Babb back as Demo winner, Ard a Sportsman Stunner, Grill in Mods, Loper in Pure Stocks
Babb Bangs Way to Second Demo Derby Victory; Ard Pulls Off Stunner in Sportsmen Spectacular
By Chuck Corder
Justin Babb never stopped inflicting damage Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
Luckily for the Pensacola resident, that’s the perfect recipe to be victorious in a Demolition Derby.
In his colorful Lincoln that had a dread-locked Rastafarian piñata on its roof, Babb drove with reckless abandonment and won his second Demolition Derby in three years.
He was the last car standing in a crowded field of 14 cars. Babb finished off Bobby Suarez in the “Tooth Ambulance” PT Cruiser to collect the $1,500 winner’s purse.
“I love doing this,” said Babb, who won the Demolition Derby in 2016. “We were able to keep the front end clean.”
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
It was just a few years ago that Shanna Ard was driving without one sticker on his Sportsmen car.
Struggling to find sponsors, the Milton driver was mired in a frustration stretch of his racing career at Five Flags Speedway.
Fast-forward to today, and Ard is a past two-time track champion (2014-15) in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen class and his title sponsor is, in fact, The Dock on Pensacola Beach.
Ard got his biggest win in recent memory Friday night at Pensacola’s high banks, capturing the 35-lap Sportsmen Spectacular and a cool $750.
Ard made a smooth pass of B.J. Leytham on Lap 28 and pulled away from the 12-car field, winning the race by nearly a full 3 seconds.
“That was the bomb,” Ard said in a celebratory Victory Lane with friends and family. “The car stayed consistent from Lap 1 to Lap 35. All I was doing was riding along, watching (Leytham and Mark Barnhill) wear their tires out. We had a hotrod tonight.”
Leytham finished with runner-up honors and Barnhill, a four-time feature winner this season, rounded out the podium.
Leytham led the first 27 laps despite mounting pressure from Barnhill early on. But Leytham’s first sign of trouble came on Lap 27 when he got loose between Turn Nos. 1 and 2, which allowed Ard to close the gap.
A lap later, history repeated itself and Ard pounced. The pair were door-to-door on the back straightaway until Ard cleared Leytham entering Turn No. 4.
“Shanna definitely had the car to beat,” said Leytham, the former Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks track champion at Five Flags. “He was gone once he got to me. He did an awesome job. But, out car is a lot better now than it has been.”
Barnhill was Leytham’s biggest competition early, but never could get around his fellow Alabama driver despite multiple attempts.
“We missed the setup a little tonight,” said Barnhill, the reigning Sportsmen Snowball Derby champion. “Congrats to Shanna on a great race.”
The Five Flags faithful were just as elated to see Ard back on top as much the 37-year-old driver himself.
“These fans are the reason I’ve come out here the last 18 years,” Ard said. “Whether we win or not, I just want to put on a good show.”
That’s exactly what he did Friday night.
Modifieds of Mayhem
Anytime Augie Grill is in the field, rival drivers are typically competing for second.
Grill won the 50-lap Modifieds of Mayhem feature Friday at Five Flags Speedway, dominating final 33 laps of the race after passing Donnie Hamrac.
It was Grill’s third Modifieds victory in his last four races.
“That was a lotta fun,” Grill said. “We had some problems in practice, but were able to get it adjusted. We work collaboratively on this machine. It has been a pretty good deal so far. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Hamrac was shot out of a cannon at the drop of the opening green flag, but soon felt heavy pressure from Billy Melvin and Grill.
Once Grill got by Melvin on Lap 11, he set his sights on Hamrac and clean air. Hamrac settled for second place.
“We started getting tight at the end,” he said. “We just did not have quite enough.”
Texan driver Zachary Knowles, who came into the night leading the Modifieds of Mayhem points standings, finished third.
“We struggled all day in practice, but finally got it in the right direction,” Knowles said. “We’ve gotta go back to the garage and do our homework.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Robert Loper was a man on a mission Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
After battling both handling problems and mechanical failures for much of the year, Loper returned to Victory Lane at the famed half-mile asphalt oval with his second 20-lap Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks feature win this season.
“The car felt great,” the Theodore, Ala., driver said. “We’ve been fighting issues all year long. I don’t know what it is, but we’ll figure it out.”
Robert Balkum, the series points leader and winner of six features this year, finished as runner-up and Dylan Courtney came home third.
“We just couldn’t put a pass together,” Balkum said. “Every time we’d get a run, I had to hit the brakes to avoid tearing both of our cars up.”
Loper was aggressive from the start, going low and making it three-wide before eventually reaching the point by Lap 2.