St. Augustine Speedway Race Story 1999-08-08

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA -A phenomenal night of double barrel thunder literally shook the St. Augustine Speedway Saturday night as the Florida Sunbelt Super Late Models and the powerful SARA AT&T Construction Modifieds made their first ever visit...

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA -A phenomenal night of double barrel thunder literally shook the St. Augustine Speedway Saturday night as the Florida Sunbelt Super Late Models and the powerful SARA AT&T Construction Modifieds made their first ever visit to St. Augustine half-mile. Astor, Fla.'s James Powell III picked up his first Sunbelt Series win in the 125-lap feature for the sleek super late model cars, holding off challenges from Darryl Shelnut of Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando's David Rogers for the win. Powell demonstrated the awesome power of his No. 37 Chevrolet Monte Carlo by grabbing the lead on the initial green and stretching his advantage to six car lengths over inside front row starter Shane Sawyer as the field thundered down the back straightaway. Shelnut and Rogers eventually chased down and kept pace with Powell but the 17-year veteran was able to make the "Natural Difference" Chevrolet just wide enough to keep either from making a big move. "I didn't think I was ever going to get to win one of these things," said Powell in victory lane. "Every time I looked in the mirror all I could see was that big silver hood. I knew Darryl was fast and he was wanting to go. I was just trying to hold on there at the end." "James drove a great race," said runner-up Shelnut. "This is a tough track to get around someone on and I just couldn't find the right spot at the right time. James did a great job and got the job done, I'm happy for him." Fastest qualifier and local favorite, Scotty Lagasse Jr. started the event sixth on the grid by virtue of the draw for inversion and had moved himself into a position to challenge for one of the top three positions. But the St. Augustine native looped the American Diabetes Association No. 22 in turn one while battling Rogers for position on lap 80. Forced to restart at the rear of the pack, Scotty was able to battle his way back to the seventh finishing position but ran out of laps before he could get back up to challenge the leaders. The second touring series event of the evening featured the SARA AT&T Construction Modified teams who took to the St. Augustine banking for a 50-lap main. In this event, Larry Martin of Gainesville Fla. charged through the field, coming from his fifth starting spot to take the lead on lap three from Rookie of the Year candidate and current point leader Perry Brown. Martin's relatively easy pass of Perry early in this event was reinforced a short time later when he almost immediately began to open a substantial gap between himself and the rest of the field. Although Martin was never seriously challenged from that point on and went on to take home the winner's share of the $5000 purse, the battles behind him were furiously raging. Fast qualifier, Robert Ham of Ormond Beach, Fla., the winner of the last two SARA Modified events and St. Petersburg's Dwayne Dempsey eventually sorted things out to follow Martin across the stripe a distant second and third. Brown, from Riverview, Fla. and local favorite Justin Moore of Jacksonville rounded out the top five. A particularly scary moment in this event occurred on lap 11 when the No. 19 car of Tom Root spun entering turn three after contact with another car. The resulting melee sent the powerful modified racers careening off each other and the St. Augustine concrete retaining wall at the fastest part of the half-mile "D" shaped oval. As the cars involved were finally coming to a stop, a brief but spectacular fire broke out that momentarily engulfed the No. 711 car of Mike Woods. Quick action by the Speedway fire and rescue crews who were already moving toward the scene kept the incident from getting out of hand and none of the drivers involved were injured. Local driver, Mark Bergman of Jacksonville, Bobby Dixon of Riverview, Mark Wortman of Palatka and Keith Alexsuk of Brooksville, Fla. were also involved in the incident. All six drivers were forced from the race with extensive damage to their racers. Two local divisions filled out the big evening of entertainment, the most impressive of which was the 20-lap Mini Stock main event. Six or more lead changes among four drivers and at least a dozen or more position changes from second through fifth kept the fans on their feet for the entire 20 laps. Jake Hartley of Jacksonville eventually emerged as the victor in this slug-feast but not before sharing the lead at one time or another with three St. Augustine drivers Mickey Leth, Jay Farris and Mike Ponce who finished second through fourth. Jacksonville's "Steady" Kevin Burkett rounded out the top five to maintain his divisional point lead. Another Jacksonville native Steve Thompson crashed heavily in one of the preliminary heat races and was unable to start the Mini feature. Jody Stratton of Stucco, Fla. in only his second race since coming back following elbow surgery took the lead at the initial green flag and hung on to win the 20-lap Hobby Stock main event. The bright yellow all over Stratton's rear bumper at race end was courtesy of Seth Caudill of MacClenny, Fla. who was relentless in his attempt to rattle the winner by applying a constant pressure to the rear of Stratton's Lawn Ranger machine. Rodney Norman and Bucky York, both of Orange Park and St. Augustine's Chris Manucy rounded out the top five in the action packed Hobby Stock feature. Next Saturday, August 14 it's "Summer Meltdown 99" at St. Augustine Speedway. In addition to our regular series of events we will be presenting the 1ST Coast Car Council's Hot Rod Show and Burnout Competition. Fans that saw this event last year have been clambering for the return of this program and will be filing in early to get a close look at the cars on display. Grandstand gates will open at 4:30 and the feature racing events will get underway at 7:30.

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Series NASCAR