Augie Grill Wins a Rattler For The Ages by Jeremy Trioano
Veteran and Rookie Race and Wreck All The Way To Finish
Once the white flag flew, things got even more interesting at the Rattler.  With one lap to go, Hunter Robbins (#18) lead the #112 of Augie Grill.  (Mark Chisum Photo)
Sometimes, a race goes down as one for the ages.

Sunday’s 31st running of the annual Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway was one of those races.
The race featured 30 of the best Super Late Model drivers in the country.  There was one dominant car through a good portion of the race; the #38 of Josh Hamner.  Other fast cars ran into their own problems, including Casey Smith (who fell out with transmission problems), Jeff Fultz (who ran into engine issues), Shane Seig (who led early before having to fight from the back after a penalty) and Jeff Scofield (whose car overheated).

There was a little bit of strategy played out – most drivers took on their four fresh tires during a competition caution period on lap 78.  Augie Grill took his tires several laps later.  Seig took no tires all race long.  Hunter Robbins took two fresh right side tires with just 10 laps to go.

There were several late-race cautions.  With the final 25 laps of the event counting only green flag laps, many drivers, including Seig, Hamner and Brian Scott, all took turns displaying plenty of hard racing.  There was some beating and banging and a share of caution flags.
But nothing prepared anyone for the final five laps of the event.

15-year-old Robbins used his strategy well.  He found himself in second with just a few laps to go.  In front of him was Grill, who used his own strategy to grab the lead on lap 182 after nearly getting lapped earlier in the event.

Behind the two drivers, all hell was breaking loose.   In front of them, all hell was about to really break loose.
“And this is the result of actions like that (pointing to his destroyed car, which was towed to Victory Lane).   “Now I’ve got a tore up racecar and Hunter’s got a tore up racecar.  I think if the race would have stayed green, they would have never have caught me.  That is the way it goes though.”

It made the last couple laps interesting and exciting for the fans, but costly for the drivers.

“I didn’t get going one of the restarts,” added Grill.  “Going down into one and two, Hunter
got into the back of me a little bit.   I got a little loose because of it and he was able to get
by me.  I tucked in behind him and figured if I could get back to him, I was going to do the
same thing. 
That’s what happened. 

“I guess there at the end, he was aimed at my right door.   He spun me around and we hit
the wall, but we crossed the line first.”

Robbins’ loss of the event on the final lap could have been attributed to his age.  It could
have been attributed to his slick tires.  It could have been a little revenge.

Only Robbins and Grill will ever know the true story.

“I was trying not to overdrive the final corner,” said Robbins of the last-lap craziness.  “I was
thinking in the back of my head that he was going to try something.  I didn’t want to slide
up the track, so I was trying to be careful.  I still didn’t have the grip that I needed to have
even though we had two new tires. 

“The spotter said he never lifted (going into three).   He said he just drove it down in there. 
I was just trying to hold on to it and get in the gas at the same time after he hit me. 
Coming down the straightaway, we just wrecked.  I don’t know.  It’s really frustrating.”

Scott, who was in a crazy three-way battle with Hamner and Seig, was able to hold on to
third as the cars crossed the finish line, with Hamner coming home fourth and Seig fifth, the
only cars on the lead lap.

The craziness of the race showed in the final rundown, as just 13 of the 30 starters were left

And how crazy was it?  The top two drivers weren’t even running when all was said and done.  They were left on the hook, doing back to the trailers… and to Victory Lane.

Augie Grill got to celebrate and assess damage to his car in victory lane. (51 Photo)
Off of one of the many late restarts, Robbins was able to muscle his way past Grill and bring the fans to their feet with just a couple of laps to go.  It was evident however, the Grill wasn’t going to let the teenager go quickly.  He set his sights on Robbins.

Coming into turn three for several straight laps, Grill drove his #112 deep into the corner and got right to Robbins’ bumper.

Finally, on the white flag lap, Grill knew he had just two more shots.  He drove the car deep into turn one and got right on Robbins’ bumper, making slight contact.   Coming down the backstretch, Grill drove it in deep again, this time making harder contact with Robbins, and getting the youngster sideways, much like Robbins had done earlier.

Robbins fought to keep the car straight and to keep Grill behind him.  As Robbins tried to collect the car, Grill used the opening on the bottom to make a pass for the lead coming off of four and heading for the checkers. 

With Grill pulling in front and Robbins still fighting to regain control of his car, the two made contact one more time.  The final contact between the two, whether intentional or not, sent Grill sideways and into the outside wall as he crossed the finish line the winner.  Robbins lost control of his car and spun to the inside of the track and slammed into the water barrels protecting the inside wall.

The finish had the fans on their feet and the entire pit area running to see what had happened.

As the drivers exited their cars, Grill looked over his destroyed car, realizing he’d just won the Rattler.  Robbins got out of his car and realized how close he’d just come to winning the biggest race of his life, and started crying.
Then, the two embraced in a hug.

“He is young,” said Grill, of why he hugged Robbins after the race.  “I knew that would be very upsetting to him.  I knew it would be a big win for him if he could have got it.  What comes around goes around though.   If you are going to dish it out, then you better be able to take it. 

“There isn’t much celebration going on though.  I’ll have me a couple of cold beers and just think about going home tonight.”
Grill (White and blue firesuit) and Robbins (black firesuit) hug it out after the wild finish.  (51 Photo)

Robbins was visibly upset after the finish and the accident.

“It’s sad.  I think I cried,” admitted the 15-year-old.  “I guess I’m just frustrated though.  We almost had this race in our first try, which would have been big. 

“Augie and them built this (GARC) car.  These were two Frankie Grill cars running up there for the win.  Augie late-pitted and that helped him.  His car was good. 

"I figured when we got by him, we’d pull away.  He hung right there with us.  He had a good car and we had a good car.  It’s just too bad that it ended up this way.”

How it got there was nothing new to what the fans saw all day long.  Since the track was recently repaved, it made passing tough and getting by someone a premium.  That meant many drivers had to beat and bang their way to a improved position. 

It might have led to the final accident between Robbins and Grill.  And the $10,000 winner’s paycheck probably didn’t hurt either.

“Those last 10 laps were a fiasco,” said Grill.  “You had two or three cars back there racing for one position.  You’d think that after one of those cars was in about two or three cautions that they would have put him in the rear or put him in the pits or something, but they just let him go. 
After the finish, the top two cars didn't drive to  victory lane and tech.  They had to be towed in.  (51 Photos)