The half-mile Concord Speedway in North Carolina re-opened Friday and played host to its first event in three years. Fittingly, at the end of the Old Glory 125 Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South event that reopened the track, two drivers with countless laps and numerous victories there were up front.
But those two drivers tangled in the closing laps, which opened the door for a driver who was a 13-year-old budding Legends Car driver the last time Concord held a stock car race.
Concord native Roger Lee Newton, a former division champion at Concord Speedway, dominated much of Friday’s Old Glory 125, but past Concord North-South Shootout Super Late Model Jeff Fultz reeled him in through the final 25 laps. On lap 114, Fultz caught Newton in turn one. By the turn-two dogleg at the triangular-shaped half-mile, Fultz was to Newton’s left-side door as they battled for the lead. Going into the final corner of the lap, however, the two collided. Fultz’s right-front corner and Newton’s left-rear came together. The contact sent Newton for a slide and Fultz checked up to avoid being involved any further.
With the top two clearing the way, the third-place driver, Californian Zane Smith, split the gap between the spinning Newton and the slowing Fultz to claim the lead he would not relinquish through the ensuing restart.
The win gave Smith, 15, back-to-back PASS South victories. This one came thanks to some fireworks ahead of him.
“Honestly, I don’t know how I won this one,” Smith told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I got behind them I was saying on the radio, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pass these guys, but I’ve got to do it somewhere.’ I was with the 54 (Fultz), then he cleared the way. To be honest, I kind of saw it coming. It was just super close. They got loose coming out of the dogleg and I was like, ‘Guys, you can’t do this right now.'”
Following the contact, Fultz continued on in second, while Newton pitted and restarted deep in the field. Fultz couldn’t hang with Smith on the race’s final restart and settled for second, while Newton, frustrated with his seventh-place result, showed his displeasure with Fultz both with a door-slam on the cool-down lap and a verbal altercation following the race.
“The 54 got me sideways in the dogleg and when we went into (turn) three, he just dumped me,” Newton told 51. “He said I came down on him, but I gave him 20 feet. I was going to race him on the outside the last 10 laps for the win. He flat out dumped me. He knew I was going to race him hard on the outside and he just finished me off.”
Fultz, who was in search of his first career PASS South victory, saw things differently from his No. 54 car.
“Once I got up underneath there, he got into me and we both went up the track,” said Fultz. “He was kind of crammed to the bottom trying to get down. We touched and it knocked my front end and he went around. That’s not the way we race, but you can’t wait because Zane was right there and it was time to go.
“When somebody gets along side you, you’ve got to give them room. I gave them room, but they’re always going to look at it different. It’s a 50/50 race and we’re going for the room. When someone’s on the inside of me, I don’t cram down or I get turned around.”
Newton led the opening 55 laps before Garrett Campbell, a past UARA Late Model Stock winner at Concord, took over the top spot. Campbell’s lead was eliminated when the yellow flag flew on lap 93. Newton restarted to Campbell’s outside and used a speedy restart to reclaim the lead.
With 20 laps to go, Fultz caught Newton and the two set up their duel for the lead. Behind them, however, Smith was biding his time. Smith rode inside the top five throughout the race and found himself in position to win in the closing laps – an impressive feat for a driver who had never seen the tricky Concord triangle before Thursday’s practice sessions.
“We knew about this place, but we just came here trying to be consistent,” said Smith. “We qualified eighth, but I knew we’d be good in the race and we were.”
After winning the Daniel Boone Classic two weeks prior at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee, Smith used the tangle in his windshield to score a second-straight PASS South win.
“One word, unbelievable. I just don’t get how I won that won. Especially two in a row. That’s just insane.”
Fultz was able to hang on to finish second, while Spencer Davis rallied late to finish third. Jared Irvan was fourth, while Tate Fogleman overcame a mid-race slap of the wall to finish fifth.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield
– Photo Credits: Speed51.com