Smith Makes It A Sweep In Super Late Models At South Alabama by Paul Boswell
Texas Native Wins All VIPER Races En Route To Championship
Casey Smith came back to a place he's been to plenty of times in 2007... Victory Lane at South Alabama Speedway. (Paul Boswell photo)
King Smith… Sir Smith… The Honorable Mr. Smith… what shall the most dominant driver at South Alabama Speedway be called?
They just call him Casey Smith.
Smith has pulled from Austin, TX for each of the Super Late Model races this season at South Alabama’s 4/10 mile. At the Rattler, he likely had the car to beat, but had unfortunate luck and dropped out early. Since then, the 22-year-old has been on a mission on the high banks. He has not only won the last three races at the track, he has dominated them.
His domination continued Sunday at the Alabama 200, as he led 185 laps en route to his fourth-consecutive SAS victory. Smith has become the first driver in the Viper SLM Series’ history to sweep all four races. Just by starting Sunday’s race, Smith clinched the series title.
The talk around the garage area all had a similar tune. The #99 was the car to beat. Pro Late Model driver Duwayne Middlebrooks put it best when he said “they may all be racing for second.”
Smith had the fastest car in Saturday’s practice sessions, nearly two tenths of a second faster than the competition. His incredible speed carried over to qualifying, as he threw down a 15.496 second lap.
The invert bit Smith and Grant Enfinger. Each drew the six and seven pills respectively. Seventh quickest qualifier, Kurt Jett became a huge fan of the random draw, as he pulled out the pole pole.
Just as in the Pro Late Model race the night before, the outside pole was the place to be. Richard Fincher jumped out to the early lead, but it didn’t last long. Kurt Jett was able to get his nose under Fincher to take the lead on the third lap. Fincher didn’t give up there, however. He battled hard and earned the top spot back on lap 13.
All the while, Smith was on the move. By lap four, he was already in the third spot. With Jett siding up the banking as Fincher got by, Smith took advantage to grab the second spot. Again, Fincher’s reign atop the standings didn’t last long. He led until lap 16 when Smith powered past him. Smith never looked back, and made the prediction made by Middlebrooks come true. This was a race for second.
Korey Ruble had the longest run in second. He quickly overcame his sub-par qualifying effort to find himself in second by lap 25. Ruble would hold down the second position until a caution around lap 115. Under the caution, all of the leaders came down pit road for fresh tires and fueld. Smith’s team got him out in first, and Enfinger would exit pit road second in front of Ruble.
But something was amiss on Ruble’s white #73. As comedian Ron White would say, his tire changer was “absent on lugnut day.” As Ruble exited pit road, his right rear
Smith (black car) goes to the inside of Richard Fincher (blue car) for the lead. (Mark Chisum photo)
wheel fell of and proceeded to roll off the speedway. Ruble would need assistance getting back around to pit road to get a spare. Luckily for him, South Alabama’s rules prevent cars from losing laps under caution periods, so he would restart fifth, the last car on the lead lap.
The race for second was fierce, with Ryan Sieg using the same move Donald Crocker used the previous night, using his bumper to get around Enfinger.
“We just stayed there the whole race, never gave up, and finished second,” said Sieg post-race.
Enfinger was visibly exhausted as he climbed out of his #82 car.
“I guessed I was pushing it a little bit harder than Casey, and just used up our stuff there for the end,” said Enfinger. “I got a tetanus shot yesterday and I don’t know if that’s what it is or what. Sieg got into me a little bit, but that’s racing. I don’t have any hard feelings or anything. I probably would have done the same thing. One lap to go you gotta do whatever it takes to get there. Fortunately we didn’t wreck.”
Korey Ruble ran second for a long time. (51 photo)
Smith was happy, but not surprised with his dominant performance.
“We had a great year all year. It’s a shame we broke at the Rattler, because we could have won that thing to I think,” added Smith. “Man, this car’s been a rocket ship here all year, and I love this place, and love the Dykes family. You gotta appreciate them putting on these Super Late Model races for us.
“Everybody’s been saying I got the fastest car all weekend, but that don’t matter. Its race time and anything can happen, you know, things can change. But I love going from the back to the front, and I knew we had a good car so I was fairly confident that we could do it. I wanted to put on a good show for the fans.”
The advertised winner’s prize may have been $7,500, but Casey Smith went home with a cool $9,550. He earned $2,000 for the Victory Circle Communications Pole Award, as well as $1,850 in lap money for leading 185 laps throughout the event.
Smith has been the definition of domination this year at South Alabama Speedway winning four of the five races this year. The favorite for March’s Rattler 250 next season, is none other than… King Smith. The Rattler may be yet another, race for second.
First Lap Winners
Excitement? Impatience? Either or both of these factored into the start of the Cottonmouth 100 for Pro Late Models.
It took four attempts to get the first lap of the race in. The first start was waived off as pole sitter Michael Pope got too happy with the throttle, jumping the initial start. Luckiy for Pope, track officials gave him another chance rather than send him to the back. The following two attempts saw wrecks before a lap was completed. Local favorites Sam “Shanky” Smith, and Jamie Ater, as well as Brandon Parker, all saw their night’s end before the first lap was complete.
It comes back to a couple old sayings. You can’t win on the first lap, and to finish first, you must first finish.
#16, Bubba Pollard?
With the shockingly small turnout of Super Late Model cars for the Alabama 200, track officials decided to let the Pro Late Model cars have the option to run both Saturday and Sunday.
Only one driver decided to give it a shot.
Bubba Pollard teamed up with David Hodges, and Pollard ran Hodges’ Pro Late Model car in the Alabama 200. Bubba may have been down on power, but still was able to run with the Super cars, and came home with a top-10 finish.
There was a small car count at South Alabama led for some drivers to race double duty. (Boswell photo)
Jamie Ater, Bubba Pollard, David Hodges and Kurt Jett all had double duty this weekend. Ater ran three-quarters of a lap in the Cottonmouth 100 and also competed in the local Street Stock division Saturday night. Pollard and Hodges ran each of the Late Model races. Kurt Jett ran Saturday’s Modified division race, and Sunday’s Alabama 200.
Techman or Racer? Both…
Many people know Ricky Brooks as the techman at Five Flags Speedway. What some don’t know, is he actually races as well. Brooks won the 50 lap modified division race Saturday night, in a dominating performance. A wreck coming out of turn four on the last lap created plenty of excitement for the fans, as cars spun everywhere coming to the checkers. Track officials had to review the video tape to determine the final rundown.
Michael Pope (#44) and Andy Pugh (#16) are two of the young guns racing at SAS. (Chisum photo)
Young Gun Movement
Nearly half of the field in Saturday’s Pro Late Model race where under the age of 21. Runner up finisher Crocker is 15, fourth-place finisher Andy Pugh is 20. Fifth-place finisher and series champ Michael Pope is just 17 years old. Mike Alexander, Trey Mitchell, John May, Johanna Long, Brandon Odom… the list goes on.
Three drivers had pretty interesting rides throughout the weekend.
In qualifying, Justin Cruise tested the amount of traction he could get on top of the front stretch wall. Coming out of four, he got into the wall and climbed it.
In Saturdays Pro Late Model race, Tyler Caton found out first hand what it is like to fly into the woods.
“Coming out of two I don’t know what happened, it just jumped loose on me,” said Caton. “I got out of the car and right rear was flat, not sure if that’s what caused it or if the trees made that happen.”
In Sunday’s Alabama 200, Richard Fincher found himself sitting atop the burm outside of turn two. For those that haven’t been to South Alabama, there is no outside retaining wall from turn one all the way around to turn four. There is a large grass runoff area, but even then, some drivers insist and taking a look through the woods.