Craig Conquers Competition, Sweeps Pro Late Twin 75s; Fowler Makes Triumph Sportsmen Return After 3 Yearsadmin
Craig Conquers Competition, Sweeps Pro Late Twin 75s; Fowler Makes Triumph Sportsmen Return After 3 Years
By Chuck Corder
Photos by Impact Zone Photos
Twenty-four hours after a night of frustrations in New Smyrna, Matt Craig righted the ship Friday at Five Flags Speedway.
The Kannapolis, N.C., resident is one of the south’s top Late Model drivers. However, it’s rare to see Craig at Pensacola’s high banks until the Snowball Derby rolls around.
He made his first career Pro Late Model start at Five Flags count on Friday by sweeping the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Model Twin 75s, dominating the 22-car field and putting his disappointing result Thursday at New Smyrna Speedway firmly in his rearview.
“I thought I had burned the tires a little bit too much in the first race,” said Craig, who was also the fast qualifier (17.007 seconds). “Turns out, we still had enough for another 75 laps. It was hooked up. I couldn’t ask for much more.”
While he blew the doors off his rivals in both races, Craig was unstoppable in the second 75-lapper. He lapped all but four cars in the finale, maintaining a full straightaway lead and winning by more than 4.5 seconds.
Allen Turner Hyundai PLM Series points leader Chris Davidson finished second and Dakota Stroup rounded out the podium in the nightcap. Kyle Plott and Jake Garcia finished runner-up and third, respectively, in the opener.
Craig showed no mercy all night and was rarely challenged. In the opener, Craig took the lead from Justin Bonnett on Lap 35 and pulled away from the competition for the remaining 40 laps.
“The car was on rails right there,” Craig said. “This was a lotta fun. It’s fun to win here and it’s my first time to win at Five Flags.”
In his first appearance at the famed half-mile asphalt oval since his fiery accident at the Snowflake 100 in December, Bonnett rebounded in the second 75 lapper with a fifth-place finish after coming away with a 12th-place result in the opener.
Earlier in the afternoon, Bonnett had a special gift for Russell Brooks, the Five Flags official who rescued Bonnett from his burning car at the ’Flake. Bonnett presented Brooks with the door panel from that car as a gesture of his appreciation.
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
Brannon Fowler turned back the clock Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
It had been two years since he had raced, period, and three years since the five-time track champion competed in The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen class.
Fowler made up for lost time in a big way, capturing the 25-lap feature while The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen points lead exchanged hands between Chad Robinson and Jim Pokrant, who finished second and third, respectively.
“I can’t think of any better way to return than to be right here in Victory Lane,” said Fowler, who has won three Sportsmen and two Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks track titles. “This goes beyond me. These guys working on this car, I owe ’em so much and can’t thank ’em enough.”
Fowler took the lead from Pokrant on Lap 13 and never looked back in his new white-and-black No. 00 that he purchased a couple of months ago.
The Molino driver, who owns two Sportsmen Snowball Derby crowns, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat despite the three-year layoff.
Robinson, who was the fast qualifier (20.893 seconds), moved past Pokrant atop the points standings and will carry a four-point lead into the Counselman Automotive Recycling Night of Champions on Sept. 12.
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Daryl McDonald III continued his historic season Friday night, taking one step closer to his first career track championship at Five Flags Speedway.
Despite starting sixth, McDonald shot toward the front from the opening green flag and was on a mission to find clean air in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap feature.
He took the lead on Lap 3 and began flexing his muscle late in the race by extending his cushion to more than a second. McDonald, nicknamed “D3,” has now won in consecutive weeks and five times this season.
“I can’t tell you how many long nights we’ve put into this thing,” McDonald said. “This week, it was the same. This was a good race. I’m proud of my guys who set up the car. It’s performing really well.”
Close rival Jerry Goff Jr. claimed runner-up honors while Austin McDuffie scored his first podium result of the year with a third-place finish.