BENNETT, CLOUSER, VULPIUS & KING CLOSE OUT NEW SMYRNA SPEEDWAY POINT SEASON WITH RACE WINS
New Smyrna Speedway wrapped up the 2015 regular NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing season on a picture-perfect Halloween night. The kids had a blast with the “trunk or treat” provided by the classic car owners before the races and at intermission with a fun Halloween costume contest. The classic car show before the actual racing got under way was again a big success with over 60 entrants who each got a chance to drive their machine around the high-banked half-mile for five laps. During intermission, Bucked Up Apparel presented the Hart to Heart Breast Cancer Foundation with a check for $1,000.
The big race of the night would be a 50-lap shootout for the Speedway Flooring Super Stock division and a good field was on hand to duke it out. Jeff Cuddy went out and turned a quick lap in time trials of 20.900 seconds but came up light on the scales afterwards. “We forgot to put gas in the car before we qualified and we came up two pounds light in tech… our mistake…,” said Cuddy. Butch Herdegen thus ended up with quick time at 20.949 seconds in his Manheim Orlando special despite problems of his own. "The clutch was slipping so I decided to just run it in fourth gear, said Herdegen. “The car was really quick and I think if it hadn’t been for the clutch problem we could have had a shot at the track record (set by Garrett Hill in April of 2014 at 20.753),” he continued. Preston Hunt’s lap of 21.025 was good for second fast time ahead of Bruce Bennett and Shannon Kelly. Bennett was behind the wheel of the Reynolds Racing #20X car normally driven by Matt Reynolds. Having helped recently work on the trio of cars out of the Reynolds’ Merritt Island shop, the Orlando driver was offered the ride for the evening which would eventually prove very fruitful for the team.
Herdegen drew a six for the inversion placing Gino Tuminello and Bobby Holley on the front row for the start with Holley grabbing the early advantage. Herdegen, still using fourth gear due to his clutch problem, got a bad start and dropped back initially as fourth-starter Bennett quickly made his way to the front on lap two. Herdegen had worked his way back up to sixth and appeared to have a strong car until the clutch problem began to get worse and he dropped out during the ninth lap.
Meanwhile, Hunt was on the charge and smelling his second win in a row as he zipped by Kelly to take second on lap ten. Justin Reynolds, who missed qualifying due to a family commitment and started from the tail of the starting grid, moved into third on lap 19 behind his teammate Bennett and Hunt. The trio then began to put some distance on the rest of the field although they were separated by nearly a full straightaway. That’s how things ran until lap 31 when Joe Gerard stalled his mount on the front stretch just off turn four to bring out the first caution flag of the race. Cuddy brought his car to pit road where his crew made some adjustments and sent him back out.
On the restart it was Hunt really beginning to pressure Bennett for the top spot. Coming down the front stretch to complete the 32nd lap, the two cars touched sending Hunt into a wild spin. Hunt kept his car off the wall as he slid all the way into the beginning of turn one where he was tagged by Reynolds who in turn was hit by Kelly. When the dust cleared Hunt was done for the night while Reynolds pitted as his crew went to work to repair the damage to his machine. Despite a left front fender that was flapping in the breeze, Kelly stayed on track. Repairs were made to Reynolds’ car and he returned to action restarting at the tail of the field.
Bennett continued to lead following the restart with Kelly keeping his banged-up machine in the second spot ahead of Zachary Curtis. Two laps later Gino Tuminello went for a spin courtesy of Reynolds to bring out the yellow once again. Reynolds was sent to the back for the restart while Tuminello got his spot back. Following the restart, Cuddy was now the car on the move as he dusted of Curtis for third then passed Kelly for second on the 36th circuit. Reynolds shot back through the field and took third spot from Curtis on lap 44 and that’s how it finished up as the rest of the event ran to the checker under green with Bennett scoring the win in his first New Smyrna start this year in any class of racer.
Cuddy came home second and passed tech with flying colors later on while Reynolds was third and Curtis fourth placing all three Reynolds Racing team cars in the top four.
Reynolds’ third place effort was good enough to give him the 2015 Speedway Flooring Super Stock track championship, the first-ever title here for the Merritt Island driver as Kelly placed fifth on this night and came home second in points after claiming back-to-back championships in 2013-14. “We didn’t actually intend to race for the championship at the beginning of the year,” said Reynolds. “However the car was running so good we decided to give it a go and here we are… My wife wasn’t too happy about me running for the championship but hopefully she’ll feel better about it come banquet time,” he joked after the races.
Tuminello came home sixth in the 50-lapper while Gerard ended up seventh ahead of Dale Howard, Ronnie Hadden, Mike Dahm, Hunt, Holley and Herdegen.
The Pro Late Models were slated for 25 laps to wrap up their 2015 point battle with local driver Zach Jarrell just needing to have a good finish to claim the championship. Kevyn Terry started from the pole and led the first ten laps. Rich Clouser had started back in seventh but worked his way up to second by lap eight then stormed past Terry into the lead on lap eleven bringing veteran Michael Williams in his new Bucked Up Apparel-sponsored machine along with him into second. The only caution of the race would fly on lap 18 as Aaron Rader spun in turn four.
After the restart Clouser simply left the field in his wake as he took his third win of the year in convincing style behind the wheel of the Sanford Auto Dealer’s Exchange special. Williams scored a solid second place finish with Blaise Hetznecker third ahead of Jarrell and Terry. Rounding out the finishers were Michael Burns, Jeff White, Noah Cornman, Dalton Smith and Rader.
Jarrell’s steady fourth place effort netted the likable young driver the Pro Late Model championship over Hetznecker and Cornman. Jarrell was joined by a bevy of his fans in victory lane after the race as he had one of the biggest fan followings of any driver at the track this year.
Brad Blanton led the first four laps of the Sunshine Seamless Gutters Mini Stock feature but could not hold off “Mr. Mini Stock” himself Ted Vulpius who zipped to his eleventh win of the year over Blanton, David Russell and Mark Broat as the entire race ran green to checker.
Vulpius drove his Guy Callon special to a convincing season championship as well finishing well in front of Blanton after the final tally was determined. For Vulpius, it was his sixth Mini Stock track championship in a career that goes back to the early-1990s.
The Bomber feature saw Charlie King, Sr. bring out a new Chevy Caprice to test for next year and he promptly went out and won his second feature race in a row. King, who plans to have two cars in action next year for himself and his young son Charlie, Jr., passed a faltering Ron McCreary on lap ten and raced untouched from there to the checkered flag. William Hindman brought his Honda home in second ahead of the Chevy Monte Carlo of Aaron Overman, the big pink Buick of McCreary and Shane Sutorus’ Saturn wagon.
Overman had to only start the race to claim the 2015 Bomber title in just his second year behind the wheel. “I wanted to win some races and also win the championship in two years and we accomplished what we set out to do… now it’s on to some different things,” said Overman. Those “different things” add up to a move up to the Super Stock class sometime in 2016 (“whenever I can afford to get the engine”) while Overman’s Bomber car will be turned over to his daughter who will begin her racing career in the Tim’s Automotive #03 machine next season.
There will be no racing this coming Saturday night, November 7th, at New Smyrna Speedway however there will be an open practice held. Pit gates open at 10 am with practice from 11 am until 4 pm. Admission to the pit area is $10 per person. The final racing action of the 2015 season will take place Friday-Sunday, November 13-15 with the 50th Anniversary Florida Governor’s Cup for the Super Late Models. The Pro Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman cars and Bombers will also be racing during the big weekend.
Winner Photos are by Jim Jones (jimjonesphoto.com):
- Super Stock 50 winner Bruce Bennett…
- Pro Late Model winner Rich Clouser…
- Mini Stock winner and 2015 champion Ted Vulpius…
- Bomber winner Charlie King, Jr…
- Some Bomber action with William Hindman leading Aaron Overman and Charlie King, Jr. (Megan Matheny Photo)