6 Feature Races on Opening Day and 6 Winners!
Six Feature Races Yields Six Different Winners Five Flags Rings in Opening Day in Style
By Chuck Corder
From the outhouse to the penthouse.
That’s where Pace driver Todd Jones found himself Sunday afternoon at Five Flags Speedway.
The racing gods shined brightly on Jones while Mother Nature delivered a picturesque Pensacola afternoon for the famed half-mile asphalt oval’s Opening Day.
Jones won the second of two 25-lap Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks feature, not only after starting from the back of the field but after his No. 4 yellow machine inexplicably lost power.
Defending Outlaw Stocks Snowball Derby champion Bubba Winslow finished runner-up to Jones, but began his 2018 season by winning the 25 lapper.
“We won the second one, and that’s all that matters,” said Jones, a past track champion at Five Flags when he won the Super Stocks title in 2014. “In the first (feature Sunday), we were trying to go to the front and it just shut off. I don’t know. We’ll take it how it is.”
You bet he will, given the disappointment of the first race. Jones was running second to Winslow on Lap 10 when he suddenly came to a crawl on the back straightaway on Lap 10 before losing power momentarily.
It happened a few laps later to Tallahassee driver Stuart Dutton, who too was running second to Winslow when his Outlaw Stock shut down as the leaders came down the front stretch.
Winslow had no such bad luck throughout the sun-kissed day. The win in the second race made it two victories in a row for the Cantonment driver.
It just so happens his last win before Sunday came a few months ago during short-track racing’s most prestigious week. Winslow scored his first career victory in December when he won the Outlaw Stocks Snowball Derby during the event’s 50th running.
“All that wouldn’t be possible without good car owners and a good crew,” Winslow said of his amazing No. 92 team. “They’re the ones make things fast; I just get to drive it.
Winslow continued, “We made a little change (in the second race), thinking it’d be better in the long runs. Sometimes when you do that, it messes things up. But the car finishes either first or second every time we race, so I definitely gotta thank my owners and sponsors.”
Despite coming home with a runner-up to Winslow and another podium finish in the nightcap, Pensacola’s Kody Brusso sounded more frustrated than joyous with the beginning of her season.
“We definitely have somewhere to build from,” Brusso said. “I know I don’t wanna be here (in third), but be where Todd is.”
Logan Boyett has become a familiar name around Five Flags as one of the top local Late Model drivers.
He hope his newfound Pro Trucks career will have a similar effect.
The Pensacola driver won the second of two 25-lap Pro Trucks features with Carolina driver Colt James winning the first. The same duo finished runner-up to the other in each’s victory, respectively.
“We made an adjustment during the break that really helped the truck,” Boyett said. “It was way too snug. There’s still room to improve, but I’d be lying if I say we weren’t nervous to race Colt. That’s saying something to stay in front of a quality driver like him.”
James built a huge lead on Boyett in the opener. It was a familiar feeling for James after he drove his red No. 15 to Victory Lane in the 2017 season opener, which also took place on a Sunday afternoon.
“It’s kinda like déjà vu,” James said. “I like it when it’s like that, though. We went hard those first five laps to build a lead.”
The Dock on Pesacola Beach Sportsmen
Even the dawn of a new racing season wasn’t immune to the shrapnel of the “room of doom.”
The affectionate name for Five Flags’ technical inspection shed was anything but friendly to Mobile’s B.J. Leytham on Sunday.
After crossing the start-finish line first for the first time as a The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsman driver, Leytham’s 25-lap feature win was short-lived when the top-three cars reached “tech.”
Inspection officials ruled Leytham’s orange No. 8 had a carburetor issue. His misfortune was Jim Pokrant’s fortune.
The Pensacola driver’s runner-up finish transformed into his first victory since June 2016.
“I have to thank everybody for running us clean today,” Pokrant said. “We had a fun time. It was a great race.”
Defending Sportsman Snowball Derby champion Mark Barnhill made hard charges at the lead when he battled Leytham for the first half of the 25 lapper, but ultimately finished third.
“My car missed its setup a little bit, but it’s all good,” Barnhill said. “It’s good to have different winners up here every week.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Pensacola driver Robert Balkum has been desperate to get a 1,000-pound monkey off his back.
He has a slew of Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks feature wins, but it’s the near-misses of track championships the last few seasons that haunt Balkum.
He seems determined to seal the deal in 2018. Balkum got his quest for an ever-elusive track title off on the right foot Sunday at Pensacola’s high banks.
He won the 20-lap feature Sunday in a tight battle with runner-up Tommie Blocker. Robert Barber rounded out the podium in third.
“It looks like things might be looking up for us,” Balkum said.
Blocker briefly took the lead on a late-race restart, but Balkum fought back and reclaimed the advantage on the back straightaway.
“Robert Balkum had a little extra for us today,” Blocker, the Alabama driver, said. “I thought we had a shot at him at the end, but he was too strong for us.”