Niedecken Scores Emotional Win in Pepsi 100; Pollard, Okreszik and Leytham Also Victorious

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By Kyle Brandt
 
IRVINGTON, Ala. (May 9, 2015) — Just days after the passing of his mother, Mary, Wayne “Junior” Niedecken scored an emotional victory on Saturday night at Mobile International Speedway by winning the season-opening Pepsi 100 for the Pro Late Models on the eve of Mother’s Day.
Dedicating the victory to his late mother, the 100-lap race was a hard-earned triumph for the Florida native and veteran gulf coast racer who held off the snarling pack behind him on multiple restarts in the closing 30 laps of the race to clinch his visit to O’Reilly Auto Parts victory lane.
“My mom passed away just this very week,” said an emotional Niedecken in victory lane. “I can’t put it into words what this means for me. She was such a big part of my life. This whole night is for her.”
The win was also a bit of surprise—as he spent most of the first half of the race near mid-pack.
“I didn’t worry at all about the first lap, just the last lap,” he explained. “Those green-white-checkers were killing us. The car really wouldn’t get going until about three laps after a restart. But it worked out anyway. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to win one of these long races; the crew deserves all the credit.”
At the start of the race, pole sitter Derek Scott, Jr. quickly assumed the lead and appeared to be shot out of a cannon. With the aid of no caution flags in the opening 73 laps of the race, the Texas native led by more than six seconds before the first yellow flag of the evening waved for the spinning car of Ronnie Osmer on the backstretch.
Wadding up the field for the resulting restart, it served as the turning point of the race.
When the green flag waved once again, Friday night’s winner at nearby 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, Justin South assumed the lead after passing Scott who would then drop like a rock through the field. Immediately behind South; however, lurked Riley Thornton and Niedecken in second and third-place respectively.
Just a few laps later, fans in attendance at the high-banked half-mile track witnessed an epic duel between Thornton and Niedecken—which came to a head on lap 78 as the Niedecken’s No. 99 would prevail for second-place after the two made contact in turns three and four.
Four laps later, Niedecken would also dispatch South for the lead, and afterwards, appeared to be well on his way to victory before the second caution of the evening, for the spinning car of Elliott Massey, wadded up the field once again on lap 92—setting up a nine-lap shootout for the win.
On the resulting restart, Thornton pulled away with the lead, but round two of the bout between himself and Niedecken quickly unfolded, but came to a quick end on lap 96 when the No. 99 would return to the top spot once again. Despite losing the top spot; however, Thornton refused to give up—as he attempted to perform a cross-over on Niedecken, but lost control of his No. 21 and went spinning through the grass in Turn 4, which resulted in the third caution of the evening.
When the green flag waved once again for the two-lap shootout, Niedecken spun his tires—which allowed young gun Ryan Luza to stay right to his outside as the two raced to the first turn. With his hands full with Luza, the yellow flag waved yet again after Massey, Josh Bragg and Thornton tangled in Turn 2.
Once again, Niedecken would be tested. The results; however, ended up being the same as Luza cleared him for the lead as the two streaked down the backstretch towards Turn 3.
Dead-set on scoring the victory, though, Niedecken would not be denied shortly after the white flag waved—as he surged to the top spot once again following a strong run off Turn 2 and cruised to the finish line first.
Besides being an emotional win on the eve of Mother’s Day, and just days after the passing of his mother; it also put him on top of the Pro Late Model division standings and well ahead of his rival and defending champion Josh Bragg in the early going of the season.
Luza, Dustin Smith, South and Scott, Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
Barry’s U Pull It Pro Trucks
Despite being a native of Senoia, Georgia, Bubba Pollard calls Mobile International Speedway home. The sentiment was echoed loudly on Saturday evening as the defending Southern Super Series driver made the trip to the southern Alabama track—but this time, he wouldn’t be competing in a super late model.
Not a stranger to competing in other divisions at MIS, Pollard used his connections to secure a ride in the No. 1H Langham Motorsports truck for Saturday night’s 25-lap feature.
And the trip was worthwhile.
Riding in the tire tracks of pole sitter Steve “Chopper” Stagner for the opening half of the race, Pollard emerged with the lead on lap 18 as the two leaders got caught up in lapped traffic. Getting bogged down after attempting to pass one of them, Stagner relinquished the lead to Pollard—a position that he would not get back.
With a clear track ahead of him, Pollard cruised on to score the victory and added yet another MIS trophy to growing inventory from the half-mile track.
Stagner, Brian Weimer, Eric Courville and Okie Mason rounded out the top-five finishers.
Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsmen
Two weeks ago – the last time the Sportsmen division was in action at MIS – Jason Smith scored his second victory of the season. Just as big of a story following the race; however, was the meticulous surge through the field of 13-year-old division rookie Connor Okreszik.
Finishing second that night, the youngster quickly asserted himself as a potential winner in the division as he beat some of the biggest names in the division.
It didn’t take him long to come through either.
Starting at the rear of the field, the middle school student methodically worked his way through the field yet again.
Moving into the third position by lap nine, the turning point of the 25-lap feature took place six laps later—as he caught and passed Lee “Red Dog” Reynolds on the outside in turns one and two.
With then-leader Brannon Fowler out front by a sizeable margin, Okreszik would have his hands full trying to catch him for the top spot; but a caution on lap 17 for the spinning car of Reynolds wadded up the field and offered the youngster his chance to potentially score the victory.
On the resulting restart, and after an epic side-by-side duel between himself and Fowler that lasted two laps, Okreszik’s red No. 14 emerged with the lead on lap 18. With the lead in hand, he cruised on to score his first victory at Mobile International Speedway—delivering in response to the expectations and added attention which he garnered following his two previous top-five results.
Jonathan Langham, Fowler, Michael Ledlow and Stan Smith rounded out the top-five finishers.
Island Motors II Bombers
Rounding out the fantastic night of racing was the 20-lap feature for the drivers of the Island Motors II Bombers division.
Starting from the pole position, Robert Loper quickly assumed the lead following the drop of the green flag, but any hopes that he had of pulling away from the snarling pack behind him was dashed just seconds later as the first caution of the race waved for the spinning No. 83 of Adam Law.
With the field wadded up, racing resumed shortly thereafter, and just like he had done before, Loper cleared for the race lead. Behind him, though, defending division champion B.J. Leytham surged to the second position after dispatching his teammate Geno Denmark.
With strong runs off the turns and down the straights, Leytham quickly caught Loper for the race lead—and after maneuvering the nose of his car to the inside on multiple occasions, but not being able to clear him, Leytham’s No. 8 finally prevailed with the top spot on lap 11.
Two laps later, the second caution of the race waved for the spinning car of Derek Long—who struck a deal to pilot the No. 56 entry of Kerner Kafka after suffering transmission issues in his own car earlier in the day during practice.
Battling hard with Leytham on the previous run, the rear fascia of Loper’s No. 15 car came unlodged and was dragging behind him under caution. Following a call from race control, Loper would be forced to visit the pits for repairs—a call that would relegate him to the rear of the field on the resulting restart and put his chances of scoring the win in serious jeopardy.
Due to Loper’s pit stop for repairs, the winner of the last Bomber feature two weeks ago, Matt Jackson lined for the resulting restart in the second position—setting up another duel between the two similar to the those that fans were treated to multiple times last season.
On the restart; however, Leytham quickly cleared Jackson for the top spot and pulled away to small lead with six laps remaining. Riding closely in the tire tracks of Leytham for the remainder of the race, Jackson made one last-ditch effort to pass Leytham and steal the victory. Driving it deep into Turn 3, Jackson made contact with Leytham—causing the leader’s car to get extremely loose, which sent him swerving to the start/finish line as he attempted to regain control of his car.
Despite taking up most of the track to do so, Leytham would not be denied, as he held off Jackson to score his first victory of the season and jump start his title defense.
Jackson, Rusty Powell, Jr., Loper and Collin Kraft rounded out the top-five finishers.
Up next at Mobile International Speedway is the second visit of the season from the cars and stars of the Sunoco Southern Super Series on May 30. Also included in the action will be local division racing from the Super Stock, Sportsmen and Bombers.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County.  It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then.  As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success.   Kids 5 and under are always admitted free to the grandstands.  Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2015.

 

 

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