Mason Diaz held off all comers in a furious and tense finish to the Pro Late Model 100-lap feature in the 52nd Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing to make his way to New Smyrna Speedway (FL) victory lane.
Diaz scored the win on Friday, the biggest of his Late Model career, by holding off a former NASCAR Cup Series veteran.
Mason Diaz started fifth in the 100-lap feature, following an eight-car invert. The Virginia native quickly raced his way into the lead, passing Harold Crooms for the top spot on lap 12.
Diaz led the rest of the way, but the race was anything but a weekend cruise. First, he dueled with the best driver throughout the World Series in the Pro Late Model division, Cole Anderson. Over an extended green flag run, Anderson chased Diaz around the Florida half-mile, but could not do anything to take the lead.
“I thought my teammate might have something for [Diaz],” second-place finisher Mike Skinner said about Anderson. “But that didn’t work out.”
It didn’t work out after Skinner surged late in the race. The former Daytona 500 pole-sitter went three-wide with Diaz and Anderson on a lap 84 restart. Anderson dropped into the field in the chaos and was eventually caught up in a multi-car incident.
On the ensuing restart, Skinner again challenged Diaz, as the duo traded paint for the top spot. Diaz held firm, protecting his lead and driving away for the win.
“Mike Skinner gave me a hard battle at the end,” Diaz said. “I was not ready for it. If the late-race caution hadn’t happened, it probably wouldn’t have happened, but cautions breed cautions.
“That last restart, he did give me a few bumps and tried to get around me,” Diaz added. “I just held the outside and drove away from him.”
“He had a great car,” Skinner said. “I thought, maybe on cold tires, if I could ever get beside him going into three there and make the pass, I felt like I could make the bumper wide enough where he was going to have to move me.
“He had a good enough car, I’m sure he could have got that done,” Skinner added. “Hats off to them guys, they had a great car.”
Michael Clancy, Jr. finished third in the race after starting seventh. He played the long game to secure a strong podium finish.
“Our real plan today was just saving tires,” Clancy said. “Keeping our car clean and not messing up the nose or anything. We didn’t mess up any of the aerodynamics, and everything just worked in our favor. We missed a bunch of wrecks, and it was a really good night.”
The Pro Late Models will return tomorrow night for the finale of the 2018 World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Trackside Now will go live at 1:30 P.M. Saturday for championship night, headlined by the 100-lap Super Late Model finale. Cole Anderson remains the Pro Late Model points leader.
To recap the racing from Night #8 at New Smyrna Speedway, click here to visit Trackside Now.