A Saturday full of ups and downs for local driver Jay Jay Day ended on the highest of highs as he went from dropping out of his first ever Pro Late Model start during pace laps, to going from last to first to win his first official start in the division.
The first of the two 50 lappers started with an invert of four from qualifying, putting fast-qualifier Casey Roderick starting in row two.
Before the green flag, local fans were disappointed to see former Bomber and Pro-Truck driver Day come to rest in turn two during pace laps with no power to his machine. Day was pushed pitside and it seemed that his first chance to start in a Pro Late Model was marred with disappointment from the onset after a great sixth-place qualifying effort.
As they lined up for race number two, Day was able to make the call, but started last on the grid in 14th place. When the green flag dropped Day, admittedly with fresh tires as opposed to the rest of the field using the same set as race number one, jumped from 14th to 10th before the field cleared turn two.
From there all eyes were on Day as he methodically worked his way through the field one-by-one. With 14 laps in the books, Day made his way into the lead passing veteran Wayne Niedecken Jr and Roderick, the winner of the first 50-lapper, in the same lap.
The crowd cheered their local driver with every passing lap noticeably louder and louder as the laps ticked away.
A caution with four laps to go had everyone on the edge of their seats for the restart between true rookie driver Day and veteran Niedecken but the rookie held his ground and cleared Niedecken in turn two, going on to win in his very first start in a Pro Late Model to the delight of the Alabama crowd.
“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it,” were the only words Day could muster at first after climbing out in victory lane as hordes of friends, family and fans surrounded the car in victory lane.
“I feel like all I ever needed was an opportunity. The Pressler brothers and Kevin gave that to me and I can’t thank them enough,” said Day as he tried to catch his breath.
Day recalled that even with fresher tires than the field he still had to play it safe coming through traffic.
“I knew we had fresher tires of course, but with the restart (with four laps to go), we were all even. My tires were hot. It was tough.”
For Day, the realization started sinking in as he continued to thank the people who supported the effort to get him in the Pro Late Model, “I’m really just a Bomber driver. This is for all the Bomber drivers, if you work hard, as long as you believe, it’s possible.”
Wayne Niedecken Jr hung on for second place and although he acknowledged the good job done by Day, he himself was not surprised by the win, if for no other reason, because of the tires.
“The rookie better win on 50 lap fresher tires. He had green tires, I had 50 laps on mine.” Niedecken said in his post-race interview. Niedecken was the recipient of similar circumstances in a 2015 dual format event at Mobile, winning the second feature on fresher tires than the field last summer.
“He should have won but congratulations to him, good job.”
For an on-demand recap of Saturday night’s Trackside Now coverage, click here.
-By Mark Keeler, Speed51.com Deep South Editor – Twitter: @MarkKeeler975
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Pro Late Model Feature No. 1
|3||99||Wayne Niedecken Jr|
|15||42||Jay Jay Day|
Pro Late Model Feature No. 2
|1||42||Jay Jay Day|
|2||99||Wayne Niedecken Jr|