Max Blair of Centerville, PA had to outrun the competition and a leaking right-rear tire to win the 50-lap main event on Thursday night for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series in the Rock Auto.com Winternationals at Bubba Raceway Park. Blair drove the R&J Poultry Rocket to the $2,500 win and the NeSmith Late Model point
“During a caution period on lap 20, my dad gave me a signal that my right-rear tire was going down,” Blair said. “I worked the car back and forth, and it felt fine, so I just kept going. I was really sweating it out in the last laps of the race because I could really feel it going away, but it stayed up until right after I took the checkered flag.”
Blair started out the evening by taking fast time honors with a lap around Bubba Raceway Park in 15.947 seconds to earn the pole position for the main event. Blair took the lead at the start of the race, but he had plenty of company throughout the race.
The first nine laps were led by Blair, and then he decided to go to the outside to negotiate around the cars on the tail of the lead lap. That opened up the inside groove for Walker Arthur of Forest, VA, who got under Blair for the lead on lap ten. Blair then had to battle for the second spot with David Earl Gentry of Murfreesboro, TN and defending and two-time NeSmith Late Model Champion Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, TN.
On lap 40, Arthur caught some heavy lapped traffic, but stayed on bottom groove of the track, Blair once again chose the high side to get around the traffic, and made it work to take the lead. Even with a slowly deflating right-rear tire, Blair pulled away to take a 2.546 second margin of victory under the checkered flag.
“Track owner Bubba Clem and his crew did a great job getting the track in a racy condition tonight,” Blair said. “We got started a little late tonight, and a lot of people weren’t sure we’d get tonight’s race in, but they got done what they needed to do and it was worth the wait. The fans got to see some great racing tonight.”
Two-time NeSmith Late Model National Champion Gentry finished second in the Hardy & Associates on a night that he wasn’t planning on racing. Just before qualifying started, Gentry entered the event, came out last to qualify with a cold race car, and qualified seventh quick.
Gentry, who is the co-promoter at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, TN, had to give credit where credit was due after the race.
“I really didn’t think we were going to get the track in good enough shape to race on it tonight, but I have to take my hat off to Bubba Clem and his crew for the job they did tonight,” Gentry said. “Working with new clay that has been rained on as much as this new clay has is almost impossible to get it laid down right. They kept working it and working it until they got it where it needed to be.”
After leading 30 laps of the race, Arthur finished third in the Cecil B. Arthur Beef Farms Special and trails Blair in the NeSmith Late Model point standings by eight points. Johnson took the fourth spot in the NeSmith Chevrolet Special.
The youngest driver in the race, 12-year-old Tyler Clem of St. Petersburg, FL drove the Vahlco Wheels Rocket to a fifth-place finish from the 16th starting position to claim three different awards. Clem was the Beyea Headers Hard Charger of the Race, the Rookie of the Race, and the
Young Gun Challenge Series Driver of the Race.
Clem also sits third in the NeSmith Late Model point standings, 16 points out of first place. He also leads the NeSmith Late Model Rookie of the Year points, and the Young Gun Challenge Series point standings.
Chase Edge of LaFayette, AL finished sixth in the Edge’s Gas Company Special and Jake Knowles of Rome, GA took the seventh spot in the Coosa Heating and Air Rocket. Ryan King of Seymour, TN was eighth in the Brian King Roofing Stinger, and Mallory Harvey of Baxley, GA drove the Rentz Farms Rocket to a ninth-place finish.
Brian Connor of Augusta, GA rounded out the top ten in the Lazar’s Trailers Special. In preliminary action, the two 12-lap B-Main Races were won by Cody Martin of Christiana, TN in the Martin Motorsports Warrior and 13-year-old Michael Lake of Uniontown, PA in the Bobby Lake Motorsports Special.
Blair took the lead at the start of the race, but an eight-car tangle in turn four on the opening tour of the race necessitated a complete restart. All eight cars were able to continue, and once again, it was Blair leading lap one followed Arthur, Edge, Justin McRee of Woodstock, AL in the High Roller Race Cars Special, and Gentry.
The second of eight caution flags came out on lap two when Lake stalled on the backstretch. Blair opened up an eight car-length advantage over Walker by the time he caught the cars on the tail end of the lead lap on lap seven. Arthur closed the gap between himself and Blair quickly.
Blair went to high side of Adam Beeler of Knoxville, TN in the Mighty Muffler and Brake CVR, while Arthur stayed on the bottom of the track. Arthur shot underneath both Blair and Beeler to take the point coming off the fourth turn on lap ten. Marcus Minga of Shannon, MS stalled his B&M Salvage Rocket on the backstretch to light up the caution bulb for the third time on lap 12.
Behind the new leader Arthur were Blair, Edge, McRee, Gentry, Johnson, Knowles, Rick Singleton of Hesston, PA in the Rick Singleton Rentals Special, Joe Mike of Mayfield, KY in the Mike Farms Special, and King. Singleton spun out of the eighth spot on the restart to bring out the fourth caution flag.
McRee spun in turn four on lap 13 to bring the caution flag for the fifth time. The top ten for the next “Dixie Style” double-file restart had Arthur leading Blair, Gentry, Edge, Knowles, Johnson, Mike, Johnny Stokes of Columbus, MS in the Bassett Hound Motorsports Special, King, Harvey and Connor.
Knowles and Johnson powered underneath Edge on the restart to take over the fourth and fifth spots respectively. Arthur pulled out to a half straightaway lead over Blair by lap 15, and by lap 20 Arthur had stretched his lead out to a full straightaway. Arthur’s lead was erased on lap 21 when Mark Whitener of Middleburg, FL spun the Dave’s Towing Special in turn one to bring out the sixth caution flag.
When the field went back to green flag action, Johnson stepped to the outside and found the high side to his liking in turns one and two, but he stayed inside in turns three and four. Johnson got around the outside of Knowles to take over the fourth spot on lap 22. Connor spun in turn four on lap 26 bring out the yellow flag, but got his spot for the restart, as McRee was ticketed with the caution flag for causing Connor to spin.
The halfway point in the race saw Arthur leading Blair, Gentry, Johnson, Knowles, Edge, Mike, King, Clem, and Stokes. Arthur took off with the lead on the restart, as business picked up behind him for the second position.
Johnson went to the outside to drive by Gentry for the third spot on the restart, and on lap 27, Gentry and Johnson caught Blair to make it a three-way battle for second. Coming off the second turn it was three-wide with Gentry on the bottom, Blair in the middle, and Johnson on the outside.
That battle settled down in another lap with Blair hanging on to the second spot, Gentry settling back into third, and Johnson looking on the outside in the fourth spot. By lap 37, Arthur was in heavy lapped traffic, and Blair pounced to close in to challenge for the point.
On lap 40, Blair stepped to the outside in turn one, pulled up alongside Arthur in turn two, and took the lead coming off the second turn. Blair began to pull away, but his progress to the finish was slowed by the eighth and final caution flag on lap 43 when Connor spun down the front straightaway.
Blair led Arthur, Gentry, Johnson, Edge, Clem, Knowles, King, Whitener, and Harvey down for the green flag to begin the eight lap dash to the finish. Gentry made a bold inside move on Arthur to take over the second spot on the restart. Gentry now set his sights on Blair, but the leader pulled away to take his first career win with the NeSmith Late Models.
Night three of the Rock Auto.com Winternationals for the NeSmith Late Models will take place on Friday night at Bubba Raceway Park with a 50-lap $3,000-to-win main event.
For more information and rules about the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series, visit the series web site at www.nesmithracing.com, or visit the series on Facebook at NeSmith Racing. Becoming a fan of the NeSmith Racing Facebook page will make you eligible for special prizes that will be given away each month. You can follow us on Twitter @NeSmithRacing.
OFFICIAL RESULTS OF ROUND 2 AT BUBBA RACEWAY PARK IN OCALA, FL ON 1/29/15:
POS STRT CAR # DRIVER HOMETOWN LAPS $ WON
1. 1 111 Max Blair Centerville, PA 50 $2,625
2. 7 56 David Earl Gentry Murfreesboro, TN 50 $1,250
3. 3 87 Walker Arthur Forest, VA 50 $975
4. 6 5 Ronnie Johnson Chattanooga, TN 50 $825
5. 16 14 Tyler Clem (R/Y) St. Petersburg, FL 50 $775
6. 5 18 Chase Edge LaFayette, AL 50 $550
7. 9 66k Jake Knowles Rome, GA 50 $625
8. 15 30 Ryan King Seymour, TN 50 $575
9. 19 29 Mallory Harvey Baxley, GA 50 $400
10. 20 77 Brian Connor Augusta, GA 50 $375
11. 4 4 Joe Mike Mayfield, KY 49 $475
12. 21 16v Joe Janowski Carmel, IN 49 $300
13. 8 1 Johnny Stokes Columbus, MS 43 $405
14. 14 58 Mark Whitener Middleburg, FL 42 $385
15. 12 27 Michael Lake (Y) Uniontown, PA 36 $250
16. 2 25 Justin McRee Woodstock, AL 25 $365
17. 10 99 Rick Singleton Hesston, PA 16 $220
18. 24 66 Adam Beeler (R) Knoxville, TN 13 $200
19. 17 27L John Over Uniontown, PA 11 $200
20. 18 00 Bronson Berry Huntingdon, TN 11 $200
21. 22 18L Brent Lewis Harrisburg, IL 11 $200
22. 13 14c Cale Conley Vienna, WV 11 $200
23. 23 19 Marcus Minga Shannon, MS 10 $200
24. 11 21m Cody Martin (R) Christiana, TN 0 $200
FAST QUALIFIER: Blair, 15.947 Seconds
PROVISIONALS: Minga and Beeler
LEAD CHANGES: 2
LAP LEADERS: Blair, 1-9; Arthur, 10-39; Blair, 40-50
LAPS LED: Arthur, 30; Blair, 20
BEYEA HEADERS HARD CHARGER: Clem (started 16th and finished 5th)
ROOKIE OF THE RACE: Clem
YOUNG GUN OF THE RACE: Clem
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.546 Seconds
TIME OF THE RACE: 45 Minutes and 50.294 Seconds
– Roby Helm/NeSmith Late Model press release
– Photo credit: PhotosByTrace.com