New Smyrna Speedway Race Recap for 9/19/15


It was one of those days and nights at New Smyrna Speedway full of craziness
and excitement as the track hosted week number 28 of the NASCAR Whelen
All-American Racing Series. Just before the pit gate was slated to open at 3
pm, a literal monsoon took place as heavy rain fell for about 20 minutes
flooding everything from portions of the pit area to the breezeway in front of
the main offices and concession stand. Once the heavy rain ended, the sun
popped out and cars began to be brought carefully into the pit area amid a
constant drizzle as the weatherman was promising a zero chance of the wet
stuff for the evening hours.
Just finding a place to park that wasn’t wet was the first order of business.
The drains in the upper pit area became clogged leaving a pair of small
“lakes” but drivers Zachary Curtis and Matt Jarrett waded out into the mess
and cleared the drains and everyone was able to navigate the area within a few
minutes. By the time the cars hit the track for practice, about on hour
behind schedule, the sun and a stiff cool breeze out of the north had pretty
much dried things up and it was time to go racing as a big crowd began to
assemble to watch the action.
The Sportsman cars were slated to run a pair of 25-lap contests with point
leader Patrick Thomas of Oviedo looking to possibly earn enough points to
capture the NASCAR Division III point championship. Thomas would have his
work cut out for him as 24 cars were starting the first feature and many were
hoping not only to pick up a victory, but also claim the $600 bounty placed on
Thomas by American Auto, Tires and Service of New Smyrna Beach. Actually, in
the end, Thomas would really have to work extra hard to try and pull off the
NASCAR point title.
Teammates Derrick Wood of Orlando and Sandy Lee of Barrington, NH started on
the front row of feature #1 with Wood taking the early lead as Scott Bramlett
moved up to challenge. As the field was about to complete the fifth lap,
Bramlett made his move on Wood but the two cars got locked together coming off
turn four and they went into the wall. The rest of the field began to take
evasive action but there would just be nowhere to go for many, As Lee slowed
to miss the action he was drilled from behind by Scott Garrity. Lee’s car
flew high in the air, nearly flipping over while Garrity’s car was in turn
rear-ended by the machine of D. J. Farr. Junior Beckner, Garrett Hill on
Thomas could not miss the melee and their cars received considerable damage as
The biggest problem at this time was the threat of a massive fire as the fuel
cell of Lee’s car had been split open upon impact by the Garrity machine. The
track fire crew quickly assessed the severity of the situation, got all of the
drivers to safety and began a very slow process of clearing the front stretch
safely. Once all the cars had been cleared the fuel on the track was burned
The cars of Bramlett, Lee and Garrity were done for this race while the
remaining cars involved were taken to the pits for repairs. Thomas’ car
looked to be done for the night but after the clean up, that took close to 30
minutes, the crowd was shocked to see Thomas head down pit road with his car
totally repaired including new right side sheet metal.
In Thomas’ own words he said; “I fired the car up after the wreck only to
realize the right rear tire was flat and the right side door and interior were
mangled. I limped back to pit road which let me see the carnage that resulted
from the wreck littered all over the front stretch. Not having my friend Brad
May in my pits on this night (due to him racing David Rogers’ Pro Late Model
in Pensacola) had me doubting we could continue. My three crew guys that were
there assessed the damage and told me over the radio that it looked mostly
cosmetic. They along with about 15 people from out of nowhere that had come
to our pit area to help all jumped in and went to work. I recognized a few of
the people, Brian Finney, the ARCA racer and his dad Wally, along with Super
Stock racer Joe Girard were a few I recognized. They cut the door bar off the
car, removed the mangled body work, and replaced the right rear tire. The
mess on the front stretch was still being cleaned up so Brian (Finney) asked
around if there was any aluminum available. Jeff Cole, the parts trailer guy,
said he had some scraps and I said ‘we will take it!!’ They then started
reconstructing the right side of the body. Thirty or so minutes after it was
wrecked it was pieced back together and a number was spray painted on the new
aluminum in red on the black scrap side body work.”
Meanwhile, Wood also returned to action as his car had just minor damage while
both Beckner and Hill got back on track missing quite a few body panels. Mike
Smith, who spun into the muddy grass near the pit wall to avoid the crash,
also got his car running with no actual damage.
During the red flag, Bramlett came to the tower wanting to be interviewed so
he could explain the incident. “I don’t think it was anybody’s fault. Our
cars just got locked together while we were racing, so it’s really just a
racing incident,” said Bramlett. He indicated that he was most upset that
other cars got involved and badly damaged but he was also quick to praise the
track crew who he said helped avoid a possible catastrophe involving all the
fuel that was spilled on the track surface.
Daniel Conlin, Jr. now inherited the top spot for the restart but that’s just
part of his story after the big wreck. Daniels’ father approached Thomas
after the big crash and told him he could move into his son’s #11 if he needed
to to continue in the race or take parts off of it to fix his own car.
However, as memtioned, Thomas was able to reenter the fray in his own machine
although most figured he would be “out to lunch” for the remainder of the
event since there was no way for him to know if the car was still capable of
running up front.
Conlin grabbed the point as the green flag flew again and set the pace through
lap nine before Beckner got turned into the front stretch wall entering turn
one. Beckner’s machine now had the front body work askew and his crew removed
the nose and hood on pit road to go along with the fact he also had no sheet
metal on the right side of his car at this time either. “At least the air
conditioning was working,” joked Beckner. Things got only worse as Beckner
reentered the track from pit road he ran through a huge puddle of water on the
low side of the pit exit and splashed the entire lower groove going into turn
one soaking the track surface. This required the caution period to be
extended for about a 15 lap period as the cars and track vehicles worked to
dry the speedway.
On the restart Mike Smith, driving the car raced here earlier by Sean Bass,
grabbed the lead and was out front when the final caution flew on lap 13 for a
four car turn four incident involving Wood, Hill, Ron Gustafson and Sandy Lee
who had reentered the race in a back-up car out of the Sheppard Racing
Enterprises stable that had eight cars on hand for their drivers. Only Lee
did not restart.
Thomas, with no apparent ill effects to his car from the earlier crash, had
already moved into third place during the tenth lap then had just passed
Conlin for second before the lap 13 yellow flag. This set up a great
crowd-pleasing battle between Smith and Thomas as the field went back to
racing. Thomas inched ahead to lead laps 15 and 16 then Smith led laps 17, 18
and 19 before Thomas made his final move and forged his way to the front to
lead the final six circuits to score his tenth win of the year.
Smith trailed in second while Wood made a brilliant late race charge to snare
third at the line. Conlin grabbed the fourth spot with Timmy Todd, Jr. fifth.
Sixth through tenth were Matt Jarrett, Beckner, Hill, Mike Watson and R. J.
Glaser. Rounding out the finishers were George Alexander, Butch Carr, Sr.,
Warren Howie, Gustafson, Mike Dahm, Dustin Higdon, Bobby Holley, George
Spears, Bramplett, Lee, Farr, Garrity, Austin Howell, Drew Magillicuddy and
Mike Soukup.
Once this race ended, Thomas and New Smyrna officials turned their attention
to a race at Elko, MN Speedway where Brent Marks was racing. Marks would be
the driver Thomas would have to beat in order to take the NASCAR Division III
title. Marks started seventh in his final points race of the year and
finished third. Track General Manager Kim Brown went to work and determined
(unofficially) that Thomas would be the 2015 Division III champion if he
finished either first or second in race #2 on the night. Thomas would start
from 12th on the grid in this one with a lot of fast cars starting ahead of
him. Meanwhile, Conlin was unable to start the second event after the clutch
failed on his car following post-race inspection. His team tried to borrow
another clutch but it did not fit properly and the youngster was forced to
watch the race from the sidelines. Twenty-two cars would make the call for
the second 25-lapper.
R. J. Glaser led the opening lap of the second race from his third starting
spot before Beckner grabbed the point in his battered car for a pair of laps.
Caution flew on lap three as Sandy Lee’s night went from worse to much worse
as he tagged the turn two wall in his back-up machine ending the race and a
frustrating night for him.
Derrick Wood was running strong again and he zipped by Beckner for the lead on
the restart while Thomas quickly moved by Beckner into second on lap seven
then chased down Wood to take the lead on lap nine. The second and final
caution of the event came out on lap 13 when Mike Watson spun harmlessly in
turn three. One lap after the restart, Mike Smith slipped by Wood for second
but was never able to reel in the fleet Thomas who led the rest of the way to
secure win number 11 on the year and an unofficial NASCAR Division III point
championship. Results will be made official by NASCAR on Thursday, September
The top three were exactly the same in race two as they were for race one with
Thomas, Smith and Wood 1-2-3. Beckner did an outstanding job driving his beat
up car to fourth while Timmy Todd, Jr. scored his second fifth place finish on
the night. Sixth went to Matt Jarrett ahead of Ron Gustafson, Garrett Hill,
Glaser, Watson, D. J. Farr, George Alexander, Mike Soukup, Dustin Higdon, Drew
Magillicuddy, Lee, Shannon Kelly, Joe Girard, Mike Dahm, Justin Reynolds and
Scott Bramlett.
The other big race on the night was the Manheim 50 for the Speedway Flooring
Super Stocks sponsored by the Manheim Orlando Auto Auction. Manheim Orlando
General Manager Butch Herdegen, who races in the Super Stock class, had put up
$200 to the fast qualifier for the race but the drivers opted to draw for
positions as the earlier rain had put hot laps off schedule. Instead, the
track offered a bonus of $200 to point leader and nine-time feature winner
Justin Reynolds if he could start the race from the scratch position and win.
Reynolds accepted the offer and the field was set by luck of the draw.
Eighteen cars signed in but George Spears and Dustin Higdon were unable to
start leaving a field of 16 to take the green flag.
A lucky pill draw put Herdegen on the outside pole for the 50-lap contest and
he quickly moved into a sizable lead. As the race continued to run under
green flag conditions, Preston Hunt charged into second around Jeff Cuddy on
lap 22 bringing Reynolds with him. If this had been a normal Saturday night
25-lap feature Herdegen would have won easily but there was still another 25
laps to go. Just as the field took the halfway signal from “guest” flagman
Butch Pierce, Bobby Holley, who came into the race second in points, headed
down pit road and made the hard left turn into the pit area.
Herdegen continued to lead although Hunt and Reynolds were closing in a hurry.
Everything came to a halt on lap 34 when Ernie Tuminello’s car stalled in
turn three to bring out the first caution of the race. On the restart Hunt’s
car failed to come up to speed and he fell back quickly while Reynolds drove
to the outside groove and made the pass on Herdegen for the lead. Hunt got
back up to snuff and eventually got back to third place before a debris
caution slowed the field on lap 44.
Hunt’s car again did not come up to speed on the ensuing restart. Going into
turn one Hunt got tagged from behind and spun hard nearly head-on into the
wall. The young driver was unhurt but his car was done for the night. On the
restart Herdegen made a bold move and took the lead but was unable to hold
Reynolds off as the field completed the lap. The pair diced side by side for
two more laps before Reynolds got the edge and drove away to his tenth win of
the year. Cuddy was fighting Zachary Curtis for fourth on the white flag lap
but the pair touched causing the right rear tire to go flat on Cuddy’s
machine. Cuddy spun to the low side off turn four but was far enough out of
harm’s way for the race to be completed.
Herdegen had a solid run for second and was joined by a number of his Manheim
colleagues and their families in victory lane. “I think I made a mistake on
that last restart by not starting on the outside,” said Herdegen. “I actually
gave Justin (Reynolds) the groove he liked and it gave him an edge and if I
had it to do all over again I think I would have started on the outside.”
Herdegen was still happy mainly because of the large group of Manheim
employees who were there to watch along with bringing their children to the
races. “It’s all about the kids,” said Herdegen. “It was fun seeing them
wave those checkered flags in the stands and the smiles on their faces while
we were taking pictures… just an awesome night for me,” he said.
Shannon Kelly had his best run in quite some time taking a close third at the
end while Curtis wound up fourth ahead of Gino Tuminello. Rounding out the
top ten were Joe Girard, J. T. Tippins, Ronnie Hadden, Cuddy and Becca Samsoe.
Completing the finishers (all DNF’s) were Hunt, Matt Reynolds, Mike Dahm,
Ernie Tuminello, Holley and Charlie King, Sr.
The Pro Late Models were back in action and it was Rich Clouser the dominant
force in this 25-lap event. Clouser blasted to the front at the drop of the
green flag only to see a caution at the end of the first lap for a stalled
Aaron Rader. Clouser again assumed the point ahead of point leader Zach
Jarrell who was running a strong second until his car jumped out of gear on
lap 11. Before he could get his machine back in gear, Jarrell had dropped to
fourth place where he remained for the rest of the race while struggling to
keep his racer in high gear.
Clouser raced unchallenged to the victory, his first since opening night on
March 14th. Noah Cornman moved into second and stayed there to the finish as
“Little Gator” scored his best career finish ahead of Blaise Hetznecker,
Jarrell and Colby Clements. Veteran driver Doc McKinney returned to action
with a sixth place effort followed by Dalton Smith, newcomer Kimberlee
Hendricks, Rader and Timmy Todd, Jr. Paul White was looking to make his first
career Pro Late Model start after a tenure in the Pro Challenge class but his
car suffered problems during practice and he was unable to start.
David Russell led the opening four laps of the Sunshine Seamless Gutters Mini
Stock feature but could not hold off point leader Ted Vulpius as “Mr. Mini
Stock” took over on lap five and zoomed away to his eighth win of the year
over Russell, Brad Blanton, Bobby Dooley, Megan Matheny and Mark Broat.
Shane Sutorus showed up just 20 minutes before the start of the Bomber feature
but had no trouble scoring his fourth win of the season in his Saturn station
wagon. Adam Soukup led the first lap before Crash Tyner took over for three
circuits before Sutorus blasted to the front to led the remainder of the
20-lap contest. Point leader James Skinner was running second when he blew an
engine and spun on the last lap. That allowed Tyner to move back up to second
at the finish trailed by Aaron Overman, Charlie King, Jr., John Gross, Soukup,
Skinner and Charlie King, Sr.

Winner Photos by Jim Jones:

  1. Patrick Thomas took both Sportsman features…
  2. Justin Reynolds won the Manheim 50 for the Super Stocks
  3. Pro Late Model winner Rich Clouser…
  4. Mini Stock winner Ted Vulpius…
  5. Bomber winner Shane Sutorus…

Patrick Thomas had.jpg

Justin Reynolds.jpg

Rich Clouser took the.jpg

Ted Vulpius.jpg

Shane Sutorus won.jpg

Photos from the big wreck on lap five of the first Sportsman feature:

  1. It was a big mess…
  2. Scott Garrity’s car was pretty much destroyed…
  3. Scott Bramlett looks over his #22 and the #10 of Sandy Lee as a fire crewman keeps an eye out because there was still fuel on the track…
  4. Garrett Hill’s car was repaired and finished both features…
  5. Working on Patrick Thomas’ car during the red flag…