Daytona Dodge Family Night produced loads of fun (and candy) for the kids during the Halloween “Trunk or Treat” and costume contest at intermission Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway while race fans were treated to some great NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action as well.
A pair of 50-lap races were on the docket for the Open Modifieds and the Mini Stocks and both would prove to be very interesting.
The Open Modified event would be the final one for the 2014 season and decide the point championship. Jerry “The Hammer” Symons had won all three earlier events this year and made himself the early favorite by setting quick time over a 14 car field with a lap of 18.606 seconds. Tank Tucker was second quick at 18.698 ahead of Dillon Wood’s 18.712 lap. Wood was impressive as the young racer was making his first appearance on asphalt having run on dirt throughout his early career.
Symons would draw a six for the inversion placing he and Tucker on the third row for the start with Matt Jarrett and Matt Wheeler starting from the front row. On the initial start, Tucker got too low going into turn one and spun but did not hit (or get hit) anything and restarted the race. The second try saw Wood and Alan Bruns get together putting Bruns into the turn two wall and out of the running before a lap could be completed. Bruns was upset over Wood’s “over-aggressiveness” but shrugged off the incident and said he’s be back for the Governor’s Cup weekend with both his Modified and Pro Late Model.
The third start was the charm as Jarrett led the opening trio of circuits before Wood drove by to assume the lead. Wood’s car suddenly slowed on lap 17 and he headed for the pits as Jarrett once again assumed the point for five more laps before Symons stormed by on lap 22 and headed off into the night, easily the fastest car on the track.
Bruce Bennett was on the charge and took second from Jarrett on lap 40 while Symons seemingly had checked out on the field. That all changed on lap 45 when Symons ran over an exhaust pipe that had fallen off the car of Matthew Green going into turn one. That broke the front strut on Symons’ car and he brushed the wall also flattening the right front tire. The incident brought out the first caution of the race as Symons slowly made his way to the pits and out of the event.
Bennett had the point for the start but looked to apparently miss a shift and that stacked the frontrunners up three wide going into turn one with Bennett nudging into Ricky Moxley causing Moxley to spin. Moxley would be forced out with a broken hub as a result of the contact.
Tank Tucker powered his way to the front on the restart and led the rest of the way to score his first win of the year while Jarrett finally got some recent mechanical gremlins behind him with a solid run for second. Bennett rebounded to take the show spot in front of Wheeler and Green, who was driving Alan Bruns’ back-up car. Sixth through tenth were Art Kunzeman, Symons,
Moxley, Mike Dahm and Robert Glover with Shain Held, Wood and Bruns completing the finishers. Kurt Jett did not compete after blowing an engine in warm-ups.
Despite his late misfortune, Symons still took home the 2014 Open Modified point championship by 12 markers over Moxley with Bruns 14 behind Symons in third.
Fifteen Mini Stocks were in the house and it was Brooksville’s James Ellis was quickest in time trials at 20.670 seconds trailed closely by Robbie Yoakam’s 20.755 lap and the 20.830 circuit for “Mr. Mini Stock” Ted Vulpius. Ellis would draw a seven for the inversion placing Chris Hooker on the pole with veteran Rick Sirmans on the outside of row one.
Things got crazy in a hurry as Hooker got loose and spun in turn two just after the green flag flew. After the dust settled, the cars of Hooker, Brad Blanton, Shaun Cater, Pat Wells, Jamie Dixson and Jason Reynolds had stacked up in a pile. Blanton and Reynolds were done for the evening as was point leader Wells who tried to return to the track but his car had suffered too much damage. Cater pitted for extensive repairs while Dixson continued with a car that looked like a can opener had been used on the right side creating a gaping hole in the bodywork. Hooker was able to return to action without pitting and could have restarted on the pole but elected to start from the back with a car that was “way too loose.”
With no laps in the books and Blanton out with Hooker going to the rear, Vulpius found himself on the pole and made that pay off by taking the lead at the onset with Ellis on his tail. Yoakam joined in for a crowd pleasing three-way battle that lasted until lap 31 when an oil line apparently broke on Yoakam’s car going into turn one bringing out the caution. Yoakam’s crew tried to effect repairs but he was eventually forced to retire from the event.
Vulpius continued to lead on the restart but Ellis’ car was working much better on the low side of the track and he eventually drove by Vulpius for the lead on lap 35. The rest of the race ran caution-free and Ellis took his second win of the year here in just three starts. Vulpius held on for second while Hooker’s car finally came to him and he made a late charge to third at the checker followed by Cater and David Russell. Russell’s fifth place finish, coupled with Wells’ DNF sees point leader Well just six markers ahead of Russell going into the final point night next week.
Dixson drove his “air conditioned” machine to sixth spot trailed by Mark Broat and Dennis Jones, the only cars left running. Completing the finishers were Yoakam, Sirmans, Wells, Blanton, Reynolds and Reid Christienson. Tyler Simpson, a six-time winner this year, blew his powerplant in practice and was done before sunset.
Tim Sargent led the first pair of laps in the 25-lap Sportsman feature before being passed by Derrick Wood. Wood held the point but found himself in a great side-by-side battle with Austin Carr until Carr spun out while trying to make a daring low-side pass on lap 20 bringing out the caution.
Wood led the remaining distance to score his second win of the year over Sandy Lee, Donny Williams, Carr and Jason Foster. Rounding out the finishers were Sargent, John Buzinec, Ron Gustafson and D. J. Farr.
Saturns finished 1-2 and 4 in the Strictly Stock feature as once again Zachary Curtis dominated the action for his fifth win in a row and tenth of the season. Shane Sutorus took second with Mark Shukwit’s Chevy in third ahead of Greg Bruce who was out for the first time in another Saturn. Jimmy Barron was fifth in front of Aaron Overman.
Next week is Championship Night at New Smyrna Speedway presented by American Auto & Tire of New Smyrna Beach. The Pro Late Models will go for 50 laps while the point titles will be decided in the E-Modifieds, Sportsman, Mini Stock, Super Stock and Strictly Stock classes. A three-wheel bicycle race will be held at intermission featuring drivers David Rogers, Tim Russell, Rich Clouser, Jerry “The Hammer” Symons and Zach Jarrell. The track will then be dark until the Governor’s Cup weekend, November 21-23.