CRAWFORD IN MODS OF MAYHEM. BURKETT CLAIMS PURE STOCK BOUNTY, LANGHAM IN SPORTSMEN, WINSLOW WINS OUTLAW STOCKS.
Crawford Earns Emotional Win; 17-Year-Old Burkett Nabs First Career Victory, Collects Balkum Bounty
By Chuck Corder
Adam Crawford put his trust in his equipment and had faith in his genes.
Letting Donnie Hamrac reach clean air at Five Flags Speedway is, usually, never a good idea. Especially, when the three-time Modifieds Snowball Derby champion takes the lead with less than 20 laps remaining.
Typically, you can write a Hamrac “W” in ink. Not this Friday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
The crafty Crawford reset, cooled his No. 64’s tires and made a triumphant charge to reclaim the lead on Lap 43. The Mobile driver, and son of former NASCAR trucks champion Rick Crawford, pulled away from the rest of the field to claim the Modifieds of Mayhem 50-lap feature win for his first career victory in Pensacola.
“I knew I had a really good racecar,” Crawford said of his David Jones machine. “I didn’t wanna mess anything up and wreck both of us. Plus, it’s always an opportunity to learn something by follow (Hamrac). He made a mistake and I was there to capitalize.”
It was hard to argue with Crawford’s gameplan when he ran a perfect race.
Crawford led from the drop of the green and did a tremendous job protecting his lead despite heavy pressure from Hamrac, his teammate.
Crawford was acutely aware that any mistake he made, Hamrac would pounce like a vulture on roadkill.
He calmly yielded the inside lane and the lead to Hamrac on Lap 31, and gathered himself.
Sure enough, in the final 10 laps, Hamrac started getting out of shape and Crawford overtook him.
“I’ve gotta thank so many people, but thank you to all the fans for coming out, and supporting short-track racing,” he said. “All these guys who have helped me out, an endless amount. They always have my back.
“It has been a learning curve for me. But, to come over here and make a statement like this, it’s awesome. I’m very proud to be behind the wheel of this thing.”
Seemingly the first driver to heap a “bro hug” on Crawford was the man who ultimately finished second: Augie Grill.
After Grill was nearly spun out on Lap 6, the two-time Snowball Derby champion, three-time Snowflake 100 winner and the defending Modifieds Snowball Derby champ hustled home to finish runner-up.
“It was a pretty good car for us,” Grill said. “We tried something new in qualifying and it didn’t work. I’m just really happy for Adam up there.”
Zachary Knowles, who came into the night atop the Modifieds of Mayhem points standings, rounded out the podium.
“We struggled yesterday,” the Houston native said. “We got it rolling, but we used our tires up early.”
Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks
On a night where he celebrated a birthday — his 28th — a track record, a feature win and taking over the series points lead, Bubba Winslow had a jackpot reaction.
“We might end up at Wind Creek tonight, I don’t know,” the Cantonment driver quipped from the Michles & Booth Victory Lane on Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
Winslow delivered the line with a laugh, but no one would blame him if the night led him to the casino located in nearby Atmore, Ala.
The reigning Outlaw Stocks Snowball Derby champion became this division’s first two-time feature winner this season when Winslow won the Faith Chapel Outlaw Stocks 35 lapper Friday at Pensacola’s high banks.
“It makes it even more special because we have family here tonight that usually doesn’t get to come out,” he said. “We do what we love. This team makes this car so good. I feel lucky I get the opportunity to drive it.”
Donald Crocker finished second and Pace’s Todd Jones rounded out the podium after a bit of controversy.
“That ain’t too bad. It was a good night,” Crocker, from Citronelle, Ala., said. “Bubba had a great car tonight.”
As Winslow and Crocker took their rightful spots on the podium, there was a disagreement for third.
Jones and Pensacola’s Kody Brusso began beatin’ and bangin’ during the final 10 or 12 laps. On the last lap, Brusso spun Jones as the pair came outta Turn No. 2.
Brusso crossed the finish line in third, but race officials immediately penalized her a lap for the incident and awarded Jones the final podium spot.
That didn’t stop Brusso from momentarily laying claim to third by wedging in behind Crocker as the cars parked on the front stretch for the post-race festivities. Jones angled his No. 4 toward Brusso’s No. 7, nearly blocking her in, against the wall.
“She’s probably mad. I was pretty mad,” Jones explained. “She tried to run me over a few times.”
As he spoke over the public address system, a few fans near the catchfence heckled Jones. He had the second-best line of the night, next to Winslow’s.
“Hey, anybody in the stands that thinks they can drive one of these things,” an agitated Jones said, “go get you a car and come down here and give it a shot.”
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
Jonathan Langham wasn’t in Pensacola for practice sessions either Thursday or Friday.
In fact, the Irvington, Ala., driver didn’t show up until just before qualifying began for The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen on Friday at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
Turns out, that’s just how Langham likes to mentally prepare.
“We started loading the car up at 6 o’clock, and I thought that was too early,” Langham said. “As long as we can get a heat race in, or qualifying, hey, that’s practice itself. The car is what it is once you get to the track.”
His proved to be a rocket ship Friday at Five Flags, leading all 25 laps in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen feature en route to his first win of the season at Pensacola’s high banks.
Langham celebrated by raising a clenched fist out his window as he flew under the checkered flag. Defending Sportsmen Snowball Derby champion Mark Barnhill, who won a feature last month, finished second and Jimmy Goodwin took home third.
Langham’s victory marked the third different winner the Sportsmen class has seen in three races this season with Jim Pokrant boasting a win at the March season opener.
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Caleb Burkett put all his eggs in one, bountiful basket this week and it paid off handsomely.
Burning the candle at both ends each night, 17-year-old Caleb worked tirelessly on his No. 24 Pure Stocks with his father, Wayne Burkett, and his team of close friends.
Caleb Burkett had his eyes affixed on the prize of not only collecting his first career win in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks division at Five Flags Speedway, but also laying claim to a $200 bounty for any driver that could dethrone Robert Balkum.
Leave it to a high school junior to knock Balkum from the ranks of the unbeaten.
“I told the shop this week I felt good,” an overjoyed Burkett said. “I felt like this was going to be the night where everything click, and tonight was the night.”
Indeed it was, young man. Burkett, enrolled at West Florida High School, led wire-to-wire in the 20-lap feature Friday at Pensacola’s high banks and enjoyed a raucous celebration in Victory Lane.
Burkett, first, got atop the roof of his No. 24, thrusting his arms into the sky before slapping hands with anyone near the car. He, then, climbed down and embraced anyone near him, the emotions overcoming Burkett and his proud friends and family members.
David Johnson finished runner-up to Burkett, as he raced Balkum every lap of the feature, never blinking when Balkum attempted to rattle his cage.
After beginning the year with four consecutive wins, Balkum still finished on the podium in third-place.