Davis Captures Convincing Win at Mobile by Steven Neely
Mother Nature Helps SLM Driver Take Dominating Win
Steven Davis brought the #1 Tracy Goodson-owned car to Victory Lane in Mobile. (51 Photos)
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It’s a cliché phrase in motorsports, but for one driver at the Mobile International Speedway this week, it was actually quite true.
Benefiting from the postponement of the race due to inclement weather last week, Steven Davis and his team scrambled to not only put a wrecked racecar back together, but put it in contention to win.
To add a twist to the cliché, Davis was both lucky and good on Saturday night, dominating the Miller Lite 100 en route to one of the biggest victories of his career so far.
“This is such a big win for us,” said Davis. “I can’t thank the guys with Tracy Goodson and CRD Engine Development enough for helping us. It was just good when the green flag came out and it never changed the whole race. At the end it was like it was at lap one; it never changed.”
A week ago, at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Davis was dismayed by a wreck caused by a lapped car that severely damaged his pole-winning car, the same car he had planned to run in the Miller Lite 100 the next evening in the second part of the weekend doubleheader.
However, Mother Nature smiled on Davis, and the event was rained out and rescheduled for the following weekend. Making the most out of the opportunity, Davis and his Tracy Goodson-owned team scrambled just to put the car back together in time for the race.
“We struggled on it, we worked hard and it finally paid off,” said Davis. “Last week we had bad luck with that wreck, and the team had to send this car back to Augie (Grill) and GARC to get a front clip put on it. My team worked all week long, day in and day out, putting a new body on it and everything. That was one torn up race car. All the hard work paid off for us, though.”
Eddie Mercer, usually the dominant driver at Mobile, tried in vain to hunt down Davis’s bright yellow #1 car. Just past halfway, Mercer was able to pass polesitter Josh Hamner for second-place, putting him in position to challenge Davis for the win.
“Steven hit the setup perfectly,” said Mercer. “We were a little too tight. I couldn’t free it up enough to motor it off the corner and run it really hard. It was a fast race though. We were running 17.70’s at the end, and after 100 laps, that’s pretty good. I think the best car won, we just missed it since we were too snug, but we’ll be back next time.
Mercer was another who also had to scramble to fix a broken motor in Friday’s practice. The Pensacola, Florida driver felt like his best opportunity to pass Davis would be on restarts following the night’s seven cautions.
Eddie Mercer (#72) was the only one to have a chance at Steve Davis (#1).
“He was coming down on the restarts and braking us down, and jumping a little bit, but I was trying to anticipate that and go to the outside of him,” said Mercer. “The thing was though, I had the 99 car (Casey Smith) behind me so if the outside didn’t work, I was going to go back to third. Sometimes, if you have a second-place car, you just have to settle for second.”
Davis’s car was just too strong for Mercer, Smith and the rest of the 24-car field that showed up to complete the rescheduled event. Having grabbed the lead away from Hamner on the first lap, Davis pulled away before the night’s first caution came out for a third-lap melee in turn four involving seven cars, with the cars of Augie Grill, Jason Hogan and Grant Enfinger sustaining the worst of the damage.
“I think either the #27 (Jason Young) came down on my right front or the guy behind me got me in the left rear,” said Enfinger. “It happened really fast. I felt it coming around and made contact again with someone and then ended up in the wall where Augie ran into the back of me again. It was just a chain reaction since everybody was so loose at the beginning.”
After a thorough clean-up, the race resumed right where it left off, with a commanding performance by Davis. In fact, Davis led all 101 laps on the night, had as much as a straightaway lead on second-place at times, and finished with a convincing eight car-length margin of victory as the checkers flew.
When he climbed out of his car to celebrate, he ran up to the fence line on the frontstretch to shake hands with the numerous fans that had gathered to cheer him on.
“We just had a really good car, we really did,” said Davis. “They told me that Eddie (Mercer) was behind us so I pushed it a little harder and got further and further away
from him. I was just hoping he was running his car as hard as I was running mine. At the end, apparently he was, because he couldn’t catch us.
It crazy because Eddie’s one of the best Super Late Model racers there is, and when he’s behind me, well, it just feels good to outrun someone like him.”
Davis said the accomplishment is also important for another reason.
Davis was able to greet the fans after his win.
“We’ve had bad luck all year,” said Davis. “We qualified second at Birmingham and finished second, and did good at Lakeland, but haven’t done good since. We haven’t even finished a race since. At Opp in The Rattler, we had ignition problems and other places we’ve had lapped cars wreck us, or I get in a wreck, just a ton of bad luck. I just hope we finally got the monkey off our back, or gorilla, since that’s what it’s felt like.”
This win could be the jump-start the 2006 Mobile Speedway Pro Late Model Track Champion needs before he embarks on some other goals later this year.
“We got a Pro Cup deal coming. We’re going to try to make our first race at Peach State on June 2nd and hope to run some more of those later on.”
Crawford’s Good Run Spoiled
One of the bigger surprises in the Miller Lite 100 at Mobile was the strong performance by Adam Crawford. With his father, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Rick Crawford, on hand for the event, Adam worked his way up from his 16th place starting spot to put himself in position for a good finish in the race’s closing laps.
It was eventful at times, according to Crawford, especially getting through the night’s biggest accident on lap three.
“In the first wreck, I was following Cale Gale,” said Crawford. “I knew Cale knew where he was going, and I know he’s got a good spotter. I just gave him a little tap and pushed our way through it. We got past that and just moved up through the field.”
However, with less than 10 to go, Crawford was racing with a couple other veterans when contact cost him a chance at a top-five finish.
“We got all the way up there, running good up in the top five and holding our own behind Donald Long,” said Crawford. “I felt good passing Dave Mader on the outside, you know since he’s won the Snowball Derby and Blizzard Series, but I think that he got into us going into turn one. I think the panhard bar bracket mount broke on it. It’s just a heartbreaker, but we’ll come back next time and we got their number.”
Crawford pulled off the track with only seven laps remaining in the event with the back end of the car askew. He finished 15th.
Gale’s Homecoming Ends With Wild Ride
Cale Gale had a homecoming of sorts on Friday and Saturday night. After finishing 3rd at Five Flags Speedway on Friday night in a Pro Late Model feature, he ventured back to Mobile to race at a track he’s had so much success on in the past, Mobile International Speedway.
“These are the same faces I’ve seen since I was about 10 years old, week in and week out,” said Gale. “I have a real good time coming back home. I just wish I could’ve run a little bit better, but the competition’s always been stiff down here and this is still my favorite racetrack.”
Gale showed the adoring Mobile fans what they wanted, by slicing his way through the field and moving up to sixth-place before encountering a problem with the power steering system on lap 66.
Cale Gale is surrounded by many of his fans.
“We were fighting power steering problems since Thursday night,” said Gale. “Every now and then the power steering was messing up and it finally took a dump, I guess, coming off of turn two and we took a ride down the backstretch and down into turn three.”
The wild ride sent a cloud of dust behind his #83 Smith Motorsports Chevy as he hurtled over and down the turn 3 embankment. Surprisingly, a short time later, he returned to the track with only minor damage to the car, but it was enough to end his night. He was credited with finishing 17th.
“We could have salvaged a good finish but we came here to win, and when it didn’t look like we were going to do so, we loaded it up,” said Gale. “When you come down here you’re expected to win, and when you don’t do it, it kind of gets you down a little bit. The main thing is we have fun, and we head off to Kansas next week in the Craftsman Truck Series and hope to have a good run.”
High Expectations End Quickly for Hogan
Jason Hogan had high expectations for a good finish in the Miller Lite 100 at Mobile. After being amongst the fastest on the day’s practice charts, he and his team focused on dialing in a good race setup. However, he hardly even got a chance to show it, as he was involved in the night’s big accident on the third lap.
“We worked on this thing all day long and just changed a spring here or there,” said Hogan. “It’s been great since we’ve been here, but now we’re basically just fine-tuning. I think we had a really good car for the race. Even on the start, some cars jammed up in front of us and gained four or five spots right there, and that was only the first two laps.”
Hogan, who had moved from his 12th starting spot up to the battle for eighth, had a prime viewing spot for the accident. He described it as he saw it.
“It looked like Enfinger lost it,” said Hogan. “I saw a hole below him and went down here. I thought he’d gather it back up, but when he caught the car, it either grabbed and shot the car down the track, or he didn’t know I was there and came down. It’s just a racing incident. I was down there by the grass trying to get away from him and we hit the wall and tore the right front off of it.
The right side of Hogan’s car was flattened with the impact, forcing him to retire his car in 23rd spot. However, he still remained optimistic about his chances in the next race in the Miller Lite Series at Mobile.
“It’s just one of those deals you have in racing sometimes,” said Hogan. “The car was good, it’s not hurt too bad, and we’ll get it put back together, and just come back and try it again.”
Jason Hogan (#92) races to the inside of Hunter Robbins' #18 at Mobile.
Consistent Run Nets Smith a Podium Finish
Texas native Casey Smith quietly snuck himself into a podium finish Saturday night, finishing third by running a patient race, and not having the mechanical gremlins that the team had been plagued with for the past few races.
“It was just a little bit too loose, but compared to the year we’ve had with breaking stuff, it’s nice just to finish a race,” said Smith. “Those cars in front of us had some ponies under the hood. This McGunegill is a good motor too, and we couldn’t be happier with this Hamke car, but we’re missing just a little bit. We’re a little bit too loose, but we’ll go back and tune on it and get it a little bit better.”
Smith attributed his good finish to the ability to turn off the corners at the high banked track.
“On the first start, everybody was kind of just wild, and we were really good,” said Smith. “I think we were better than just about anybody at the start. There were a lot of cars that were either really, really tight, or really, really loose off. I was just able to turn right underneath them. It’s turning awesome. It might be turning too good.”
Smith was able to break into the top three when Josh Hamner slowed suddenly, thinking there was a caution for a car off the pace. Smith was able to follow Eddie Mercer to get around Hamner’s car and stay in the accelerator the whole time, pulling off the pass before turn one. Smith felt that his experience on superspeedways may have helped him as well.
“It’s almost like qualifying every single lap here,” said Smith. “I was hitting the rev limiter and bottoming out the whole race, and in practice I wasn’t even doing that. I’ve run at Texas and Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atlanta in the ASA cars and stuff but this track has so much grip that it’s a lot like those places, and if you’re off just a little bit you’re off a lot. Fortunately, we were pretty much on it.”