Tyler Audie Survives for First Pro Late Model win
3-24-2014 New Smyrna Speedway
Just a few years ago Tyler Audie was racing on the Quarter Midget track located between turns one and two at New Smyrna Speedway. Recently moving up to the Pro Late Model class on the big high-banked half mile track, Audiesurprised everyone, including himself, by standing in victory lane Saturday night following a wild and controversial season-opening 50 lap race for the Pro Late Models as a new season of weekly NASCAR Whelan All-America Racing Series action began.
Cody Blair topped the 16-car field in time trials with a lap of 17.976, the only driver to go under 18 seconds. Jerry Symons was second in qualifying followed by Ricky Anderson and William Carroll. That quartet would start in
reverse order for the feature as Blair pulled the four pill placing Carroll on the pole for the start of the race. The original start was called back after Donnie Varcoe and Chris Brannon tangled up going into turn one, however both
were able to continue. Ricky Anderson zipped out to the early lead once the race went green only to see the caution displayed for the first time on lap nine as Jerry Symons went for a spin off the bumper of Canadian visitor Alex Guenette. David Rogers, subbing for his TM Ranch teammate Brad May, had nowhere to go and crashed into Symons. As "The Hammer" had his car towed to the pits, Rogers drove his car back to his pit stall where the team made repairs and got him back on track in time for the restart although his car was never quite right from that point and he later dropped from the running. Anderson continued to set the pace with Blair now a very close second until the yellow flag came out again, this time for an altercation between T. J. Duke and Daniel Miller that saw Duke's car hit the wall with both ends of the machine putting him out for the night. On the double-file restart Blair wasted little time getting to the point and started to assert himself as the car to beat. Guenette, penalized to the rear of the field for the earlier incident with Symons, was working his way back up front until he got into the third place car of Jarrett Snowden sending Snowden for a spin. Once again Guenette was sent to the back of the pack for the restart while Snowden was awarded his spot back only to see himself spun out again, this time by Carroll, just one lap after the green flag was displayed. Both cars were sent to the back this time.
At this point the field settled down for some good green flag racing. Blair held a comfortable lead while the crowd was watching Guenette quickly move his way back to the front yet again. With just four laps to go, Audie got tangled up with Dylan Martin going into turn one and the pair of rookies went for a long slide that saw Martin's car get the worst of it requiring a tow from the speedway. When the field took the green, Guenette began to make his move and dove under Blair for the lead going into turn three. Heading into turn four, the pair made contact with Blair going for a spin. Now it was time for the controversy to begin as track officials ruled Blair to be at fault as Guenette was placed at the point while Blair tagged the back of what was now a decimated field.
Ricky Anderson was not done yet as he moved in front of Guenette on the restart to take the lead back but it lasted only until the field reached turn three as Anderson and Guenette came together. Anderson's car spun down low, then back up the track where it was drilled by the unlucky Donnie Varcoe who simply had nowhere to go. Varcoe's car was a mess and needed to be hauled off the track while Anderson was able to drive his crippled machine back to the pits where his team made repairs good enough to allow him to re-enter the
fray. For his involvement in several incidents, Guenette was given the black flag and told to park his car for the rest of the event.
Now it would be a green-white-checker finish and who found himself in the lead for the first time not only in the race, but in his brief career? Tyler Audie. With just five cars left on the track, everybody figured it would be Cody
Blair's race to win but Audie had other ideas as he drove like a veteran to hold off Blair to the finish to claim his biggest win so far. Blair finished second but skipped the post-race festivities in the Gibson Truck World victory
lane as his team along with the teams of Anderson and Snowden gathered in Guenette's pit for and extended, yet reasonably calm altercation that mostly involved a lot of shouting and name-calling. Nothing would prevent Audie and his crew from a wild celebration in victory lane that was well-received by the nice crowd on hand for the evening's action.
Following Audie and Blair in third spot was Daniel Miller with Colby Clements fourth. Anderson, his car throwing sparks all over the track during the final two laps from crash damage, still managed to actually finish the race as the only other car running in fifth. Guenette was credited with sixth spot as Varcoe, Martin, Zach Jarrell and Rogers completed to top ten. Rounding out the finishers were Snowden, Carroll, Gordon Vipond, Duke, Symons and Brannon. The first feature race of the night and the 2014 regular season was for the Mini Stocks and it proved to be a real barn-burner. Jason Reynolds jumped out to an early lead that he held through lap seven when caution flew for a spin by Jeff White. On the restart it was defending Mini Stock champion David Russell taking over for a pair of laps before being overtaken by Jamie Dixson. Dixson looked to have the car to beat as the field continued under green until White spun again in turn two. Russell tapped the roof of his car letting officials know it was his "tap" that sent White around and Russell went to the rear for the restart. With just two laps left, White spun on his own again in turn two to set up a mad dash for the checker.
On the restart, Dixson and Russell got together with both going to the rear allowing Pat Wells to assume the lead. Wells led the white flag lap as it seemed like the remaining cars on the track were all capable of taking the win and were doing their best to make it happen. Russell managed to find an opening and closed on Wells coming off turn four and, in a photo finish, won by mere inches at the line. Wells was about a close a second place as you could possibly get while Mark Broat ended up third in front of Dixson and White. Rounding out the top ten were Brad Blanton, Reid Christensen, Daniel Brown, Reynolds and Tyler Simpson.
J. T. Tippins led the first three laps of the Super Stock feature before being passed by defending track title-holder Shannon Kelly. Kelly led until the first yellow flag was tossed when Becca Samsoe spun and hit the inside wall heading into turn one. There was only minor damage and she continued in the race. On the restart veteran Mike Trocki, making a rare start subbing for regular driver Butch Herdegen, took over the point as caution flew a second time for Michael Bedient's spin in turn two. Trocki was back out front on the restart until Samsoe spun again in turn one ending her night against the outside wall. Meanwhile Bobby Holley, running in the top four, called it a night with an overheating engine.
Just after the restart, Tippins' car suddenly slowed going into turn four. Jeff Colburn had to take evasive action but ended up making the wrong choice that found him running head-on into the water barrel protecting the butt-end
of the pit wall. Colburn was OK but his car was badly damaged and it caused a brief delay as track crews cleaned up the mess and put a new water barrel in place.
From that point the race ran right through to the checker with Trocki taking an easy victory over David Gould, Kelly, Danny Frye and Joe Gerard. Completing the top ten were Tippins, Mike Amato, Robert Pence, Mike Dahm and Bedient. The remaining finishers were Holley, Samsoe, Colburn and Adam Soukup. Ed Barber was also at the track but broke in hot laps and was unable to start the feature.
Diamond Jim Higginbotham led the first two laps of the E-Modified feature event but it was defending track champion Jarrett Korpi taking over on lap three to lead the rest of the way in taking the win as the 25-lapper went
green to checker. Roger Benton ended up second followed by rookie Matt Green, Higginbotham and Mike Dahm.
The Strictly Stocks also ran their entire feature under green and Johnathon Murphy became the only winner of the night to lead every lap of his race in taking the victory. Charles King, Sr. kept things close as he took second but
was never able to seriously challenge Murphy. Warren Howie picked up the third place trophy trailed by Dan Webb, Aaron Overman and Robert Skinner.
Next week the open Modified Class goes for 50 laps and $1200 to win with racing starting at 7:30 pm. Also on tap are the Sportsman cars, Super Stocks,Mini Stocks and Strictly Stocks.