GAMBLIN' GENE GARNERS GOLD Savannah, GA - The National Late Model Sportsman Series made the first of three visits for the Southern Dirt Tour to Oglethorpe Speedway Park in Savannah, GA and in a race that saw tires bursting like balloons, 1997 ...
GAMBLIN' GENE GARNERS GOLD
Savannah, GA - The National Late Model Sportsman Series made the first of three visits for the Southern Dirt Tour to Oglethorpe Speedway Park in Savannah, GA and in a race that saw tires bursting like balloons, 1997 NLMS Series Champion Gene Maine of Quitman, GA. driving the Barry Wright/Bennett Bros./JS&D Trucking/Ives Racing/Twisted Graphics Chevrolet Monte Carlo gambled on making a pit stop for tires and saw it pay off as he roared to the win and collected $5,000 for his effort. Wesley Hood of Cowpens, SC. in the Barry Wright/Clements/ Clary Hood Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo came home in second after a race long battle with third finishing Billy Godowns in the Walter Newman/Wynn's/Henderson Chevrolet/Godowns Farms Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Dewayne Johnson of Columbus, Ga. finished fourth with Johnny Collins of Jacksonville, Fla. taking fifth.
"The cars fine early on, then it started to tighten up and it seemed like everyone was passing me," Maine said afterwards. "I looked up and saw lap 68 on the board and called the crew and told them I was coming in for rear tires. We changed them and the car was good, but we had nothing for Cecil (Eunice). If he had not worn out the tire, we would not have won. What really made the difference was that we made our change before everyone else and that gave us the lead at the end."
Gene Maine led the 25 car field to the green, but it was Cecil Eunice who brought the crowd to their feet as he used the high side of the track to drive around Maine in turns one and two and take the lead going down the back straight. Maine fell into second with Hood third, Godowns fourth and Lee Jackson in fifth as the first lap ended. Michael Lloyd once again started at the rear of the field after crashing during Friday's Heat races and using Cecil Eunice's backup car he began a charge through the field as he gained the advantage over Merle Diem Jr. on lap 3.
The field quickly settled into formation and the battles for position began to develop. The only position in the field that was not being contested in the early stages was the leader, as Eunice began to slowly open a sizable lead. By lap 12 Eunice was lapping slower cars while behind him passes for position occurring with regularity. Mark Davis, Bobby Padgett and Lloyd were fighting one big battle while Jody Rogers was able to finally make the pass on Terry Lumley on lap 15. Ricky Brant, Brian Turner and Dewayne Johnson battled and Godowns and Hood were already beginning their war. Godowns took the spot when Hood slipped a little in turn two in a move that saw the cars three wide with Godowns in a sandwich of Lee Jackson and Hood. When they sorted themselves out it was Jackson in third, Godowns fourth and Hood fifth.
The first caution flew on lap 20 as Charles Sealy slowed and was unable to get to the pits due to race traffic. The field soon returned to green flag racing with Jackson now all over Maine and looking for a way by. On lap 24 he tried the inside on the back stretch, but backed off when he could not gain the advantage. Jackson began to try the high side, and again the low line, but could not get an edge, although his car was obviously faster at this point. Two through five were now nose to tail as Godowns and Hood had joined the fight for second while behind them, Johnny Collins was running in sixth followed by Henry Carter, Jody Rogers, Skip Pannell and Ricky Brant.
Collins now began to challenge Hood for fifth while Jackson continued to challenge Maine for second. On lap 28 Collins was able to get by Hood and Carter now moved up on the rear bumper of the South Carolina hotshoe. On lap 34 Jackson was able to displace Maine from second and one lap later Godowns also worked his way past Maine. The slow slide backwards through the field for Maine and by lap 50 the order at the front had Eunice leading Jackson, Godowns, Collins, and Hood. Carter was sixth with Maine, Rogers, Pannell and Turner making up the top ten.
While the first half of the race was relatively caution free, the yellow was to fly more often in the second half as the sandy composition of the track began to wreak havoc on the tires of the entire field. The first to suffer from a flat right rear was Dewayne Johnson, who limped into the pits under caution on lap 54. On lap 58 Godowns, Hood Joe Kump and Ricky Brant all went to the pits for fresh rubber after seeing their right rears go flat. There was still plenty of good racing going on with Rogers moving forwards with a pass of Maine and Lloyd now up to sixth place as he too moved past Maine along the front straight.
On lap 68 Maine came into the pits under caution and changed both rear tires before rejoining the field at the rear. The order now had Eunice, still cruising in the lead, Jackson second, Collins third. Carter and Rogers rounded out the top five followed by Pannell, Turner, Mike Mishoe, Lloyd, Jason Hylton, Johnson and Godowns.
On the restart it was Carter passing Collins along the back straight, but on lap 73 it was the turn of Hylton and Collins to suffer from flats. This restart saw five cars involved in a melee in turn one with several cars exiting the track. Those involved were Meadows, Padgett, Kump, Johnson and Turner, but all were able to return without losing a lap and only minor sheet metal damage. The next attempt at a restart saw Carter dive inside Jackson along the front straight and take second place heading into turn one.
Lap 80 saw Collins move is Hylton as the front pack continued to shuffle positions and Jackson, Rogers, Mishoe and Lloyd were all embroiled in a heated battle for position. Eunice was continuing to lead, easing the car through the corners and no one else in the field had an answer for his pace. The question now became, could Eunice make his tires last? Carter still trailed in second on lap 84 with Jackson third and Rogers in fourth. Lloyd had advanced to fifth with Maine now back into sixth, Hood seventh and Godowns eighth as the two continued to battle.
Rogers and Lloyd were both able to pass Jackson on a restart and then on lap 91 as he closed on Carter, Rogers spun out and Carter headed to the pits for a flat tire. On the restart, Jackson was hit in the rear by Hylton and slammed the inside pit wall hard ending a promising race in front of his hometown fans. Lloyd had worked his way into second, but the tires got him as well, and then on lap 96, just four laps from the end, Eunice suffered from the same fate as everyone else as his right rear went flat and Maine inherited the lead. The last four laps saw Godowns and Hood stage an epic battle for second while Maine was able to fend off them both and take the win.
In Friday's qualifying time trials, local favorite Bobby Oglesby set the fast time in qualifying with a fast lap of 20.408 seconds around the semi-banked 5/8ths mile oval for an average speed of 110.251 mph. Maine, Eunice, Hood and Godowns would win heat races to secure the front four starting spots. Michael Lloyd's charge from 25th starting position to an eventual 7th place finish netted him the "Hard Charger" award and Anthony Meadows was the Rookie of the Race.
The next event for the National Late Model Sportsman Series will be April 23 and 24 at Cochran (Ga,) Speedway with a 100 lap event on tap.
Oglethorpe Speedway Pk. - NLMS- Provisional results for the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Savannah Spring 100:
Ps.Ql.No. Driver , Car Laps Notes -- -- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- ----- -------
1 201 Gene Maine, Quitman GA JS&D Trucking Chev 100 2 57 Wesley Hood, Cowpens SC Clary Hood Inc. Chev 100 3 20 Billy Godowns, Louisville GA Godowns Farm Chev 100 4 45 Dewayne Johnson, Columbus GA WJ Plemons InsuranceChev 100 5 0 Johnny Collins, Jacksonville, FL Danny Clanton Chev 100 6 3 Bobby Padgett, Jacksonville, FL Wiigins Racing Chev 100 7 2 Michael Lloyd, Jacksonville FL Lumber Unlimited Chev 100 8 28 Henry Carter, Swainsboro GA Mimbs Farm Chev 100 9 31 Anthony Meadows, Lanett AL H&H Auto nd Racing Chev 100 10 71 Jody Rogers, Statesboro GA Y-Delta Electric Chev 100 11 8 Jason Hylton, Quitman GA JS&D Trucking Chev 100 12 22 Cecil Eunice, Blackshear GA Norman Pont/Ace Pole Chev 100 13 44m Bobby Morris, Pooler, GA Lakeside Water Company Chev 99 14 19 Kasey O'Steen, Waycross GA Satilla Motors/KFC Chev 98 15 10 Lee Jackson, Brooklet GA Eagle Supp/Jerrys CornerChev 91 16 P1 Skip Pannell, Albany, GA Southway Industrial ServChev 89 17 41 Mark Davis, Savanah GA LJN Motorsports Ford 86 18 3 Mike Mishoe, Nahunta GA Little's Paints Chev 84 19 721 Joe Kump, Hollywood FL A-1 Specialty/Kar House Chev 81 20 T1 Brian Turner, Augusta, GA Chev 76 21 4 Terry Lumley, Swainsboro GA Rhino Linings Chev 68 22 44 Ricky Brant, Pooler GA M Blue/Lakeside Water Chev 62 23 112 Merle Diem Jr, Chev 45 24 35 Charles Sealy, Moultrie GA Scruggs Conc/BTS ConstChev 18 25 37 Bobby Oglesby, Bloomingdale GA TE Hughes/D. TutenChev 18 Track Length : 0.6250 Miles