Plott wins Pro Late 100; other winners: Cotto, Moody, Hicks

‘Plott’-ing Against His Competition, 23-Year-Old Georgian Wins First Race at Five Flags Speedway

By Chuck Corder

Only in racing can 23 seem a tad over-the-hill.

That’s still many years short of athlete’s prime years in most other sports. But with a profound and prolific influx of adolescent drivers to short-track racing in recent years, 20-somethings are usually considered grizzled veterans.

With much-deserved buzz and hype around a potential youth revolution to the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Model Series, a 23-year-old from Marietta, Ga., took the teenagers to school Friday night at the famed half-mile asphalt oval.

A past champion at some of the southeast’s storied speedways, Kyle Plott proved once again at Five Flags Speedway why he remains a feared competitor whenever he unloads for a Super or Pro race.

Plott got his first career victory at Five Flags by winning the third of four Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Model 100-lap races this season.

“I’ve been trying to get a win at Five Flags forever,” Plott said. “We’ve been waiting for this one for a while. I’ve had some good chances. Either I’d screw up or we’d have some bad luck. Tonight, I was worried about not getting too free late in the race.”

Finishing runner-up and in third place, as they coincidentally did in the first two PLM races, were once again 17-year-old Connor Okrzesik and 14-year-old Jake Garcia, respectively.

While Garcia started on the pole and led more than 55 laps Friday, Okrzesik never found clean air yet remained in the top three and threatened the lead throughout periods of the night.

“It’s really tiring at this point,” Okrzesik said after another second-place finish. “We’re definitely the best in the country finishing second. But, we’re getting better and better.

“We know what we have to do to finish well. We have to be perfect. This whole team is great, but we just need a little bit more.”

There was some good that came out of Okrzesik’s result Friday. He padded his points lead in the Allen Turner Hyundai PLM Series standings heading into next month’s season finale, the Allen Turner Tune Up 100.

Coming into Friday, Okrzesik’s cushion was just four against fellow 17-year-old Colby Howard and just six points over the youngster Garcia.

Howard had a disastrous night when his Anthony Campi Racing No. 81 machine unexpectedly broke and slammed into the outside wall in Turn No. 4 during his first qualifying lap. Howard’s team worked on the car before the drop of the green flag, but it was a futile effort because of the damage.

The other disappointment of the night came in the form of Perry Patino and his rocketship No. 51. The Montgomery, Ala., driver lit up the racetrack in qualifying with a fast time of 16.804 seconds.

Once the green dropped, Patino continued to look like he had the car to beat as he raced to the lead. Inexplicably, though, his machine blew up on Lap 9 and his night was done.

“It’s ridiculous. I hate it for my guys,” Patino said. “This was such an amazing racecar. It was really the car to beat tonight. It’s dang-gone unfortunate.”

Faith Chapel Outlaws

Chris Cotto flexed his car’s muscle early and often Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.

He torched his fellow Faith Chapel Outlaws during qualifying by a full three-tenths of a second and backed it up with a masterful 30-lap feature victory to close the night.

Cotto captured his third victory of the season, second in a row, and padded his slim Outlaws points lead against Bill Touchtone heading into the 2019 Championships next month.

Touchtone finished as runner-up and Conner Sutton came home third.

“I’m wore out,” an exhausted but exhilarated Cotto said. “I’m tired, hot. Bill Touchtone is a good racer. He ran me clean, ran me hard, and it’s fun racing against him.”

Touchtone led much of the race and held Cotto off until the Milton driver was able to navigate around him on Lap 17 when Cotto took the lead on the inside of Touchtone between Turn Nos. 3 and 4.

“We worked on it a little bit,” said Touchtone, who won an Outlaws feature in April. “But we got tight again in the middle. (Cotto) caught me and, yep, I knew I had messed up.” Pro Trucks

Fans are used to seeing a driver from Senoia, Ga., treat Five Flags Speedway like his personal playground.

Bubba Pollard might as well be short-track racing’s logo because of his prolific impact on the sport, and Pensacola fans have been witnesses to nearly a third of his 100-plus wins.

But another driver from Pollard’s hometown has done well to figure out all the nooks and crannies the famed half-mile asphalt oval throws at drivers.

College freshman Joshua Hicks won his fourth consecutive Pro Trucks feature Friday at Five Flags, winning the 20-lap race in commanding fashion by more than three seconds. He bested Kody Brusso and Brandon Burks in second and third, respectively.

“Kody did a good job, but when she slipped up I was able to get underneath her,” Hicks said. “It really has been a good year so far, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of this truck Curt Britt gives me.”

Hicks’ fifth trip to Victory Lane means he will carry a nearly insurmountable lead into next month’s 2019 Championships and is a virtual lock to add a Pro Trucks track championship to the Pro Trucks Snowball Derby crown he won last December.

Brusso, who won the Faith Chapel Outlaws track title at Five Flags last year, led early before Hicks set her up with a tremendous run coming out of Turn No. 4. He blistered down the front stretch and got underneath Brusso on Lap 12 as the pair entered in Turn No. 1.

“We got her figured out now,” Brusso said. “No better guy to run second to than Josh. Chasing him is just gonna make me better, so let’s go.”

Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks

A month shy, the 2019 Championships at Five Flags Speedway got a healthy dose of suspense injected into them Friday night.

Mobile driver Michael Moody won his sixth Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap feature of the year at Pensacola’s high banks, edging him closer to defending champion and current series point leader Robert Balkum.

The pair will enter the championships on Sept. 14 separated by just three points, just two positions on the track.

“The longer the run, this car does great,” Moody said.

Moody took the lead from Balkum on Lap 15 after the two waged an intense door-to-door battle that ultimately culminated with lapped traffic.

Moody went low, under Robert Riley, while Balkum tested the outside. Riley pushed up the track and nearly pinned Balkum against the wall as Moody assumed the lead and drove off from the rest of the field.

Balkum yielded second to Caleb Burkett momentarily, before rallying to claim another runner-up finish. Burkett rounded out the podium.

“He had faster car,” Balkum said of Moody. “The lapped car did get in the way there.”