Real Deal Grill Notches Modifieds of Mayhem Victory; Johnson Wins Trucks Race in Bizarre Finish By Chuck Corderadmin
Shanna Ard hadn’t stood in Victory Lane since September of last year.
That might not seem like a long time to most, but for a two-time series champion like Ard, it was an eternity.
The Milton driver captured his first The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen feature of the year, leading all 25 laps in dominant fashion.
“I’m kinda speechless,” said Ard, who won Sportsmen track championships in 2014 and 2015. “The last few races I haven’t performed like I should. Tonight, I wanted to make a point that I didn’t forget how to drive. I want that championship.”
Mobile’s Chad Robinson and Pensacola’s Jim Pokrant finished second and third, respectively.
WCIParts.com Pro Trucks
Hunter Johnson was gobsmacked.
Johnson had safely run in the top-five all night Friday at Five Flags Speedway, watching Steven Davis run roughshod against himself and the rest of the 11-truck field in the WCIparts.com Pro Trucks 30-lap feature.
But a wild, controversial sequence of events with two laps remaining sent Davis to the back of the pack and left Johnson fighting to the finish against Milton’s Brandon Burks.
Johnson got around Burks and the Griffin, Ga., driver secured the victory. Burks settled for runner-up honors.
“I’m so delighted,” a jubilant Johnson said. “We’ve worked hard for this. Everything happened how it happened.”
What happened were a confusing set of circumstances. What happened for Davis was a misunderstanding of the rules that spelled disaster.
He went from being smooth as silk and a commanding 4-plus-second lead for most of the race to finding himself at the tail end for a caution he initiated. This yellow Davis brought out followed a previous restart with 28 of the 30 laps completed.
Davis stopped his truck on the track to protest a new rule, which he disagreed with.
The leader controls the restarts once the green flag drops, that is of no debate.
Here’s where it gets sticky: When 14-year-old Grant Thompson jumped out of line and failed to wait for Davis to engage, the veteran driver anticipated another yellow flying for Thompson’s infraction.
However, under the new rule, Thompson was black-flagged. Instead of the caution Davis expected, the race continued under green. While every other driver maintained their speed, Davis casually cruised around the famed half-mile asphalt oval until his No. 8 finally stopped at the Turn No. 4 exit.
The caution Davis so desperately wanted a lap earlier finally flew. Unfortunately, it flew for him. Adding insult to injury, Thompson stayed on the track.
Unclear about the new ruling, Davis threw his left hand out of the truck window in exasperation and gestured in frustration at the flag stand and tower.
He made one final gasp toward the front on the final restart, climbing to third, but spun on the backstretch when he and Thompson touched. Thompson drove away and finished third.
Modifieds of Mayhem 50
Deciding between two loves is an unenviable task.
The stakes are higher when it comes to deciding between two cars. Lucky for Augie Grill, he gets to have his cake and eat it, too.
The Late Model legend continues to add to his short-track racing legacy with a decorated career in open-wheeled Modifieds. Grill is the reigning three-time Modifieds Snowball Derby champion and won the Modifieds of Mayhem 50-lap feature Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
From his emphatic fist pumps to his ear-to-ear smile and the bounce in his step, Grill is having the time of his life in the No. 112 that friend and Outlaws driver John Heil sets up.
“They’re a lotta fun, especially when you’ve got a good car like we did tonight,” said Grill, who has won eight Snowball Derby titles in three classes, including two in the Derby itself. “It’s a good combination, me and John. These Modified cars definitely run good down here. If I do my job, we should win races.”
Grill started on the pole when the top eight qualifiers redrew for position. Grill (17.522 seconds) finished second to Cody Stickler (17.407), but drew P1.
Grill led wire-to-wire, never surrendering the lead despite heavy pressure from Stickler, who finished runner-up. Korey Ruble was third.
Stickler had two strong looks at swiping the lead away from Grill. Both followed restarts. Both came as the pair entered Turn No. 3. Both times, though, Grill kept Stickler at bay.
“We’re finally back to where we need be down here,” Grill said. “The 42 (Stickler) was a little free coming off the corner and I was able to get away. But I was running pretty hard after that last restart.”
It marked Grill’s first Modifieds of Mayhem win of the season. His instincts to know when to play defense while effortlessly feathering the car around the famed half-mile asphalt oval prove the 43-year-old icon is still in his prime.
“You can be out front, but you don’t wanna run harder than you got to,” Grill said. “It’s kinda a cat-and-mouse game out there. I had a seven-car length on the 42, and he closed it down on me. But then we started matching him and got away.”
Lloyds Glass Pure Stocks
Dylan Courtney is a young man of few words.
He let his actions do the talking Friday night at Five Flags Speedway. The Citronelle, Ala., driver showed nerves of steel en route to his first career Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks win.
Courtney waged an epic battle with series points leader Daryl McDonald III, ultimately earning the 20-lap feature victory at Pensacola’s high banks.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Courtney said. “Tonight, was a long, hard-fought battle.”
McDonald, a three-time feature winner this season, took home runner-up honors and Michael Moody rounded out the podium.
Courtney passed every test the 10-car field threw at him. After a bevy of cautions, Courtney hit his marks on each restart. But his biggest challenge time and time again came from McDonald.
“D3” tried to rattle Courtney, get him out of shape, but Courtney wouldn’t be deterred. From Lap 11 to the moment the white flag waved, the two fought side-by-side.
But Lap 17 defined Courtney’s courage and it was where he passed his final exam. As they approached a lapped car, McDonald saw a golden opportunity to surge into the lead. Instead, Courtney fought back.
Courtney on the inside, McDonald on the outside, the pair split Michael Stringfellow and continued their neck-and-neck affair.
Sensing disaster brewing between the two leaders, Moody saw his chance to steal the win from the young hotshoes on the final lap. Moody dived low and tried to slide by Courtney on the inside, but Courtney wouldn’t budge and raced to the checkered flag and a standing ovation in the grandstands.
Caleb Burkett was 4th and Austin McDuffy 5th.