Sammy Smith Finds Victory in Pensacola. Click for Chuck Corder’s full story.admin
1 Sammy Smith
2 Mason Diaz
3 Taylor Gray
4 Rajah Caruth
5 Joey Iast
6 Peter Retslaff
7 Mas Gutierrez
8 Stephanie Moyer
9 Daniel Dye
10 Richard Garvie
11 Carson Kvapil
12 Eric Doheny
13 Wayne Peterson
Smith Relies on Track Knowledge to win ARCA Pensacola 200 as 5 Flags Speedway Opens 2021 Season
By Chuck Corder
Experience is a huge factor at Five Flags Speedway.
Drivers that succeed at Five Flags understand how to delicately attack the abrasive half-mile asphalt oval while also saving their tires for the stretch runs.
Sammy Smith used his experience to his advantage against 12 other ARCA Menards Series East cars Saturday as Five Flags kicked off its 2021 season. The 16-year-old Smith started on the pole for the Pensacola 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions and led more than 140 laps en route to the win.
“The first part of race, we really weren’t very good,” said Smith, an Iowa native, making just his second career ARCA Menards Series East start. “But we made some good adjustments.”
Mason Diaz, another driver with Five Flags familiarity, finished runner-up and 15-year-old Taylor Gray came home third in his second consecutive ARCA Menards Series East race.
Gray torched Smith when the opening green flag dropped and took P1 early. But Smith, who is quickly becoming a veteran of Pensacola’s high banks, put his No. 18 back in front at Lap 8.
Smith competed at the 2019 Snowflake 100 for the Allen Turner Hyundai Pro Late Models and ran the Deep South Crane Blizzard Series season finale for Super Late Models last year while also attempting to qualify for the Snowball Derby – the granddaddy of SLM races – while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Gray never led Smith out of his sights and by Lap 69 had his No. 17 back in clean air. The two teenagers put on a show until Smith saw a golden opportunity on Lap 116. As he stalked Gray, the duo came upon lapped traffic.
Smith timed his move perfectly, sliding underneath Gray for the lead again. Smith never relinquished his cushion and built on his advantage during the final 84 laps of the Pensacola 200.
Smith recovered successfully, nearly three weeks after experiencing heartbreak in the ARCA Menards Series East season opener. He was a painful second in a thrilling three-wide finish Feb. 8 at New Smyrna Speedway.
There was no pain Saturday at Five Flags.
“It really makes up for New Smyrna,” Smith said. “I feel like we should have won New Smyrna, and circumstances happened. But tonight, I think is a good redemption, and here we are.”
A tape-delayed broadcast of the Pensacola 200 is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. March 4 on NBCSN.
VORES Compact Touring Series
Kyle Frame won a hotly contested Pest Doctor Bash on the Beach 40 for the Vores Compact Touring Series cars.
It was the Frame’s first career Vores victory for the four-cylinder cars.
“This is incredible,” Frame, from Indiana, said. “We came down here with vengeance and it came out great.”
Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks
Many were surprised to see Cameron Leytham in Victory Lane on Saturday at Five Flags Speedway.
The driver included himself among the group who saw the youngster turn heads in the Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks 20-lap season opener.
“I have no idea because the car ran like junk,” said Leytham, the son of former Pure Stocks king B.J. Leytham. “There’s no reason we should’ve won that race the way the car was running earlier. We had a firing issue for some reason all day.”
Mechanical troubles aside, Leytham went high on the opening lap and took the lead from pole sitter Austin McDuffie. Leytham drove away from the other eight cars and didn’t break a sweat the rest of the way.
Pensacola’s Caleb Burkett finished second and McDuffie rounded out the podium.