BUTTRICK CAPTURES SPORTSMEN OPENER, BURKS BEST IN BOMBERS, AFTER LEYTHAM IS DQ’ed
While most of the attention was placed on the ARCA Racing Series and Menard’s pole qualifying, the Bob’s Speed Shop Sportsman division stole the show on Friday night with a thrilling duel between Steve Buttrick and Brannon Fowler.
When the dust settled on the 50-lap feature, it was the defending race winner, Buttrick, outlasting Fowler to win the first main event feature event of the 2013 season.
Buttrick vs. Fowler has become a familiar theme to Gulf Coast racing fans and the two continued their respectful rivalry on the high banks of Irvington on Friday. Fowler appeared to have the faster car in the middle stages of the race but was unable to get around the defensive Buttrick.
A faulty restart on lap 40 separated Fowler from the leaders but the Cantonment-native was unable to catch the leaders during the remaining 50 laps. He ultimately finished third.
Buttrick pulled away on the final restart after Fowler was unable to get to speed but immediately found himself under fire from Bob Bryant. Bryant had saved his equipment for late in the race and drove deep into the corner for several laps, but like Fowler, was unable to close the gap to Buttrick’s no. 33.
Buttrick joked about wearing suspenders underneath his driving suit during his interview in Sunoco Victory Lane but was all business when talking about a hard-fought victory over Fowler and Bryant.
“I can’t thank my guys enough — my sponsors too,” Buttrick said. “I really though Brannon was going to wreck off my bumper a few times. I was a little worried about what would happen if he did but it was good, hard and clean racing.
“You guys probably didn’t notice but I was worried about losing a cylinder there at the end but it somehow fixed itself and we closed it out. Good win.”
A majority of the race resembled the tandem drafting made famous at Daytona and Talladega with Buttrick and Fowler connected at the seam. Just a few second behind, the pair of Chad Robinson and Bob Bryant mirrored the leaders with Mark Barnhill and Johnny Greene doing the same thing.
For Fowler and Buttrick, their tandem was just the result of Fowler being the faster of the two, especially in turns three and four. Fowler appeared able to drive the corners much deeper than Buttrick, but unable to complete the pass or unwilling to take a more aggressive approach for the top spot.
Fowler drove into the back of Buttrick’s bumper coming out of turn four on lap 18 but Buttrick held on, drove through the grass, and kept it straight coming back onto the surface. He somehow maintained his brief lead through all of this and Buttrick would cruise for the duration of the race.
Chad Robinson had perhaps the most disappointing night of anyone on Friday. The 2012 division runner-up and track record holder started fourth but couldn’t quite get the handle on his Sportsman. He fought an ill-handling race car all night and really struggled off turn two. However, it was a spin off turn four on lap 40 that really signaled the end of his day. The spin sent him spiraling through the frontstretch to bring out the final and deciding caution and Robinson found himself on the outside and looking in.
Buttrick took home the victory and the Crosley jukebox trophy with Bryant, Fowler, Steven Allday and Barnhill completing the top-5.
It was a lesson that most drivers at the short track level learn almost immediately — to race hard for every spot because anything can happen in tech; and did for Brandon Burks.
Polesitter Derek Kane Long entered the race brimming with confidence but transmission issues limited him to a sixth-place finish. The issues arrived almost immediately after the start of the race as Long could not get his car up to speed on restarts. He also had no grip coming out of turn two and had to use up all the race track just to roll the center of the corner.
Long survived some mid-pack accidents and kept his ailing car clean for a near top-five finish.
Rusty Powell, Mobile’s King of the Bombers, debuted with his new team — Outcast Motorsports and showed a lot of speed before issues sidelined him from finishing the event. He would finish 15th but remains confident about his chances for the rest of the season.
Once tech had cleared, Burks was declared the winner with David Johnson and Matt Manuel completing the podium.
Mobile International Speedway returns to action on Mar. 23 highlighted by the return of the Must See Xtreme Sprint Car Series. Bombers, Sportsman and Super stocks will also fill out the card with exciting feature events.
Island Motor II Bombers feature: 1.)Brandon Burks, 2.) David Johnson 3.) Matt Manuel 4.) Ralph Rogers 5.) Tracy Soles