On Mother’s Day weekend at Mobile International Speedway, Junior Niedecken evoked both cheers and tears from the crowd on hand to watch the Deep South veteran of 35 years grab what may be the most emotional victory of his career.
Niedecken was unable to get a full sentence out during his post-race interview before stopping to wipe away tears. “My mom passed away just this very week. I can’t put it into words what this means for me. She was such a big part of my life. This whole night is for her.”
Niedecken’s mother passed away at the start of the week. Niedecken and his family, including father and inaugural Snowball Derby champion Wayne Sr., had only just said their final farewells before Junior loaded up for the Gulf Coast race weekend.
Niedecken’s victory was just one of many interesting storylines that made up the Mobile event. Despite having only a 14-car field that ran the first 72 laps under green before Ronnie Osmer’s spin triggered the first yellow. From there, the final 28 laps were some of the most exciting fans in Mobile have seen in recent memory.
Texas’ Derek Scott Jr had dominated the race since the drop of the green flag, passing pole sitter Niedecken on the outside in the first corner and never being seriously challenged until that first yellow. It was unlikely that anyone would have caught Scott in the closing laps had it gone green to the finish as he had opened up a half-track lead.
But the race of course did not go green to the finish and as soon as the green was unfurled after the first yellow, Scott was promptly shuffled to the rear of the field. Justin South took over the lead for just a few laps, but then Niedecken and fast qualifier Riley Thornton made quick work of the Pensacola winner.
Thornton edged ahead of Niedecken following a caution on lap 91, but Niedecken reeled him back in quickly and they raced door to door for a few circuits. Just as Niedecken had gone back to the lead, Thornton tried a crossover but oversteered his car and spun in turn four.
Niedecken’s worries were by no means done as Ryan Luza would edge ahead on the final two restarts, but Niedecken made a nice slide job exiting turn four coming to the white and won by two carlengths.
“I didn’t worry at all about the first lap, just the last lap,” Niedecken explained after taking a few minutes to compose himself. “Those green-white-checkers were killing us. The car really wouldn’t get going until about three laps after a restart. But it worked out anyway. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to win one of these long races; the crew deserves all the credit.”
“I obviously wish we could have been a bit better on that last restart,” said Luza, who had started shotgun on the field. “But we came out this weekend and got two second place finishes. It’s a good sign that we should keep doing what we’re doing. Junior is a really good driver so no shame not being able to get him. We’ll be getting plenty of wins soon if we can keep this up.”
In the support divisions, Bubba Pollard, crew chiefing this weekend for Thornton, hopped in a Pro-Truck for the second time this season and walked away with his second victory in that division this season. Connor Okrzesik won the Sportsman feature and B.J. Leytham won the Bomber feature.
The Gulf Coast will roar back to action on May 22nd and 23rd as the Southern Super Series makes its second weekend swing through the Pensacola-Mobile area.
Pro Late Model Results
|1||99||Wayne Niedecken, Jr.||100|
|5||01||Derek Scott, Jr.||100|