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CLASH at 311 Speedway - 3/31 Results (Read 3904 times)
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CLASH at 311 Speedway - 3/31 Results
03/31/12 at 11:36pm
Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series
311 Speedway
March 31, 2012

Jeff Smith Races to Career Win #27 with Carolina Clash at 311 Speedway

by Mark Huey
PINE HALL, NC (March 31) Jeff Smith of Dallas, NC did not wait very long to motor his way to the front of the field this time. In the final event at 311 in 2011, Smith waited until lap 32 to assume the lead. This past Saturday, Smith was poised to tango with the leaders from the onset. From his third place starting spot, he already had the leaders in his sight and he knew that all of the work coming into this event was bound to pay-off. Smith had plenty to be thankful for as a result of just making it to the race. The main engine for the #18M J&J Race Cars entry was being freshened. He gave much credit to Jim Baggerly for allowing him to borrow it for use at 311. This was the first win of the Carolina Clash season for Smith, who holds a slim 1-point lead over Luke Roffers going to the next event in Lancaster, SC on April 14. Smith, who is expected to race at Lancaster on April 7 in his #70 crate car and the super car, will be ready.

So, there is a lot to talk about as this race featured plenty of action. If you missed it, settle in for the story.

The night started with perfect weather. Slim-to-none rain chances in the Madison area brought the crowds out in full force and they were all treated to some top-quality racing action. Much credit is to be given to Mike Fulp, Ray Robertson, and the entire staff of 311 Motor Speedway for getting the place in top-notch shape to host this event. All throughout the event, you could see the excitement in Fulp as he worked furiously to attend to every need. The Carolina Clash would like to thank all of the employees, staff and support teams of the 311 Motor Speedway for making March 31 one of the best weekends ever for Carolina Clash racing!

Upon arrival, it was clear this track was going to be racey. What looked almost like a golf ball filled with dimples, the track was packed and race-ready from the start - and the speeds only increased throughout the evening. During hot laps, only five of the registered 33 cars cracked into the 16 second bracket. As the track surface became established, the speeds picked up and all of the top ten drivers qualified in the 16 second range, being only separated by 0.272 seconds from first to tenth. These drivers would be locked into the feature.

The XS Power Racing Batteries Pole Winner was Gaffney, SC driver Dennis Franklin. "Rambo," the two-time defending champion, took the #37C AES Racing Barry Wright racecar to the top of the lead chart with a fast time of 16.684. Everyone then knew Rambo would be tough. The AES team had already tasted victory one time on this night, as car owner Steve Cook visited victory lane in the #17 GM Performance Late Model 604-Crate event. As such, the #17 was at the top a lot, with Mike Gault, also of Gaffney, SC, clocking in second-fastest time of 16.764. Thus, it was an all Palmetto State - all Cherokee County, SC front row. Both drivers cut their racing teeth at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, where Mike Gault's father and mother, Rock and Mary Gault, made Cherokee the racing empire of the southeast during the 1980s and 1990s.

After the fans were saluted, the action began - and it would not be the first and only lap one attempt. A car running near the middle of the top ten made contact with the dirt banking on the inside of turn one and an immediate melee ensued. Several cars were involved, with 5-time series champion Ricky Weeks suffering major cosmetic damage to his #1 Cooper Electric, Parton Lumber Company "Rutherfordton" Rocket. The right-rear quarter panel, decking and spoiler were torn away and major "FLOPPAGE" was the result for Weeks. He was able to continue in the event, but parts began to fly like leaves in a hurricane and he would pit several laps later, only to come back to a 14th place finish.

2011 Rookie of the Year Travis Yow experienced motor issues during the hot lap session and was sidelined for the event. The #5 Norman Nichols Plumbing, Paul Fields Engine Barry Wright was able to take the green using a 2011 points provisional starting position, but did not record any laps.

The excitement was taken to the highest level when as the leaders were about to complete lap 5, Jeff Smith and Dennis Franklin were as even as Harvick and Martin were at Daytona in 2007. Only the electronic scoring and timing system was able to conclude that Smith had the lead, but only by 0.002 (two-thousandths) of a second. That lap was Jeff Smith's fastest and the fastest of the entire race - 17.151. However, it would not count as scored with a caution when Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, NC spun out the #23 entry, negating the lead change. Stickler, nicknamed the "High-Side Tickler" from his various successes in NDRA Modz Open-Wheel Modified racing, was in the #23 machine formerly driven by Ronnie Hoover. It was his first start with Carolina Clash and he would enter the event by virtue of finishing 4th in the heat race.

During lap 5, West Virginia racer Michael Marlowe, Wayne Hughes and B-Main winner Doug Sanders, both headed to the pit area for the night. The race returned to green and Dennis Franklin settled in as the leader, pulling away from Smith and the rest of the field. On the prowl from his 14th place starting spot was Appling, Georgia and Wolf-Pack Rocket driver Brandon Overton, who carried the #76 machine to the second-deck as he brought out the broom and began sweeping off the unused cushion. When the dirt was cleared, Overton locked the four Amercian Racers into that new-found zone and began marching his way through the field. By lap 18, Overton was pressing on the top five. It definitely caught the attention of the crowd, where fans were pointing and encouraging one another to keep an eye on the #76 Budweiser car. Like a long-distance telephone call from a favorite loved-one, Overton was willing to accept the charges as he dialed in the high-side. When the call was connected, the sounds from the other side were sweet! Overton knew, much like Jeff Smith, that the key to many victories rests in the high-side. By this point in the event, Smith started to play second party to Overton's phone call, knowing that there was something up there. He positioning himself to make a run at the leader and by lap 19, the lane was paved. Like an HOV lane welcomes rushed freeway passengers, Smith noticed the gap entering turn three. Way on the outside he started his run and exiting turn four, Smith completed the high-side pass of Dennis Franklin and moved into the lead.

The race continued green until lap 25 when Ronnie Hoover slowed on-track in his #5H Heintx Performance racer. As yet, the big one had not occurred, but none to worry, there would be one - on the next two laps. It was lap 27 when Hall of Fame and 11-time Carolina Clash winner Billy Hicks of Mt. Airy, NC, who made his long-awaited return to Carolina Clash action, became hung together with Princeton, NC driver Dustin Mitchell. They were involved in a raging battle near the end of the top ten cars. They were connected completing lap 27 and triggered a pile-up entering turn one. The crash involved 10-time Clash winner Ray Tucker in the #21 Cassell Builders car and Trinity, NC Longhorn Chassis driver Justin Labonte. Also, West Virginia driver David Watts in the #04 car was sidelined in the crash, along with Kyle Strickler. Mitchell was able to continue and wound up 7th in the final rundown.

Thus, we settled in for a 10-lap shootout, and were still watching the advancement of the #76 car. By this time, he had worked into the top five.

Before we get to that point, where were Clash point-contenders Luke Roffers, Scott Autry, and Johnny Pursley? They were locked in battles in the top-10 for the entire event. Autry had advanced five spots, much like Overton, using the high-side. Autry, Roffers, and Chis Meadows, who had been waiting a long time for a decent Clash run, were all competitively in the top 10.

Did Mike Gault have problems in the race? He started on the front-row and has not been mentioned so far. No problems that was evident, but Gault did fall back through the top-10 early in the event and settled in for a 10th place NASCAR Technical Institute finishing spot.

The only other driver not-yet mentioned is the #15 Barry Wright of former Carolina Clash winner Gary Mabe and Clover, SC driver Ross Bailes. They were first and second in the first heat race and were able to run to the finish. Mabe scored 11th and Bailes wound up 9th in the feature.

So, the final 10 laps. Overton had made the way to the top three and made a daring move with seven laps left to press for second. He set up a pass on Dennis Franklin exiting turn two. He jumped out of the second story window and bolted to the bottom of the track under Franklin. The #76 machine slid up in front of Rambo and a fierce war was waged for the spot. Overton eventually pulled away from Rambo and set his sights on the leader, Jeff Smith. Three - the two laps - then the white flag and the #76 was there. A battle for the lead was sure to take center stage in about two more laps. The only problem was there would not be two more laps. Smith was able to hold off Overton by a narrow 0.490 seconds and capture his 27th checkered-flag with Carolina Clash.

Smith is the points leader as the series takes the week off for Easter, but there will be much racing to do at Lancaster Motor Speedway over the next two weekends in super late model racing. Smith will be in action at Lancaster this Saturday in the Carolina Crown event and both he and Luke Roffers will return to Lancaster April 14 for Clash Round 3! Each driver has a win and two top-six finishes so far. Johnny Pursley and Scott Autry will also be in action at Lancaster for the next two weeks and they are currently third and fourth in points. Dustin Mitchell will most likely be in action somewhere this weekend before heading to Lancaster.

So, there you have it. It was a great show. Randy Joyce, the announcer at 311 Motor Speedway, asked me after the race, which Carolina Clash race was the most memorable to me. I don't want to pick favorites because they all are awesome, but that one is near the top.

1 Jeff Smith Dallas, NC (3) 40 Running
2 Brandon Overton Dalton, GA (14) 40 Running
3 Dennis Franklin Gaffney, SC (1) 40 Running
4 Scott Autry, Autryville, NC (10) 40 Running
5 Chris Meadows Beckley, WV (7) 40 Running
6 Luke Roffers Concord, NC (6) 40 Running
7 Dustin Mitchell Princeton, NC (4) 40 Running
8 Johnny Pursley Clover, SC (9) 40 Running
9 Ross Bailes Clover, SC (13) 40 Running
10 Mike Gault Gaffney, SC (2) 40 Running
11 Gary Mabe Danbury, NC (11) 40 Running
12 Billy Hicks Mt. Airy, NC (20) 40 Running
13 Justin Labonte Trinity, NC (18) 40 Running
14 Ricky Weeks Rutherfordton, NC (8) 39 Running
15 Ray Tucker Greensboro, NC (16) 34 Running
16 Kyle Strickler Mooresville, NC (17) 30 Out of Race
17 David Watts Buchanan, VA (22) 27 Out of Race
18 Ronnie Hoover China Grove, NC (12) 25 Out of Race
19 Donald Bradsher Burlington, NC (5) 20 Out of Race
20 Steve Blackburn Greensboro, NC (15) 19 Out of Race
21 Michael Marlowe Nichols, SC (24) 17 Out of Race
22 Wayne Hughes Ghent, WV (19) 4 Accident
23 Doug Sanders Springwood, NC (21) 4 Accident
24 Travis Yow Fayetteville, NC (23) 1 Engine

Heat Race #1: Gary Mabe, Ross Bailes, Steve Blackburn, Kyle Strickler, Wayne Hughes, Doug Sanders, Brian Moody, Randy Harmon, Jimmy McCormick, Travis Greer, Mike Parker
Heat Race #2: Ronnie Hoover, Brandon Overton, Ray Tucker, Justin Labonte, Billy Hicks, Michael Marlowe, Scott Shirey, David Watts, Brian Ledbetter, Ronnie Poole
B-Main Results - (Top 2 Transfer to Feature) - Doug Sanders, David Watts
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