Talladega Short Track
Wilson earns Ice Bowl XXI pole at Talladega
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
EASTABOGA, Ala. (Jan. 7) — Jason Wilson informed his employer Friday that if he wins Sunday's Ice Bowl XXI feature at Talladega Short Track, he won’t be at work on Monday morning. Scheduled to start from the pole of Sunday’s $6,000-to-win main event, there’s a good chance Wilson’s pre-warning to his employer may turn into a reality. | Notebook | Slideshow
“It’d be something else if I win this thing,” Wilson said Saturday after winning the first of six preliminary heat races that determined the lineup for Sunday’s unsanctioned 50-lapper. “I’d probably still be here at 6 in the morning. I already told them where I work that if I win this thing I won’t be there come Monday.”
If Wilson is to claim what would be the biggest victory of his career, he’ll have to do it by holding off Mosheim, Tenn., driver Vic Hill, who dominated Saturday’s second heat race to earn a spot alongside Wilson on the front row of Sunday’s 50-lapper.
A host of other drivers will also look to prevent Wilson from taking an off day on Monday, including Saturday’s four other heat race winners: Chad Winkles of Falkville, Ala.; former Ice Bowl winner Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C.; Jason Heitt of Lincoln, Ala.; and Benji Cole of Canon, Ga.
But Wilson believes he has the most direct path to victory. With daytime racing usually producing one-laned racing conditions around Talladega’s third-mile oval, he feels he can fend off his challengers if he can grab the lead on the start of the race.
But he’ll likely have another adversary to contend with on Sunday: a rough racetrack. The normally smooth Talladega surface has seen multiple holes and ruts form around the track all weekend, including Saturday when track officials were forced to take numerous breaks between races for track prep.
The holes allowed for some side-by-side racing Saturday, but Wilson doesn’t think the high side we’ll be strong enough for someone to make a winning pass on Sunday.
“The way the track’s starting to turn out it looks like everything’s gonna be dead in the bottom,” Wilson said after watching support division heat races Saturday night. “It’s starting to turn out like a regular Ice Bowl, everybody riding around the (bottom). That means I’ve got the premier starting spot.”
Wilson didn’t have the premier starting spot in his heat race. He started second alongside fast qualifier Stacy Holmes of Munford, Ala. Contact between the two on the start of the 10-lap prelim allowed Holmes to pull away, but a lap-five caution erased the gap.
Wilson pulled alongside Holmes, who was running the track’s higher groove, following the restart and after completing the pass one lap later, he pulled away to nearly a straightaway advantage at the finish. Holmes followed Wilson in the second position with fifth-starting Jeff Smith of Pell City, Ala., taking the third and final transfer position.
Hill started from the pole of the second heat race and led every lap for the victory. Joe Armistead Jr. was one of the few drivers to make passes using the high side of the racetrack. After starting fifth, Armistead powered from fourth to second during the race’s final two laps. He edged David Brannon of Elora, Tenn., by mere inches at the finish line.
Winkles, last season's Southern Regional Racing Series Rookie of the Year, won the third heat race after holding off challenges from Talladega regulars Tim Busha of Boaz, Ala., and Terry Smith of Oxford, Ala. Busha pressured Winkles midway through the race, but settled for second with Smith finishing third to also transfer to Sunday’s feature.
Cook, the 2009 Ice Bowl winner, dominated the fourth heat from the second starting spot, winning the caution-free race by more than a straightaway over polesitter Tony Knowles of Tyrone, Ga. Hometown driver Dillon Crim, last year’s Ice Bowl runner-up, finished third.
Hiett led every lap of the fifth heat, but had to hold off late challenges from both Ethan Hunter of Tiger, Ga., and Ronny Lee Hollingsworth of Northport, Ala. Hollingsworth was another driver who found success on the top of the track, moving around Hunter in the closing laps. But he fell short of catching Hiett and settled for the runner-up finish just ahead of Hunter.
The second-starting Cole jumped ahead of polesitter Randall Walker on the start of the sixth and final heat and led every lap for the victory. Jason Welshan of Maryville, Tenn., finished second while Timothy Culp of West Monroe, La., charged from eighth to finish third and make the main event. Walker of Oxford, Ala., the 2010 Ice Bowl winner, faded to fifth at the finish.
With 18 cars already locked into the main event, three consolation races Sunday will fill the remaining starting spots. Action is set to kick off at noon Sunday.
Notes: The event drew more 300 total cars, including 66 Super Late Models, 57 Crate Late Models and 46 Limited Late Models. ... Even with his runner-up heat race finish, Hollingsworth said he will skip Sunday’s feature to avoid any further wear and tear on his race car. He plans to head to Tucson, Ariz., next week for the Wild West Shootout miniseries. ... There were no major accidents during the Super Late Model heat races; all cautions were single-car incidents. ... Larry Boutwell of Baker, Fla., raced for the first time in nearly two years. He fell out of the first heat race early.
Heat race results (top three transfer)
First heat: Jason Wilson, Stacy Holmes, Jeff Smith, John Ownbey, Tim Roszell, Ross Martin, Lovan Sparks, Kelly Walker, Wayne Vintson, Larry Boutwell, Brian Smith.
Second heat: Vic Hill, Joe Armistead Jr., David Brannon, Dougie King, Chris Jones, Cale Finley, Steve Kirk, Steven Ashby, Mike Ashely, Dennis Barton.
Third heat: Chad Winkles, Tim Busha, Terry Smith, Brad Hall, Riley Hickman, Todd Morrow, Todd Watson, Mario Gresham, Mark Gant, Levi Ashby.
Fourth heat: Ray Cook, Tony Knowles, Dillon Crim, James Cline, Skp Freeman, Gar Dickson, Jake Knowles, Thomas Dacus, Adam Martin, Mike Fields, Daniel Miller.
Fifth heat: Jason Hiett, Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Ethan Hunter, Lamar Scroggins, Kayne Hickman, Lee Burdett, Jamie Dacus, Joey Standridge, Royce Bray, Jeff Walker, Luke Hoffner, Scott Hall.
Sixth heat: Benji Cole, Jason Welshan, Timothy Culp, Mike Weeks, Randall Walker, Jackson Hale, Jon Stinson, David Seibers, Randy Polk, Caleb Ashby, Ernie Millon, Scott Knowles.
Ice Bowl XXI lineup
Row 1: Jason Wilson, Vic Hill
Row 2: Chad Winkles, Ray Cook
Row 3: Jason Hiett, Benji Cole
Row 4: Stacy Holmes, Joe Armistead Jr.
Row 5: Tim Busha, Tony Knowles
Row 6: Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, Jason Welshan
Row 7: Jeff Smith, David Brannon
Row 8: Terry Smith, Dillon Crim
Row 9: Ethan Hunter, Timothy Culp
Row 10: Consolation transfers
Row 11: Consolation transfers
Row 12: Consolation transfers
Consolation race lineups
Row 1: Ownbey, Cline
Row 2: Roszell, Freeman
Row 3: Martin, Dickson
Row 4: Sparks, Knowles
Row 5: Walker, Dacus
Row 6: Vintson, Martin
Row 7: Boutwell, Fields
Row 8: Smith, Millon
Row 1: King, Hickman
Row 2: Jones, Burdett
Row 3: Finley, Dacus
Row 4: Kirk, Standridge
Row 5: Ashby, Bray
Row 6: Ashley, Walker
Row 7: Barton, Hoffner
Row 8: Miller, Hollingsworth
Row 1: Hall, Weeks
Row 2: Hickman Walker
Row 3: Morrow, Hale
Row 4: Watson, Stinson
Row 5: Gresham, Seibers
Row 6: Gant, Polk
Row 7: Ashby, Ashby
Row 8: Hall, Knowles