Jay Middleton SpeedFest USA Lakeland notes

Middleton Proves To Be One of the Best SLM Drivers in the Nation 20-Year-Old Florida Hotshot Leads Southern Contingent at SpeedFest 2005 LAKE CITY, FL (January 31, 2005) -- Jay Middleton always knew that, among the Southern Super Late Model ...

Middleton Proves To Be One of the Best SLM Drivers in the Nation
20-Year-Old Florida Hotshot Leads Southern Contingent at SpeedFest 2005

LAKE CITY, FL (January 31, 2005) -- Jay Middleton always knew that, among the Southern Super Late Model drivers, he ranked right up there as one of the best. He was the 2002 Florida Pro Series "Rookie of the Year" and then followed that up in 2003 by winning the Florida Pro Series championship. That same year, he finished second in the FASCAR Sunbelt Series point standings, behind one of the greatest Short Track racers ever, Wayne Anderson.

This past weekend, Jay had the perfect chance to show everyone that he is among the best Super Late Model drivers, not only in the south, but in the entire country. And he stepped up to the plate and scored.

Middleton finished fifth in Saturday night's "SpeedFest 2005" 200-lap Super Late Model showdown at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL against one of the strongest fields of Super Late Model drivers ever put together. Middleton also led the Southern contingent of drivers in the field with his finish.

"We were the top South car and that is something to be said," commented Middleton, who is also a full-time student who is studying business at Santa Fe Community College in Florida. "I'm really pleased with the finish we had, but it could have been better. Yet, to be in the top-five among 50 of the best cars in the country isn't bad."

Middleton started Saturday night's race in 11th and quickly made his way into the top-10, where he slowly started picking cars off one-by-one before settling into second place. However, pit strategy and getting fresh tires put Middleton back in the pack.

With four fresh tires and just 75-laps to go Middleton ran out of time in his race toward the front. Jay's maturity showed through his patience as he picked off cars and eventually settled into a top-five finish.

"We ran out of time pretty quick there near the end," said Middleton. "It's good that we finished in the top-five, but it is not what I wanted. I don't think there was a faster car on the track at the end of the race. I was still running in the 21s (second-range) and I don't think there was anyone else out there doing that. I was running the fourth-place guy down at the end. He was a straightaway ahead of me, and I had it down to a half-straight by the end. We needed a caution to group everyone back up with about 10 to go and we would have had a chance.

"We went along with the strategy we had planned, but you can always second-guess after the race is over. We wanted there to be an earlier pit stop for lefts (side tires). We were watching the guys in front of us and we shouldn't have. We should have just come in when we wanted to. We came back out with all four tires on lap 125 and we thought we'd have time. But we came back out in 18th, so I had to work to pass every car one-by-one. That is pretty hard to do in 75-laps at this track. Track position is pretty important here."

Now Middleton will get right back at it and try to continue his early season speed with a win in the Pete Orr Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway on Saturday, February 5.

The event is held in honor of the late Pete Orr, who was a Florida racing fixture until he died in 2002. Last year Middleton was awarded the Pete Orr Memorial Sportsman Award

"It goes to someone who is a good racer and a good person off the track and I was really proud to have won it. That makes this race very special to me."

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Series Stock car
Drivers Wayne Anderson