McDUFFIE WINS WILD JOEY COULTER CHARITY TRUCK RACE - GORHAM TOPS V-8 BOMBERS AT AUBURNDALE SPEEDWAY
It was a beautiful day for the running of the final Joey Coulter Charity Pro Truck race presented by the Les & Judy Smout Foundation at Auburndale Speedway as fans were greeted by bright, sunny skies that offset the cool temperatures. The red-hot action on the track helped to “warm” the fans as well.
The first order of business took place in the driver’s meeting. After race organizer Rick Bristol had thanked the drivers for attending and reflected back on his 12 years of “passion” in conducting the event, the top ten from Saturday qualifying re-drew for their starting positions.
When all was said and done, fifth and sixth fastest drivers from time trials, Cody McDuffie of Bartow and Lakeland’s Becca Monopoli had the best luck as the pair picked the pole and outside pole starting spots. Fourth quick Dylan Bigley and 9th fast Cody Martell made up row two while fast qualifier Steve Darvalics drew the fifth starting spot with third fast timer Joey Coulter on the outside of row three. Tommy Kelly was second quick Saturday evening but drew a nine for his starting spot.
Following the on-track autograph session and opening ceremonies it was time to go racing for 212 laps featuring a 20 minute break at mid-race around lap 106. Twenty-four Trucks were scheduled to start but all 27 trucks on hand were able to start the event thanks to last minuted “extra” sponsorship from Chad Pierce Motorsports, Autotech Collision Center, Narramore’s Machine Shop and Nick Neri Racing. That allowed 25th-fast qualifier Johnny Marra to tag the back of the grid along with Kristen Clements and Corey Bigley who both were unable to post qualifying times due to mechanical issues.
As the race’s Grand Marshall, Roger Todd from the WPCV 97.5 Country Radio Breakfast Club, threw the green flag to get the show under way there was a big mix-up going into turn one among the trucks starting near the middle of the field that saw 13th starter Adam Briggs turned around. There was a bit of minor damage to a few of the starters but nothing major and a full restart was ordered.
McDuffie held sway from his pole slot despite Monopoli’s best effort to make the outside groove work for her. The lead pair were quickly slowed by the first caution of the race on lap three due to a turn one tangle between Clements and Jett Noland. Both trucks picked up some damage and Clements pitted but did not return. It had already been a rough weekend for the Plant City youngster as her truck had transmission issues Saturday night that forced a tranny change that lasted well into Sunday morning.
McDuffie and Monopoli continued their battle as the race went back to green on lap 11 (caution laps were counting) but the yellow was back out again on lap 14 as Aaron Holmes hit the turn four wall. Holmes’ truck needed a tow back to the pits and he became the first official retiree from the event.
Monopoli continued to put the pressure on McDuffie as the green flag returned on lap 21. By the 23rd lap Monopoli had surged to the front just as a big melee took place in turn one. Bill Vandevender ended up in the wall in the Sam Scott Motorsports machine and was done for the day. Jamie Sullivan, Carter Brown and Tyler Davis all pitted with damage but returned after being attended to by their crews.
As the field took the green flag on lap 35, only seven of those circuits had actually been run under green flag conditions. Monopoli was clearly the fastest as McDuffie settled into second and began to pace himself. Cody Martell and Michael Goddard both slipped under Dylan Bigley to grab third and fourth. However, on lap 41, Goddard’s engine blew in a plume of smoke while going down the front stretch. Bigley tried to avoid but gave the Goddard truck a solid shot in the tailgate. With the red flag out for track clean-up on lap 42, Dylan Bigley took his truck to the pits to repair front end damage. Carter Brown, Mike Kohut and Johnny Marra also made pit stops. All came back out after the red flag was lifted while 2016 Charity Truck winner Brent Huber, who up to that point was having a pretty bad weekend already, pitted his truck but returned quickly to the speedway.
Caution laps did not count after the red was lifted so the field took green entering the 43rd lap. Tommy Kelly charged by Joey Coulter on lap 35 to take over the fourth spot behind Monopoli, McDuffie and Martell as the “3-M’s” led the way. Colt Cecil spun coming off turn two on lap 48 but no caution was thrown and he lost valuable ground to the field.
Meanwhile, Monopoli and McDuffie were pulling away as Martell was in a dogfight with Kelly for third. Lap 56 saw Brown do a quick spin in turn two right in front of the leaders but everybody managed to avoid an altercation. The field went back to green on lap 65 and Kelly finally was able to zip by Martell and take third spot. Fast qualifier Darvalics was struggling with his set-up and just began to “ride” as did most of the trucks in the field awaiting the half-way stop. Kelly was the exception as he moved by McDuffie and into second place on lap 82. One lap later, Tyler Davis’ engine blew up putting the field back under yellow.
Fortunately this time there was little fluid on the track and the race went back to green on the 90th lap. Just a lap later some three-wide racing culminated with Adam Briggs spinning down the back stretch. Green returned on lap 98 but just three laps later John Pettit and Jason Lester tangled coming off turn two with Lester’s truck nearly turning over. Lester exited his machine and began walking up onto the track while the trucks were still running. Track insurance regulations frown on that and track officials were forced to disqualify Lester from the race due to his actions.
With 102 laps in the books it was decided to take the half-way break at that point. Each driver and their team could change two tires and make any adjustments short of changing any parts. The order at lap 103 saw Monopoli out front ahead of Kelly, McDuffie, Coulter, Darvalics, Martell, Murphy, Blaise Hetznecker, Dylan Bigley and Corey Bigley. 21 of the 27 starters were still in the running.
Following the restart Kelly began to struggle big time with his truck as McDuffie re-took the runner-up position while Darvalics, Coulter and Murphy also got by Kelly who settled into sixth. By lap 125 Monopoli was leaving the field behind but Johnny Marra’s truck was spilling fuel on the track surface causing Colt Cecil to spin in turn three. Marra dropped from the event as Cecil continued and got his spot back in the running order.
As the green flag returned on lap 134, McDuffie’s truck began to really “hook up.” Using the outside groove, McDuffie led lap 136 before Monopoli resumed her place on the point a lap later. During lap 139 the trucks of Darvalics, Murphy and Coulter banged into each other coming down the front stretch. No caution was needed but all three had some minor damage. Darvalics began to slip back as Coulter and Murphy took advantage. While all this was going on, Monopoli and McDuffie sped out to a huge lead.
Lap 144 saw Briggs spin in turn two to bring out another yellow. By this time Kelly had slipped all the way back to ninth and Martell was out of the top ten as both were trying to figure out their handling problems. Green reappeared on lap 151 and McDuffie began his charge leading lap 152. Monopoli edged ahead to lead lap 153 as Murphy drove hard into third spot. McDuffie powered to the front on lap 154 and took advantage of the caution coming out a lap later for Brown’s spin in turn one.
The lap 161 restart saw a big mix-up off turn two damage several trucks. Clements had returned for the second half of the race but pitted with damage. Corey Bigley also had some minor damage and Colt Cecil took his truck pit side. Both Darvalics and Martell made pit stops and returned to action.
The field took the green flag on lap 177 and Monopoli found herself struggling to hold on in the outside groove as Murphy moved her way into second on lap 179 followed by Dylan Bigley passing Monopoli for third two laps later just as Coulter slowed to a stop at the top of turn two with rear end issues. Green flag action resumed on lap 187 as a resurgent Kelly passed Monopoli for fourth while McDuffie was checking out on everyone else.
A big mix-up of trucks about to go a lap down took place in turn one during lap 200. All the leaders made it through with the exception of Murphy who had to stop to avoid trouble. She would get her spot back in the restart line-up but her truck would never be the same in the handling department. As the field took the green on lap 206, Murphy got shoved up into the high groove as Dylan Bigley raced his way into second bringing several other trucks with him as Murphy was freight-trained several positions.
McDuffie had things well in hand and he drove his Southern Air Compressors machine under the checker 1.060 seconds ahead of Dylan Bigley. Monopoli rebounded to take third ahead of Kelly and Brent Huber who made a late charge. Later in tech, Bigley was disqualified due to an illegal camshaft moving Monopoli to second ahead of Kelly, Huber and new fifth place finisher Mike Kohut.
“For years I’ve dreamed of winning a Charity Truck race and today that dream finally came true,” said McDuffie in victory lane. “I can’t thank Southern Air Compressor Service, Hartin?s Engine Service, Racecar Fabrications and Q Auto & Injury Attorneys enough along with all of my family and my fans that support me,” he said. McDuffie continued by indicating his truck just got “better and better” as the race wore on. McDuffie’s win was worth $3500.
J. R. Garcia crossed the stripe in sixth while a dejected Murphy held on for seventh. Rounding out the top ten were an equally disappointed Darvalics, Corey Bigley and Carter Brown. Twelve trucks finished on the lead lap including Martell and Jett Noland.
After victory lane ceremonies were concluded it was time for the 50-lap contest for the V-8 Bombers sponsored by CLL Global Reasearch Foundation. Seventeen cars were on hand but Brian Harbin missed the show having sold his brand-new machine to another party just after practice.
Eddie Hartin used his pole starting spot to zoom out to an early lead and he was holding the competition at bay while George Gorham, Jr. was on the charge in Bubba Healey’s machine after starting 14th. Gorham was flying, passing Brandon Duchscherer for second on lap 23. On lap 27, leader Hartin spun out in turn one and was relegated to the back of the field for the restart.
Gorham took over at that point and survived several more caution flags for minor spins while fighting off Duchscherer for the victory, his second in a row driving for Healey. Duchscherer was a close second followed by track champion James Wright III and Jody Gill while Hartin drove back to a fifth place finish. Sixth through tenth were Danny Burchfield, Brey Holmes, Jeff McCaw, Carl Peters and Bobby Diestler. Completing the finishers were Edward Schultz, Phil Ellis, Jerrell Cook, David Purvis, Ronnie Abney and Jessica Coulter.
Although this was the 12th and final of the Joey Coulter Charity Truck events, track owner Rex Guy has indicated he will continue to run a 200-lap truck race on the second weekend of December. Guy indicated that each year a specific charity will be selected with all proceeds from the weekend going to that charity. “I’m sure Rick Bristol will still be involved since he now works full-time for the speedway,” said Guy. “He just won’t have all the headaches and stress of trying to secure all the sponsors and other things that he’s had to deal with before,” he said.
OFFICIAL FINISH - 12th ANNUAL JOEY COULTER CHARITY TRUCK RACE PRESENTED BY THE LES & JUDY SMOUT FOUNDATION (212 Laps):
- Cody McDuffie, Bartow #25 - 212 Laps
- Becca Monopoli, Lakeland #25 - 212
- Tommy Kelly, Myakka City #15 - 212
- Brent Huber, Venice #64 - 212
- Mike Kohut, Lehigh Acres #11K - 212
- J. R. Garcia, Wimauma #13 - 212
- Jessica Murphy, Minneola #26 - 212
- Steve Darvalics, Venice #41 - 212
- Corey Bigley, Naples #28 - 212
- Carter Brown, Lakeland #11jr - 212
- Cody Martell, Arcadia #40 - 212
- Jett Noland, Groveland #50 - 212
- Adam Briggs, Lakeland #14 - 197
- Robert Strader, Jr., Longwood #11 - 189
- Joey Coulter, Concord, NC #16 - 179
- Blaise Hetznecker, Holly Hill, #47 - 166
- John Pettit, Palmetto Bay #2 - 163
- Colt Cecil, Auburndale #19 - 161
- Kristen Clements, Plant City #5K - 104
- Johnny Marra, Punta Gorda #99 - 100
- Tyler Davis, Lakeland #4 - 82
- Jamie Sullivan, Christmas #05 - 42
- Michael Goddard, Port Charlotte #37 - 40
- Bill Vandevender, Bradenton #14B - 22
- Aaron Holmes, Auburndale #57 - 12
DQ - Jason Lester, Palmetto #7 - Driver ran on track with vehicles still moving
DQ - Dylan Bigley, Naples #128 - Tech: illegal camshaft
National Roofing Fast Qualifier ($150) - Steve Darvalics
O’Reilly Auto Parts 2nd Fast Qualifier ($100) - Tommy Kelly
O’Reilly Auto Parts 3rd Fast Qualifier ($50) - Joey Coulter
Robert & Stephanie Howell Hard Luck Award ($100) - Bill Vandevender
Dannis & Dannis Inc. Calculated Move of the Race Award ($100) - Cody McDuffie
National Roofing Halfway Leader Award ($100) - Becca Monopoli
Q-Auto & Injury Attorney’s Hard Charger Award ($100) - Corey Bigley (started 27th, finished 9th)
Q-Auto & Injury Attorney’s Most Missing Body Pieces Award ($100) - Jamie Sullivan
Airline Medical Cool Move of the Race Award ($100) - Dylan Bigley
Master Set Tile Fast Lap of the Race Award ($100) - Cody McDuffie
The Northside Fabrication “We Made It In Award” ($100) (24th Starter) - Robert Strader, Jr.
Photos - All photos courtesy of Robert Howell Photography - THANK YOU!
- The 27 drivers who made up the Charity Pro Truck field pose with event organizer Rick Bristol before the race…
- Steve Darvalics #41 tries to hold off Joey Coulter #16 and Jessica Murphy
- Cody McDuffie goes to the high side to pass Becca Monopoli for the lead late in the race…
- Charity Pro Truck winner Cody McDuffie…
- George Gorham, Jr. in victory lane with Bryan Pease after winning the CLL Global Research V-8 Bomber feature…