The 602 Thunder Main Event
Restart gives Smith a win at Laurens County Speedway
Michael Smith took advantage of a great restart midway through the 602 Thunder main event Saturday night, and because of it found his way to the front of the field – and into Victory Lane.
Smith won the main event, and the $1,200 prize that went with it, in the highlight race at Laurens County Speedway.
Smith, who qualified third for the main event, was followed by Justin Mintz in second, Austin Mintz in third, Rod Roberts in fourth, and Billy Rushton in fifth. Former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield finished sixth.
Smith qualified with a time of 15.762 seconds to challenge for the pole position, but John Price and Austin Mintz proved too fast and ended up taking the top two spots. Price clocked a time of 15.559 seconds to take the pole, with Mintz finishing .055 seconds behind and earning the second front-row spot.
When the race got under way Price gave the fans a thrill as he went high in turn 2 and appeared to ride the wall for a moment, but he managed to come back down and continue onward without any trouble. Both Austin and Justin Mintz found their way to the front of the field as Smith and Price eventually settled into the next two spots. By the time three laps were done the two Mintz drivers had a secure grip on the lead, with Justin holding the top spot. Smith appeared well off the pace for the lead by this point, but a caution flag on lap 12 helped reset the field and gave Smith’s hopes for victory a new sense of life.
The first attempt at a restart on lap 12 was wiped out due to an accident coming out of turn 2, which involved four cars – including Price, who ended up being knocked out of the contest just before the halfway mark of the 25-lap main event. When the race did resume Justin Mintz chose the inside of Row 1, while Austin Mintz stayed off Row 1 and went to the inside of Row 2. That gave Smith, who had remained in third, the chance to move to the outside of Row 1 on the restart. Once he got to the outside of Row 1, Smith used a strong restart on the outside line and eventually took the lead out of turn 4.
Smith, once in front, did not let his momentum slip away and soon built a lead of more than a half second with six laps to go. Smith eventually won the race by 1.012 seconds.
Limited: Frank Coates and Dean Long challenged each other throughout the main event of the Limited Division, helping put on an impressive show for the fans in attendance. And, in the end, it was Long who made his challenge pay off as he passed Coates five laps to go and pulled away to win the main event. Coates was second and Tony Quarles was third.
Coates took the lead with Long and Quarles following behind at the start, and by the times the second lap was finished Coates held a steady lead of seven-tenths of a second. Long was able to chip into the lead in the early laps, but Coates still held enough of an advantage that Long was unable to get all the way to the front.
Past the halfway mark the leaders started to reach the tail end of the field, but passing the soon-to-be lapped cars was no trouble for the leading drivers. Coates held a lead of .464 seconds over Long with 10 laps to go, but Long finally started to close the gap enough to sit side-by-side with Coates and mount a serious challenge. That challenge came to fruition on the 20th lap of the race when Long finally nosed in front of Coates by .006 seconds, and after going through the first two turns grabbed a hold of the lead with more security. Long eventually started to pull away from Coates in the final five laps and won the race by nearly a second and a half.
Thunder Bombers: Rod Tucker won the main event in the Thunder Bombers Division, finishing ahead of Scott Pulley, but it was a protest gone bad that eventually led to Pulley being disqualified – losing points and money – and left Tucker’s position unchanged.
Tucker started the main event on the outside of Row 1 and got to the front by using the outside line to pass Pulley, who started on the pole. Tucker began to pull away from the field as Pulley held second, while Dylan Chappell and Chris Lyons were in a separate battle for third. Chappell eventually won out over Lyons and appeared to be locked into the spot once the race ended, edging Lyons by more than a half-second for third.
Tucker, meanwhile, led wire to wire over Pulley and eased in for what appeared to be a straightforward victory. After the race Pulley moved to challenge Tucker’s car, protesting both Tucker’s front and rear suspension, and the rear end of his vehicle. However, when Pulley’s tires were cited as being too soft, not only was he disqualified from the race but the protest of Tucker was thrown out.
That left Tucker as the winner, with Chappell moving to second and Lyons going up to third.
4-Cylinder: Phillip Wilson grabbed the lead from J.R. Baker on the fourth lap of the main event, eventually pulling away to win the race by more than three seconds. Baker was second and Bubba Kolb was third.
Baker jumped to the lead after starting the race on the pole. Kolb, who was on the outside of Row 1, couldn’t hold his position after Wilson made his way by out of the first two turns. Wilson soon set his sights on Baker but could not make a first-lap pass for the lead. The two, though, battled for the next three laps before Wilson finally found his way by as Baker’s car wobbled just enough to give Wilson the way past.
Wilson, now in the lead, began to pull away from the field and eventually won the race by 3.423 seconds. The better duel, however, came for second as Baker and Kolb found themselves in a fierce battle that went down to the final lap. Baker, as it turned out, had just enough to secure the runner-up spot, finishing ahead of Kolb by .165 seconds.
FWD: Billy Medlin was the top driver in the Front-Wheel Drive main event, taking the checkered flag by less than six-tenths of a second. Joel Cabe was second, while Seth Smith was third.
Medlin and Jason Bishop dueled early in the race for the lead before Medlin won out and got to the front of the field. His momentum was briefly halted after a crash on the third lap that effectively ended Bishop’s hopes at victory and led to a flat tire. He was able to continue racing but finished fifth by the end of the race.
The race continued for four more laps before another caution came out but, in that time, Medlin continued to hold the lead ahead of Smith, who had moved from a starting spot of fifth to second. Smith looked low just before the caution and appeared to get his nose in front but could not make a pass stick. Medlin continued in the lead and was finally able to pull away to secure the victory.
SECA 604 Crate: Brad Rachels rolled to his second straight main-event victory in the SECA 604 Crate Division, with Brad Stacey finishing second and Danny Howell ending in third.
Rachels, much like he did the week before, stormed out of the pole position and immediately built a lead that nobody could make up. By the end of the first four laps he held a lead of more than two seconds, and Rachels eventually led by 4.326 seconds at the halfway mark of the 20-lap main event. The lead eventually grew to more than a straightaway over Stacey, who could do little but watch Rachels drive off into the night and claim a one-sided victory.
Young Guns: T.J. Teal, after appearing to be dominated by Landon Davis in their head-to-head duel in the Young Guns Division, rallied as Davis’ car faltered to win the main event.
Davis shot to a comfortable lead right from the start, and by the halfway mark was up a whopping 10.987 seconds. The only question appeared to be whether Davis would lap Teal before the end of the race arrived. But as the laps went on Davis went up the track and tapped the wall, costing him half of his lead. Davis continued to have trouble as he scraped the wall again, allowing Teal to go from a near blowout loss to the lead with two laps to go. Once Teal got the lead, it was he who rolled to the easy victory.