Hometown Driver Carlson Earns Blizzard Victory by Steven Neeley
Pit Road Strategy Once Again Plays Part In Super Late Model Victory
Scott Carlson earned his first Blizzard Series win of the season on Friday night. (51 Photos)
A fast car, a case of good pit strategy, and a couple of good restarts were the winning combination in Friday night’s Coke Zero 100, the third of five Blizzard Series races at Pensacola’s Five Flags Speedway.  The strong field of 34 cars came from as far away as Indiana and Oklahoma, but the victor, Scott Carlson, was a hometown favorite that only had to travel a few miles down the road.
“It’s about time we won one,” said Carlson, who had been snake bitten in the past few Blizzard Series races, running well but not being able to claim the win.  “This team really earned it for me with a great pit stop there late in the race, and this Port City car was great all night long.  It really took off there at the end.”

Carlson did not have the dominant car for most of the race, however.  Polesitter Augie Grill led until just past halfway, when Donnie Wilson made a move on the backstretch to power past the Alabama driver.  

The race really got set up in the second half of the race.  After a caution for the stopped car of Kurt Jett on the backstretch on lap 70, most of the lead lap cars came down pit road for fresh rubber that is especially important at the rugged Gulf Coast facility. 

With the threat of bad weather in the area, the urgency of the race picked up, and it was
up to Carlson, Grill, Justin Drawdy, and the rest of the cars that pitted to weave around two of the Sunshine State’s toughest competitors, Jeff Scofield and Wayne Anderson, before the weather reached the speedway.

On lap 78, that urgency boiled over, when Grill tried to make a move on Scofield coming out of turn four.  When Scofield checked up due to a poorly-handling car, Grill ducked to the inside and slowed as well.  However, Drawdy, who was following Grill, made contact with Grill’s rear bumper and sent Grill’s #112 machine spinning in front of the whole pack of cars, collecting a number of other cars, including Roger Reuse, Hunter Robbins, Grant Enfinger, and David Hole. 
Carlson (#21, top) was able to hold off Crane (#10, bottom) on Friday night.
“I guess the 07 (Jeff Scofield) checked up in front of me, and Augie (Grill) checked up and I didn’t mean to get into him,” said Drawdy.  “He checked up like he should have and I was in the gas and I turned him, not meaning to but the guy checked up in front of him.”

Anderson gave up the lead to pit, handing the lead to Carlson with 20 laps to go.  Carlson got away cleanly, but the caution flew for the final time for a spin by Matt Merrell and Hunter Robbins. 

On the night’s final restart with only five laps remaining, Carlson was able to jump out to a huge lead after catching the field off guard on the restart.  With nearly a straightaway to make up, the second and third place cars of Drawdy and Ryan Crane battled hard in the closing laps to sort out the podium positions.

“I just changed my restart point up a little bit,” said Carlson.  “I didn’t slow down or speed up any differently but I just picked a different spot than I had the restart or two before.  It’s just something I had to do to as the leader to get out there, and it worked out.”

In the end, Carlson claimed a much-needed win in the Blizzard Series, capping the night off with a 1.2 second margin of victory over Crane.  Drawdy claimed third, while Wilson and Grill rounded out the top five.

Five Flags Speedway, Pensacola, FL
1. Scott Carlson, 100
2. Ryan Crane, 100
3. Justin Drawdy, 100
4. Donnie Wilson, 100
5. Augie Grill, 100
6. Chris Davidson, 100
7. Jeff Scofield, 100
8. Wayne Anderson, 100
9. Steven Davis, 100
10. Grant Enfinger, 100
11. Dale Little, 100
12. Josh Hamner, 100
13. Dwayne Buggay, 100
14. David Hole, 100
15. Eddie Mercer, 100
16. Matt Merrell, 99
17. Hunter Robbins, 90
18. Casey Smith, 89
19. Chris Gabehart, 78
20. Roger Reuse, 77
21. Kurt Jett, 67
22. Wayne Niedecken, Jr., 60
23. Tom Grothues, 52
24. Rocky Boyd, 45
25. Ron Joyner, 41
26. Ken McFarland, 34
27. Stanley Smith, 33
28. Adam Crawford, 32
29. Tim Martin, 32
30. Jessie Reid, 30
31. Eddie Craig, Sr., 13
32. Donald Long, 10
33. Jason Young, 8
34. Bill Little, 3