Late restart lifts Smith to Clash victory at Wythe
By Robert WaldenDirtonDirt.com correspondent
RURAL RETREAT, Va. (June 27) — Surviving a near-disaster early in the race, series points leader Jeff Smith moved into contention from his sixth starting spot and pounced on the final restart, leading the final three laps at Wythe Raceway for his series-leading third Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series victory. | Slideshow
Fast qualifier and polesitter Dennis Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., appeared headed for victory, but he drove too hard into turn one on the final restart and Smith slide underneath for the race-winning pass. Smith pocketed $4,000 and was glad he didn't end up crashing after lap-two contact from an onrushing competitor or from his inability to slow his No. 18 machine.
"I really thought I was going head-on up into the outside wall. Thankfully we didn't," Smith said of the early incident. "During that long green-flag run, something happened to the brakes and there towards the end I didn't have any brakes. And this is a fast place to be running and not have brakes on the car."
Five-time series champion Ricky Weeks of Rutherfordton, N.C., and Dan Breuer of Troutman, N.C., also got by Franklin in the closing laps while Kerry Jones of Bristol, Tenn., rounded out the top five in the 40-lap event presented by First Community Bank of Wytheville and Fort Chiswell.
Franklin and Weeks held front-row spots at the outset with Weeks taking command early. Smith survived his lap-two incident but slipped back to eight in the early going.
With Franklin building a half-straightaway edge over Weeks and Breuer, the race's first caution appeared for a lap-11 incident between turns three and four involving Austin Dillon, Petey Ivey and Shon Flanary. Smith was up to fourth on the restart, then took third from Breuer two laps later.
The Smith-Weeks battle for second drew the crowd's focus, and Smith got a strong run exiting turn four on the 21st lap and took the spot with a low-side move.
Bobby Mays lost a potential top-five run two laps later with a broken rear end while Smith was doing his best to track down Franklin.
Smith caught a break on the 36th lap when Scott Neighbors stopped between turns three and four to set up a four-lap dash to the checkers. On the restart, Smith showed Franklin a nose underneath him in turn one, but the driver nicknamed Rambo maintained his edge.
The next time around, however, Franklin washed up the track in turn one, dropping him to fourth while Smith raced toward his 20th career series victory.
Notes: Smith's Mike Menscer-owned Rocket Chassis has a Gaerte Engine and sponsorship from Star Leasing. ... Drivers failing to make the feature: Brian Moody, Chris Knight, Travis Greer, Randy Harmon, Ronnie Poole and Thomas Poole. ... Hometown driver Kenny Peeples Jr. won the Fastrak-sanctioned Crate Late Model feature over Tam Topham. ... Next up for Carolina Clash drivers is a July 4 event at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Carolina Clash @ Wythe: (1) Jeff Smith, (2) Ricky Weeks, (3) Dan Breuer, (4) Dennis Franklin, (5) Kerry Jones, (6) Petey Ivey, (7) Larry Blankenship, (8) Chris Ferguson, (9) Frankie Beard, (10) Chris Chandler, (11) Doug Sanders, (12) Daniel Baggerly, (13) Jimmy McCormick, (14) Shon Flanary, (15) Craig Shuffield, (16) Gary Mabe, (17) Keith Freeman, (18) Tim Allen, (19) Justin Labonte, (20) Scott Neighbors, (21) Ray Tucker, (22) Bobby Mays, (23) Luke Rogers, (24) Austin Dillon. Fast qualifier (among 30 cars): Franklin, 17.250 seconds. Consolation race winners: Sanders, Dillon.