Heil Yeah! Texas Driver Stays Cool on Crisp Night at 5 Flags to Win the Outlaws 50 Lapperadmin
Heil Yeah! Texas Driver Stays Cool on Crisp Night at 5 Flags to win the Outlaws 50 Lapper
By Chuck Corder
It takes about 11 hours to complete the 700-mile drive from Floresville, Texas, to Five Flags Speedway.
That distance means fans don’t get to see John Heil often enough at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.
But when the veteran wheelman does make the long journey to the Pine Forest Road exit, Heil rarely leaves without some big piece of hardware.
The 2019 Snowball Derby Outlaws champion collected another winner’s trophy Friday night at Five Flags, topping 17 other drivers and earning a dramatic season-opening victory in the Faith Chapel Outlaws 50-lap feature.
Heil worked his way through lapped traffic for most of the race seemingly. Each time a rival driver applied some pressure, though, the crafty short-track ’shoe collected himself and extended his lead to a comfortable margin.
“When I’d go to the outside, they’d go high with me, of when I’d go to the bottom, they went low with me,” Heil said, explaining his frustrations with the lapped traffic.
Such is life when you’re out front and circling Pensacola’s high banks faster than those cars in the back of the back.
One car not near the tail end was pole sitter Bubba Winslow, whose fast time of 17.542 seconds nipped Heil’s 17.580. The reigning Outlaws track champion mixed it up with Heil several times, as the pair swapped paint when Winslow tested Heil on the high side.
“Bubba Winslow, he’s so fast, He’s a helluva competitor,” Heil said. “I think tonight was the first time we rubbed doors. That’s hard racing, but, truthfully, I didn’t mean go that hard.”
The pair also had their hands full with Cameron Henderson. The Dothan, Ala., driver took second from Winslow on Lap 9 and flirted with stealing Heil’s lead several times.
Henderson stalked Heil, who continued to punch holes through lapped traffic, from Lap 15 on. Henderson’s best shot to get by Heil was a dangerous chance. On Lap 33, Heil got loose coming out of Turn No. 2 with a wad of lapped cars in front of him. Henderson was tempted to shoot the gap between Heil and one of the stragglers and push for the lead. Instead, he opted not to, erring on the side of caution, and not creating a major accident.
Instead, Henderson was happy with a runner-up and Winslow took a third back to Cantonment.
Heil made sure to shout out Augie Grill, who works on Heil’s cars.
“Augie and his dad Frankie Grill are some of the best things to happen to me in racing,” he said. “To be able to do what I’m doing this late in life, it’s all because of them. Augie was my hero growing up. And, for him to be helping me now, it means a lot.”
Proxy Equipment Pro Trucks
Hunter Johnson saw opportunity knocking and was quick to answer its call Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
The Griffin, Ga., driver scored his first career win last season in the Pro Trucks division, swooping in to steal a victory. On this night, Johnson left no doubt who was the class of the 12-truck field at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. He dominated the second half of the Proxy Equipment Pro Trucks 35-lap feature and drove to Victory Lane once again.
“Man, I have no idea what to say,” Johnson said. “The truck was hooked up from the get-go.”
Johnson, who credits his father – Mark Johnson – for his success, took the lead from Logan Boyett following a restart with 22 laps completed and cruised to the win.
Boyett, the 2018 Pro Trucks track champion, finished runner-up and Jason Kimball impressed with a third-place finish.
Faith Chapel Outlaws winner John Heil sat on the pole for the Proxy Equipment Pro Trucks, but didn’t contend for the sweep. However, he had reason to smile as 16-year-old daughter Riley Heil came home fifth.
The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen
Brannon Fowler’s time away from Five Flags Speedway has only made him sharper it appears
Fowler, who returned to racing late in 2020, started 2021 the right way by dominating the 25-lap feature for The Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen.
A former five-time champion in the division, Fowler’s triumphant return certainly has served notice to his competition that the veteran driver is eyeing another title run.
“I sure hope so,” Fowler said. “It’s a long season ahead of us, though. But we’re fortunate and blessed to win this one.”
Jim Pokrant and Hunter Lambert finished second and third, respectively.
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Cameron Leytham proved his season-opening win back in February was no fluke.
The Mobile 19-year-old driver, and son of Gulf Coast short-track legend B.J. Leytham, won his second consecutive Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks feature Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
Cameron Leytham took the lead from pole sitter Robert Loper on Lap 2 and withstood a green-white-checkered restart to clinch a return trip to Victory Lane.
“He helps me with everything,” Cameron Leytham said of his father. “His constructive criticism is the best I’ve ever had.”
Dylan Courtney finished runner-up and Caleb Burkett rounded out the podium.