Dirt tracks in full swing in the south

The dirt tracks in Georgia and Florida are in full swing for the next two weeks. Speedweeks 2018 gets started at Golden Isle Speedway with the Rhino Ag Super Bowl of Racing. This was two nights of Lucas Oil Super Late Model Racing.

West Virginia’s own Josh Richards showed why he was last year’s points champion by sweeping both nights of the event. Night one on Feb. 2 saw Josh take his Best Motorsports Rocket Chassis to the lead and he seemed to be the class of the field.

There was a spoiler lurking back in the field however. Young Hudson O’Neal was moving up from his 16th starting position with some daring moves and making the high side work on this Georgia clay surface. Hudson actually passed Josh in turns three and four with a perfectly executed “slide job” coming to the white flag. There was a spin and a caution flag and this meant Hudson had to give back the spot to Richards.

Josh said in postrace interviews that he got a little complacent there at the end and didn’t realize Hudson had such a fast car. Josh had left the bottom lane open and Hudson took full advantage of that. In dirt racing we use no mirrors or radios with the pit crews so it’s hard to tell for sure what’s going on behind you.

Josh was able to hold off Hudson for the final lap after the restart and took home the nice $10,000 dollar first prize. O’Neal picked up the hard charger award for coming from 16th to second and stated that the crew hit the setup perfectly and the track was so racy that he had a blast working through the field and that if the caution had not come out he would be holding that big check in victory lane.

Pole sitter Jonathan Davenport finished third after leading the first few laps. Jimmy Owens finished a strong fourth. The Rocket house car with Brandon Sheppard behind the wheel once again, rounded out the top five.

Ohio’s Mason Ziegler finished ninth and was the only other somewhat area racer in the field. Mason won at Elkins Raceway a few years ago in one of the big races.

Night two on Feb. 3 saw Jonathan Davenport set fast time but Mason Ziegler started from the pole after winning the fast dash. Josh Richards had engine problems and went to the backup car for the race. Josh started the race in 26th position as one of four drivers that had to use provisionals to make the feature event. Richards, Jimmy Owens, Scott Bloomquist and Billy Moyer Jr. were those drivers.

Ziegler, young Tyler Erb, and local racer Kyle Bronson battled at the front as Richard had his work cut out for him slicing through the field as he began his march to the front. Bronson, who lives in Bradenton, Florida,. was leading but Josh ran him down and was able to sweep both Georgia races.

Josh’s team pocketed $15,000 for this victory. Josh also won the hard charger award for his run to the front. Bronson held on to finish second. Second generation driver Tyler Erb finished third. He is the son of Dennis Erb Jr,. who is a late model star in his own right. Dennis finished fourth behind Tyler and I’m sure he was proud of Tyler’s run. Brandon Sheppard once

again grabbed fifth place with the Rocket house car.

West Virginia’s Mike Benedum finished 24th, followed by Bloomquist and Billy Moyer Jr., as all these cars had problems. The Lucas Oil Series moves into Tampa, Florida, to East Bay Raceway for Super Dirt Week on Feb. 5-11. The Modifieds and other divisions race during those days also. This is one of the premier events of all of Speedweeks. If the racing at Golden Isle was any indication, these dirt track events will be the best racing of Speedweeks.

The World of Outlaws Super Late Models kicks off their Speedweeks at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Georgia, on Feb. 9-10. They then move to Volusia Speedway Park in Barboursville, Florida, on Feb. 14-17. This is truly a race fan’s dream come true with great short track racing on both dirt and asphalt and superspeedway racing at Daytona International Speedway for almost a full month.

It should be noted that the Crate Late Models raced at East Bay to kick things off. One of our local racers, Derek Rodgers, tested out his new transporter rig and made his way to Tampa. Derek found himself sick with this awful flu that’s been going around. He was able to qualify for the first night’s feature but finished last in 22nd position. On night two he was feeling much better and was able to grab an 11th-place finish in his pink and white Superflow Crate car. The guys decided to do a “Days of Thunder” wrap for Speedweeks and I have to say it really looked sharp.

Virginia’s Walker Aurthur won on night one and Doug Horton won night two. The UMP style Modifieds will be the busiest class of all with a total of 14 race events during Speedweeks.

The high banks will be roaring on Saturday with the ARCA cars running the Lucas Oil 200 presented by General Tire Company. This race will be televised live on FS1 at 4 p.m. This race features cagey veterans and very raw rookie talent who are looking to gain superspeedway experience. What could possibly go wrong? This race is known for lap after lap of exciting racing.

Then on Sunday, pole qualifying for the front row of the 60th running of the Daytona 500 takes place. This also sets the starting fields for the two Duel at Daytona qualifying races next Thursday. Then at 3 p.m. the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona takes place. Fourteen of the latest pole winners, three of the last Daytona pole winners and three drivers from the 2017 playoffs are eligible to compete in this invitation-only event. These 20 drivers are Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr.(retired), Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth (no ride), Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Martin Truex Jr, Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, Kasey Kahne, Jamie Mc Murray and Ryan Newman. This race will air live at 3 p.m. on FS1 also. Tune in and remember, at the end of that loooong Super Straightaway there’s another high-banked left turn.

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