Super Late Model racing rang in the new year Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) for the 32nd running of the Red Eye 100. Big names came down to the famous Florida high banks, including the likes of Bubba Pollard, Gus Dean, Derek Griffith, and Maine’s Ryan Moore. Though local short track aces Travis Cope, Daniel Keene Jr., Brad May, and the legendary David Rogers came to defend their home turf as well.
Though it was Jeff Choquette kicking in the doors on the new year with the victory in the No. 9 Jett Concrete machine, qualifying on the pole and leading 99 of 100 laps. The only other leader on the evening was Bubba Pollard, who started on the front row after the field inversion, and kept Choquette in check throughout the first half of the race. However, Pollard would exit the race on lap 53 with a broken left front A-frame.
“It’s an older car. We should have just looked at it better, and have a little bit better maintenance program. But the guys did a good job, just one of those things, we’re racing, part of racing, it happens,” Pollard told Speed51.com post race.
In victory lane, Choquette told reporters that he noticed the absence of the No.26 on the racetrack. “We had a pretty clean race. We were able to get the lead from Bubba there early. Something happened to him and we were able to get away on a great late race restart there and get out to a comfortable lead again. So I can’t thank the Jett guys enough and we can continue to keep going.”
Though it wasn’t without adversity, throughout the weekend several teams had brush ups with the track’s walls including Choquette during the Friday night open session. “I ran out of talent off of turn two and I would like to say I have been out of the car for a while, but the Snowball Derby was a month ago, but I ran out of talent off of turn two, broke everything off the right front, right rear, rear end junked, so we didn’t know the rear end was bad until right before qualifying, we changed that, and we set fast time.”
So what makes Choquette so good at New Smyrna Speedway?
“Just laps. I wouldn’t call it so good here, it’s just that a place like this is kind of tricky with the way the grooves are and everything else. It’s just a lot of laps. There are a bunch of other drivers that get around here just as well as I do.”
Northern invaders Derek Griffith and Gus Dean would go on to place second and third on the podium. Griffith, who was a non-factor through most of the race capitalized on a late race restart to slip through a few leaders as Dean pushed foe Ryan Moore wide going into turn one.
“I knew we were going to be fast. We had a good long run car and we just kind of got weeded out there, we got banged around and I was hoping for a late race restart. Sure enough one came, it got a little messy there and I slid through. I got a really good restart and I knew I could stay in front of those guys as long as I kept the nose clean. Jeff just took off after that. I have to congratulate him on that. To finish second here to him is huge. We always get plagued with bad luck here it seems like, so to finish second finally, I’m just pumped,” Griffith told Speed51.com post race.
Dean echoed his sentiments, “We’re really proud (of our run). We had the fastest racecar for a lot of laps. We were just kind of biding our time. That restart didn’t really play in our favor. I just kind of got a bit aggressive with the throttle. Especially being on the bottom, there was just no grip anymore. I kind of drove it off into (turn) one a little bit too hard, just trying to wash him up, trying to get my position back, but still finished strong. I’m really proud of my team. We haven’t run this late model since Speedweeks last year, so to come out of the box after a full year and still finish third at a race like this makes me pretty proud.”
Saturday night’s action only starts the calendar year for the famous Florida paper clip known as New Smyrna Speedway. Next up on the docket will be the Marion Edwards Memorial Super Late Model 100 on Saturday, January 20th, with support from their local Sportsman, Mod Minis, Super Stocks and Bombers divisions.
Don’t miss a lap of the action as teams get ready for the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing February 9th– 17th featuring Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Tour-type Modifieds and more.
More information, highlights, and interviews from Saturday night’s full slate of racing action at New Smyrna Speedway can be seen by visiting 51’s Trackside Now.
|11||5K||Daniel Keene Jr.|
|17||12J||Joe Graf Jr.|
-By Allick Jorgensen, Speed51.com Deep South Correspondent – Twitter: @AJorgensen24
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com