Sutton Conquers Rivals, Tames Five Flags in Rout; Johnson Claims $1K Pro Trucks Prize
By Chuck Corder
Everybody was left scratching their heads once the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks feature came to a finish Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
One car absolutely steamrolled for 35 dominant laps while the rest of the field struggled with mechanical issues and avoiding the slew of cautions that plagued the race.
Milton’s Gary Sutton lapped the entire 23-car field and the 2012 Super Stocks Snowball Derby champion won a feature race at the famed half-mile asphalt oval for the first time since 2015.
“We took this ugly monstrosity of a car and wore them out!” Sutton proclaimed. “Everybody wants to talk about the car. If you wanna talk about the car, I’m gonna talk about the car.
“We took this thing to house after last race and chopped it in half. We’re already talking about what we can chop off next.”
Jason Johnson, despite being at least one lap down, finished as the race’s runner-up and Michael Johnson rounded out the podium.
The Friday night program at Pensacola’s high banks was delayed by Friday’s onslaught of rain. Racers driving over from the Mobile-area also had further difficulties because parts of I-10 were closed.
After his win, Sutton was prevented from reaching Victory Lane for another bizarre incident. Two cars, who finished well off the podium, blocked pit row as they shared an animated conversation with each other.
Johnson, of Moss Point, Miss., was tickled to finish second after struggling to be competitive for most of the night.
“That’s a first time there,” Johnson said.
Sutton led all 35 laps, as he battled against Joe Bethea Jr. early on. Bethea, from Deatsville, Ala., was driving a Dave Mader-prepared car.
But the race was overshadowed by yellow and red flags. There was a big crash on the opening lap when the field went three-wide into Turn No. 4. A big crash ensued between Troy Grisaffi and Pensacola’s Kody Brusso. Brusso came into the night just five shy of the lead in the points standings.
That delayed the feature another 20 minutes as the track and safety crew officials cleaned the debris from the speedway.
There were four more cautions that flew Friday, two of which brought out more red flags as a result of the aggressive brand of racing.
The last victim of the night was Charlie Skipper Jr., who was the fastest in qualifying and the winner of the last month’s Outlaw Stocks feature.
Skipper barely made contact with Bethea as the two battled for second down the back stretch. The slight brush was enough to send both for a spin, as the rest of the field scrambled to avoid the mess.
Andrew Johnson has impeccable timing.
The Vancleave, Miss., driver picked the perfect night to score his first career victory at Five Flags Speedway. Johnson led wire-to wire in the Pro Trucks 40-lap feature on a night where the winner took home a cool $1,000.
Talk about timing.
“Praise the Lord, thank you Jesus!” an elated Johnson said. “I’ve been needing this. My wife’s crying. The kids are crying. I’m not even crying yet.”
Johnson’s tears of joy were well-earned, as he held off series points leader Jay Jay Day in the waning laps. Reigning Pro Trucks Snowball Derby champion Jarrett Parker picked up his third third-place finish in three races this season.
“We need to get up there and get a second or a win,” Parker said. “I know the weather put some heartbreak in the night, but these fans who stuck it out are awesome.”
Day, who was coming off a win in last month’s feature, seemed content to come home in second and take full control of the overall points lead.
“It was not enough, but we were real fast,” Day said. “We got the pole. That was good. To come outta here second, I’m thrilled. My guys worked really hard. Congratulations to (Johnson). He did a great job. To see him win, I’m pumped for him. It’s really cool.”
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
The cream of the crop stayed at the top Friday in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen division.
Once again, Steve Buttrick — he of the five Sportsmen Snowball Derby titles — and multi-time track champion Brannon Fowler were the class of the field at Five Flags Speedway.
This night, though, belonged to Buttrick. The driver of the blue No. 33 notched his second win of the season, leading from the drop of the opening green flag. Fowler settled for runner-up and Jimbo Walker placed third.
“I didn’t give Brannon an easy ride,” Buttrick said. “He bougth two tires, and I didn’t buy any. I didn’t wanna give him the chance to catch up.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Word began spreading in the Five Flags Speedway pits early Friday that Johnathan Day had a $100 bounty placed on him.
If a driver could dethrone the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks points leader and his four-race winning streak, then that driver could collect his winnings.
Pensacola’s Robert Balkum was happy to oblige. Balkum took the lead on Lap 5 and never looked back despite a hard charge from Day late in the race.
“It’s about time!” Balkum shouted. “I guess he thought he could push me outta the way. His car is too light to be pushing on mine.”
Day’s final attempt to rattle Balkum late in the race backfired. Day rammed Balkum’s bumper hard, but instead of unnerving Balkum, Day got himself out of sorts and had to make an impressive save before his silver No. 11 nearly crashed into the outside wall.
Tommie Blocker took home second for another podium finish and David Johnson finished third.
Day came into Friday a perfect four-for-four in 20-lap features at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
He appeared headed for his fifth straight victory when he set a new Pure Stocks track record during qualifying.
Day’s mark of 21.340 seconds eclipsed the old record of 21.471, which was set a few Decembers ago at the Snowball Derby.
But when the feature began, Balkum was able to withstand Day’s rally and hand the Mobile driver his first defeat of the season.