MONTGOMERY SUPER LATE MODEL LEFTOVERS by Bob Dillner
Hogan, Mercer, McFarland, Musgrave, Bubba, 2-Barrel Boys & More
HOGAN ON THE POLE – BUT DOESN’T STAY THERE FOR LONG
Any racing fan remembers the movie Days of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise as Cole Trickle. Lines are recited from that movie in pit areas around the country. Well, one line in particular from that movie certainly applied to the Montgomery Super Late Model race (in more ways than one according to some people, click here to read more). That line… “Tires, son, is what wins races.” Jason Hogan found that out first-hand.
But not all was lost in the night for Hogan.
“We came back and finished fifth. I drove the wheels off it boy! I gained a lap back and I turned into a wheel-man. They put a good racecar under me; we just had a minor problem tonight. I told them, when we were running seventh there with three to go, ‘We’ll get fifth out of this, you just watch.” And we did so we are happy for that.
“On the last lap going into turn one I had to move one up out of the way, but you have to do that sometimes. It’s no-holds-barred at the end of a race.
‘I am happy considering what we went through. We have a good racecar to work with and we’ll come back down here and spank ‘em.”
FANS THINK NORRIS & MERCER TANGLE – BUT DO THEY?
While battling for the lead early in the race, Eddie Mercer (the leader at that point in the race) and J.R. Norris (the eventual winner) had a little incident going into turn three. Fans thought Norris laid a bumper on Mercer’s #72 and spun him. Question is: Was that the case or not?
Hogan had the best starting spot in the house.
“I know I was up past his wheels, but I don’t even know we touched,” said Norris. “I think we both hesitated when we went in (to turn three). I thought he was coming down so I slammed on the brakes; he slammed on the brakes and if we touched, it was very lightly.”
“JR caught me over there and I slid in and I about backed it in,” admitted Mercer. “He caught me a little bit, but it was my fault; I was in his way.”
MERCER FADES FAST
“I brought a 50-lap car to a 150-lap race,” said Eddie Mercer.
Eddie Mercer concentrates before hoping into his Super Late Model. (51 Photos)
Well, actually Eddie it was a 125-lap race, but with the cautions (and yellow flag laps not counting), it probably did approach being a 200-lap race. Nevertheless, Mercer’s statements were right no target. He led early, but faded after his spin in turn-three.
“We went to the rear, and then we lost a lap, but made that up. We did what we could, but just didn’t have much for them tonight. We were pretty good on the short run, but on the long run we would go to really loose in. The 5-car kicked our ass pretty good; we gotta get to work now,” said Mercer, who finished 11th.”
As for the first Super Late Model show at the recently renovated speedway, Mercer had this to say.
“They’ve got a lot to work on from race director’s standpoint. There was quite a bit of confusion out there tonight in my opinion. Overall I give them a B-.”.
NEW ALABAMA GANG STRONG
The new Alabama Gang of J.R. Norris, Charlie Bradberry and Josh Hamner almost had a 1-2-3 finish Saturday night at Montgomery. 17-year-old Hamner was fourth and closing fast when the 38-team had some mechanical trouble.
“The clutch has been in there for a while; it was borderline as to whether we should change it or not, but we tried to push it this one last race. It bit us in the butt though,” said Hamner, who finished 15th.
“It's really disappointing. This is the most disappointment I've ever experienced in my life. It's terrible because we had such a good car. It was heartbreaking. At least JR and Charlie were one and two, so the Alabama Gang was pretty strong. I wish I could have gotten up there and finish with them.”
2-BARREL BOYS LOOK STRONG
Josh Hamner was one of three kids that recently transferred from the Limited or Pro-Late Models (with 2-barrel carburetors) to the Super Late Model (4-barrel) wars that ran near the top of the charts at Montgomery. In fact, for Justin South and John Bolen it was their very first Super show.
“That last restart kind killed us,” explained the 18-year-old. “We ran into trouble with the 82-car (Grant Enfinger) while trying to get by him. We cut down our nose and knocked the toe-out a little bit and it wouldn’t turn after that. The 2-car (Bolen) got by us and then I got hung out to dry on the last restart. I didn’t want to wreck a good racecar coming off the line so we settled for what we got.
“We got a lot of things to work on. For one thing, I need to learn how to pass cars a little bit better. I rode behind cars for 30 or 40-laps.”
But learning is what it is all about and Hamner says the transition has been easier than he initially thought.
“With a 2-barrel car you carry a lot of speed through the corner, so it’s really not that big of a difference,” said Hamner after only his second Super Late Model race. “The biggest change that I experienced is just throttle control up off the corner. You are driving just as hard getting into the corner. It’s basically the same car; the Super Late Model just has a lot more horsepower.”
McFARLAND’S STRONG TOP-FIVE
Ken McFarland found out how strong some of those 2-barrel boys are when Bolen rubbed McFarland out of a podium finish on the final corner of the last lap, but he praised Bolen after the raise for his performance. However, a tire issue late in the race may be the reason why Bolen was able to slip under McFarland’s #14 so easily.
Justin South (right) looked good at Montgomery.
“They say in this racing game that tires is what wins races and now I believe them,” Hogan said after the race.
Hogan killed ‘em in qualifying and started on the pole. He led the first 30-someodd laps until the handling on his car further south of the Mason Dixon line than the state of Alabama.
“When stagger grows over an inch-and-a-half in the back usually they don’t drive too good,” Hogan said with a chuckle. “What can you do? You catch a bad break every once in a while. We had a fast car; we trucked them there at the beginning until what we think was the bleeder stuck in the left-rear tire.”
In fact, 19-year-old Bolen finished third without a very important part of his racecar, which made his inaugural venture into the big-time very impressive.
“The whole race we ran no power steering,” he said. “We had a little incident on pitroad earlier and actually bumped into the concrete wall and it messed up the servo on the power steering. We had to fix everything on the right-front of the suspension and we took the belt off the power steering.”
Justin South, who finished sixth, was running in the top-five with a handful of laps to go. He too was impressive in his first outing in a 4-barrel car.
“When we came in after the race we found out we had a left-rear tire going down. It only had 8-pounds of air in it,” said McFarland, who finished fourth.
But even that couldn’t rain on his parade because his team feels they are finally on the right track.
“This is a new car and we had been having some trouble with the handling on it, but last week at Opp (South Alabama Speedway) we found something and it fixed the problem for sure. The car was real good in practice and all day and we really felt like we had the opportunity to challenge for the win.”
McFarland's tire might have kept him from a win.
MUSGRAVE JUST MISSES TOP-FIVE
Ted Musgrave Jr. may have had the second-best car on the track on Saturday night at Montgomery. He had moved into the top-five midway through the race and eventually finished sixth, but what happened in between is what killed Musgrave’s momentum.
“I’m really disappointed,” said Musgrave. “We really had a great car. I was just riding early because everyone was really mixing it up and then we moved up to fourth. I was able to get by Bradberry so we knew we were good. When we came into get tires we just had a really slow pitstop and came out 14th, the last car on the lead lap. It just took a while to get back up to sixth.
“It was the best we could do, but I know we should have finished better. I’ve been to Montgomery a bunch of times and never have finished any lower than 6th.”
BUBBA POLLARD ALSO DEJECTED
There were three cars that were up to challenging J.R. Norris and Bubba Pollard had one of them. The youngster marched forward early on and was pressuring Norris for the lead when everyone came down pitroad for fresh rubber. After that, it was all downhill for Pollard.
“After we pitted there was a car that hadn’t taken any tires and he had everybody bunched up. There was a car to my inside and my spotter didn’t say anything and I came down a little bit and we got together,” 18-year-old Pollard stated. “This is just really disappointing. We were just riding and waiting for the end.”
Pollard has been fast in every event he has entered early in this Southern Super Late Model season, but bad luck has followed him to each of those shows.
“We went to SpeedFest and was running second and we lost oil pressure. We went to the Rattler last week and were running third and got caught up again. And then this happened tonight. We’ve just been having bad luck. Someday it’s gotta go our way.
“But this is just good experience for me because I am running against guys like JR Norris, Jason Hogan, Charlie Bradberry, Eddie Mercer and all the other veterans; at least I am learning a lot.”