New Smyrna Speedway was not about to let Mother Nature have her way Saturday night as fans and race teams waited out a near three hour rain delay before a full program of NASCAR Whelan All-American Series races took to the track just after 9:30 pm. With all dads getting in free in honor of Father’s Day, a nice crowd was on hand to watch after the drizzle subsided.
The action was actually just an afterthought as everyone was racing with heavy hearts with news earlier in the day of the passing of 19-year-old Zack Donatti of New Smyrna Beach following a non-racing accident while on his job. Donatti began his racing career at Little New Smyrna Speedway in Quarter Midgets and moved up through the ranks to Legend Cars and eventually to running Late Models at New Smyrna with quite a bit of success.
Fellow competitor and friend Zack Jarrell of Orlando and his team brought a back-up car to the track and painted Donatti’s familiar number 9z on it. Jarrell made a slow lap alone around the track during pre-race ceremonies in
honor of his friend. He would honor him even more later on in the evening. Jarrell ended up on the pole position for the 25-lap Pro Late Model feature race and wasted little time in getting to the front of the field. The only caution of the race took place on the fourth lap when Michael Williams spun and crashed coming off turn two. He was not hurt but his car needed a tow back to the pits.
On the restart Jarrell, who had been struggling with his car all season with a best finish of sixth in five races, quickly moved out to a good-sized advantage. All eyes were on the winner from the previous week, Aussie Will
Carroll, who started scratch on the field but was moving up quickly. Carroll made the move to second place around Jarrett Snowden with eight laps to go but was never able to track down Jarrell who became the sixth different winner in six PLM races so far this year.
Victory lane was a sea of emotions with Donatti’s family in attendance and joining the Jarrell family and others in victory lane. Just before heading back to the tech area, Jarrell was seen having a long and emotional hug with
Zack Donatti’s father Tom next to the race car.
Carroll finished in the second position trailed by Snowden, Anthony Cataldi and Michael Lira. Rounding out the top ten were Rich Clouser, Cody Blair, Daniel Miller, Ricky Anderson and Williams.
Jarrett Korpi passed Cody Blair on lap 16 and went on to claim his fifth E-Modified win of the season in a race that went green to checker without a yellow flag. Blair grabbed the runner-up spot ahead of Chris Brannon. Matthew Green was fourth followed by Roger Benton (debuting a new car), Jim Higginbotham and Mike Dahm.
Earl “Junior” Beckner made it through tech inspection this week and became the first driver to score a second Sportsman victory of the year. Daniel Conlin, Jr. led the first two laps of the 25-lap event but Derrick Wood was looking strong and he took over on the third lap. Conlin spun out of third spot coming off turn two on lap 13 for the race’s only caution flag and it was Beckner taking advantage on the restart as he snatched the point from Wood and never looked back in scoring the win. Wood held on for second while Conlin made a late charge to get back up to third ahead of Donny Williams. Scott Garrity was fifth followed by Steve Barnes and D. J. Farr.
Mike Amato led the first four laps of the Super Stock feature before Shannon Kelly took over just before Amato spun around as part of a multi-car “banging” session going into turn one. Kelly set the pace for just one circuit before Justin Reynolds breezed by and into the lead. Late race yellow flags for wall-banging incidents involving Preston Hunt and Joe Gerard did not slow down Reynolds who is a perfect three-for-three in his starts at New Smyrna this year. Garrett Hill stayed close but was unable to pressure Reynolds and had to settle for second. Amato rallied back to finish third in front of Kelly and Becca Samsoe. Completing the top ten were Justin Spears, Mike Dahm, Gerard, Hunt and George Dahm.
David Brannon led every lap of the Strictly Stock feature race despite the valiant efforts of Jimmy Barron who finished a close second. Aaron Overman was third ahead of Dan Webb and Jamie Strickland.
Dave Westerman New Smyrna Speedway – Photo by Jim Jones Photography.