Week number four of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series racing action at New Smyrna Speedway saw track officials go into “hurry up mode” as rain was approaching from the north. But all racing was completed with only a light drizzle during the last race of the night as the expected precipitation actually dissipated before it ever reached the New Smyrna area. The kids also had a great time during the brief intermission as the Central Florida Raceway Ministry put on a big Easter Egg hunt behind the grandstands.
For the third time this year, the Sportsman cars were out in force with 18 checking in this week, seven of them alone out of the Sheppard Racing Enterprises shop in Deland. Unfortunately the cars assigned to Derrick Wood and Rex “Boneman” Hollinger suffered mechanical ills during practice and could not compete. That left 16 drivers to slug it out in a pair of heat races to set the starting field for the 25-lap feature. Those heat wins were taken by Donny Williams and New Hampshire visitor Sandy Lee driving the car Michael Seay won with on opening night March 14th.
The main event saw Patrick Thomas of Orlando on the pole flanked by Austin Howell and Thomas quickly jumped out to a big advantage as a host of cars started a spirited battle for second behind him. Lap four saw Daniel Conlin, Jr. get tapped into a spin by Ron Gustafson in turn one. Timmy Todd,, Jr. also got a piece of the action but all were able to continue although Conlin had to pit for some hasty repairs while Gustafson was penalized to the rear of the restart line-up.
Thomas continued to hold court up front as Junior Beckner moved up to second following the restart while Lee was up to fourth after starting eighth.
George Gorham, Jr. was running third when something happened to his car and he pounded the turn three wall. Gorham was OK but his night was over.
Thomas was untouchable the rest of the way as Beckner kept him in sight but could never mount a challenge. Lee was running third but lost his brakes in the late going allowing Williams to move by and claim the final podium spot with Lee fourth and Richard Goodrich having a solid run to fifth. Sixth through tenth were Howell, Steve Barnes, Conlin, Todd and Gustafson. Rounding out the finishers were Dave Helliwell, Brandon Christian, George Helliwell, Mike Dahm, Gorham and R. J. Glaser.
Colby Clements led the opening pair of laps in the Pro Late Model feature before Blaise Hetznecker took over for one lap only to see a high-flying Michael Lira zip past to take the top spot on lap four. This one nearly made it all the way under green but a big tangle on lap 22 between Clements and Caesar Bacarella in turn two saw Clement’s car have to go off in the “cradle” between the Tim’s Automotive and Inferno Performance wreckers. Bacarella continued but from the back of the restart line-up.
Lap 23 saw Zach Jarrell go for a spin off turn two courtesy of Noah Cornman then the same duo tangled again in nearly the same spot just after the restart. Both kept going with minimal damage.
Lira led the remaining two laps with ease in his Gary Yeomans Ford entry to claim his first win of the year over point leader Rich Clouser. Bacarrella charged back to a third place finish ahead of Hetznecker and Cornman. Jarrell, Tommy Mackey, Charles Robholm and Clements completed the finishers.
Matt Jarrett led the opening circuit of the Modified feature but Jerry “The Hammer” Symons wasted little time moving to the front to lead the final 24 laps to post his second straight win in the American Auto, Tires & Service/Kelly Roofing Special. The race was slowed only once for a lap eight spin by Matt Wheeler. Alan Bruns, who had been holding off a big pack of cars for third spot despite a big shower of sparks in the corners, pitted at this point to try and figure out what was wrong. He came back out but made only a lap before calling it a night with and apparent problem with the right front suspension.
Symons was in a class to himself as heat winner Matthew Green moved into second only to fall off the pace and head pit side on lap 15. Following Symons to the checkered flag were Jarrett, James Ellis and Scott Millar who earned the “Hard Charger Award” coming from eighth on the starting grid to fourth at the finish. Wheeler claimed fifth trailed by Jim Higginbotham, Green, Bruns, George Dahm and Mike Dahm.
Shane Sutorus led all but the first lap to become the fourth different winner in the four Bomber features held this year driving in his Saturn station wagon. Taking second in the all green flag affair was Warren Howie although he took the checker sliding sideways past the flag stand. Third went to Aaron Overman followed by Megan Matheny, Robert Donaly, Charlie King and James Skinner. Sutorus also won the heat race.
Next week in the first Fan Appreciation night of the year featuring $5 General Admission. The Sunshine Seamless Gutters Mini Stocks go for 50 laps as will the Super Stocks, plus the Bombers will be in action and there will be the first Spectator Race of the year.
– New Smyrna Speedway Release
Photo Credit: Jim Jones