McCarron, Hotshoes Draw Thousands on Meet the Drivers Night; Jett Scores Outlaw Stocks Hat Trick
By Chuck Corder
Kody Jett flexed his muscles Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
The Orange Park driver came into the night riding a two-race winning streak in the Outlaw Stocks, a debut series at the famed half-mile asphalt oval this season.
Jett not only made it three 35-lap feature victories in a row, but he also set a new track record (17.689 seconds) in qualifying.
“Man, this is crazy,” Jett said. “Everybody works their butts off all week on this car. It really is amazing.”
The Jett Concrete team has quickly become one of the more feared short-track teams in the southeast thanks to 23-year-old Kody Jett’s recent success and Jeff Choquette, who is always a contender for the Jett’s late model program.
Jett, despite setting the fast time, started sixth following the die-roll invert. He took the lead just four laps into Friday’s feature and endured a pair of cautions to prevail.
Corbitt Moseley of Panama City finished runner-up to Jett and Pace’s Todd Jones rounded out the podium in Victory Lane during the track’s annual Meet the Drivers Night on Friday.
“We might’ve been outclassed by the No. 9 (Jett), but we enjoyed it,” Moseley said.
Everyone enjoyed the night’s pre-race festivities where drivers from each division that competed Friday—Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks, Pro Trucks, The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen and Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks—filled the front straightaway.
Fans swarmed the asphalt, snagging autographs, hero cards and photographs with their beloved hotshoes and a decorated college quarterback who was also in attendance Friday.
AJ McCarron, who won back-to-back national titles in 2012 and 2013 as Alabama’s playcaller, was at Pensacola’s high banks enjoying one final chance to see some short-track racing before he heads to training camp and begins his fourth year as the Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback.
“I’ve been a huge racing fan for as long as I can remember,” McCarron said. “My family, we’ve been a part of racing for long time. I love to see good hard racing. It gets my adrenaline pumping.”
McCarron got the fans’ adrenaline pumping with his prediction of college football’s big season-opening matchup between his Crimson Tide and Florida State.
“Bama’s gonna win,” he said flatly. “I’m not the biggest fan of Florida State, and I know most of their fans aren’t a fan of me.”
Once fans from both programs quieted the back-and-forth trash talk after his comments got the crowd in a tizzy, McCarron raised the possibility of being a part of the short-track scene next year at Five Flags. He hopes of owning a The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen car or a Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks ride.
Dave Mader, a fellow Alabamian to McCarron, started on the pole for the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks following the invert. The former Snowball Derby champion’s lead didn’t last long, as Bubba Winslow and the front of the 17-car field immediate turned the heat up.
Running second at the time, Jett made contact with Mader as the leaders headed into Turn No. 1 and he slid underneath Mader for the lead on the inside.
Jett began lapping traffic with 12 complete, but saw his lead evaporate when the first caution flew for a car that hit the outside wall exiting Turn No. 1.
On the restart, Jett showed just how powerful his car was by choosing the more difficult outside groove yet still leaving his rivals in a cloud of smoke.
The other intriguing nugget that occurred on the restart involved Milton’s Gary Sutton. The series points leader had major problems getting up to speed and began dropping like a rock to the back of the pack before bringing his No. 151 to the pits where he parked it for the night.
“We just lost power,” Sutton explained. “I don’t know what it was. If it was the battery or a wire fell off or the motor — I don’t know. It just won’t go.”
Jarrett Parker earned this one.
The Molino driver rallied from mid-race issues with his truck to win his second 35-lap Pro Trucks feature of the season Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
Parker, who won the Pro Trucks Snowball Derby in December, took the lead from Jay Jay Day with 23 laps complete and didn’t break a sweat the rest of the way.
“It was hard to get around everybody tonight,” Parker said. “That was some good, hard racing. I was too aggressive in the beginning. But, it feels good to finally be back in Victory Lane.”
Day, the series points leader, came home in second and Andrew Johnson finished third.
Day took the lead from Shanna Ard on Lap 8 and held it until Parker slid underneath him.
“It was a lotta fun,” Day said. “We were the second-best truck tonight. We were really good on the short run, but we couldn’t hold off the (No.) 46 truck (Parker). We raced really close. I don’t know if any of us ever touched.”
The win marks the sixth time in seven Pro Trucks features this season that Parker finished in one of the coveted top-three podium spots.
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
Brannon Fowler was an artist and Five Flags Speedway was his canvas Friday night.
The Molino driver painted a masterpiece, patiently shadowing friendly rival Steve Buttrick until Fowler seized his opportunity late in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen 25-lap feature.
Fowler took the lead on the last lap and edged Buttrick by less than half a car length to get his fourth win of the season. It was eerily similar to the path Fowler took in capturing the 2015 Sportsmen Snowball Derby crown, his second consecutive one of those after his triumph the year before.
In addition to battling Buttrick, who finished runner-up, Fowler also had to contend with Mark Barnhill and a couple of other drivers in what was easily the most competitive and entertaining feature on Meet the Drivers Night.
“Anybody can win on any given night in this class,” Fowler said. “There are so many of us that are right there together.
“That was a long race, for sure. It’s certainly hot. It was some good, hard racing. Steve left a little bit of room on the inside and I shoved it in there.”
Lee “Red Dog” Reynolds started on the pole because of the six-car invert, but he yielded the lead to Buttrick by Lap 6.
It quickly became a three-car fight for the lead as Fowler and Barnhill jockeyed for second on top of Buttrick’s bumper.
Jonathan Langham, who won his first career The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsman feature at the last race on June 30, joined the party in the final stretch run.
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Like any perfectionist, Johnathan Day is his toughest critic.
The Mobile-area driver won for an eye-popping sixth time this season Friday night at Five Flags Speedway. Yet, he wasn’t totally satisfied with the performance of his car.
“It felt like the right-side tires went away, and he started pulling me back in,” Day said of Robert Balkum, who closed a hefty gap to finish a close runner-up. “But it worked out the way we wanted it to. It feels great that we were patient. You know, he’s hard to pass. We had fun.”
Day took the lead from Balkum on Lap 10 and pulled away from the field only to see Balkum make things interesting in the closing laps.
Tommie Blocker finished third.