DoMAINEation! Valdosta, GA - For every team on the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Southern Dirt Tour, the semi-banked 1/2 mile clay oval known as Thunderbowl Speedway proved to be a difficult place to get...
Valdosta, GA - For every team on the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Southern Dirt Tour, the semi-banked 1/2 mile clay oval known as Thunderbowl Speedway proved to be a difficult place to get a handle on this weekend. Tough that is unless you happened to be sitting in the #201 Chevrolet Camaro owned by Kim Ives, powered by a brand new Dennis Bennett built motor, riding in a Russell Brown chassis and Thunderbowl happens to be your hometown track. In that case your name is Gene Maine and you set fast time in qualifying, win your heat race, and lead every lap in the 75 lap feature to pocket $5,000 for winning the NLMS Mid Season Championship.
As 33 cars arrived in the pits Friday, the talk up an down pit road was the track, which had suffered from five straight days of rain, and track crews were working feverishly to get a surface prepared for the evenings activities. Eventually the track was as ready as it was going to be, but during hot laps the condition deteriorated quickly with ruts and ridges appearing in both turns 2 and 4. Qualifying time trials were the first order of business and every car that went on the track was having trouble maintaining any sort of stability until Maine went out as the next to last car to qualify and he cranked out a lap of 20.670 seconds for an average speed of 87.083 mph, nearly a second quicker than anyone else had been able to turn. By the time the heat races began, the track was getting worse, but it did not seem to upset the smooth driving style of the Valdosta native, who took the lead at the green and was never challenged as he won his heat easily to gain the pole for the next day's race. Wendell Durrance, Lavon Sloan and Dennis Smith won the remaining heats to lock in the first four spots in the feature.
Track crews worked late into the night and were out early and by the time the teams arrived at the track on Saturday the track was in fine shape and ready for the evening's races. With 29 different winners in just 36 races, the Southern Dirt Tour always provides plenty of action for the fans with plenty of passing. This race was no exception, except that it all happened behind the leader. Maine jumped out to a five car length lead on the first lap and except during the 8 caution periods no one was able to get any closer than that the rest of the night. Lavon Sloan, another local driver put the heaviest pressure on Maine during the first half of the race, but despite his best efforts he could not dent the lead held by Maine.
The first casualty of the evening was third place points man Jimmy Lee Davis of Jacksonville, FL who lost the rear end in his Wiggins Racing/Aggressive Signs/Trident Supply Chevrolet and he slowed in turns one and two. In a race paying double points, it was a heavy blow for the normally ebullient Davis. For fifth starting Steve Jones of Rhine, GA, things were going in the opposite direction as he slid under Durrance and
moved into fourth on lap 13. The entire field was running in a tightly bunched formation as they circled the track with positions changing at every turn.
Ivedent Lloyd, the 1996 NLMS Champion began working his way through the field from his seventh starting position, while in front of him Dennis Smith was having problems staying low on the preferred line and was slowly slipping backwards , First Jones was able to slide under him in turn two and then Lloyd made the same move. At the halfway point of the race it was still Maine with a six car length lead, Sloan in second followed by Jones, Lloyd, Durrance, Chris Usry in the sole Ford in the field, Charlie Harris, Henry Carter Jr. and Randy Ellenburg in the top ten.
On lap 40 Durrance tried to pass Lloyd on the high side in turns one and two, but he got too high and spun in front of nearly the entire field. Everyone scrambled to avoid the spinning car and no one else was collected. On the restart Jones shot to the inside of Sloan and grabbed second and on the next lap it was Lloyd's turn to move inside Sloan and take over third. Just after the pass was made Sloan's engine went up in a puff of smoke, ending his race prematurely. Lloyd closed up on Jones and began looking for a way around the rookie contender. Lloyd tried many different lines as the laps began to wind down, the difference in the cars being that Lloyd was quicker getting into the turns, while Jones appeared to be getting out of the turns better. Finally with just two laps remaining, Lloyd got into turn three under Jones and was able to hold his line and complete the pass. Moving up from seventh place Harris was making a late run, but he got only as far as fourth before the laps ran out. The checkered flag flew for Maine with Lloyd helping his defense of the title in second and Jones taking a well deserved third. Fourth place went to Harris and taking a fine fifth in the Ford was Usry. There were 19 cars on the lead lap at the conclusion of the race, and only one car lost a lap on the track during the entire race.
For Gene Maine, Kim Ives and the rest of the Ives Racing crew it was a very successful weekend that propelled them into the points lead as the series heads into the second half. The next race for the National Late Model Sportsman Series will be July 3 & 4 at East Georgia Speedway in Swainsboro, GA.
John Kaiser, NLMS-PR
Thunderbowl Speedway - NLMS - Provisional results for the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Mid Season Championships: Ps.Ql.No. Driver , Car Laps -- -- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- ----- 1 1 201 Gene Maine Ives Racing/Russell Brown Racing Chev 75 2 7 21 Ivedent Lloyd Jr Snow Bros/Larry Moore Chev 75 3 5 0 Steve Jones Quality Saw Works/Beardon Oil Chev 75 4 8 80 Charlie Harris Economy Transmission & Garage Chev 75 5 11 12 Chris Usry Washington Wood/Robinson TruckingFord 75 6 6 35 Randy Ellenberg Bagwell's Framing/Bagalo Chassis Chev 75 7 10 28 Henry Carter Jr Mimbs Farms/Sweats Port Build Chev 75 8 15 55 Terry Lumley Hollywood Race cars/Hadden WrkingChev 75 9 13 97 Carl Black Carter Rental Equipment Chev 75 10 14 721 Joe Kump A-1 Specialty/Car House Chev 75 11 22 135 Charles Sealy Yeoman Const/Bozeman ConstructionChev 75
12 25 11 Tracy Mimbs Flexsteel/KFC/Pepsi/FHelton Chev 75 13 26 L12 Johnny Lieupo lieupo Motorsports Chev 75 14 21 44 Ricky Brant Atlas Sand & Gravel/Compet Prod Chev 75 15 24 66 Chuck Chitty C&C Powerline/J&W Engine Serv Chev 75 16 4 D21 Dennis Smith Holliman Heat & Air/Friecheck Chev 75 17 2 32 Wendell Durrance Bills Timber/Bennett Bros Motor Chev 75 18 20 P21 Larry Perry Jr Snow Bros/Reeves RPM/SMC TruckingChev 75 19 19 53 John Rankin Rankin Const/Snow Bros/Kroury EngChev 75
20 18 22 Cecil Eunice Norman Pontiac/Ace Pole Chev 75 21 24 00 Derek Suits T-Mans Window Serv/JMR Masonery Chev 74 22 3 122 Lavon Sloan McGee and Collins Racing Chev 48 23 12 37 Robby Metts Tool Shop Contracts/Willis Paint Chev 45 24 16 88 Paul George R&J Greeneries/Heather Farm Chev 30 25 17 3 Jimmy Lee Davis Trident Supply/Aggressive Signs Chev 11 26 9 99 Gary Spivey Big K Auto parts/DP Racing Chev 4 of Race : 48 mins 25.6 seconds Margin of Victory : 5 car lengths Cautions : 8 for 21 laps Track Length : 0.5000 Miles John Kaiser, NLMS-PR