Kids Steal Show in Bike Races; Ruble On Top of Modifieds of Mayhem in Season’s Most Thrilling Race
By Chuck Corder
The beginning was a harbinger for things to come for Korey Ruble.
The 32-year-old driver from Headland, Ala., just north of Dothan, made a daring pass to get to third on the opening lap of Friday’s Modifieds of Mayhem 50-lap feature at Five Flags Speedway.
Ruble earned that position and then put in yeoman’s work to stalk then-leader Jeff Letson for nearly 20 laps.
Ruble, who won the Modifieds Snowball Derby last December, finally got around Letson on Lap 36 and pulled away from the 13-car field to earn his first Modifieds win of the season at Pensacola’s high banks.
Texans Bayley Currey and Joe Aramendia finished second and third, respectively.
“That was a heckuva race,” Ruble said. “Jeff Letson is a heckuva racecar driver. He raced me clean, but hard. He was doing things you gotta do to win. When (Currey) came up so hard, I didn’t know what he had. I’m glad when I got lead, we were able to maintain.”
The 50 lapper would’ve easily been the best feature of the young season at the famed half-mile asphalt oval, if the track’s annual kids’ bicycle races had been saved for another.
Instead, more than 60 kids across three age divisions put on a great show for the Five Flags faithful.
Noah Merritt, the grandson of Pure Stocks driver John Kevin Merritt, blew away field of the 5-under class. Hayden Wolf captured the 6-9 division and Cadin Garlin cruised to Victory Lane against a stout group of 10- to 12-year-olds.
Friday’s features in the Sportsmen and Pure Stocks were not over at press time.
Ruble’s Mods win was a near replica of his Derby win last year. He bided his time, as Letson did a terrific job to block Ruble’s attempts to pass in every turn and all around the racetrack.
What made the task more difficult for Ruble was that he had both Currey and Aramendia breathing down his No. 66.
Every time Ruble make a push, Currey was right there on Ruble’s fender and Aramendia was on his outside.
“We might’ve had a car to compete with Ruble, but that’s way it goes,” said Aramendia, who won the Mods opener at Five Flags earlier this year. “I wanted to win, though.”
However, that honor belong to Ruble on this night.
After a missed shift cost him a Pro Trucks win earlier this month, Jay Jay Day was determined to not let another feature slip through the gears.
Day, the series points leader, captured his second 30-lap victory of the season against a talented field of 15 trucks Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
“It was great. It was awesome,” said Day, the Theodore, Ala., native. “We were a little loose a first, but it came to us. We got us a win. We deserved it. We worked really hard.”
Pensacola’s Clint Holmes and Molino’s Jarrett Parker rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively.
Holmes led for the first half of the race until a lapped car proved to be his demise on Lap 15. Day slid under Holmes and immediately pulled away from the rest of the pack.
“It was good,” Holmes said. “We worked on it a lot this week. That guy’s (Day) fast. I’m gonna figure it out before long, though.”
Parker, the reigning Pro Trucks Snowball Derby champion, set the fast time (18.596 seconds) during qualifying and came home with another top-three finish.
“We didn’t have anything for Jay Jay or Clint (Friday),” Parker said. “They were on a roll.”
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
Jason Huffmaster had no plans to race.
With his wife nursing a bum hip and in need of some equipment, Huffmaster wasn’t expecting much at Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
But when fellow driver Mark Barnhill loaned him some tires and Huffmaster drew the pole after the dice roll invert, his luck began to change.
Huffmaster led wire-to-wire to get his first career The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen victory, holding off a hard-charging Jonathan Langham and became the series’ fourth different winner to celebrate in Victory Lane.
“I have to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ,” Huffmaster said. “My competitors drove me clean.”
Langham had a shot to win on the final lap, but he thought better with the checkered flag in plain sight. Langham nudged Huffmaster coming out of Turn No. 4, but Huffmaster held his line and kept his No. 657 straight while Langham backed the No. 1 off.
“I ain’t ever won one over here, but I’m gonna win one eventually,” Langham said. “But I ain’t gonna dump somebody on the last lap like that to get a win.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
The drive for five didn’t come easy for Johnathan Day on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
The Mobile driver had to endure not one, but two green-white-checkered flags before securing his fifth Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap feature victory of the year.
Day took the lead on the second lap and never relinquished his lead despite a pair of late cautions.
Fellow Mobile-area driver David Johnson took home runner-up honors and Pensacola’s Robert Balkum rounded out the podium.
“Man, I tell you what: We had great starting position tonight,” Day said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve had bad starts. With Balkum, I was on pins and needles the whole time. We were evenly matched.”