Even With Little Hanging in Balance, Championship Races Deliver Dramatic Conclusions
By Chuck Corder
In May, on the night of his first win of the season at Five Flags Speedway, Gary Sutton celebrated in Victory Lane by calling his No 151 Outlaw Stocks car an “ugly monstrosity.”
Not as a slight, mind you. Sutton and his team, led by good friend Mike Williamson’s expert hands, had cut the car in half at one point in attempts to make the proper adjustments.
Four months later, from the looks of it, little has changed to that monstrosity moniker. Sutton and his team ripped off the hood during Saturday’s 50-lap Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks championship finale at Five Flags, keeping their eye on the ultimate prize, so that they could remain in the feature.
Instead of parking the No, 151 for the night, Sutton recovered and maintained his points lead against Bubba Winslow to secure the inaugural Outlaw Stocks track championship at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
“We missed the first race of season, which makes it even better,” Sutton said. “One night we were dead last because the battery broke. Every other time we’ve been here, the car has been on the podium. Hats off to Mike Williamson for getting this car together. And it’d not just us in the shop — thanks to all the folks that help out with this car.”
For the 50 lapper itself, Citronelle, Ala., driver Donald Crocker won his second consecutive feature while Winslow finished second and 60-something Corbitt Moseley rounded out the podium.
Crocker took the lead on the opening lap and survived a bevy of cautions to post back-to-back victories at Pensacola’s high banks.
“We had a good car,” Crocker said. “We never qualify as fast as other guys do. Our car stays with us, and that’s all that matters. We hope it’ll be a lot better for the (Snowball) Derby.”
Winslow set the track ablaze earlier in the night with a qualifying run that set a new track record (17.628 seconds).
Even if the Cantonment driver did it in a rather unorthodox way. With Crocker still on the track completing the second of his two trial runs, track officials made an ill-advised decision to bring Winslow onto the pavement, too.
Since he was already getting up to speed, officials allowed Winslow to go ahead with his two qualifying laps. Winslow wasted little time in blowing away the old track record (17.689).
With 19 laps completed, there was a three-car breakaway with Crocker, Winslow and Sutton.
Sutton began pressing Winslow for the second spot between Turn Nos. 1 and 2 on Lap 29. But, as the leaders approached lapping traffic, Todd Jones came to a stop because of a flat right rear on the exit of Turn No. 4.
Sutton failed to avoid him and that was when he sustained massive damage to the front-end of his car, which forced the removal of his hood. It appeared for a moment Sutton’s night was done because of a perceived radiator problem.
But the Milton driver and his team rallied to return to seal his first career track championship to pair with the Super Stocks Snowball Derby title he won a few years ago.
Jay Jay Day wasn’t going to let an opening lap stand in the way of his destiny.
The Theodore, Ala., driver recovered from a vicious crash before the first green dropped to win the Pro Trucks track championship by 15 points against reigning Pro Trucks Snowball Derby champion Jarrett Parker.
Parker won the 50-lap feature, his third victory of the season, while Steven Davis finished runner-up, after starting the race dead last, and Andrew Johnson came away with third.
“It’s been a long year,” Day said. “I’m just glad we were able to finish the race. Thanks to my team. It has been strong all year. I’m glad we were able to pull it off despite (the crash) earlier in the race.”
Davis missed qualifying and was forced to start tail end of the 15-car field when the 50 lapper began.
As he made his way through the field, Chopper Stagner led the early going as he made an emphatic return to Five Flags.
But on Lap 23, Stagner ran into big trouble coming down the front stretch. He already was having engine issues everyone around the racetrack could audibly hear on previous few laps.
The motor finally gave out and moved Parker to the front. But on a restart, Davis raced Parker hard for the lead and eventually passed him to take overP1
After some shuffling between Parker, Colt James and Johnson for second, Parker made one final charge to get win No. 3.
He closed the gap on Davis with three laps remaining and was on the back bumper each time the two leaders rolled through the turns.
Davis tried to pinch Parker down in Turn No. 4, but Parker stuck his nose in and forced himself to the inside where he zoomed ahead to the lead with two to go.
“Steven wouldn’t give me a chance until there were two to go,” a respectful and awestruck Parker said. “I’d race against (Davis) any day.”
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
The outcome was never in doubt.
Well, at least who’d be crowned champion of The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen class. That honor belonged to Molino’s Brannon Fowler, who came into the night with a well-padded, 106-point lead.
But that didn’t stop the 10-car field in the 30-lap feature from delivering one entertaining show.
Jason Huffmaster got his second victory of the season with Mark Barnhill second and Fowler in third. It is Fowler’s third Sportsmen track title at Five Flags Speedway to go along with the two consecutive Sportsmen Snowball Derby championships (2014-2015) he has won the last two Decembers.
“This has been a successful ride,” Fowler said. “One that has far exceeded any expectations I could’ve ever had.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Jonathan Day can finally rest.
He can take a breather from his lengthy, busy schedule of racing until the 50th annual Snowball Derby begins in late November.
A seven-time feature winner this year, Day came home in third during Saturday’s 25-lap finale at Five Flags to easily clinch the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks track championship.
“We were wanting to win bad tonight. But, hey, we’re all good,” Day said. “The car was just a little off tonight.
“I can’t thank my family enough. It has been a long, long year. I’m just glad we put on a good, clean race. I thought I might have something there in the middle of the race, but by the end I was ready for them to throw the checkered.”
Loper won for the first time this season at Five Flags, besting a field of 15 other cars. Balkum was second, a spot ahead of Day.
“That was awesome,” Loper said. “I love good, close racing like that. Ain’t anything better. We’ve got a whole lot more speed to show come the Derby.”