It was an absolutely gorgeous day Sunday at Auburndale Speedway as the track hosted the season finale for the Sunoco Super Late Model Series and the fans were treated to a great race featuring former ‘legendary” drivers along with features in six other classes.
Qualifying for the Sunoco 100 presented by Speedway Auto Sales was held on Saturday with Jesse Dutilly of Bradenton setting the quick time with a lap of 13.404 seconds, nearly a tenth of a second faster than second qualifier Nick Neri’s lap of 14.499. George Gorham, Jr., Joe Boyd and Jon Guy rounded out the top five in time trials. The top eight from qualifying had eight youngsters from the grandstands pick Jeg’s hats that had the top eight starting positions on them and it was Patrick Staropoli getting “hat number one” to place himself on the pole flanked by Gorham with Dutilly’s hat coming up with the number three for third starting spot.
Staropoli grabbed the front spot from the pole with Dutilly and Gorham right behind him. Dutilly pounced on Staropoli and took over the lead on lap 15 with Gorham following into second. Lap 20 saw a multi-car tangle that sent Staropoli, Neri and Boyd to the pits for repairs. All returned to action although having to start from the rear of the restart grid. Just after the restart Billy Bigley, Jr. was forced up high near the wall on the front stretch. As he checked up, several cars were involved in the ensuing “accordion effect” and received some damage including Shane Sawyer, David Green and 13-year-old Giovanni Bromante. The young driver from Long Island, NY was making his first Super Late Model start ever after winning his division’s championship at the Legend Car “Summer Shootout” at Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway. Sawyer was done for the day while the other two drivers returned.
At this point the field settled into some great green flag racing as Gorham began to hound Dutilly big time finally moving by for the lead on lap 48. At half way the top ten were Gorham, Dutilly, Dylan Bigley, Michael Atwell, Joe Winchell, Boyd, Guy, Neri, Sean Lemaster and Troy McNabb. The yellow was unfurled on lap 56 for a spin by Bromante in turn four. Winchell had been on the move and he took fourth spot on the restart only to see Boyd spin in turn two on lap 58. Following the return to green flag racing, Gorham continued to lead Dutilly, Dylan Bigley and Winchell until the next caution when Boyd again looped his machine in turn two. Two laps after the restart it was Winchell spinning out of fourth in turn three just after Dutilly had inched ahead of Gorham at the stripe to lead that lap.
When the race restarted, Atwell sped into second allowing Dutilly to put some distance on the field. Gorham managed to get back by Atwell and move to second but he ran out of time as he caught Dutilly with two laps to go but was unable to mount a challenge. Dutilly, sporting a special Breast Cancer Awareness Month pink/white and black paint job on his racer, grabbed yet another win and secured the 2016 Sunoco Super Late Model Series title.
Gorham was pleased with his second place effort for a “backyard low shoestring budget team” while Neri raced hard with a damaged car to claim the final position on the podium. Despite all kinds of problems during the race, Joe Boyd caught fire over the final few laps and took a hard-fought fourth just front of a resurgent Staropoli. Guy was sixth as Winchell, Dylan Bigley, Lemaster and Jeff Firestine rounded out the top ten.
One of the big treats of the day was the “Race of Champions” that featured nine retired/semi-retired racing legends from all over Florida driving V-8 Bomber cars. The race ended up being highly entertaining as most of these “old-timers” showed they hadn’t lost a step. Former multi-time Auburndale Speedway track champion Richard Brinson snared the early advantage as the other “oldies but goodies” really began to dice for position behind him.
Another former Auburndale many-time champion, Westley Bass, moved up to challenge Brinson and actually forged ahead at the line as the white flag was displayed but Brinson put his foot to the floor and reclaimed the lead and the win, yet another victory for the storied Brinson family here at Auburndale, a track that was known as Winter Haven Speedway when family patriarch Rudy Brinson raced to many feature wins and championships. Brinson was driving the car of Chris Narramore, Jr. who was prompty “fired” by his dad and car owner Chris, Sr. as he tried to hire Brinson for the 2017 season. Bass took second ahead of Jeff “Junkyard Dog” Warren, Perry Lovelady, Mike McCrary, Steven Brack, Willie Kennedy and Billy Barham, Jr. Two top South Florida stars of the 60s-70s-80s, Bobby Henry and Buddy Ryan, were forced out early as their mounts suffered mechanical issues.
The V-8 Biomber feature was an interesting one as Saturday winner Kyle Peters started the race from the pole but jumped the start. Realizing what he had done, Peters drove to the infield, waited for the field to pass by, then rejoined the race at the tail of the pack. James Wright III grabbed the lead as Peters got the caution flag he needed on the fifth lap as water had to be cleaned up in turn two. By lap 19 of the 30-lap contest Peters had worked his way up to fourth. With five laps to go, second-running David Purvis was spun by Carl Thompson, Jr. who “tapped out” saying the incident was his fault. Purvis restarted in second but chose to stay behind Wright for the restart allowing Peters to restart from the outside of row one. Peters wasted little time getting by Wright and sailed off to his second victory of the weekend. Although Wright finished runner-up for the second day in a row, his efforts were enough to earn him the 2016 V-8 Bomber championship. Aaron Holmes crossed the stripe in third but was set down in tech moving Purvis up to third at the finish followed by Chris Narramore, Jr. and Zach Briggs. Rounding out the finishers were Thompson, Jamie Kennedy, Adam Briggs, Danny Burchfield, Bobby Mobley, Glen Swanson, Mike Bruno, Preston Davis and Holmes.
The Mod Minis made their only appearance of the weekend on Sunday and this one turned into a caution-filled slugfest. Through it all, Keith Roggen held point out front as he scored the win over 2016 champion Chris Spring, Kristin Clements, David Meyers, Jr., Rachelle Rudolph, Cody Coffman, Chuck Frazier, Kenny Uhl, Jr, Christian Pelfrey and Jimmy Frazier.
The Legend Car feature was another good one as Devin McLeod secured the early lead before caution flew on lap two as Mitch Verhaagh hit Donovan Ponder, sending him into a wild spin in turn one. Verhaagh’s car was too damaged to continue but Ponder pitted and returned to the track. McLeod held point until lap 6 when he was passed by Dave Gleason. McLeod would not go away and he re-took the point on lap 13. On lap 24, Gleason tried to move inside of McLeod in turn one and the two tangled in a cloud of smoke. Both were sent to the rear for the restart as Ponder inherited the lead and never looked back as he sped to a big win despite a bent left rear wheel from his altercation with Verhaagh. Gleason drove back to second at the finish as McLeod dropped out with a flat tire. Alan Hiefnar wound up third trailed by John Inman, Cale Nolen, McLeod, Verhaagh and Bob Wilson.
Track champion Chris Narramore, Sr. dominated from the pole to win his upteenth Mini Stock feature of the year. To celebrate, Narramore drew a 50/50 ticket from those that had been sold by the end of his feature and awarded that lucky fan with $50. Tony Davidson was second ahead of Fred Martin, Donald Gatlin and Bruce Cozad. Chuck Frazier, John Cummins, Jr., Danny Leet, Colt Cecil and David Meyers, Jr. rounded out the top ten.
Young Dustin Wilson continued his recent great run in the Scrambler class as he led all the way for his third straight feature win. But that wasn’t the big story though. Second finisher Kyle Little and his team had thrashed all night to put a different engine in his car after problems were discovered after he finished second Saturday night. In tech after the race, Little was disqualified due to an illegal over-sized valve body. That moved Nicole Green up to second in the finishing order. Green had been nine points back of Little in the point standings so it will be interesting to see the final tally for the class when the points are released later this week. William Kerns ended up in third place followed by Anthony Carroll, Josh Clouse and Little.
Russell Bush led all the way in the Mini Cup feature as he added to his big point lead and secured the 2016 Mini Cup title. Clay Samuels took second over Adam Briggs, Bill Rychel, Brey Holmes and Doug Higbie.
OFFICIAL FINISH – SUNOCO 100 SUPER LATE MODELS – 10/23/16:
1) Jesse Dutilly, Bradenton #30
2) George Gorham, Jr., Auburndale #10
3) Nick Neri, Palmetto #17
4) Joe Boyd, Riverview #5
5) Patrick Staropoli, Miami #97
6) Jonathan Guy, Auburndale #42
7) Joe Winchell, Dade City #15
8) Dylan Bigley, Naples #128
9) Sean Lemaster, Naples #15L
10) Jeff Firestine, Venice #158
11) David Weaver, Plantation #11
12) John Coffman, Live Oak #58
13) Robert Ford, Lake City #57
14) Michael Atwell, Naples #51 – DNF
15) Billy Bigley, Jr. Naples #28 – DNF
16) Giovanni Bromante, Long Island, NY #77 – DNF
17) Troy McNabb, Naples #07X – DNF
18) David Green, Ft. Pierce #12D – DNF
19) Shane Sawyer, West Palm Beach #38 – DNF
RACE OF CHAMPIONS – 10/23/16:
1) Richard Brinson #77 (Auburndale, Lakeland, Golden Gate Speedways)
2) Westley Bass #11 (Auburndale, Lakeland, Golden Gate Speedways)
3) Jeff Warren #7 (Auburndale Speedway)
4) Perry Lovelady #14 (Auburndale, Lakeland, Golden Gate, Sunshine Speedways &
5) Mike McCrary #M75 (Hialeah, Palm Beach, Miami-Hollywood, Auburndale, Lakeland, Golden Gate Speedways & more)
6) Steven Brack #57 (Hialeah Speedway)
7) Willie Kennedy ((Auburndale, Lakeland, Golden Gate Speedways & more)
8) Billy Barham, Jr. #25 (Hialeah, Palm Beach and Miami-Hollywood Speedways)
9) Buddy Ryan #33 (Hialeah, Palm Beach and Miami-Hollywood Speedways & more)
10) Bobby Henry #38Z (Hialeah, Palm Beach and Miami-Hollywood Speedways &