Brown inherited the lead after pit stops during a lap 58 caution flag in the 99-lap event, then held off Labonte by 0.105 seconds to take the victory in SMART’s third trip to Caraway in the 2021 season.
Labonte quickly caught up to Brown in the closing laps, creating a dramatic finish to the 9/11 Memorial Smart Chevrolet 99. If it was dramatic for fans and onlookers, it was even more so for Brown, who was battling radio issues and was nearly caught off guard by Labonte’s late charge.
“So that battle at the end, my spotter said at the start of the race, ‘My radio is going dead, guys. Get me another radio,'” explained Brown. “Well, that never happened and his radio went dead with about 30 to go.
I had four different people talking to me there. The last thing I heard was, ‘You have an eight car-length lead, save all you can in case there’s a late caution.’ The next thing I hear is, ‘Looking inside, looking inside.’ I said holy crap, I better run this thing.
With newfound urgency and a slight adjustment to his racing line, Brown staved off Labonte to become the seventh different winner in eight SMART Modified Tour events this year.
“I had been running high in the PJ1 all night to save tire. I knew when it was time to go I’d have to run the bottom to protect the groove.”
Labonte entered Saturday night’s event at Caraway as the only repeat winner on the tour, with back-to-back triumphs at Dillon Motor Speedway and Carteret County. While the winning streak came to an end, Labonte still left Sophia, North Carolina satisfied with another strong run and confidence in the speed of his No. 25 Cook Out machine.
“We were off a little bit in qualifying, I didn’t feel like I got a good lap, but we were able to start third on the redraw and get some points for the 30-lap shootout. At the end, I couldn’t catch Jonathan in the right place. I felt like I was faster, but passing him was going to be difficult. All in all we gave it our best shot. We just couldn’t quite beat him at the end.”
Taking the win over drivers such as Labonte made the win particularly special for Brown, who was piloting the No. 24 Buddy Ellis-owned machine that also went to victory lane with John Smith earlier in the season at Franklin County Speedway.
I can tell you, for this little team that could, it was great to beat the guys like Bobby Labonte who has been so strong lately and Burt Myers. This is their playing field. This is what they do. It was only my second Tour race, so to come away with the win is pretty nice.
Burt Myers finished third, with Caleb Heady and Jeremy Gerstner completing the top five.
Next week, the SMART Modified Tour heads to Dominion Raceway in Virginia for the next stop on its 2021 schedule. Stay tuned to Speed51 for more details regarding coverage plans of that event.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Director of Digital Content – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo
Results – 9/11 Memorial Smart Chevrolet 99
- Jonathan Brown
- Bobby Labonte
- Burt Myers
- Caleb Heady
- Jeremy Gerstner
- Brian Loftin
- Jason Myers
- John Smith
- Jimmy Wallace
- Dennis Holdren
- Daniel Yates
- Mike Norman
- Darin Redmon
- Gary Putnam
- James Civali
- Brian Weber