered on the frontstretch as the Skyler Trull ceremony began. Trull addressed the drivers and the crowd. After driver introductions, Doug Sanders made his parade lap and the event began.
Chris Ferguson started from the Heintz Performance pole position from his fastest qualifying time of 14.910. Fergy led the first 22 laps of the race until a problem with a control arm on the right front sidelined him for the event just past halfway. Third-place starter G.R. Smith of Cornelius, NC made his return to Carolina Clash action with a fast start from the second row. Smith and Bailes battled among the top five for the first half of the race, with both drivers making hard side contact as they raced in turn three. The damage was more visible on Smith’s car, but was able to continue.
Ross Bailes started fifth and moved up to second on lap 12 when a caution came out. They both drove their cars hard into three and both were fast on exit and made hard contact. It surely made for an exciting moment for the massive crowd of fans.
The race began with an opening lap caution that began developing in turn two when front-row starter Brett Hamm of Newberry, SC drifted high on exit and ran up into the back of Ferguson’s car. That caused a back-up among the cars behind them and created a jockeying of competitors to avoid crashing. As the field came through turn four, Johnny Pursley made contact with Ben Watkins and the result was catastrophe for the defending series champion. Watkins sustained severe damage to the left front of his Cartersville Country, Sandwood Enterprises #16. He and first time entrant Bryan Mullis and Anthony Sanders were resigned from the event on lap 1. Pursley was able to continue after a pit stop forced him to restart in the rear.
Other competitors from the Skyler Trull included Michael Rouse from Rocky Mount, NC. In his first ever Carolina Clash Skyler Trull appearance, he managed to avoid the mishaps and place a respectable 9th finish, one behind the Hard Charger of the Race – Dobson, NC Chase McCormick. Chase started the race from 18th advancing 10 spots.
Five time series champion Ricky Weeks and three-time champion Dennis Franklin have a combined 75 Carolina Clash victories among themselves. Weeks started 12th and raced his way to a top 5 finish. Franklin scored a win in the American Racer Heat Race #1. Franklin worked throughout the event to improve his car and they were in the top three at the drop of the white flag. Franklin and Brett Hamm were in a fierce battle for third as they approached the white flag. They would tangle with both cars spinning to the inside of turn one. They finished 11th and 12th officially.
Race officials were forced to throw a red flag on the field, which occurred on lap 39, setting up a one lap shootout for the win. Bailes got a great start off turn four, which shuffled the field on the final lap.
Dennis Franklin and Dean Bowen captured checkered flags in the American Racer and Hoosier Race Tire Heat Races, which set the field after the top-eight qualifiers were locked in to the feature. Dean Bowen, the 2010 winner of the Skyler Trull, made his return to Clash competition at the track where he collected his first career win six years ago.
Colbert, GA driver Kenny Collins and Donald Bradsher of Burlington, NC scored top 10 finishes. Each driver has hopes to run most of the Carolina Clash season, along with returning Lancaster, SC driver Josh Langley, who scored 13th after pitting on lap 33 while running 8th. Other drivers to enter the event to have mechanical problems were Doug Sanders, Ferguson, Kevin Wilson, Brock Morris of Charleston, West Virginia, Jonathan Edwards, and Ken Rominger, Jr. Four other cars did not transfer into the feature.
16th Annual Skyler Trull Memorial Race
1 87 Ross Bailes
2 15 Dean Bowen
3 O9 Johnny Pursley
4 22* GR Smith
5 1W Ricky Weeks
6 1C Kenny Collins
7 93 Donald Bradsher
8 15M Chase McCormick
9 23 Michael Rouse
10 39 Greg Clark
11 18 Brett Hamm
12 2F Dennis Franklin
13 7 Josh Langley
14 42 Doug Sanders
15 22 Chris Ferguson
16 618 Kevin Wilson
17 529 Brock Morris
18 32 Jonathan Edwards
19 448 Ken Rominger, Jr.
20 16 Ben Watkins
21 421 Anthony Sanders
22 67 Bryan Mullis
-Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series Press Release
-Photo Credit: Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series