Sanders Ends Up in a Familar Place - South Alabama Victory Lane by Steven Neeley
Veteran Takes Pro Late Model Victory on Rattler Weekend
Ronnie Sanders has won again at South Alabama. (51 Photos)
A lot has changed at South Alabama Speedway in the more than three decades since the track was built. Fan amenities have been added, the pits have been reconfigured, and the track was once again repaved this past winter.
One thing that has stayed the same: Ronnie Sanders having success at the bullring near Opp, AL.
Sanders held off two hard-charging young drivers, Korey Ruble and Ryan Paul, to capture the win in Saturday night’s 125-lap Pro Late Model event, the precursor to the 31st annual running of The Rattler.
“I’ve been coming here a long time; since 1973,” said Sanders. “It had good asphalt when John Dykes first got it. This is the second time he’s paved this track. It was this good one time before.”
Sanders quickly jumped up from his ninth starting spot and chased down the two leaders at the time, Ben Rowe and Ruble. Sensing that Sanders was closing fast, Rowe and Ruble started racing hard, leading to contact between the two, sending Rowe into a spin in turn four.
Ruble was penalized for the contact by the officials and sent to the back of the pack along with Rowe, handing the lead to Sanders.
“I was looking under him and was a little bit quicker than he was,” said Ruble of the incident with Rowe. “Ronnie was starting to pressure me, and I got a good run on him (Rowe) coming off of two. He started to come down going down the straightaway and I still had my nose right there. I should’ve really and truly backed off and waited, but it’s one of those racing deals. I’m sure he would have done the same thing.”
“It was just a racing deal,” said Rowe of the incident.
Ruble fought his way from the tail-end of the field, and scooted through the middle of a four-car wreck in turn four to catch back up to Sanders. However, it was Sanders’ fast pace and pressure from Paul that hurt Ruble’s chance at winning.
“Ryan was coming on strong there,” added Ruble. “I think me and Ronnie both burnt up our tires. He was able to ride at the beginning of the race and make a charge at the end. We were just sliding around. His tires were definitely just a little bit better.”
Paul seemed to run out of time in his effort to try to win at South Alabama. After getting beside Ruble a couple times, he fell back in line and rode to finish third.
“We chased them down, but we burnt our stuff up getting to them. All we could do was ride right there at the end. We didn’t have anything to get past those front two guys.”
Sanders believed that the combination of old tires and new asphalt closed up the field at the end.
“I figured that if we could get some heat in the tires, the car would be real good, and it was, but I was over-driving the car a little during the end of the race and Korey caught up to me,” said Sanders.
Officials with the track changed the compound of tire everyone was going to use after a little bit of blistering during some testing on the track’s new, smooth surface.
“We came down and tested with the 45-tire, our normal tire, and it was ok. I really hated to see them go to this tire, but they were trying to keep from blistering tires, and they did that.”
Paul and Ruble took their best shots at Sanders, but it wasn't to be for either driver.