Colby Howard wins Pro Late 100; Kyle Purvis takes Mods of Mayhemadmin
Howard Grabs Another Checkered for Anthony Campi Racing; Purvis Makes Mods of Mayhem Memory
By Chuck Corder
Perseverance in the face of heavy expectations can be tricky.
Some athletes thrive in the moment while others fold like a busted-up bumper.
Colby Howard was well-aware of the ink and clicks his team had received coming into Friday’s season opener for the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Models at Five Flags Speedway.
After Giovanni Bromante scored a pair of Super Late Model wins — including the Blizzard Series opener last month — for Anthony Campi Racing, Howard didn’t blink.
The 17-year-old driver from Simpsonville, SC, won a PLM race at Montgomery Motor Speedway earlier this month and added another milestone win Friday at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
“There’s no one else, no team I’d rather be driving for than (Anthony Campi Racing),” Howard said. “We’re on hot streak.”
Howard got his first career win at Five Flags and added to the ever-building Campi tidal wave, by putting on a clinic in the 100-lap opener.
It was a race of attrition with two red flags brought out for scary incidents, the first of which sent JoJo Wilkinson to a local hospital for evaluation after she was T-boned in the driver’s side door.
Twenty-one cars started the race, but only nine remained when the checkered flag flew. After stalking Casey Roderick most of the night — perhaps, too much (more on that later) — Howard finally found clean air underneath Chris Davidson on Lap 84.
The final 16 laps were elementary, as Howard drove off and cruised to Victory Lane for the first time at Pensacola’s high banks.
“I was worried those first few laps, but the car really picked up,” Howard said. “We had a lotta pressure on us in that first race. But then we got the win, and you thought the pressure was off. Then, there were some great stories written about us taking over the short track world. Oh wait, the pressure’s back on.”
Through it all, Howard has dealt with these newfound, lofty expectations in stride. On this night, that meant keeping sight of Roderick, who came into Friday as the two-time reigning PLM track champion and having won seven of the last eight PLM 100 races at Five Flags.
Howard was the only driver that challenged Roderick, and on Lap 67 the two got tangled up. With Howard hot on his trail, Roderick headed into Turn No. 3 with a slim lead.
As they were exiting Turn No. 4, though, Howard slightly nudged Roderick enough to spin him. Both drivers were sent to the rear for being involved in an accident.
“It was my fault,” Howard confessed. “I’ve gotta say sorry to Casey. I hate that it ended like that. Casey raced me clean.”
With only nine cars on the lead lap and 33 laps left, it was conceivable that either one or both Roderick and Howard could climb their ways back to the lead.
While Howard made the most of his opportunity, things only got worse for Roderick, who has been snake bitten at Five Flags this year. Following another incident, Roderick sustained a tire rub and his night ended prematurely.
Grand Bay, AL, teenager Connor Okrzesik finished runner-up and 14-year-old Jake Garcia rounded out the podium.
“The start of the race, I was a little tight,” Okrzesik said. “The Anthony Campi bunch are the cars to beat right now, every week. We’re out here to get wins. Finishing second is still disappointing.”
Modifieds of Mayhem
Kyle Purvis had this wild idea earlier this week.
Race on Friday at Five Flags Speedway and, then, high-tail it for Michigan to compete in a Sunday feature at Flat Rock Speedway.
With the Sunday race canceled because of snow, some thought Purvis should embrace the warm temperatures of Pensacola and stay for a few days.
What better place to celebrate a 50-lap Modifieds of Mayhem victory than on the prettiest beaches in the country.
Purvis’ superb pass in between Augie Grill and a lapped car with just five laps left was the slingshot Purvis needed to reach clean air and secure the victory.
“Whenever we come down here, it’s a pleasure to race with Augie,” Purvis said. “He’s one of the best here for a reason. It was fun to race. We raced each other clean.”
The Ohio driver has become a familiar face during the Modifieds running of the Snowball Derby each December. But, other than that, Purvis rarely makes it to Five Flags.
He found an open date on his schedule and knew he had to log laps if he wants a shot at the Modifieds Snowball title later this year.
That’s a race Grill has won before along with Snowball Derby and Snowflake 100 crowns. Despite finishing second, Grill knows his No. 112 is not where he’d like it to be at this point in the season.
“We’ve struggled with this car, but we’ve gotten it a lot better,” Grill said. “The lapped car really slowed us up, and I made it too easy for (Purvis) to pass.”
WCIparts.com Pro Trucks
Remember the name, folks: Grant Thompson.
Thirteen years old. Eighty pounds sopping weight. (And, even that might be generous.)
The teenage hotshoe, who earned his stripes thanks to a successful Legends and Bandolero career, turned heads last week at Mobile International Speedway when he won his first career full-sized vehicle race behind the wheel of his family-owned No. 54 Pro Trucks.
Less than a week later, young Grant backed up that trip to Victory Lane with another one Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
Grant started from the pole and dominated the WCIparts.com Pro Trucks 25-lap feature, easily holding off runner-up Josh Hicks and third-place finisher Cale Gale, a former NASCAR driver.
“This is just amazing — two in a row!” a jubilant Grant said after he celebrated with some fist pumps and a warm embrace from crew chief Bubba Gale, father to Cale.
“First Mobile, now Pensacola. I can’t thank everybody on the crew, Bubba and Cale Gale enough for making this possible. It’s awesome. “
Grant qualified second to fast qualifier Joshua Hicks, who won the Pro Trucks opener last month, but started on the pole after the invert.
Grant wasted little time in putting some distance between his machine and the rest of the field. Before the feature had hit the 10-lap mark, Grant already owned a 2-second lead.
He continue to pad until it had swelled to a 2.6-second lead in the closing laps.
“Congrats to Grant Thompson,” Cale Gale said. “He ran a helluva race. These boys (Grant and Hicks) right here, I’m telling you, they’re in trucks now, but they’re gonna be something else.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
In less than two months, Michael Moody has racked up as many wins as most drivers could dream of in a season or, perhaps, a career.
And the Mobile-area driver isn’t about to slow down.
Moody got his third Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks feature win of the season, this one a 15-lap victory where he passed Pensacola’s Robert Balkum on the outside late in the feature and never looked back.
“I think we’ve finally got the bugs out of it,” said Moody, who set a new track record in qualifying, turning a 21.522-second lap. “We had fun. It was a good time.”
Balkum, the only other Pure Stocks winner this season besides Moody, finished second and Corey Pittman came home with his best finish of the season in third.
“We didn’t overheat, but we’re still having engine issues we’ve gotta work out,” Balkum said.