Smith Fends Off Challenges to Win at Mobile by Steven Neeley
Clean SLM Race Differs From The Night Before
Casey Smith and his crew celebrate in Victory Lane at Mobile. (51 Photos)
One night after the mayhem the Blizzard Series at Pensacola's Five Flags Speedway caused, the Southeast's best Super Late Model drivers squared off yet again at Mobile International Speedway. In the first race of the season at Mobile, the race was dominated by the Tracy Goodson-owned team driven by Steven Davis who walloped the field by claiming the pole, leading every lap, and pulling away to a big victory.
This time it was more of the same, except the driver who did it was Texan Casey Smith that pulled off the same feat.
Friday night's action that left a number of cars damaged wasn't enough to deter the teams from racing the following night, and 29 cars showed up for the second race of the Mobile Miller Lite Series at the fast short track.
The race ran a little cleaner than the previous night, with only seven cautions coming out over the course of the 100-lap event. Throughout its entirety, it was Smith who was able to pull away from his challengers.
“I was on a rail,” said Smith. “They could keep up with me for a lap or so, but it was bottoming out pretty bad and I was afraid someone was going to challenge me there. This thing was on a rail tonight and I was just along for the ride.”
Even with Smith's dominating performance, the race still had its exciting moments. Smith had to fend off challenges from Dave Mader III and Brian Scott on each of the night's restarts. In fact, the turning point of the race happened on a lap 80 restart, when Mader III turned underneath Smith and made contact, sending Mader spinning in front of the whole field.
“I was trying to give him as much room as I could,” said Smith. “He was able to get through the gears a lot faster than me. I don't know if the transmission was different or what, but he was able to get through the gears faster than me. On a couple of those restarts he'd get a nose inside of me but then I'd be able to drive right by him again. I actually wasn't as nervous as I normally would be, because I know that we had just put close to a straightaway on him on the first run. I knew that we had a really good car.”
Mader's spin sent the field scattering, but the chain-reaction crash deeper in the field collected the cars of Ryan Crane and Donnie Wilson, among others. Mader explained his move by saying he was just trying to make a race-winning pass.
“I was passing for the lead and then I was looking at everybody coming up in front of me because I spun,” said Mader. “I thought 'oh no, this is going to be ugly'. I was under Casey (Smith). I wasn't dead car-to-car beside him but I was three-quarters of the way up to him. It was coming down to the end of the race, and I'm trying to race him clean. I got up to him twice before and we didn't get together. I was just trying to race for the win, and make sure everybody else can finish.”
Brian Scott was one of the drivers that tried to challenge Smith in Mobile, but couldn't get the job done.
On the next restart on lap 84, it was up to the new second-place driver, Scott, to attempt to pass Smith. As the two drivers went through the gears, Scott jumped on the outside of Smith, getting alongside Smith by turn two.
“I think we had about 15 laps to go and Donald Long was a lap down up there, and I was running second, and I had it in my mind that Casey (Smith) was weak on restarts and couldn't get going,” said Scott. “That's when I was really strong was at the beginning of the run. I went for it there, and Donald Long and him were side-by-side and I didn't know who was going to be fastest. I kind of went down there and pushed up, dirt-tracked it up there all the way on the backstretch and lost a lot of spots. That's about the first time I've gotten angry in the car. I just wanted to get back up there because I wanted to win that race so bad.”
Scott faded back to eventually finish fourth, while Smith pulled away from Ryan Sieg and Chris Davidson to score his second win in the month of May. He had previously won the Viper Series race at South Alabama Speedway in Opp, Alabama on May 5.
Smith explained why he likes the fast, high-banked Mobile International Speedway.
“This track's just got so much grip and you can get so aggressive with your setup,” said Smith. “It's really fun to drive and you don't have to worry about saving your tires, so you can just go all out, and I love that. Opp helped us a bunch, and we tested there again the other day. That helped us for here. We've been fast here quite a few times. There's just something about this place that suits us. We're going to take what we learned today, since we changed a couple things today, and apply that too.”
Mobile Miller Lite Series Notes:
Drawdy Dirt Tracks His Way to Top 10
Fresh off a much-needed victory in the Blizzard Series race the night before, Justin Drawdy decided to run at Mobile for the first time.
He hung in the top 10 the whole night and was sitting in seventh place when his night came to an interesting conclusion.
“Hogan just got into the back of us there,” said Drawdy. “He was just pressuring us from behind and I was trying to keep him back there. I got into the gas and it pushed up off and hung the right rear off the corner. It put me off the track a little bit, got me loose, and I just kind of lost it. That's the way it goes though. To be sitting there in seventh, it could've been a pretty good finish, but it just didn't happen tonight.”
Drawdy slid through the grass in turns three and four, completely sideways before getting back on track to make his way to the finish line. He was scored in 10th place at the finish.
“I just kind of stayed in the gas there in the grass,” said Drawdy. “I just hope it didn't mess up too many people. I just tried to do my best to save the car.”
Mechanical Woes Sideline Mercer
Eddie Mercer had high hopes for the race at Mobile after claiming the outside pole. However, before he had even had a chance to break a sweat, mechanical problems forced him to end his night early.
“We broke a transmission,” said Mercer. “The first restart it was fine. The second restart I couldn't get it in gear, and then it jumped out on the straightaway going wide open. I pulled it back in gear, and it jumped out again, and then I pulled it back in gear again and then parked it.”
Mercer parked his car on lap 12 and finished the event in 27th.
Strong Run Lands Davidson a Podium Finish
While one Texan, Casey Smith, was celebrating the victory, another was counting his blessings to just complete the race in one piece. When Dave Mader spun in turns one and two late in the race, Davidson narrowly squeaked through.
Chris Davidson was able to come home with a strong finish at Mobile.
“When Mader went around, I just kind of guessed where he went,” said Davidson. “I downshifted, went the other way, and was lucky I made it through.”
Even though he had that scare, Davidson was one of the few who were glad that the race had a couple of restarts down the stretch.
“The cautions actually helped me,” said Davidson. “Since we were tight, it allowed me to cool the tires down. I could run real hard for a few laps then back off from running the right front too hard and keep it from getting so tight.”
Davidson finished in third-place, about eight car lengths behind Smith.
Enfinger Combines Luck and Skill at Mobile
Grant Enfinger was able to maneuver his way through the field from his starting spot mid-pack. After putting himself in position to chase down Casey Smith for the victory, he had to sidestep the night's biggest wreck.
On lap 80, as Dave Mader spun, he was among the competitors who made it through the smoke and chaos.
“I was sitting there following the 41 car (Chris Davidson) and he just jumped on the brakes when that spin happened, and I went underneath him,” said Enfinger. “I don't know how he made it through. I made it through on the bottom. If Dave (Mader III) hadn't have held the brake good there would've been a couple more in the wreck, including us. It took maybe 10% skill and 90% luck to get through that.”
Enfinger battled amongst the leaders in the closing laps but got shuffled back to sixth-place near the end.
“It was pretty interesting and pretty crazy, but everybody had more grip and more places to go here to avoid trouble,” said Enfinger. “It was the same group of cars driving about the same, but luckily we ran a little more green flag.”
Hamner Unimpressed After Last Lap Spin
Josh Hamner, the driver who controlled much of the race at Five Flags the night before, almost made it through the race unscathed. However, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. On the last lap, he was an innocent victim in the skirmish between Jason Hogan and Justin Drawdy.
“Jason Hogan is a moron,” said Hamner. “He wrecked Justin going down the back straightaway, and Justin went for a ride. I got on the brakes to avoid him and then when I got back off the brakes it spun. It killed our top-10 run.”
As bad as it seemed, Hamner felt like the weekend was still a success.
“We missed the setup a little bit,” said Hamner. “It's just been one of those days. We unloaded it and ripped it to pieces in a hurry all day long. Our main focus was Pensacola and it showed last night. It was kind of like 'okay we'll run here too' and it
showed that we halfway put something together over here. We'll go back and regroup. That setup wasn't perfect. This is Mobile, but I just like talking about Pensacola because we had a hot rod there.
Last night, even though we didn't take the checkered flag, we had a hot rod, and everybody knew that.”
MILLER LITE SLM SERIES RACE #2
Mobile Speedway, AL
1. Casey Smith
2. Ryan Sieg
3. Chris Davidson
4. Brian Scott
5. Steven Davis
6. Grant Enfinger
7. Jason Hogan
8. Hunter Robbins
9. Dave Mader, III
10. Justin Drawdy
11. Stanley Smith
12. Dale Little
13. Chet Morrison
14. Adam Crawford
15. Josh Hamner
16. Donald Long
17. Nathan Davis
18. Tim Martin
19. Ryan Crane
20. Donnie Wilson
21. Gary Sullivan
22. Ken McFarland
23. Tom Grothues
24. Greg Davidson
25. Matt Merrell
26. John Robicheaux
27. Eddie Mercer
28. Kevin Rehwinkel
29. Sandy Sanford