Justin South swept both ends of the 20+30 Midwest Cooling Towers Pro Late Model twin features on Saturday night at Mobile International Speedway, leading every single lap of the 20-lap opener and just barely holding off a resurgent Garrett Jones in the 30-lap finale.
Midwest Cooling Tower Pro Late Model 30-Lapper
Justin South first took the lead off a lap eight restart and appeared poised to run away with the main event in the Pro Late Model division but a suddenly tight condition caused the No. 43 to fall back into the clutches of Garrett Jones.
Jones got to South’s back bumper just as the pair took the white flag and the 13-year-old peeked under the leader in the center of turns one and two. The pair drag-raced down the backstretch and remained side-by-side coming off turn four with South just edging Jones to the checkered flag.
“Some things just went our way today,” South said. “I knew we had a good car but we just had to keep our nose clean. (Jones) is good, fast clean driver and I wasn’t sure we had enough there at the end. It was a lot of fun out there tonight.”
Keeping the nose clean was admittedly the key to victory as the race was marred by a multi-car accident on the opening lap. The crash began when Jeremy Pate nosed under Eric Wilkerson and sent him sideways in front of traffic. Josh Bragg was at speed and had to take to the grass to avoid the accident.
Once the No. 22 was off the surface, Bragg gained speed and barreled hard into the outside retaining rails. All drivers would drive away safely but Bragg received the most damage and failed to regain his prior speed for the rest of the race.
“I tried to steer it out of the way,” Bragg said. “But when you’re in the grass, and it’s wet, it takes you where it wants you to go. You don’t have much of a say so in the matter.”
South, Jones, Pate, Bryce Dulabhan and Elliott Massey rounded-out the top-five.
Midwest Cooling Tower Pro Late Model 20-Lapper
The opener was dominated by South as he piloted his No. 43 to a wire-to-wire victory in the third event of the Midwest Cooling Tower Pro Late Model division season. His first victory was the third different winner in the first three races to start the season.
South padded his lead early, pulling away from Josh Bragg and Bryce Dulabhan who raced side-by-side for the first six laps of the contest – with the seemingly faster Bragg unable to make ground on the outside. The battle for second allowed South to build a six-second lead and the field of eight stacked up behind them.
The caution came out on lap 12 for an Elliott Massey spin out of turn two just as Dulabhan had finally cleared Bragg for second.
On the ensuing restart, South again rocketed out to a multi-car lead but Dulabhan was again unable to put distance between himself and the Mississippi-native, Bragg.
No longer trapped on the outside, Bragg was able to his way forward all over the back of Dulabhan’s bright orange Pro Late Model. The Fairhope native ran a defensive low line but couldn’t hang on after four laps of a steady shove from Bragg.
He finally took second on lap 16 out of turns three and four. Bragg’s effort was good for second but too little, too late to chase down South.
“We don’t have a lot of experience on the outside,” Bragg said. “But we learned a lot about it. Maybe we can put on a show in the main event.”
South, Bragg and Dulabhan completed the final podium.
Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman
Steve Buttrick won his fifth feature of the season on Saturday night at Mobile International Speedway in the Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman division in a race that may have been decided as early as lap three.
Lee Reynolds started the race on the outside pole but quickly took the top spot on the exit of turn two on the first lap. However, while pulling away, Reynolds suffered a mechanical failure likely from the engine that ended his day.
Without Reynolds to challenge for the top spot, the remainder of the race stayed green and Buttrick’s season of dominance continued with yet another victory.
“I don’t know what happened to Lee but we hate it for him,” Buttrick said. “His motor expired I guess.”
Buttrick ultimately won the race over Bob Bryant, Steven Allday and Johnathan Langham.
Praytor Realty Super Stocks
Randy Thompson nearly gave away a sure-fire victory, sliding up turns three and four from the lead on lap 17 but was able to battle back and retake the lead from Bubba Winslow to take top honors in the Praytor Realty Super Stock division on Saturday night at Mobile International Speedway.
Winslow had the dominant car early on with Thompson and Okie Mason engaged in a furious side-by-side battle for second. Shortly after Thompson disposed of Mason, on lap 11, the latter brought out the only caution of the race with a suspension issue off of turn two.
Thompson darted ahead of Winslow on the lap 11 restart and outside of his one-lap gaffe on lap 17 was left largely unchallenged for the remainder of the race.
Thompson, Winslow, Michael Sanford, Jimbo Devitt and Mason completed the full running order.
Island Motors II Bombers
BJ Leytham led just one lap in the Island Motors II Bomber division but it was the most important one, taking the victory in the closest finish of the season thus far at Mobile International Speedway.
Matt Jackson dominated the race, first taking the lead on lap three but just lost the handling after the final restart began with the three laps to go. Ultimately, the final caution for oil on the frontstretch eliminated Jackson’s healthy lead and he was unable to hold off the hard-charging Leytham for the final three laps.
Leytham ducked under Jackson with two laps to go and just methodically pushed up the racing line. Once the two rounded the final corner, it was a drag race, with Leytham using his preferred line to get on the gas sooner and surge ahead at the finish line.
“What a hard race,” Leytham said. “Matt put up a good fight and raced me clean. Those are the best ones.”
Jackson for his part was disappointed as he thought he had done enough to score the victory. But at the end of the night, he was just a few tenths short.
“I thought we had it,” Jackson said. “It just got real tight there at the end. I just want to thank my family. I can be real hard to put up with and these guys support me.”
It was not a banner day for the pole-sitter and championship leader, Jayme Corry. The Day Racing Team No. 38 just didn’t have the same speed he has displayed from previous races this season and stacked the field up from the onset.
Jackson was aggressive in his pursuit of the lead, making contact with Corry on several occasions. This allowed Leytham to take it three-wide on lap four, making all three drivers incredibly tense. Corry even waved his hand out the window the next lap, under green, seemingly in displeasure at Jackson as he took the top spot away.
Corry ultimately finished in fifth.
Leytham, Jackson, Wesley Barnhill and Collin Kraft completed the top-five.
Track action returns to Mobile International Speedway on May 25 with the Irvington debut of the new Southern Super Late Model Series. Modifieds, Sportsman and Bombers will complete the card.
Pro Late Model 20: 1.) Justin South 2.) Josh Bragg 3.) Bryce Dulabhan
Pro Late Model 30: 1.) Justin South 2.) Garrett Jones 3.) Jeremy Pate
Praytor Realty Super Stocks: 1.) Randy Thompson 2.) Bubba Winslow 3.) Michael Sanford
Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman: 1.) Steve Buttrick 2.) Bob Bryant 3.) Steven Allday
Island Motors II Bombers: 1.) BJ Leytham 2.) Matt Jackson 3.) Wesley Barnhill 4.) Collin Kraft 5.) Jayme Corry