Craig Capitalizes on Mistake in Allen Turner PLM Opener

With eight laps to go, Connor Okrzesik appeared destined to start the 2021 Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series the same way he ended last year’s Pro Late Model championship at Five Flags Speedway – in victory lane.

REPLAY: Allen Turner Pro Late Models at Five Flags


Instead, a three-lap shootout and what Okrzesik described as a “stupid mistake” opened the door for Matt Craig to retake the lead and score the win in the season-opening event.


Okrzesik started on the pole and led the first 11 laps of the 100-lap feature, with Craig taking the top spot on lap 12.  Craig would lead the next 80 laps before Okrzesik charged back to the front.


Okrzesik retook the lead on lap 92, but the caution flag flew on lap 97 for a spin involving defending series champion Chris Davidson.  On the restart, Craig jumped to the lead and dashed to the finish for the win.


Craig admitted he may have pushed a little too hard during the middle stages of the race, giving Okrzesik an opportunity to win the race.


I think I might have burned up the car a little bit,” said Craig in victory lane.  “These Pro races are tough to win.  You’ve got to drive a lot harder the whole race than the Super races.  It makes it a lot of fun.  The car was good, it just faded, tight in the center, loose off.  Okrzesik was better than me, for sure.  Connor was digging, passed me clean.  I thank him for racing me clean like that.


However, Craig easily pulled away from Okrzesik on the restart, catching Craig by surprise.


“I’m not sure on the restart if it was transmission, gearing or what.  I fired right where he fired and got a good shift through the gears and was able to clear him into one.”


Okrzesik was critical of his performance on the decisive restart.


I’m stupid.  I gave that one away,” said Okrzesik.  “I made a rookie mistake I shouldn’t have made.  It was completely my fault at the end.  Congrats to Matt, he capitalized on my mistake.  I hate it for everybody, I hate I gave it away.  It’s embarrassing more than anything that I made that stupid of a mistake.


“I just can’t be stupid and give it away.  I ran a perfect race up until that point, but it doesn’t matter if you make a stupid mistake at the end and take it all away.  I’ll rebound, I have a lot more races to win.”


Charlie Keeven scored a podium finish, coming away with a third-place result after making the trip from Missouri.  He was impressed by the quality of drivers throughout the field competing in the Allen Turner opener.


“The whole field was three-tenths off from the leader down to 15th.  It’s crazy how close these cars are here.  Donnie Wilson, Dennis, both those guys helped me through it.  I listened and it got me up here.”


Race fans who missed Friday’s race will be able to watch an on-demand replay of Speed51.TV’s broadcast of the race by clicking here.


-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans

-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo


Allen Turner 100 Unofficial Results

  1. Matt Craig
  2. Connor Okrzesik
  3. Charlie Keeven
  4. John Bolen
  5. Jett Noland
  6. Christopher Tullis
  7. Justin Bonnett
  8. Colin Allman
  9. Chris Davidson
  10. Hunter Wright
  11. Dylan Fetcho
  12. Bryson Shaffer
  13. Colt Hensley
  14. Steven Chunn
  15. Zach Johnson
  16. JoJo Wilkinson
  17. Elliott Massey
  18. Hudson Halder
  19. Steven Davis
  20. Kyle Plott
  21. Stacey Crain
  22. Adam Nelson
  23. Jake Garcia
  24. Jordan McCallum

Craig Capitalizes on Mistake in Allen Turner PLM Opener