Continuing his Pro Late Model resurgence following a two-year hiatus from the game, Matt Craig dominated Friday night at Five Flags Speedway (FL), sweeping the night with a pair of back-to-back victories.
With the pair of wins Friday at Five Flags, Craig now has three wins and a third-place finish in Pro Late Model competition in 2020. After making his CRA/JEGS All-Stars Tour debut at Jennerstown Speedway in July, Craig won the Masters of the Pro’s at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (TN).
Winning convincingly on Friday night, Craig showed he will be a factor in future Pro Late Model races as well.
“The car was on rails, it was a lot of fun,” Craig said. “I haven’t really run a Pro Late Model in two years and this is my first win at Five Flags. We’re three for four so far this year, so I think we’ll keep running them.”
During the first 75-lap Allen Turner Pro Late Model feature, Craig took over the lead from Justin Bonnett just before the halfway point and crossed under the checkers with a nearly two-second cushion over second-place finisher Kyle Plott.
Despite the trip to victory lane, Craig was concerned instead of confident heading into the final race of the night.
“I thought I burned my tires up in that first race, but it turns out they were still ready for 75 more laps,” Craig said. “I pushed my car hard the whole race, kind of pretending [Bubba Pollard] was out there. So next time he’s here with us I know how hard I can run my car.”
Craig’s strategy— mentally competing with the absent veteran— led to another unmatched performance. This time, the North Carolina driver captured a win with a six-second gap over podium finishers Chris Davidson and Dakota Stroup after inheriting an early lead due to a multi-car wreck.
The wreck, which involved contact between leaders Jordan McCallum and Hudson Halder, sent Halder hard into the outside backstretch wall, ending his night on lap nine. Jake Garcia, who had nowhere to go behind the battling duo, was also collected in the incident, giving then fourth-place runner Craig the pole on the restart.
“Two laps before [the wreck] I got under the 11 and he just chopped me,” Halder said. “So I let him go because I didn’t want to wreck our stuff. He was just free from the drop of the green flag. I was going to tuck under him off of two and he just got really free, so I went high and he overcorrected and just put us both in the wall and took out the top three.”
McCallum had a varying account of events, chalking up the incident to a racing deal.
“It all started in one,” McCallum said. “We bottomed out a little bit and we knew the 20 was right behind us. He was right there on our bumper. It was just kind of one of those racing things that happens. He pegged me in the center there and it got me loose and, I don’t know, he got hit from behind and kept pushing me.”
The final Allen Turner Pro Late Model race of the season will take place at the Pensacola half-mile on September 19. Fans who missed Friday night’s racing action can watch an on-demand replay by clicking here.
-Story by: Melissa Strahley, Speed51 Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo