South Mississippi Speedway
Boland wins NeSmith finale as Cooley gets title
By Roby HelmNeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (Oct. 17) — Mike Boland of Cuba, Ala., scored his third NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series victory of the season Saturday by capturing the Topless Fall Nationals 50 at South Mississippi Speedway. Boland took the lead from Larry Boutwell of Baker, Fla., on lap 21, survived a tangle with a lapped car under caution, and took the win by six lengths in his Strength Center-sponsored Trak-Star Chassis.
Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss., was crowned the 2009 NeSmith Chevrolet Series champion and will receive a $20,000 check at the Dec. 9 banquet in Tampa, Fla.
“This has been a dream come true for our whole team,” the 18-year-old Cooley said. “We have all learned a lot running this series by racing with a lot of talented experienced drivers, and going to a lot of different types of tracks. We have learned how to make adjustments on these cars and adapting to different track conditions on the fly.”
Boland, who earned $2,500, challenged Boutwell first by running the high side of the quarter-mile dirt oval as the frontrunners battled side-by-side until a lap-20 caution flag, one of 10, slowed the field. Everyone, including Boutwell, thought Boland would go back upstairs for the restart, but when the green flag came out, Boland dove for the bottom of the track, got inside Boutwell, and made the pass for the lead coming off the fourth turn.
After Boland took the lead and a caution flag appeared on lap 34, and the race leader dodged a big bullet as the field slowed. The lapped car of J.D. Pass of Brandon, Miss., spun in turn four right in front of Boland, who hit the side of the sideways car. Boland’s car suffered damage in the front end, pushing up the nosepiece of his machine.
“With the nosepiece pointing up in the air, my car developed a big push after the restart,” Boland said. “I switched to three-wheel brakes, and that helped the car get through the corners. The track was real racy tonight, a lot better than last night, as we could run high or low. I wanted to cover the bottom, and if Boutwell was going to beat me, he would have had to do it on the outside.”
Boutwell settled for second and also was second in the series standings. He'll earn $7,000 for his runner-up check.
Cooley capped off his title run with a third-place showing while Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., and 15-year-old Joseph Joiner of Milton, Fla., rounded out the top five. Michael Blount of Sumrall, Tenn., who won Friday's weekend opener, was 10th in the finale.
With series points completed, the series begins severals non-points races beginning with the $10,000-to-win Red Top Auto Auctions Dega 100 on Oct. 22-24 at Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala.
Topless Fall Nationals 50: (1) Mike Boland, (2) Larry Boutwell, (3) Eric Cooley, (4) Ronnie Johnson, (5) Joseph Joiner, (6) Shannon Lee, (7) Ricky Idom, (8) Derrick Rainey, (9) Chase Washington, (10) Michael Blount, (11) Michael Santangelo, (12) Matthew Turner, (13) Noah Daspit, (14) Jeremy Idom, (15) Marcus Minga, (16) Allen Netherland, (17) Rodney Barber, (18) Ben McCreary, (19) Chase Edge, (20) J.D. Pass, (21) Justin McRee, (22) Bradley Blaylock, (23) Jamey Smith, (24) Cliff Williams. Fast qualifier (among 27 cars): Boutwell, 15.537 seconds. Consolation race winners: Joiner, Williams. Last-chance winner: J. Idom.
Correction: Fixes Boutwell's points total