One wonders if Dawsonville, Ga., filled with joyful noise on Friday night.
When Bill Elliott’s star was rising in NASCAR, each time he won, his hometown would ring a bell to celebrate the win.
The tradition has continued for young Chase Elliott, the 2011 Snowball Derby champion, and current NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader.
Spencer Davis did Dawsonville proud Friday night at Five Flags Speedway. The teenager captured his first career Allen Turner Pro Late Model feature at the famed half-mile oval.
“We’ve had fast car last two times been here,” Davis said, “and to get that first win in Pensacola, at such an historic track, it’s really cool.”
Johanna Long finished second in the opener to extend her points lead while Junior Niedecken rounded out the podium.
But in the 30-lap finale, she spun with 27 laps complete and her 19-point cushion was dwindled to four by night’s end.
Defending track champion Garrett Jones, who finished fourth in the opener, won the second feature in dramatic fashion when all heck broke loose on the final lap. Davis finished as the runner-up in the finale. Ray Black was third.
“I’m waiting to get excited,” Jones said. “I’m not sure if I won it or not. We didn’t have the best car this weekend. The hot temperatures got us out of our groove.”
Ryan Luza crossed first in the 30 lapper, but track officials penalized the Cypress, Texas, driver for turning then-leader Bret Holmes on the white flag lap directly under the flagstand.
It moved everyone up, including Long who rallied to come home sixth after the late spin.
“We have to figure something out,” Long said after the opener. “We had another really fast racecar like we do every time we come Five Flags. Second stinks. We’ll win one before it’s over.”
Early-bird fans that arrived when the gates opened at 4 Friday afternoon, covered up with umbrellas. Not because of unexpected showers, but to escape the suffering heat. It was as if the sun was leaning against you.
Southern Vintage Racing Association
Ben Spears hopes the Southern Vintage Racing Association schedules more stops at Five Flags Speedway.
The first time the Association battled at Pensacola’s high banks back in June, Spears swiped the checkered flag.
On this Friday, the second verse was same as the first as Spears captured another 20-lap feature.
“It never comes easy,” Spears said. “It was work, but it was worth it.”
The father-son tandem of Scooter and Thumper Grice finished second and third, respectively.
“I guess I’ll always be the bridesmaid,” said Scooter Grice, who is still in search of that elusive win at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. “That guy (Spears) is a fantastic driver. He’s made so many strides that are unbelievable. Kudos to Ben.”
Throughout the week, Thumper Grice had visions of a family sweep. But that never materialized when his father and Spears broke away from the large field.
Thumper Grice, meanwhile, had one of the best battles on the track. He, James Ward and Matt Culbertson swapped the spot several times before Thumper eventually took it over for good on Lap 14.
“I wanted to be in front of him,” Thumper, 21, said of his father. “I wanted us to be 1-2.”
Beef “O” Brady’s Sportsmen
Five Flags Speedway welcomed another first-time winner to Victory Lane.
Milton’s Joe Richbourg held off Sportsmen stalwarts Shanna Ard, the current points leader, and Steve Buttrick, who has won four straight Sportsmen Snowball Derby titles, to win the 25-lap Beef “O” Brady’s Sportsman feature.
“The car was perfect,” Richbourg said. “I had a blast.”
Ard and Buttrick might have a pair of resumes that look a little more stellar, but Richbourg drove his lines and refused to yield the lead to either of the perennial favorites.
“He was pretty hard to pass,” Ard said of Richbourg. “I worked on him, did everything I could.”
The other major storyline that came from Friday night’s entertaining Sportsman feature was the nightmare for Brannon Fowler.
The Molino driver, and two-time class track champion, started the race. However, when a caution came out before the opening lap was complete, Fowler headed to the pits.
He did not return.
Butler U-Pull-It Bombers
B.J. Leytham has won in a variety of ways in 2014.
On Friday at Five Flags Speedway, the Mobile driver was the fastest qualifier, but chose to start at the tail end of the 11-car field.
Like every race for Leytham this season, it appeared it mattered little.
He crossed the start-finish line first for his fourth 20-lap Butler U-Pull-It Bombers feature and his 19th overall between Pensacola and Mobile International Speedway.
But Leytham was disqualified in technical inspection for an improper front end.
Leytham had won every feature he started since late 2013, including the Bombers Snowball Derby last December.
With the DQ, that pushed Geno Denmark (Leytham’s teammate) to his first career win at Five Flag, Colin Kraft was second and Michael Nelson moved to third.
Denmark, who set the Bombers class track record a few months back, punctuated his night in Victory Lane with a little trash talk.
“That No. 03 (Nelson) is tough, but he ain’t got (anything) for us,” Denmark said. “Our car was fast and there was some tough competition out there tonight.”
Leytham put his unblemished streak in jeopardy at the drop of the green flag by opting to begin at the back of the pack.
The decision, though, didn’t slow him down. He quickly chewed up three spots before the field reached Turn 1 on the opening lap.
Leytham started threading the needle through the field, chewing up spots along the way and had climbed to second by Lap 7.
Nelson managed to keep Leytham at bay for a few laps before he surrendered the spot to Leytham on before the feature reached its halfway point.
By Chuck Corder, Special for Five Flags Speedway