BRADBERRY SEES THE MONEY AT BIRMINGHAM by Mike Twist
Local Boy Wins Southern All Stars Opener
On Saturday afternoon during practice for the Show Me the Money 200 at Birmingham International Raceway (AL), Charlie Bradberry said that he was driving the best car that he had ever had at his hometrack.
“Tire management was the whole deal today,” said Bradberry. “My tires were still good at the end of the race and that made all of the difference.”
But even being around at the end of the race was iffy for Bradberry early on. He started third, but with just a handful of laps completed got together with the #15 car of J.R. Dudley in turn four. The incident looked pretty rough, but left Bradberry without any damage.
On Sunday afternoon, Bradberry emerged from his car in victory lane to take possession of a glass trophy that contained $10,000 in cash for winning the 200-lap feature.
But the win didn’t come as easy as it might appear. There was a lot that happened in the 24 hours between points A and B.
There were actually two keys to finishing well at Birmingham. The first was simply staying out of trouble. The second involved the four round objects on each corner of the car.
“I don’t have a clue what happened there,” said Bradberry. “I was just riding, looked over and ‘Bam!’, I got run into. I guess he slid up the track a little bit. He hit me in the door and turned me sideways. I gathered it back up and by that time, I was already down in the grass. I ran through the mud and stuff and lost a few positions.”
Bradberry dropped back to ninth and would be out of the picture until much later in the race. However, that was somewhat by design.
“I rode around the whole race because I knew that if I could outlast everybody on the first set of tires and come in with about 50 laps to go, nobody would be able to touch me,” said Bradberry. “That was the whole plan. I knew how good my car was and I could have gone up there anytime that I wanted to, but I was just waiting.”
While Bradberry was content deep in the pack, John “Boy”
Bradberry hangs on tight to a valuable winner's trophy after the race.
Bradberry quietly took the lead on lap 158 and never gave it up. All of the drama left in the race would take place behind him.
Grill and Hamner got together with four laps to go in turn two. Grill got the worse of it and dropped out of the race. Hamner spun and dropped to fourth with four laps to go. He was able to move up one spot at the end to finish third and might have had the only car running at the end capable of passing Bradberry, but there were not enough laps for him to challenge for the win.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Hamner. “I thought that I had second there behind Charlie. My car was just awesome at the end of the race.”
Mercer showed that he could run with Wilkinson. The two even used a little bit of strategy with each other.
“We were just riding,” said Mercer. “I got to the #59 car [Wilkinson] and he was motioning me to slow down, so I slowed down and followed him, then my car just broke. It just wasn’t my day.”
The culprit in ending Mercer’s race early was a broken panhard bar, which dropped him out with 60 laps to go and left him with a 14th-place finish.
Matt Hawkins was in the top five when he got caught up in a hard wreck just a few laps later. His #22 was finished for the day, so a good finish would not be in the cards for him.
Charlie Bradberry's #78 got to try out some of the mud in turn four, but that didn't stop him from winning anyways. (51 Photos)
Wilkinson's jack got plenty of use on Sunday, but "John Girl" only got to try it out before the race.
Wilkinson was not. He led for a total of 126 laps, although Josh Hamner, Eddie Mercer and Augie Grill all took turns out front as well. With Bradberry in the back, it looked like one of these four would be the one collecting the cash after the race.
But each of those drivers had problems that kept that from happening. The tire gods did not shine on Wilkinson, as he had a cut tire, blistered tire and flat tire at various points in the race. He was able to hold on to fifth at the finish, but did so with the cords showing on one tire and a plug to keep another one from leaking out. That might have let him limp to the finish, but it didn’t do so well when it came to being a late race contender.
Gary Helton ran a clean and smart race to finish second and the fact that the Tennessee driver didn’t beat a hometown hero left Hamner thankful.
“I’m glad the hillbilly didn’t get the money and it’s staying down here in Alabama,” joked Hamner after the race.
The money which he referred to was the $10,000 winner’s purse which was stuffed into a glass trophy presented to Bradberry, under the watchful eye of local law enforcement, in victory lane.
“I’ve never held $10,000 before,” said Bradberry.
He might not get to hold it for long either. Hamner’s father Jeff is Bradberry’s engine builder and the Hamner family might end up seeing those dollar bills after all.
“Charlie’s about to buy a new motor, so we’ll probably get it anyways,” said Hamner.