The fields of cars weren’t huge but race fans got to see some awesome racing and close finishes on a windy, smoky Saturday night courtesy of huge brush fires burning to the west of the Polk County area. It was also Cinco De Mayo night and each race winner recieved a designer sombrero.
The Sunshine State Challenge Series Pro Trucks were back in town and a decent field signed in with quick time going to Myakka City driver Tommy Kelly at
14.483 seconds while Lakeland’s Cody McDuffie was second fastest at 14.615 and Donnie Burkhalter of Ocoee third quick at 14.679.
The re-draw put McDuffie and Burkhalter on the front row with Jason Lester and Kelly starting the 50-lap event from row two. McDuffie took off at the drop of the green and opened up a substantial lead over Lester, Burkhalter, Kelly and Danny Anderson as that quartet put some distance on the remaining starters. Kelly and Anderson slipped by Burkhalter on lap 16 to move up to third and fourth with Kelly sliding by Lester for second on the 24th lap and Anderson moving into the top three on lap 30 as the race looked like it might go the whole way under green.
That all changed when Pro Truck rookie William Kerns looped his mount in turn four on lap 36. That gave Kelly a shot at McDuffie but McDuffie was having none of it as he resumed his place out front with Kelly all over his tailgate.
Dakota Hunt was tapped into a turn four spin on the 43rd lap to bring out a second yellow but again McDuffie was up to the task on the restart as he led Kelly, Anderson and Billy Carlbert, Jr. Carlbert had started last in the field after bringing his truck to the track after competing in an earlier race at Showtime Speedway where the promoter there had run the Pro Truck race as the first feature to allow any drivers who wanted to the opportunity to make both races to do so. Only Carlbert gave it a shot with the machine he raced with at Showtime while Kristen Clements also made both races (finishing a career best of second at Showtime) arriving at Auburndale Speedway to run a truck out of the Chad Pierce Motorsports shop in Orlando.
On the restart, Anderson was sent into a wild, long spin off the back stretch into the infield but he managed to keep from hitting anything. For this restart, surprisingly McDuffie chose the outside line. “I saw him way up high against the wall so I dove to the low side as quickly as I could,” said Kelly.
Kelly used the low line to snatch the top spot although McDuffie ran hard in the outer line but could not re-take the lead as Kelly scored his third SSCS Pro Truck win of the year and sixth win overall for 2016.
“I’d like to thank my Master Set Tile team for all the hard work they do including Chet Grobleski, Mike Toemmes, Jeff Newman, Dillon Kelly, Rene Kelly, Tim Kelly, Rob Grant, Mykaila Vassallo and Kristen Kaiser-Bellant. Although we battled a bit of a transmission problem, we had a bad fast truck tonight,”
said Kelly. “I’d also like to thank Donnie Powers and Travis Barfield for bailing us out on our transmission issue and also Jim Maddox for all the support he has always given us and continues to give our team,” he continued.
McDuffie was upset over the last restart and felt he was “robbed” but took everything with a grain of salt. “I really can’t say why I did what I did and he (Kelly) took advantage of that so it is what it is,” said McDuffie. “We’ll just be satisfied with second and go on from there and get a win next time out,” he said.
Jason Lester came home a solid third and was re-thinking his team’s decision to go with only two new tires which he said probably cost him any shot at the win. Danny Anderson and Dakota Hunt came back from their earlier spins to finish fourth and fifth. Donnie Burkhalter was running fifth at the white flag but found himself spinning in turn one off the bumper of Billy Carlbert, Jr. who later apologized to Burkhalter for the incident. Burkhalter was later disqualified and placed last in the rundown. There was nothing wrong with Burkhalter’s truck but the whole thing stemmed from an incident after the race in the pits. “I was not disqualified in tech last night for anything to do with my race truck,” said Big Donnie. I was DQ’d do to actions detrimental to the sport by my crew after the race in the pits. Carl Green and Rex Guy were forced to make a decision that was created by members of my crew and I just want to clear the air with that (even though Carlbert asked that the disqualification be lifted). We were told in the drivers meeting that team members do not approach another competitors racer and therefore they were given no choice but to DQ me after the race,” he said.
Carlbert ended up with a sixth place finish trailed by Greg Baggette and Nick Haag. Haag, a recent cancer survivor, had told his dad that he wanted to go racing if he could beat the disease. Well he did and this was his first-ever race in a Pro Truck and he received rave reviews from everybody and looks to be a quick contender once he gets some “seat time.” Both Haag and Burkhalter are sponsored by Nick’s dad’s business, Greenbriar Landscape.
Cody Martell battled brake problems all night and wound up ninth while Kristen Clements was tenth in a truck that had some power steering issues. Tyler Davis, William Kerns and Burkhalter completed the finishers.
The SSCS Sportsman race was interesting to say the least. Surprisingly, only six cars showed up and one of those, the machine of Adam Briggs, was done early after a blown engine in hot laps. With only five cars now in the pits, former track Sportsman champion “Big Daddy” Dave Colpritt headed to his shop, grabbed his race car and headed for the track. He placed a call to Travis Roland who showed up to drive it in the Sportsman event that was cut from 50 to 25 laps due to the short field. Colpritt and Roland borrowed a set of tires from the Burkhalter/Haag Pro Truck teams and were set to go.
Veteran Auburndale racer Bobby Mobley was also at the track planning to drive Bubba Healey’s car in the V-8 Bomber class. He also noticed the short field of Sportsman cars and made a quick run to his shop in Eagle Lake and loaded up his car and headed to the track. It would be a good move for both the Colpritt/Roland and Mobley teams when all was said and done.
The starting line-up was determined by a pill draw on track during intermission. Mobley got the pole with Brandon Martin drawing the outside pole while Roland drew the third spot for the start. Mobley grabbed the early lead but it was only for one circuit before Roland took over with SSCS Sportsman point leader Aaron Williamson in tow as Mobley settled into third.
The trio of drivers began to motor away from everybody else until the first caution came out on lap ten for a tangle between Martin and A. J. Olender.
One lap later it was Martin again getting tied up, this time with Jon Julian on the front stretch.
Williamson restarted from the outside and the race was on between he and leader Roland. Williamson led lap 12 by a nose but one lap later it was Roland back out front where he would stay despite tremendous pressure from Williamson. With two laps to go, Williamson got into the back of Roland’s car damaging the right front fender and knocking off a hood pin that caused the hood to begin flapping in the breeze.
Roland held on to get a popular win with the fans while Williamson added to his point lead by taking a hard-fought second. “Well, it was a last minute decision to race,” said Roland. “The car was not really race ready when we brought it to the track at around 7 pm and we thrashed on it for a little bit to get it ready… didn’t even really have the right gear in it. Borrowed some tires, got no practice and went racing. A big thanks to car owner Dave Colpritt and Mike Sweet for bringing the car and working hard and to Donnie Burkhalter and Mr. Haag for getting us some tires to use. Also thanks to Mike Williams and everyone else that gave us a hand,” he said.
Mobley cruised to a third place finish and was happy with that. “We just dragged the thing out of the shop at the last minute and went racing so I have to be happy with the results,” said the big man with the big, black beard.
Rick Reed drove a steady race to nab the fourth spot while Olender took fifth ahead of Martin and Julian.
Probably the best race of the night was the Mini Stock feature. John Cummins, Jr. won the heat and was looking strong in the feature but could not hold off Colt Cecil who grabbed the top spot and looked like he might be headed to his first career win. However veteran Chris Narramore, Sr. quickly entered the picture and a great side-by-side battle ensued with Cecil able to stay out front lap after lap… until the final one. Cecil slipped just enough coming off turn two and Narramore quickly pounced and snatched the point, leading only the final lap to the checker to remain unbeaten in his starts this year.
Cummins held on for third followed by Gordon Weaver, Fred Martin, Danny Leet and Bruce Cozad. Tony Davidson had engine problems during the heat race and did not start the feature. After the race it was Narramore who drew the winning 50/50 raffle ticket for a nice pot of $201, however he wasn’t done there. “I’m going to draw a second ticket,” said Narramore. “The holder of this ticket will get my winnings for tonight plus the trophy,” he said. A local Lakeland resident walked off with that and probably told all his friends that he won the Mini Stock feature Saturday night at Auburndale Speedway.
Unlike the last few weeks, the V-8 Bombers were on their best behavior as their feature ran green to checker. Kyle Peters, making his first start in several weeks, won the heat, started the feature on the pole, then led every lap for his second win of 2016 although James Wright III pressed him all the way. Bobby Mobley, driving Bubba Healey’s Camaro, backed up his third place effort in the Sportsman race with another third place in the Bombers. Mike Hubbard passed Aaron Holmes for fourth on the final lap with Holmes taking fifth. Danny Burchfield was sixth trailed by David Purvis, Ricky Norman, Jody Gill and Jeff Warren as all of the starters were running at the finish.
With the Seth Adams Racing “Superteam” not in action, things were pretty much up for grabs in the Legend Car division but the night was thoroughly dominated by Orlando driver Donovan Ponder. After winning the heat, Ponder started near the back of the field in the feature as Alan Hiefnar led the opening six laps before Ponder had worked his way to the front to snare the lead on the seventh circuit. From there Ponder just ran away and hid as this race also ran from start to finish with no caution flags.
Since bringing his new car to the track, Ponder has two victories and a second place finish. The car carries the number “02” rather than Ponder’s usual number “8” and the driver name on the roof line says “Josh.” We just haven’t had time to think about repainting and lettering the car,” said Ponder. “The way things are going right now, I might just leave it the way it is,” he joked.
Hiefnar finished a solid second and took over the point lead in the process.
Gavin Sexton finished a career-best third ahead of Dave Fusco, Blake Boyette, Travis Guard and Cale Nolen.
It was another very competitive Scrambler feature as William Kerns led the first five laps only to give way to Keith Cantrill. Cantril held point until Dustin Wilson slipped by with two laps to go, then went on to claim his sixth victory of the year and add to his point lead. Cantrill took second ahead of Kerns, Chuck Harrison, John Morrow and Anthony Brown. Wilson also won the heat.
Despite a fairly hard crash with Clay Samuels on the fifth lap, Russell Bush came back to win yet another Mini Cup feature although he said the car was a handful to drive after the incident and will need some repair work. Samuels bounced back from the wreck to take second followed by Doug Higbie, Douglas Herrin, Jr. and Bill Rychel. Bush also took first in the heat race.