Thursday night’s Clyde Hart Memorial Super Late Model 100 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) was all about fireworks, fast cars and— for one unsurpassed driver— first place.
Jeff Choquette chose the special 4th of July event to be his first race of the season, though it was hard to see the rust from the stands. Choquette qualified fastest in the afternoon and started the race from fourth after an invert. It only took the veteran 10 laps to take over the lead and from that point on, the victory was in the bag.
“We come out and set fast time and we had a good starting position, that always helps,” Choquette told Speed51.com. “We were able to wind up in victory lane, I can’t thank the guys enough. [The Jett Concrete team has] a lot going on with the two other guys they race with, Jett Noland and Stephen Nasse. So for them to put a car together for me and come out here and win with it, it means a lot.”
Normally, any leader with Bubba Pollard in his rearview mirror would be starting to sweat as the laps ticked off, though that wasn’t the case for Choquette. Pollard, the master at lengthy Late Model runs, uncharacteristically struggled his way into a second-place finish.
“We were tight there,” Pollard said of his run. “I had to save as much as I could, because I knew it was going to get worse. It took me awhile to get by the 20 (Anthony Sergi), I didn’t want to rough him up, I tried to pass him clean three times. It was just good, hard racing. We just didn’t have enough for tonight.”
The Clyde Hart Memorial was Pollard’s second event at the speedway in the David Rogers No. 11 machine, the first being the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing back in February. A podium finish this time around wasn’t as sweet as a championship but any chance to represent a short track icon like Rogers is worth the trip to Pollard.
“The guys worked hard and I can’t thank them enough for letting me drive this legendary number 11” Pollard said. “Can’t thank David and TM Ranch enough, letting me come down and be a part of this and have some fun. Second place is good, we definitely wanted a win, but all in all a good weekend.”
While Pollard’s poison was a tight machine throughout the night, third-place finisher Anthony Sergi battled the Georgia native in those closing laps with the exact opposite issue.
“It was a good run, the car was just a little loose,” Sergi said. “We came and pitted there when we had that caution, made some adjustments. Finishing behind Choquette and Pollard is always good but it’s my home track, I want to beat them. We just have to work on it.”
A suspected transmission issue sidelined the other strong-running No. 9 machine of the night, piloted by Brad May, not quite halfway through the race. Up until that point, May had worked his way past Pollard and was getting ready to face-off with Choquette on a restart.
“The car was really good, everything was going good up until the caution came out,” May said. “We shifted from third to fourth and about halfway down the straightaway it started shaking and vibrating. Something was going wrong, so I just shut it off real quick. Hate that feeling, it never gets better after that.
“It was such a great group of guys, they’re really good guys that race all over the country, we don’t get to race with them enough. I had a lot of fun. I would have loved to seen what would have happened if we went 50 more laps.”
How soon May will get his rematch is up in the air; Choquette doesn’t know when or where he’ll break out the WD-40 for another impromptu run, as he put it short and sweet:
“Time will tell.”
Race fans can watch a video recap of Thursday’s Clyde Hart Memorial now on the Speed51 Network.
On-demand updates, photos and more can be found by visiting Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage.
Clyde Hart Memorial Super Late Model 100 Unofficial Results:
1 9 Jeff Choquette
2 11 Bubba Pollard
3 20 Anthony Sergi
4 50 Jett Noland
5 38 Ricky Moxley
6 7 Doug Elliott
7 56 Mike Skaggs
8 12 David Green
9 15 Roger Blevins
10 5K Daniel Keene Jr.
11 9M Brad May
12 71 Dawson Fletcher
13 21 Alexa Anderson
-Story By: Melissa Strahley, Speed51 Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Melissa Strahley