HOGAN BECOMES A SNAKE CHARMER, WINS “THE RATTLER” by Jeremy Troiano
Caution-Filled Race Has A Few Drivers Steamed
The annual Rattler at South Alabama Speedway in Opp, Alabama is one of those legendary preseason “big ones” The Rattler has been run every year since 1974 and some of the biggest and best Short Track racers from around the Southeast (and around the country) have won the event. Names like Pete Hamilton, Dave Mader III, Mickey Gibbs, Ronnie Sanders, Wayne Neidecken Jr., Charlie Bradberry and Wayne Willard have all captured the prestigious event.
So it was one of the races that rising star Jason Hogan always had circled in his mind as one of the biggest and best Super Late Model shows that he’d like to win in his racing career. In fact, he said it ranked just behind the Snowball Derby and the All American 400.
added to the list. This is a prestigious race. It ranks right up there with the 400 and the Snowball Derby.”
It wasn’t easy for Hogan by any means. And Hogan may have not had the best car during the night. But he was able to keep his car out of trouble (something very few other guys were able to do) and also use a little bit of racing luck and good fortunes to win and stay out of the 21 cautions that waved over the field on Saturday night.
“We were really lucky tonight. Seventy-percent of racing is luck and we used that 70-percent tonight in dodging some of the accidents that we were able to get around.”
Early in the race, it looked like Hogan nor anyone would have anything for surprising polesitter Scot Smith. Smith jumped out to the lead from the pole and proceeded to hold off the field of challengers, including strong runs at him by Hogan, Junior Niedecken and Ronnie Sanders, to lead the race’s first 131 laps.
Hogan points at the real rattlesnake head that was encased in his Rattler 200 trophy. (51 Photos)
However, on lap 132, Sanders finally got the better of Smith, but not in the good way. Sanders, after falling a lap down, was working on Smith to get his lap back when the two made contact. That contact sent Smith spinning into the inside wall and out of the lead and out of the race.
A dejected Smith had a few gestures for Sanders on the track following the accident, but took the wreck in stride after the event.
“Ronnie ran over me,” said Smith. “That is all there is too it. He was a lap down. I was leading and he was a lap down. He just ran over me. But anyone that has been racing long enough knows Ronnie and knows how he drives. I should have known myself. I guess I’m to
Scot Smith may have had the best car on Saturday night, but it ended up on jack stands in the pits.
blame for not letting him go. You just got to stay clear of Ronnie because he’ll drive over you and not think twice about it.
“I just hope Ronnie is man enough to take it like I’m taking it when the roles are reversed someday.”
(Speed51.com will have more reaction for both Smith and Sanders in Leftovers this week.)
That handed the lead over to Hogan for the first time, even though it was for just one lap, as the entire field came to pit road for their second stop of the night.
Hogan was fourth out of the pits behind Eddie Mercer, Charlie Bradberry and Jeremy Rice. Hogan made quick work of Rice, while Mercer and Bradberry made quick work of new leader Keith Cahela, who stayed out during the round of stops.
Mercer, Bradberry and Hogan led the field for 10 laps before Hogan fell into first place yet again, this time as Mercer and Bradberry got into it while battling for the lead.
Bradberry neglected to stay in his pits and took off back to the track before track officials brought him back in. However, the officials found nothing, but took measures to tape some wires together, and, after some discussion, sent Bradberry to the tail of the field for the restart.
“The official thought they spotted something that they didn’t like,” said Bradberry, whose 2003 Rattler win was taken away from him in Victory Lane after officials thought they'd found traction control on his car. “They thought they saw a hidden wire or something. So they sent me to the back.”
(Speed51.com will have more reaction from Bradberry in Leftovers this week.)
The Bradberry-Mercer incident put Hogan again once in the lead with just 50 laps to go.
“I was working Bradberry pretty hard and I got to seeing Bradberry working on Mercer,” said Hogan. “So I backed off a hair to see what would happen between them two. I really couldn’t see what happened between the two of them, but when they wrecked, I took a hard right and stabbed the gas. I was fortunate to get by them. But I got through a lot of wrecks today that I shouldn’t have gotten through.”
So with Donald Long breathing down on his neck and six restarts in the last 50 circuits, Hogan had a challenge in front of him to keep his #92 out front. He was up for the challenge.
Charlie Bradberry's day started bad with a spin in practice and just got worse as the night went on.
“The last time we were here, for a 100-lap race, the car was terrible. I was embarrassed to actually get out of the car. But we knew we had a good car here and we knew it after practice. We came in after about an hour of practice and decided to park the car to save it up. About a half hour before practice ended, my crew chief (his uncle Jimmy Hogan) came to me and said we’ve had two more shocks in the trailer that we hadn’t tried because he forgot about them. So we went out and tried them, put the old ones back on the car and put the new ones back on and we left them on there to race and it was key.
“It was a big help to the car. That, along with our good pit strategy helped us win this race. We decided to take two (tires) to begin with and four on our last pit stop and we thought that might be and iffy call. We were just as fast on two tires as on four, and lot of that says a lot about the crew.
Jason is congratulated in Victory Lane by crew chief and uncle Jimmy.
“(Dorton) gives me such good engines that I actually had to take power away from it with the carburetor. That made all the difference in the world. I tried to run a little different race than I ever have before. I am normally wide open from the start to the finish. I tried to use patience a little more tonight. I thought I’d try to ease into the corner, ease it off the corner and use a little more brake
“So thing just worked out well for us tonight. Everything played into our favor this time. Another good way to start out our year.”
Well, after Saturday night, Hogan can cross the Rattler off his list of “hopefuls” and add the Rattler trophy to his mantle.
The 22-year-old led the last 50 laps in Saturday night’s 200-lap event to take home the $10,000 first prize and the bragging rights that go along with one of the South’s biggest open Super Late Model shows.
“After two years of trying, to finally come down here and win is awesome,” said Hogan. “We’ve got one of the big ones in our belt now and we’ve got a few more to chase. To win this race with as long as this race has been around and the kind of names that have won this race is just awesome. It means a lot for me to see my name
“Mercer and I were running pretty good there,” said Bradberry. “Mercer’s car started going away a little bit and Hogan was beating on my back bumper. Mercer was kind of holding us up on the bottom. I was trying not to get into him, but as soon as I did, Hogan got into the back of me and I hit Mercer. I spun Eddie and then I spun myself. I guess it was just one of those racing deals.”
The accident with Mercer left no hard feelings between he and Charlie, but it was just the capper to a long night for Bradberry. At the lap 75 caution (a competition caution to allow teams to pit and make adjustments), Bradberry was held in his pits by race officials as they spotted what looked to be some “suspicious wiring.”
momentum. We ended last year strong. We’ve gotta get a good consistent year, instead of half and half like we normally do. If we do that, I think we can be unstoppable.
“We’ve got a good race team and we’ve go good race cars. If we get a good sponsor, we’ll be tough to beat.”
Hogan (#92) on the inside of Dale Little (#99).
It was another good start of the year for Hogan, who professes that he has a problem for starting and ending seasons hot, but slacks off in the middle, as he did in 2004 when he won two of the first three Southeast Series races before falling on tough luck midway through the year.
“If we don’t get to Lanier and break something this year, we’ll be in good shape. We’ve started out good here. We are planning on doing a little more Super Late Model racing before the Southeast Series season starts So hopefully, we’ll get in some more races and get a couple of more wins. That is what you have to do is carry that