Bromante wins Blizzard100; Roderick & Okrzesik Crash in lap 84.

Two-for-Two: Young Giovanni Adds SERF 100 Victory to Blistering Start to Rookie’s SLM Campaign

By Chuck Corder

The comeback kid keeps adding pages to the fairy tale.

After a terrifying accident on a dirt bike left him with compound fractures to two places in his spine, Giovanni Bromante thought a boyhood dream of competing at racing’s highest levels might be over.

Now, the 15-year-old Super Late Model rookie can’t stop winning.

Despite starting 11th, Bromante maintained a dogged pursuit toward the front throughout an unusual SERF 100 on Friday at Five Flags Speedway. Bromante pulled ahead on a late-race restart with 10 laps remaining to capture the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series season opener.

“It just feels great,” Bromante said. “I never thought I’d be in Victory Lane again. These guys put in a lotta work, and I can’t thank ’em enough.

After turning heads at the Rattler 250 earlier this month, Friday night’s win gives Bromante back-to-back victories to start the Southern Super Series slate. He also has won his first two career starts for Anthony Campi Racing.

Bromante joined the likes of Josh Hamner (2008), Pensacola’s Johanna Long (2009), TJ Reaid (2013), and Kyle Grissom (2015) as the first drivers to win their Blizzard debut on Opening Night.

Bromante struggled in qualifying, but steadily climbed through the field once the green flag dropped. When a lapped car collected race leaders Casey Roderick and Connor Okrzesik less than 20 laps from the checkered flag, Bromante had his window of opportunity.

“You just have to have patience,” he said. “We were able to get through the pack, but I never thought I’d be here.”

Joining him on the podium we Lucas Jones, who finished as runner-up after leading late in the race, and third-place Kyle Plott, who led the first 37 laps of the race.

“I love coming down here,” Jones said. “These tracks — you can’t duplicate them. Five Flags is one of a kind.”

Jones took the lead following the incident with Roderick and Okrzesik.

Jett Noland, a lapped car ahead of Roderick and Okrzesik, spun from fluid possibly being on the track as he went through Turn Nos. 1 and 2. Noland’s No. 50 came to a hard stop with the car’s rear end up against the wall and its nose facing perpendicular down the track.

As Roderick and Okrzesik roared into Turn No. 1, they also slid through the apparent fluid and both ripped through the front-end of Noland’s machine, sending debris fluttering like birds.

Roderick and Okrzesik’s cars were both mangled, and it left the outcome up for grabs.

Enter Giovanni.

“These late model are just so much fun,” Bromante said. “They put on great racing.”

WCIparts.com Pro Trucks

Joshua Hicks proved Friday night at Five Flags Speedway that he ain’t a fluke.

Few around the famed half-mile asphalt oval had heard of the young man before he surprised in winning the Pro Trucks Snowball Derby last December.

But, the 18-year-old from Senoia, Ga., backed it up Friday night in the WCIparts.com Pro Trucks 25-lap season-opening feature.

Hicks was dominant, sliding under eventual third-place Brandon Burks for the lead on Lap 9 and never breaking a sweat on his way to the checkered flag.

“This is one fast truck,” said Hicks, who celebrated the victory with his parents who drove down from Georgia. “It feels like there’s more fans this time. Maybe, it’s too cold in December?”

Wins feel perfect in any kind of weather.

Joining Hicks and Burks on the podium was runner-up Grant Thompson. All 13 years of him, Thompson has been working under the watchful eye of Five Flags favorite and short-track legend Bubba Gale.

The young Mobile driver is just as polished out of the truck as he is in it.

“With three to go, if (Hicks) made a mistake, I had to hit my marks,” Thompson said. “We’re happy with second, no doubt about it.”

The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen

When you’re up against Mark Barnhill, the margin of error is tiny.

Just ask BJ Leytham. The Mobile driver maintained a healthy lead over Barnhill with less than 10 laps remaining in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen 25-lap season opener Friday at Five Flags Speedway.

But, a slight a bobble from Leytham on the back straightaway was all Barnhill needed to clear his friend on the outside and pull away from the rest of the field.

Leytham finished second and Milton’s Shanna Ard took home third.

“I pulled this thing outta my trailer last night, still from the Derby,” said Barnhill, who won the Sportsmen track championship last season. “Evidently, it was still pretty good. It’s getting tougher every race, really. You don’t ever know who’s gonna win.”

Ard had a couple peeks at the lead when he battled Leytham, but never made it stick.

“We come out here to win, but I’m satisfied with third,” Ard said. “That was fun. I’m ready to do it again.”

Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks

The night ended in unexpected fireworks from a division known for hot-tempered drivers.

Defending series champion Robert Balkum scored his first Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap feature victory to close out Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.

But, it was late- and post-race antics that set off a powder keg of emotions at Pensacola’s high banks.

Balkum took the lead from Caleb Burkett on Lap 8 and won comfortably. But, with the help of a third party, the two added a new round to their on-again-off-again feud at Five Flags.

When Balkum took the white flag, he maintained a sizable cushion over Burkett. As Balkum made his way through the first three turns, the lapped car of Wayne Burkett (Caleb’s father) appeared to block Balkum’s attempts at passing.

When they exited Turn No. 4, Balkum boiled over and turned Wayne Burkett less than a quarter-mile from the flag stand.

“I had seen it coming the last couple of laps,” Balkum explained in Victory Lane. “Basically, he stopped in front of me coming to the checkered flag.”

Naturally, the younger Burkett, whose runner-up finish was thrown out in technical inspection, was livid. As Balkum and Caleb Burkett approached the Victory Lane ceremonies, Caleb Burkett delivered two shots to Balkum’s bumper. Before he could turn his No. 24’s engine off, Caleb Burkett was out of his car and headed for Balkum’s window.

Track officials and sheriff’s deputies quickly restored order to the scene.

Michael Moody moved from third unofficially to second, following Caleb Burkett’s DQ, and Bobby Suarez scored a third-place finish.