The Allen Turner Pro Late Models will kick off their 2017 season Friday evening at the historic Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Each year, the Allen Turner PLM division draws in a stout field of competition to compete at the home of the Snowball Derby. To get you prepared for Friday’s opener, our resident “Stat Boy” Elgin Traylor takes a look at the history of the division “by the numbers.”
5: Jeff Choquette went on a tear last year and won five Pro Late Model races at Five Flags Speedway including the season finale, the Allen Turner Tune-up 100. Choquette backed up his knowledge with a Speedweeks Pro Late Model title this year at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). If Choquette rolls into the pit area on Friday, it could be bad news for the rest of the field.
6: The Pro Late Model class has gone six seasons without a repeat champion. Most of the time, the title is used as a stepping stone to the next level. Bret Holmes was the champ in 2016 and now runs primarily an ARCA schedule. Garrett Jones is a former track title holder and now run the Southern Super Series.
18: The Ronnie Sanders ride with Casey Roderick aboard will likely be there for the 100-lap races. Roderick is the two-time defending track champion in the Blizzard Series. Sanders as a driver was a track champion back in 1982.
25: The number of cars that showed up for the 2016 season finale 100-lap event.
100: The feature event is 100 laps for the Pro Late Models on Saturday night.
1997: Five Flags Speedway General Manager Tim Bryant was the track champion in the Late Model class back in 1997.
2007: Sammy McMullen won the track championship in the Pro Late Model class back in 2007. He stepped out of the seat to work with Johanna Long and is a regular around the pit area.
What’s on the Line?: The champion of the series will get an automatic starting spot in the Allen Turner Snowflake 100 during the 50th Annual Snowball Derby in December. That could go a long way at season’s end because who knows how many cars will show up or what awaits a driver on that weekend. Those who finish in the top 10 in points will have a chance to get a provisional at the Snowflake if needed.
Heavy Hitters: We hope to see some upstart young talent take on Five Flags this summer, but the heavy hitters like Casey Roderick, Jeff Choquette and Justin South are among those expected. Those would be the smart money bets, but look out for locals like Ryan Paul, Cole Daffron and Connor Okrzesik.
Former Champions: Before the Pro Late Models came along, the track champions were handed out over a series of four races like the Blizzard Series. Those yesteryear days saw drivers like Red Farmer, Junior Niedecken, Rick Crawford, Bubba Gale. Gerald Wilkerson and several others earn the honor. The whole list is not listed below as we are still doing research on past champions. Let us know if you have any info.
Five Flags Speedway
Pro Late Model Track Champions
2016 Bret Holmes
2015 Ryan Luza
2014 Johanna Long
2013 Garrett Jones
2012 Mike Garvey
2011 DJ VanderLey
2010 DJ VanderLey
2009 Ronnie Smith
2008 Johanna Long
2007 Sammy McMullen
2006 Steve Davis
2005 Brandon Carlson
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com