SWAINSBORO, GA - Taking advantage of his many years of experience and a little good fortune, veteran Cecil Eunice of Blackshear, GA piloted his Gary Johns/Snow Brothers/Norman Pontiac/Ace Pole Co. Chevrolet to victory in the National Late Model ...
SWAINSBORO, GA - Taking advantage of his many years of experience and a little good fortune, veteran Cecil Eunice of Blackshear, GA piloted his Gary Johns/Snow Brothers/Norman Pontiac/Ace Pole Co. Chevrolet to victory in the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Southern Dirt Tour, Bearden Oil/SUNOCO Skyrocket 75 Friday night at East Georgia Motor Speedway in Swainsboro, GA. Eunice led all 75 laps of the event, but never could afford the slightest mistake, as the snarling pack was never more than two car lengths behind the entire race. Current points leader Gene Maine expanded his margin with a second place finish in the Bennett Brothers/Russell Brown Racing/Ives Racing Chevrolet and Billy Godowns brought the Dave Wynn/Walter Newman/Henderson Chevrolet/Godowns Farm Camaro home in third place. Wendell Durrance nabbed the fourth finishing position and Dennis Smith rounded out the top five.
"That was a tough one," Eunice said in the winner's circle afterwards as he collected the $4,000 winner's check. "We could not afford the slightest slip all race long. I could feel the pressure all the time. We had some good luck that enabled us to stay in the race and Gene (Maine) was all over me all race long. The competition level in this series is so high that you can not afford to be off a hair if you hope to win."
Eunice lost the starter out of his car around the halfway point of the race, but until the checkered flag came out he was unaware that it was missing. When the starter fell of, on the backstretch, the wire leading to it wrapped itself around a frame rail and the live end never touched anything that would have caused it to short out the ignition system. Lady Luck was certainly smiling on the "Blackshear Bandit" this evening.
There were 29 cars on hand to try and make the 24 car starting line-up, and when qualifying time trials were finished the entire field was within 1.08 seconds of Dewayne Chancey's fast time of 19.29 seconds around the high banked, half mile clay oval. Eunice was second fast in time trials followed by Steve Jones and Maine. In heat races the winners were Chancey, Eunice, Maine and Chris Usry.
Chancey, a Rookie of the Year contender on the Tour, was making his first ever start on the front row and Eunice was able to use his experience to quickly grab the lead as the cars headed into turn one. Chancey fell into second spot followed by Maine. It did not take long for Maine to put pressure on Chancey and he was soon around the rookie and breathing hard on Eunice's rear bumper, Godowns, Usry and Wendell Durrance were also able to slip around the erstwhile pole sitter and by the sixth lap the front five were locked up nose-to-tail with Chancey two car lengths back in sixth. Following Chancey were fellow Rookie battlers Jones and Henry Carter Jr.
On lap 15 Chancey drifted a little high in turn four, and Jones headed for the low side to make the pass. Unfortunately Chancey was trying hard to protect his position and came down on Jones and the two tangled resulting in a multi-car spin on the front straight as the tightly bunched field scrambled to avoid the two. Chancey suffered a broken trailing arm that would end his night just three laps later and the damage to Jones' car would eventually force him to retire to the pits on lap 47.
Once the clean-up was complete, it was back to racing again, with Eunice continuing to lead the tightly bunched field. From front to back the cars were running bumper-to-bumper and each move had to carefully considered before it was executed. A careless attempt to pass the car in front would result in the loss of one or two spots. Thrust and counter thrust became the rule as drivers would probe for the advantage before slipping past.
At the halfway point Eunice continued to hold the lead, with the entire field perched on his rear bumper. Maine, Godowns, Usry and Durrance filled the top five positions as the leaders were all in tight formation. Just over a car length back came the cars of Tracy Walden, Ricky Brant, Terry Lumley, Brian Stewart and Dennis Smith, again in nose-to-tail formation, as was the entire field. Each time someone would open a gap, it would close on the next lap. The only respite for the drivers from the constant pressure was the occasional caution period for a spin or a car that slowed on the track. Dennis Smith had moved into the top ten from his 13th starting spot while another diver making his way forward was Brain Stewart, running in eighth spot on lap 42 after beginning the race in fourteenth position.
A three car battle in the middle of the pack involving Terry Lumley, Joe Kump and Jimmy Lee Davis saw Davis work his way past Kump, only to have Lumley get a little sideways in turn two forcing Davis to check up to avoid hitting the local favorite and Kump quickly shot by to regain the spot on the low side. Stewart, having worked his way as high as eighth, saw all his work negated when he went high in turns one and two, and almost the entire field drove by him on the low side before he could find room to slip back into line.
Just five laps from the end, Chris Usry, diving the sole Ford in the race, was forced to head for the pits with an overheating engine surrendering his fourth place, and on the last lap Brant slipped a little too high and went from fifth back to seventh between turn four and the finish line. Eunice's final margin of victory was one car length in a race that was slowed by only eight cautions, including one for a dog that ran onto the track. The race took just 46 minutes and 35 seconds to complete and all the cars running at the end were on the lead lap. So evenly matched were the cars that not one car was lapped on the track during the entire race.
The next stop for the National Late Model Sportsman Series will be at Cochran, GA for another 75 lap run on the fast 3/8 mile high banked Cochran Speedway on July 18 and 19.
John Kaiser, NLMS
East Georgia Speedway - NLMS - Official results for the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Skyrocket 75: Ps.Ql.No. Driver , Car Laps -- -- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- ----- 1 2 22 Cecil Eunice Norman Pontiac/Ace Pole Chev 75 2 3 201 Gene Maine Ives Racing/Russell Brown Racing Chev 75 3 5 20 Billy Godowns Jr Godowns Farm/Henderson Chev Chev 75 4 7 32 Wendell Durrance Bills Timber/Bennett Bros Motor Chev 75 5 13 D21 Dennis Smith Holliman Heat & Air/Friecheck Chev 75 6 11 55 Terry Lumley Hollywood Race cars/Hadden WrkingChev 75 7 12 44 Ricky Brant Atlas Sand & Gravel/Compet Prod Chev 75 8 19 721 Joe Kump A-1 Specialty/Car House Chev 75 9 18 3 Jimmy Lee Davis Trident Supply/Aggressive Signs Chev 75 10 23 11 Tracy Mimbs Flexsteel/KFC/Pepsi/FHelton Chev 75 11 20 35 Randy Ellenberg Bagwell's Framing/Bagalo Chassis Chev 75 12 6 28 Henry Carter Jr Mimbs Farms/Sweats Port Build Chev 75 13 14 74 Brian Stewart Lloyds Bumper to Bumper/Rhino Chev 75 14 25 3T Mike Mishoe Little's Paints/Cork's Fabricare Chev 75 15 23 31 Mike Akeson Fan Five Racing Chev 75 16 4 12 Chris Usry Washington Wood/Robinson TruckingFord 70 17 22 17 Alex Vickers Autozone Chev 60 18 10 21 Ivedent Lloyd Jr Snow Bros/Larry Moore Chev 49 19 8 0 Steve Jones Quality Saw Works/Beardon Oil Chev 47 20 9 2 Tracy Walden Infiltrator Systems/Ferguson Ent Chev 43 21 16 00 Jimmy Sharpe Country Classic Homes Chev 42 22 17 46 Everett Phillips Everett's Custom Services Chev 33 23 24 10 Lee Jackson Mallard's Auto Parts/Bounty Hse Chev 33 24 15 2x4 Johnny Collins Castrol GTX/Fickling Bros Chev 29 25 1 2c DeWayne Chancey Performance Elec/Fast Trak Comm Chev 18 26 26 1 Scotty Nipper Scotty's Muffler/Go-Fast GraphicsChev 0 Cautions : 8 for 34 laps Time of Race : 46 min 35 secs Margin of Victory : 1 car length Track Length : 0.5000 Miles