KEENE SPEEDS TO 50-LAP PRO LATE MODEL WIN AT NEW SMYRNA SPEEDWAY
5-19-2014 New Smyrna Speedway
A great field of 18 Pro Late Models filled the pits Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway for their second 50-lap event of the year, but when all was said and done, Daniel Keene, Jr. had pretty much dominated the evening. Keene, who hails from Weeki Wachee, came out 11th for qualifying and blistered the track with a time of 17.635 seconds, over two-tenths of a second quicker than Jacksonville driver Ray Black, Jr. who ran a 17.849 second lap. Cody Blair of Winter Park was third fastest at 17.880 seconds. Keene drew a six for the inversion placing he and Black in row three for the start while Ricky Anderson and Jarrett Snowden lined up on the front row. Snowden moved out to the early lead only to see Tyler Thomas loop the Tim Russell Driver Development car in turn two during lap three. On the restart, Cody Blair drove by Snowden for the top spot but it was Keene on the charge, taking the lead for good on lap ten. Being in front of everyone else would prove to be advantageous for Keene in this race. Lap 16 produced the second yellow flag as Michael Williams did a solo spin in turn one. A lap after the restart, a multi-car tangle took place in turn four involving Alan Bruns, Tyler Audie and Rich Clouser. Clouser's car was towed to the pits but he would return to the fray a bit later, although eight laps down.
Keene continued to set the pace, leading easily. Just as the field took the crossed flags for half-way at lap 25, Blair and Black tangled on the front stretch. David Rogers had nowhere to go and he plowed into Blair's machine as Will Carroll hit Rogers' car from behind. Both Blair and Rogers were done for the night. Black had minimal damage but was sent to the rear of the field for the restart. Carroll's car suffered some front end damage but he checked the car out after the red flag period was over and determined it to be just cosmetic and he continued without pitting.
On the restart, Bruns and Williams tangled going into turn three. Williams' car hit the wall a ton going backwards, hard enough to split the fuel cell open but fortunately there was no fire although track crews had to burn off the spillage before racing could continue. Keene led easily the remaining distance slowed only by a lap 37 caution as Chad Pierce spun and hit the turn one wall. Will Carroll did an incredible job with his damaged machine as he drove steadily into second place late in the going although Carroll, of Warrambool, Victoria, Austrailia, had nothing in the end for Keene who became the fourth different winner in four Pro Late races this year. Despite his earlier miscue, Tyler Thomas turned in an outstanding performance to round out the podium. 18-year-old Thomas, of Collinsville, OK, was making his first-ever race start in a full-bodied Late Model stock car having previously competed in Karts, Midgets and, most recently in Sprint Cars, mostly on dirt tracks. Car owner Tim Russell was very impressed and said "Keep your eye on this kid, he's going places" after the races were over.
Ricky Anderson drove a steady race to claim fourth spot just ahead of Black who came back from the penalty to the rear of the field to net fifth place. Sixth through tenth were Jerry Symons, Snowden, Anthony Sergi, Daniel Miller and Colby Clements. Also running at the finish were Zach Jarrell, Audie and Clouser who actually picked up five spots by making repairs and coming back out to turn some laps in his new car. Rounding out the field but not running at the finish were Pierce, Blair, Rogers, Bruns and Williams.
Although Chris Brannon led every lap of the E-Modified feature, it was not an easy victory as he had to fight off the challenges of both Cody Blair and Jarrett Korpi the entire distance in what proved to be the best race of the night. The caution waved just once as Matthew Green looped his car in turn four on lap 15 just as the engine let go in Jon Compagnone's car in turn one. On the restart, Chad Pierce found the turn one wall, ending his night. From that point it was a crowd-pleasing three-way battle with Brannon holding on over Blair and Korpi. Green recovered to finish fourth ahead of Roger Benton. Completing the finishers were Jim Higginbotham, Matt Wheeler, Earl Beckner, Mike Dahm, Pierce and Compagnone.
David Russell led the opening ten laps of the Mini Stock feature race but could not hold off a hard-charging Ted Vulpius who took over the front position on lap 11. Russell would subsequently bring out the caution as his car slowed to a stop on lap 17 putting him out of the running. A late race yellow flag for a spin by Daniel Brown did not slow Vulpius as he claimed his second win of the year over Jeff White, who made a great charge to second after the final restart. Pat Wells was third ahead of Jason Reynolds and Tyler Simpson. Rounding out the top ten were Reid Christiensen, Brad Blanton, Brown, Mark Broat and Russell. Levi Hammond did not start.
Mike Trocki made his second start driving Butch Herdegen's car in the Super Stock feature, and, for a second time, found himself in victory lane. J. T. Tippins led the first three laps before Trocki made a bold three-wide pass on the backstretch to take over and lead the remaining distance. The only caution of the race came on lap 19 for a slowing Joe Gerard who was able to figure out his problem and continue. Trocki took the checker well in front of Mike Amato who scored his best finish of the year. Shannon Kelly was third trailed by Becca Samsoe and Tippins. Rounding out the finishers were Preston Hunt, Gerard, Robert Pence, Warren Schurr, Mike Dahm and George Dahm. Aaron Overman won his first career race in the Strictly Stocks over Johnathon Murphy.
There will be no racing next Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway as all the action will be taking place at Orlando SpeedWorld for the Spring Crash-A-Rama. All the events there including the world famous School Bus Figure-8 race and RV Demo Derby start at 7:30 pm on May 24th.