A VETERAN AND A ROOKIE SHARE WINS IN THE PRO LATE MODEL OPENERS SATURDAY AT MIS
Junior Niedecken and Bryce Dulabhan shared feature victories in Saturday’s Midwest Cooling Towers Pro Late Model season-opener at Mobile International Speedway.
The Speedway introduced a new format for the Pro Lates with 50-laps being split into two distinct features – both paying points and cash. The first amounted to a 20-lap sprint and was won by Dulabhan while Niedecken won the 30-lap final event.
Niedecken scored an impressive victory, his first in several years at the Speedway, holding off defending division champion and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team owner Josh Bragg for the final 26 laps.
“We don’t race as much as we used to but this is a feeling that doesn’t get old,” Niedecken said in victory lane. “Josh gave me a good shove and I thought he might have enough but we were able to keep it pinned on the bottom.”
Rusty Sanford missed a shift at the start of the race and the field crunched-up behind him. Jeremy Pate, David Jones and Elliott Massey all made contact with each other, sending Massey sideways in front of the field and littering debris all over the racetrack.
Massey and Pate pitted for repairs during the cleanup process, sending them to the back of the field for a complete restart. This is standard procedure at any time an accident slows the race before a single lap could be officially completed.
Jones opted to stay on the track despite heavy right front damage.
Eric Wilkerson was shot out of the proverbial cannon on the restart but couldn’t shake Niedecken. The veteran stuck with Wilkerson and completed the pass in turns one and two at the start of the fourth lap. Josh Bragg followed into second.
A rapid pace was established and by lap six the field spread out seemingly to avoid another major multicar accident. That was the case for most of the field except for Pate, who restarted in the back but quickly marched into the top three by lap 11.
With Pate marching forward, second-place Bragg turned up the heat on Niedecken by lap 20, making contact with the veteran off the exit of turn two. Two more light taps would come on laps 23 and 24 but Niedecken wouldn’t budge.
Bragg appeared to have the faster car in the closing stages but just couldn’t navigate around Niedecken’s defensive line at the bottom of the racing surface. Bragg ran a conservative race, already thinking about consecutive championships and allowed Niedecken to celebrate one of the more popular victories of recent memory.
Pate, Dulabhan and Jones completed the top-five.
Pro Late Model 20
Bryce Dulabhan captured the first 20-lap Midwest Cooling Towers Pro Late Model feature earlier in the evening and did so with the prowess of his restarts.
Twice the first Pro Late Model feature was stopped for an accident and twice did Dulabhan quickly escape Josh Bragg and Pensacola’s Jeremy Pate on the ensuing restart.
Foreshadowing the main event, Bragg appeared faster than Dulabhan over the final five laps but was ultimately unable to shove the Fairhope-native off the bottom of racing surface. On the final lap, Dulabhan arched wide entering turn three and gave Bragg a look at the inside line but shut the door off the exit of turn four and pulled away by the start-finish line.
Jeremy Pate, Junior Niedecken and David Jones completed the top-five.
Praytor Realty Super Stocks
Okie Mason capitalized on a dominant Bubba Winslow’s mechanical issue and captured a victory in the Praytor Realty Super Stock feature race on Saturday night at Mobile international Speedway.
Winslow appeared to be the favorite after winning his heat race and leading the first third of the feature. But the parts failure, which happened on lap 10, ended a potentially race-winning run. Winslow’s team would repair the car but only after two green flag laps had passed.
Mason inherited the top spot when Winslow slid up the groove off turn four and never looked back, winning his first feature of the season at Alabama’s fastest half-mile.
“I hate that Bubba had that issue,” Mason said. “He was the class of the field. We’ve had days like that too and I don’t want to give this away or anything — I just know how it feels.”
Winslow showed that dominance early in the feature, jumping out to a big lead after just one lap. But the field would be slowed by the caution on lap two when Gary Sutton slowed in front of Matt Taylor sending Sutton’s no. 44 sideways off the exit of turn two. Taylor was penalized for aggressive driving and would join Sutton at the back for the restart.
The duo worked their way through the field but couldn’t escape each other, again spinning together off the exit of turn two, this time on the seventh lap. This time the drivers’ cars were stuck together and needed assistance from safety officials to get going. They finished in fourth and sixth respectively.
Lap 21 saw Bobby Baria drop an engine just as Mason was starting to separate himself from the pursuing Michael Sanford. The caution however would not play into the finish as Mason quickly escaped the field on the restart and jogged to an early-season victory.
Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman
The remarkable eight-race undefeated streak held by Steve Buttrick across two Southern race tracks came to a close on Saturday night as Mark Barnhill captured a victory in the Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman division at Mobile International Speedway.
Buttrick appeared to be out of the running for a ninth-consecutive victory as early as lap six when Lee Reynolds made contact with the Pensacola driver, sending him off the hill at the entrance at turn three. Not to be denied, Buttrick methodically climbed his way through the field at the same time Barnhill was leading every single lap and had climbed to second with two laps to go.
But too many laps had been burned – as were Buttrick’s tires – and the no. 33 was unable to make a serious gain on the final lap. Buttrick arched wide on turn three to drive in deep but just lost too much ground on the gamble allowing Barnhill to snap the streak and win his first feature in over a year at Mobile International Speedway.
“It’s about time we completed one of these things,” Barnhill said. “We’ve been too good for an awful long time and just keep getting hit with bad luck. But we got it hooked up tonight, just right, and we we finally closed out.”
Jonathan Langham completed the podium and believes it was a sign of things to come in the future of the division. He started fifth and slowly worked his way through the field to come home third.
“We’re still running on (Snowball) Derby tires,” Langham said. “I think we made some real gains on the field today and believe we can be up there fighting for the win once we stick some fresh rubber on it.”
Defending Series champion Brannon Fowler and Randy Thompson completed the top-five.
Island Motors II Bombers
Jimmy Day successfully came out of a self-imposed retirement to sweep both his heat and feature races in the Island Motor II Bombers division Saturday night at Mobile International Speedway. Day was racing in memory of veteran Richard Wilkerson who recently passed away and delivered one of the more emotional victory lane celebrations seen at the Speedway.
“This was a lot of fun,” Day said. “This was for Richard.”
And just like that, the interview was over — mission accomplished for the Day Racing Team that also finished third with driver Jayme Corry.
Day led nearly every lap despite a furious charge from David Johnson. The no. 11, driven by Johnson, was rarely removed from Day’s back-bumper all night once they swapped the lead on lap three. They even made contact several times during the race, most notably on lap four where Day was sent slightly sideways but gathered it each time.
The victory was in doubt at one point as the leaders stacked up trying to put Rusty Powell a lap down. Johnson caught some dirt off turn four trying to get under Day but it wasn’t meant to be. Day went unchallenged for the remaining three laps and never looked back.
Jayme Corry joined teammate and crew chief Jimmy Day as winner of the other Bomber eight-lap heat that opened the show.
April 21 Results
Pro Late Model 20: 1.) Bryce Dulabhan 2.) Josh Bragg 3.) Jeremy Pate 4.) Junior Niedecken 5.) David Jones
Pro Late Model 30: 1.) Junior Niedecken 2.) Josh Bragg 3.) Jeremy Pate 4.) Bryce Dulabhan 5.) David Jones
Praytor Realty Super Stocks: 1.) Okie Mason 2.) Michael Sanford 3.) Randy Thompson 4.) Gary Sutton 5.) Keith Langston
Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman: 1.) Mark Barnhill 2.) Steve Buttrick 3.) Jonathan Langham 4.) Brannon Fowler 5.) Randy Thompson
Island Motors II Bombers: 1.) Jimmy Day 2.) David Johnson 3.) Jayme Corry 4.) Robert Barber 5.) Matt Jackson