Finally Auburndale Speedway got the chance to run a full program under near-perfect weather conditions including a full moon. A large crowd was treated to some great racing that featured the Sunshine State Challenge Series Open Wheel Modifieds and Street Stocks.
It was DARN Apparel Future Farmers of America night and the local high school chapters raised a total of $663 in admission sales for the night that went directly back to them for funding of their programs. Auburndale High brought in the most members to the track Saturday night.
L. B. Skaggs of North Fort Myers topped the SSCS Modified field in qualifying with a lap of 13.847 seconds. The “Rocketman,” Wayne Jefferson of Pinellas Park was second fastest in his Dick & Mary Anderson-owned machine with a lap of 13.904.
Luck of the draw placed to top two qualifiers on the front row for the start and Skaggs led the opening pair of laps before he and Jefferson tangled in turn two sending both to the rear for the restart. Johnny Allen took over at that point and held sway as both Jefferson and Skaggs again worked their way forward getting past Eric Rudd for second and third on lap eight.
Caution flew on the tenth lap for a spin by Jordan Harris. Harris was making his first start in a car that was built by his grandfather Danny Harris. The elder Harris owned cars that raced here for years but he has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Despite that, Harris was in attendance to watch his grandson compete for the first time.
Following the restart Jefferson moved in to challenge Allen but the two touched allowing Skaggs to slip into second. Skaggs would grab the top spot a lap later while Jefferson eventually drove by Allen for second on the 18th circuit. Harris spun a second time to bring out the yellow on lap 21 as Rudd took his machine to the pits but returned before the restart.
Lap 29 saw Harris spin a third time as track officials stopped leader Skaggs to check for a fluid leak. None was found and the SSCS Modified point leader returned to the point. Using the “Auburndale restart” to his advantage, Matt McCrary was able to sneak into second after the green flew again. McCrary stayed in second for a couple of laps before Jefferson came storming past to regain the spot. Rudd dropped from competition on lap 39.
With four laps left, McCrary spun in turn four to allow the field one final shot at Skaggs. Skaggs easily drove away to victory, though, topping Jefferson and Allen, who was back behind the wheel after a few years of inactivity. In victory lane, Skaggs was quick to thank Jefferson’s car owner Dick Anderson for helping him. “We were just a mid-pack car until Dickie
(Anderson) taught me how to get a car to turn in the center of the corner. I owe this win to him for all of his help and my crew who really make this thing go… it’s an absolute pleasure to drive,” said Skaggs.
Jefferson, making his first start here since 2010 said his car was “just a little off here and there” but said the team would get to work and correct those problems. For Allen, in his words… “I’m just happy to be here racing again and having the chance to drive a really great race car.” McCrary came back to take fourth spot ahead of Rudd, Gayle Haines and Harris.
The SSCS Street Stocks saw Venice driver Kenny Gibson tops in qualifying with a lap of 14.965 seconds. Point leader Ander Jackson was second quick at 15.044. The top two qualifiers again started up front and raced hard early on with Gibson leading the open lap while Jackson inched in front to lead lap two. Gibson, however, got the edge by lap three.
Walt Kirk spun during the fifth lap to bring out the first caution while the yellow flew again two laps later as Ross Francisco and Dora Thorne tangled in turn two. For this restart, Steven O’Steen used the restart rule to move his way into second where he held tough as Gibson began to put some distance on the field. Jackson finally passed O’Steen on the outside during lap 22 to take second but he was well behind the leader.
That all changed when Kirk spun in turn one on lap 31. Jackson moved up to challenge and dove under Gibson to get the preferred inside groove. But Gibson held tight on the outside and never lost the lead as Jackson eventually lost traction and began slipping back. Gibson went on to score an easy win ahead of O’Steen and Francisco who had a heated war for the second position that led to some harsh words after the race although “calm” prevailed fairly quickly.
Jackson slipped back to fourth at the finish and might have turned over the point lead to Gibson in the process. Doing double-duty on the night, Matt McCrary was fifth followed by Thorne and Kirk.
Keith Roggen, who has been concentrating on his new Super Late Model, dusted off his AMF Chassis Modified Mini Stock and went on to win the class’ 25-lap feature event by passing Chris Zimmerman late in the going after Zimmerman had led 22 laps. 2017 Mod Mini track champ Chris Spring was third followed by Austin Craig, Scott Bumgardner and Rachelle Rudolph. David Myers, Sr. was unable to start.
2017 point champion James Wright III led all the way to score what turned out to be a very competitive V-8 Bomber feature, at least the race for second place. Danny Burchfield won that battle as he outlasted third and fourth place finishers Bubba Healey and Jody Gill. Aaron Holmes was fifth followed by Ronnie Abney, Ricky Norman, Gordon Weaver and Nicole Green. Wright also won the heat.
It was yet another feature win for 2017 Q Mini Stock champion Chris Narramore, Sr. who grabbed the lead from Bruce Cozad on the eighth lap before cruising to victory. Cozad won out in a late fender-banging battle with John Cummins, Jr.
to claim the runner-up spot. Fourth went to Donald Gatlin ahead of Matt Cummins and Fred Martin. Cozad won the heat.
Brey Holmes picked up a ride in the Higbie #48 for the night and ended up topping both the heat and feature for the Mini Cup cars. 2017 point champion Russell Bush trailed in second by a good margin while Douglas Herrin, Jr.
rounded out the podium in third. Kameren Wozunk was fourth trailed by Maria Martins, Bill Rychel and Easton Bush. Clay Samuels was unable to start the feature after a hard crash in the heat.
Kyle Pitts took over the lead from Jim Smith on lap four and went on to claim his third Legend Car feature victory of the year. Gavin Sexton also got by Smith for second but trailed Pitts at the end by a big margin. Following third place Smith were Joey Langis, Blake Boyette, Dave Fusco, Cale Nolen and Travis Guard. Pitts also was the heat race winner.
Dustin Wilson capped off his 2017 championship season with his 11th Scrambler feature win of the year. Keith Cantrill and William Kerns trailed Wilson to the checker. Wilson also won the heat race.