When the Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco visits Montgomery Motor Speedway, often times it is the veterans and locals that dominate competition. Matt Craig knocked that preconception flat on its back Saturday night in the Rumble by the River 125. After making the trek down to Alabama to run the half-mile with a Super Late Model for the first time, the North Carolina native went home with a trophy and boxing gloves in hand.
Craig showed great poise, starting from the pole, going blow for blow with Alabama favorite Connor Okrzesik over the course of the evening, and overcoming a late mistake on a restart with 25 laps to go.
Series officials made the call that Craig had jumped the restart, but instead of slapping him with a drive-through on pit road, the call was instead made to drop him back to second on the track. After doing so, Craig went right back at it, retaking the lead on the opposite end of the track on Lap 102.
“I thought I gave it away there, I knew they were leaning on it on the restarts. We were going before the line, so I thought it was go-time, and I gave it a little too much. But, I’m glad they let me give it back, drop back, and go again,” Craig said after the race.
It was a major night for the former PASS South champion, earning his first win both at Montgomery and in the Southern Super Series. An effort that has been some time in the making.
“I just can’t thank my guys enough. Moback deserves a lot of credit, he’s in the shop every day. The guys at Rowdy, KBM, Kyle Busch; they build a badass piece and I’m glad I get to drive one. I’m glad we came down here to Montgomery. We’ve been down here for a Pro race and got wrecked; glad we came back.”
For Okrzesik, he thought the ultimate difference in the end was a mistake he made when he got out of shape in turn four in his final attempt to get the lead back from Craig over the final green flag run.
“Me and Craig were dead even, I screwed up a little bit coming out of four trying to pass him, that’s all that was," Okrzesik said. "If either of us made a mistake, it was going to be the other person’s win. But, this whole Metro Glass crew, everyone on this car is great. Great car, couldn’t have been any better, unless it was a little faster."
Coming home in third was Alabama racing icon, Augie Grill. The night was a rollercoaster ride for he and the 112 team. After getting behind in the early laps, Grill elected to stay out and inherit the lead when the leaders pitted early. However, a spin on old tires resulted in him making a trip to pit road and charging on new tires over the final 35 laps to finish third. It was an effort that left Grill exhausted in the mid-summer heat.
“My car had gotten loose before everybody pitted. I just felt like our only chance was to stay out and not get a lap down and be able to get our tires later," Grill stated. "That’s what we did, but we over-adjusted and got a little too tight. But was able to move up and make some ground on them. Made a little bit, but lost it all. Think I’m just a little too old to run in this heat.”
Behind Grill, Casey Roderick locked down the fourth position over Donnie Wilson who completed the top five.
The Southern Super Series presented by Sunoco heads back to Pensacola, Florida on Friday, July 19 for round three of the 2019 Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series at Five Flags Speedway. You can see it right here on Speed51’s Summer Thunder TV presented by PFC Brakes.
An on-demand video replay of Saturday night's Rumble by the River 125 at Montgomery can be viewed by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51
SSS Rumble by the River 125 Unofficial Results
Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL) - July 6, 2019