IRVINGTON, Ala. — Having sat dormant since August, the drivers of the Pro Late Model division at Mobile International Speedway (MIS) are set to shake the off-season rust and get back to racing this weekend for the season-opening Pepsi 100.
Saturday night’s race offers a clean slate for the drivers of this always popular series, and a chance for a new champion when all is said and done in September. In a sense, it’s like the first day of school—but a similar division foe will be playing the role of teacher: Helena, Mississippi’s Josh Bragg.
Winning his third PLM championship in as many years following a ninth-place finish in the 2014 season finale, Bragg enters Saturday night’s Pepsi 100 looking to defend his crown and add yet another championship trophy to his ever-growing collection. With multiple wins under his belt last year, Bragg will most certainly be the man to beat all season long.
Leading the charge of drivers looking to dethrone Bragg is Wayne “Junior” Niedecken. Having also found victory lane multiple times during the 2014 season, the Florida-based driver missed out on the season championship by a scant four points. Having shown the ability to win, and be incredibly consistent in the process, the veteran driver certainly possesses the skills needed to finish one position higher in the points standings at season’s end.
Other drivers to watch for the 2015 season include Mobile’s Dustin Smith, who finished third in the 2014 championship standings; as well as youngster Ronnie Osmer.
As part of the sweeping changes announced for multiple divisions during the off-season, the Pro Late Model division as a whole will race a total of four times during the 2015 season. Including Saturday night’s season-opening 100-lap affair, the division will race a total of five times at MIS between now and September.
After a successful run last year, the always popular double feature nights will once again make up the bulk of the schedule; as the Pro Late Models will compete in a total of three 20/30-lap doubleheaders on June 13, June 27 and July 11.
Following a one-month break, their champion will be crowned following a 100-lap race during Championship Night on September 5.
Although what the season holds for the drivers of the Pro Late Models is yet to be known, what is known; however, is that racing fans in the Central Gulf Coast region can expect to see more of the same exciting and extremely competitive action that they have witnessed from the division in recent years.
To add to what will already be a great night of racing, the Pro Late Model division will share the track with three other local divisions on Saturday night, as the crucial summer swing of the schedule gets underway Saturday night at Alabama’s fastest half-mile.
The last time the Pro Truck division raced at MIS, way back on March 21, fans in attendance were treated to a coming out of sorts for Mobile’s Jake Moore during Mosquito Patch Night.
Starting from the rear, it took Moore just 11 laps to catch then-leader and defending champion Okie Mason for the top spot. Following an epic duel between the rookie and the cagey veteran, Moore would prevail on lap 21 and the rest was history for the young driver who beat Jay Jay Day to the line to secure his first win at MIS.
With the long break about to be a thing of the past, Day and Mason — who have been the most dominant drivers in the division in recent seasons — look to take back control of the popular series before Moore can pad his four-point lead atop the points standings.
With early-season momentum on the line, it will be interesting to see if the youth movement of the division prevails, or if the cagey veterans take back what has been theirs recently.
Following his second win of the season two weeks ago, Jason Smith has added his name to the list of favorites in the always competitive Sportsmen division at MIS. After scoring no points during the season-opener; however, the Gulfport, Mississippi native sits fourth in the series standings and is 82 points behind leader Lee “Red Dog” Reynolds.
For Reynolds, the start of the 2015 season has gone better than expected after being dealt some serious adversity. Having to build a new car during the off-season – which wasn’t finished until two weeks ago – the Theodore (Ala.) native started the season by competing in Brandon Tipton’s No. 88 ride. Despite driving an unfamiliar car, Reynolds started the season with three consecutive top-five finishes—which has placed him at the top of the standings with a 35-point cushion over Dayton Sidner.
As spring turns to summer in Southern Alabama, and the temperatures rise, such will also be the case on the track for the drivers of the Sportsmen division; as Reynolds, Smith and Sidner look to take control of this extremely competitive division.
Rounding out Saturday night’s schedule will be a 20-lap feature for the drivers of the Bomber division.
Two weeks ago, Matt Jackson and the No. 22 Kane Motorsports stable secured their second win of the season in what has been a changing of the guard for the division thus far in 2015.
After being dominated heavily by BJ Leytham one year ago, a streak that included winning all but one of the races, the division has been blown wide open as a total of two different drivers have visited victory lane in the three events competed so far.
With his two wins to start the season, Jackson leads the division’s standings by a scant 10 points over Rusty Powell, Jr—a gap which the Citronelle (Ala.) native looks to add to Saturday night.
With a total of four divisions in action, and plenty of bragging rights and momentum on the line as the summer stretch of the schedule nears, Saturday night’s slate of racing action at Mobile International Speedway offers plenty to see. The jam-packed night of racing action is set to begin at 7pm with heat races from the Sportsmen and Bombers, as well as three features.
-Mobile International Speedway Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com