SWAINSBORO, Ga. — After winning Thursday’s Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Series race at Toccoa (Ga.) Raceway, Brandon Overton suggested there’s no time like the present to start a little hot streak, especially with the Ray Cook-promoted tour hitting a couple of his favorite tracks. Turns out Overton was prophetic, and well, now he’s warming up.
Overton, of Evans, Ga., took advantage of a mid-race caution that allowed him to erase a huge lead built by Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga. He then stalked Roberts for 19 laps before wrestling the lead away and driving off to his second Southern Nationals win in as many days. Roberts, who said he was battling a defective carburetor over the final dozen or so laps, managed to keep series points leader Dale McDowell behind him and record his second straight runner-up finish.
McDowell, of Chickamauga, Ga., grabbed the final podium spot as the top three finishers placed in the exact same order as they did 24 hours earlier at Toccoa. Joey Coulter of Concord, N.C., finished fourth after starting ninth and Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., slipped to fifth after starting from outside the front row.
Overton, who pocketed $5,300 for his seventh career series victory, was sympathetic to Roberts’ season-long drought — Roberts has yet to win since joining east Tennessee-based Blount Motorsports in the offseason — but that hardly dampened his victory lane celebration after picking up his second win since connecting with Calera, Ala., car owner Billy Franklin five weeks ago.
“It’s about time everything turn around for me … it’s been a hell of a year,” said Overton. “I hate it for Casey, man he’s trying so hard to win one. Billy Franklin and his wife are here tonight and his kids, so it’s pretty special to win with him around. My family is here. Man, my mom and dad, I couldn’t do it without them. Todd (Pruitt) and (Grant) Pearl they worked their butts off … and my little brother’s here. Just everybody. It feels good to be home and win one.”
For 40 laps it looked as though Roberts was finally going to snap his winless streak. He broke away from fellow front row starter Bailes early and easily pulled away. By 15 he enjoyed a full straightaway lead and by lap 20 his advantage over Bailes was 4.653 seconds and growing.
“I couldn’t see him,” said Overton.
Indeed. Roberts was gone — until the caution on lap 27 for a slowing Dennis Franklin bunched the field, giving Overton the opportunity he needed. Overton quickly moved to challenge Roberts. Overton took second on the restart and immediately pressured Roberts in turn two. Roberts bobbled slightly in turn three, but maintained the lead and began to throttle away again.
“The car was great. It took off good and everything was working great and I think we bent something in the carburetor there … a float or something,” said Roberts. “It was just stumbling on both ends. That happened to me last year down here when I was leading a race.”
Unable to make the consistent laps he’d turned through the first half of the race, Roberts was easy prey for Overton. Not even a move out of the distinctive black streak circling the track’s low grove was enough keep his car running at full song. Overton ran him down again, pulling even on lap 44 and again on lap 45. Two laps later he had the lead.
“I knew he run mighty hard because he was way on out there. I couldn’t see him,” Overton said. “Every time I’d mess up a little bit I just tried to gather myself back up and stay smooth and not spin the tires. We’re on the wrong tire probably for this condition and you can’t kill them in the first 10 laps. I just tried to run the smartest race that I could and it all just played in my favor tonight.”
Roberts took his second near-miss in a row in stride.
“There’s a monkey on our back, but at least we run second,” Roberts said. “Congratulations to Brandon. He drove an awesome race. We’ll just keep digging. This is a tough deal. There are a lot of good cars. Hopefully we can just keep our head up here and keep plugging away and hopefully a win will come around the corner.”
Notes: Overton beat Roberts to the finish by eight-tenths of a second. … Twelve of the 20 starters completed all 53 laps. … With his seventh Southern Nationals Series victory, Overton is now tied with his former boss Randy Weaver for fifth on the tour’s all-time win list. … Four of Overton’s seven wins came last season, when he claimed the tour championship. His first win came in 2014 at Modoc (S.C.) Raceway. … The victory helped Overton jump to third in the series points race ahead of Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga. … The race was slowed by a pair of cautions and a red flag. The first caution waved on the opening lap when three cars spun in turn two, resulting in a complete restart. … The worst incident came on the second attempt to start the race when a log jam of cars exiting turn four resulted in a six-car pileup that left heavy damage to the cars of Craig Vosbergen, David Doherty and Robby Moses, ending the night for all three. The race was red-flagged for nearly 15 minutes as they sorted the mess. No one was injured. … The final caution waved on lap 27 when Dennis Franklin slowed with a flat tire.
Preliminary notes and results:
Row 1: Casey Roberts, Ross Bailes
Row 2: Brandon Overton, Dennis Franklin
Row 3: Ivedent Lloyd Jr., Dale McDowell
Row 4: Forrest Trent, Shanon Buckingham
Row 5: Joey Coulter, Robby Moses
Row 6: Aaron Ridley, John Henderson
Row 7: Brian Connor, Cla Knight
Row 8: Craig Vosbergen, Donald McIntosh
Row 9: David Doherty, Pearson Williams
Row 10: Cale Green, J.R. Moseley
Aaron Ridley of Chatsworth, Ga., used his momentum from the outside to grab the lead on the opening lap and pulled away to win the evening’s lone heat race. John Henderson trailed in second throughout and Brian Connor finished third. After a bobble on the opening lap, Cla Knight settled down and finished fourth, while Craig Vosbergen slipped by Donald McIntosh for fifth on the last lap. All nine drivers advance to the feature. J.R. Moseley scratched from the heat, but he’s still slated to start 20th in the main event.
Finish: Aaron Ridley, John Henderson, Brian Connor, Cla Knight, Craig Vosbergen Donald McIntosh, David Doherty, Pearson Williams, Cale Green. Scratched: J.R. Moseley.
Row 1: Henderson, Ridley
Row 2: Knight, McIntosh
Row 3: Williams, Connor
Row 4: Vosbergen, Doherty
Row 5: Moseley, Green
After dodging rain most of the day Friday, track crews at Swainsboro had the track in tip-top shape. One advantage to the overcast skies that have blanketed much of Georgia for the last few days is the temperature. It’s a far cry from the mid- to high-90s that series drivers and officials have grown accustomed to in south Georgia over the last decade. As hot laps got underway, temps were in the low 80s and it was quite comfortable. … With 20 cars signed in, there will be five cars locked in from each of two qualifying sessions, setting the first five rows for the feature. The remaining 10 starting positions will be set via a single heat race. … Robby Moses had to replace his steering rack after a rough night at Toccoa (Ga.) Raceway on Thursday. His crew worked Friday afternoon to get the Maryville, Tenn., driver ready to race. … Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., rejoined the tour on Friday night. Bailes finished fourth in the series opener at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., but skipped the next two events. … Despite a fifth-place finish on Thursday night at Toccoa, Cade Dillard of Robeline, La., opted not to make the trip Swainsboro. … There are three drivers in attendance who have a series win at Swainsboro. Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., is a three-time tour winner here, while Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., and Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., have one win apiece. … After attempting to qualify for Thursday’s race at Toccoa in his Crate engine powered Late Model, Clay Harris of Jupiter, Fla., signed in to run Swainsboro’s Crate program. Harris, who has sponsorship from Big Frog Motorsports, was parked beside McIntosh, who is piloting the Big Frog Motorsports No. 58.
For the second night in a row, Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga., topped qualifying for the Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Late Models. Roberts, who went out in the first group, stopped the clock at 14.810 seconds to earn the pole for the 53-lap main event. Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., was the quickest in the second group. His time of 14.921 seconds puts Bailes on the outside of the front row to start the feature. Thursday’s winner, Brandon Overton of Evans, Ga., will start inside the second row after he turned a qualifying lap of 14.929 seconds. Series points leader Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., was third in the second group and will start sixth in the feature.
The Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Series continues its trek through Georgia as Swainsboro Raceway, a 3/8th-mile red clay oval situated just on the edge of town, hosts the fourth round of the Ray Cook-promoted tour.
It’s the first of two series races this weekend at the Paul Purvis-owned track, which was originally scheduled for Friday only. But following Saturday's rainout at Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Ga., Purvis added a second $5,300-to-win so the series wouldn't be idle Saturday.
Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., leads the series to Swainsboro. The veteran driver has a victory at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., along with a seventh-place finish at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., and a third on Thursday at Toccoa (Ga.) Raceway. McDowell leads Toccoa, Ga.’s Casey Roberts by four points. Roberts, who was the runner up Thursday at his home track, hasn’t finished outside the top five in the first three races. Eleven drivers have perfect attendance after three events.
Friday’s Super Late Model program includes hot laps, time trials, heat races and a 53-lap main event. Entries will be split into two groups for time trials with the top two qualifiers from each group earning first- and second-row starting spots for the main event. Heat races will set the remainder of the lineup.
Time trail results (unofficial)
Driver (car no.), hometown, time
Casey Roberts (101), Toccoa, Ga., 14.810
Brandon Overton (76), Evans, Ga., 14.929
Ivedent Lloyd Jr. (21), Ocala, Fla., 14.940
Forrest Trent (101), Morristown, Tenn., 15.037
Joey Coulter (2), Concord, N.C., 15.147
John Henderson (2x), Aiken, S.C., 15.226
Cla Knight (42), North Augusta, S.C., 15.274
Pearson Williams (121), Dublin, Ga., 15.506
Craig Vosbergen (8), Perth, W. Australia, 15.867
J.R. Moseley (99), Columbus, Ga., 16.092
Ross Bailes (87), Clover, S.C., 14.921
Dennis Franklin (2), Gaffney, S.C., 15.270
Dale McDowell (17m), Chickamauga, Ga., 15.272
Shanon Buckingham (50), Morristown, Tenn., 15.328
Robby Moses (21), Maryville, Tenn., 15.354
Aaron Ridley (81), Chatsworth, Ga., 15.378
Donald McIntosh (58), Dawsonville, Ga., 15.437
Brian Connor (77), Martinez, Ga., 15.445
David Doherty (25), Sydney, Australia, 15.988
Cale Green (4), Pelion, S.C., 16.652
7 p.m. - Drivers’ meeting
7:30 p.m. - Hot laps/qualifying
- Super street hot laps
- 602 Late Model hot laps
- Crate Late Model hot laps
- Super Late Model hot laps
- Pure stock hot laps
- Road warrior hot laps
- Super Late Model qualifying (two laps)
- Super street heats (six laps)
- Super Late Model last chance heats (10 laps)
- 602 Late Model hot laps
- Crate Late Model hot laps
- Pure stock heats (six laps)
- Road warrior heats (six laps)
- Super Late Model feature (53 laps)
- 440’s (six laps)