CHATSWORTH, Ga. — Michael Page has proven that when it comes to winning special events in the southeast, he’s not partial to any particular series. Continuing a season-long assault on big money races that includes victories with four different tours, Page, of Douglasville, Ga., drove to a flag-to-flag win in Saturday’s Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Bonus Series race at North Georgia Speedway.
Page turned back a late-race charge from Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., in earning a $10,000 victory, his second five-figure payday in a five-week span. The race winner survived a scrape with a lapped car midway through the 60-lapper and still managed to lap all but nine of the 22 starters, finishing 2.125 seconds ahead of McDowell. Jason Hiett of Oxford, Ala., crossed the line in third, but he was disqualified when his car failed to meet specs for the tour’s "droop" rule during postrace inspection.
That bumped everyone behind Hiett up a spot, giving 12th-starting Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., the third position, while 11th-starting Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., was elevated to fourth. Series points leader David Payne of Murphy, N.C., charged from 22nd to complete the top five.
Page continued his mastery of special events in his native Georgia. He now has 14 special event wins with four different series spread across seven tracks. All but three of his triumphs have come in the Peach State. The remaining three were in neighboring Alabama. Page has three Southern All Stars wins, three wins with the Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series, two Ultimate Southeast Series victories and four wins in unsanctioned action to go along with a pair of wins on the Ray Cook-promoted Bonus Series.
The $10,000 windfall equaled his richest win of the season, a $10,000 victory on Aug 11 at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala. Though he officially led every lap and won by more than 2 seconds, Saturday’s victory didn’t come easy. He was constantly hounded by McDowell, even conceding the lead — albeit briefly — to his fellow Georgian with 20 laps remaining. McDowell used a slide job to pull ahead as they exited turn four, but Page turned left and darted back in front of McDowell before they reached the line. Page then eased a bit lower on the track for a lap or two in turns three and four to protect his lead.
“The top was good for me, the middle, but then it kinda just polished up and it went away and the bottom come back in,” said Page. “But I didn’t know that ’til it was about too late. It was nerve wracking for sure. I thought (my lead) was alright. I was watching my dad giving me signals. And he was giving me so many different signals I don’t know he’s giving me, and then I seen Dale (McDowell) and I was like, awe crap, so I had to figure something out there. It was pretty fun.”
After pulling back ahead, Page rode comfortably in front of McDowell for a handful of laps, but with a dozen circuits remaining, McDowell was on the charge again. The veteran was looking both high and low for a way around the leader as they again caught lapped traffic. But a spin in turn four cleared the track for the leader.
“I didn’t want to see (lapped cars) … but when they’d spin out or something and I needed a caution,” Page said. “My car was really good for about 10 laps and (lapped cars) started throwing stuff around the track and it would come and go.”
After stalking Page throughout, McDowell thought his best chance to take the lead for good likely disappeared with the late yellow.
“Our car was a little better right there. I was a little tight and the longer we ran right there I was able to get it freed up a little bit,” McDowell said. “Definitely didn’t want to see that caution though. It’s hard to lead a race when you are in that kind of traffic ‘cause you don’t know where to go. So really I was looking forward to racing those last 11 laps in that situation.
“I ran second in this race last year to Mikey (Marlar) and the same situation. I got passed him and the caution came out … I think it came out with about 10 (laps) to go … so if I can ever catch it where I can get in lapped traffic, maybe it’ll shine on us one day.”
Notes: Fourteen drivers were running at the finish. ... David Payne and Chris Madden got together while racing for the lead in their heat, resulting in Payne spinning and Madden cutting down a tire. While the two expressed their displeasure with one another before exiting the track, the incident was key in that it handed the lead in the heat to Michael Page, who won the race to earn a front-row starting spot for the feature. … Scott Hall got upside down in a rollover accident that involved three others. … Page’s previous Southern Nationals Bonus Series win this season came on May 12 at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Ga. … Page’s standout year began way back in January when he won the Ice Bowl at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala. Six of his 14 major victories have paid $5,000 or more to win, helping him collect $67,507 from his wins alone this season. He attributed the success to his help, car owner Troy Baird and “really good race cars,” adding that it’s “a lot of hard work and we just keep going. We don’t give up.”