Rain tried its best to dampen the spirits of everybody Saturday at Auburndale Speedway but track owner Rex Guy would stick a dagger in Mother Nature and the show went on despite a late start in front of a very good crowd… and it would be a long night.
Persistent rain, heavy at times, fell at the track off and on between 2 and 5 pm as everything was put on hold. Just after 5, the skies began to clear and it was time to dry the track and get to the business of racing.
The big event of the night would be a 50-lap point race for the Florida Pro Truck Challenge Series and the pits were crowded as 32 Truck teams showed up to do battle. Qualifying was held almost two hours late from its scheduled time with 31 of the Trucks getting laps in as Jacob Nicoletti’s team was thrashing on his machine after hitting the turn four wall in hot laps.
Quick time would again go to Derek Pugh who seems to have a handle on how to get around Auburndale Speedway all by himself. Pugh’s lap of 14.364 topped the laps turned by Cody McDuffie, Jason Lester, Becca Monopoli and Brent Huber. The top 16 in time trials were locked in to the big show with everybody else relegated to a pair of 15-lap B-Main qualifiers including Huber who had to run one of the B’s after being set down in post-qualifying tech.
The top four in each race would move on to the 50 lapper that would start a field of 24.
Huber worked his way through the field to claim the first B-Main trailed by Adam Briggs, Shea Montgomery and Dodge Carlbert as those four moved on to the feature. The night ended early for Bryton Horner, Carter Brown, Dave Fewox and Nick White.
Leroy Moore, celebrating his birthday, led all the way to claim B-Main number two with Billy Carlbert second and Jeff White third. Dylan Martin spun on lap three but drove like crazy to grab the final transfer spot. Martin was making his first start in his Pro Truck since a near-fatal motorcycle accident several months ago. Failing to transfer were Nicoletti (who did a great job considering his big wall hit in practice), Johnny Marra, Mark Kemick and Josh Haranda.
The top six qualifiers were inverted for the start of the 50-lap contest placing young Brennon Pletcher on the pole flanked by veteran Truck racer Steve Darvalics who quickly powered his way to the lead at the drop of the green. Caution was out quickly on lap five as Colt Cecil bit out a chunk of the back stretch wall. Cecil pitted and was able to return to action.
Darvalics continued to set the pace but McDuffie was on the move taking second from Monopoli on lap eight then blasting his way to the lead two laps later.
Pugh moved by Pletcher into fourth as McDuffie was already in lapped traffic by the 16th circuit. At that point McDuffie was in a class of his own as he had opened up a full straight lead by the half way mark. The top ten at lap 25 consisted of McDuffie, Darvalics, Monopoli, Pugh, Lester, Mike Kohut, Pletcher, Rich Clouser, Danny Anderson and Richard Griffis.
Everything would change big time on lap 26, though, as the trucks running 3rd thru ninth would all end up with damage after an altercation off turn two with several lapped trucks. Pugh and Lester pitted as did Kohut who did not return. Other machines with damage included Clouser, Pletcher, Shea Montgomery and Jeff White. Both Pugh and Lester made it back out for the restart which saw another multi-truck melee on the front stretch that ended the night for Kristen Clements. Also receiving damage were the trucks of Danny Anderson, Adam Briggs and Brent Huber although all would eventually continue. Rich Clouser pitted his machine during the caution and did not return. At this point 19 trucks were still in the running.
McDuffie continued to lead easily as Monopoli forged here was by Darvalics into second on lap 29 only to see that pass negated when Martin spun around in turn two. Jason Lester pitted to try and fix damage and returned minus his hood and fenders but the right front of the truck had gone askew and he went to the pits a final time and was later DQ’d to the rear of the field for an undetermined issue.
McDuffie continued to overwhelm the field as the drivers managed to get all the way to lap 36 before Jeff White spun in turn two. Three laps later the red flag was out as Huber climbed over the left side of Anderson’s truck in turn four, nearly getting on his side. Anderson was out of the event while Huber returned briefly only to drop out soon after. Quite a bit of fluid and debris littered the turn four area and it took close to 15 minutes to clean up, adding to the long night.
Once the green flag came back out, the final 11 laps ran off without a hitch other than a late front stretch spin by Billy Carlbert that starter Julian Mullis was not about to throw another caution flag for. McDuffie took the checker well ahead of Darvalics who had to hold off a hard-charging Monopoli over the final laps. Pletcher held on for fourth while Brey Holmes had the best race of his career, staying out of trouble all the way to score a fifth place finish for a team that has been plagued with mostly mechanical issues during the past year.
Pugh held on to finish sixth with Leroy Moore, Griffis, Briggs and Shea Montgomery rounding out the top ten. Completing the finishers were Dodge Carlbert, Martin, Cecil, Billy Carlbert, Jimmy Frazier III (who had a top ten run end late when he hit the wall), Anderson, Huber, Colt Hensley, Jeff White, Kohut, Clouser, Clements, Big Donnie Burkhalter and Lester. Burkhalter had a tough weekend, blowing an engine in Friday practice then losing his brakes early in the race.
Immediately after the Truck race finished, Dodge Carlbert climbed in his Pure Stock car… then he went out and won the 20-lap feature after starting scratch on the field.
Wild Child Jammie Dunnahoe, Jr, won the Pure Stock heat and had the pole for the feature but broke a transmission coming off turn two on the opening lap, scattering the field. Chuck Mathias held the top spot for ten laps but could not hold off Carlbert who scored his second victory in a row. Aaron Holmes was back behind the wheel on this night and he made a late pass to claim second over Mathias, James Wright III, Kate Clouser (making her very first start here), Matt McCrary and Dunnahoe.
Jason Bartram got a huge monkey off his back as his new car performed flawlessly for once and he led start to finish to claim the 25-lap Sportsman feature. Jamie Kennedy charged up to run on Bartram’s bumper over the final laps but had to settle for second over Charlie Brown, Tom Zimmerman, Alexa Anderson and Steven O’Steen. O’Steen was driving a car that he’ll be taking to Bristol, TN in a few weeks and was doing a “shake down” run.
In other action, James Wright III led all the way to claim yet another V-8 Bomber victory trailed by Travis Todd, Bud Bronson, Ronnie Abney, Brian Harbin, Brandon Love, Jimmy McLeod and Jason Sopczak. Wright also won the heat.
Wilson Martins, Sr. topped the Mini Cup action over heat winner Maria Martins, Leandro Martins, Bill Rychel and Russell Bush.
Chris Narramore, Jr. topped both the heat and feature in the Mini Stocks outgunning Chuck Frazier, David McCaig, Freddy Martin and Tav Gary.
Guy Kolmel won his first career feature in the Scramblers leading Donnie Mosman and Trenton Henick to the checker. Kolmel also was the heat race winner.