Russell Survives Wild Race To Win At Bronson by Jeremy Davidson
Several Sunbelt Stars Taken Out Early
Things got off to a crazy start at Bronson, with several big guns, including the #70 of Jeff Choquette (top) and the #26 of Travis Cope (bottom), getting taken out early in the race. (51 Photos)
It was a bizarre night at Bronson Motor Speedway.
Two red flags waved before the first lap was completed, passing rain showers interrupted the race and barely half the field was running at the finish.
It wasn’t pretty at times, but in the end of the 125-lap FASCAR Sunbelt Super Late Model feature, Tim Russell stood in the winner’s circle for the second time this season.
Twenty cars were on hand for the race, the third of 15 Sunbelt Super Late Model events this season. Florida-favorite Wayne Anderson grabbed the pole position – in a borrowed car he’d only sat in for the first time on Saturday. Jeff Scofield qualified second while Russell, the series’ points leader, was the third-fastest car on the grid. A five-car inversion put Jeff Choquette and Travis Cope on the front row to start the race – and the fireworks began.
On the first lap, Choquette and Cope made hard contact, sending Cope’s No. 26 car up the retaining wall, where it hooked the top of the wall and slid in a shower of sparks around turns three and four.
Under a red flag, Cope’s car was dislodged and hauled off to the pit area. Before the field restarted, another collision moments later between Scofield and Choquette brought out a second red flag – without a single green flag lap completed.
“The start of the race just was really wild,” Russell said. “I don’t know what happened to Travis. I don’t know if he got loose but I feel really bad for them, he’s needed a good run for a while.”
After a full restart, the race was under green for three laps before a single-car spin brought out the first yellow flag. Following a quick cleanup, the race resumed just as rain began to fall.
Luckily, it was a passing shower and the delay lasted only 17 minutes. As cars restarted their engines, there was one casualty. Pole-winner Wayne Anderson was pushed off the track with a mechanical problem and the veteran driver was done for the night.
When racing resumed, Russell led a three-car breakaway pack that included Jimmy Cope and Blake Lehr. Georgia’s Ryan Sieg seemed to have the only car with the horsepower to pursue the leaders. Sieg chased them down before a second yellow flag was displayed on lap 29, for another single-car spin.
One lap after the next restart, a two-car accident blocked the track and the race was red-flagged for a third time.
With 41 of 125 laps complete, even the pace truck was having troubles and it ran out of fuel. At this point, there were 16 cars remaining in the race and the flatbed truck paced field.
How appropriate, it seemed.
The delays couldn’t dampen great racing at the front of the pack. As the field snaked around the third-mile oval, Russell, Jimmy Cope and Lehr put on a determined display. The three leaders were nose-to-tail and pulling away.
Russell's victory helped push his Sunbelt point standings
As the field withered behind the leaders (13 cars were running at the halfway point) and five more caution flags interrupted the action, Russell unleashed the car he’d been saving.
“I knew once we got out in front here, it’s very hard to pass,” Russell said. “I knew I could save my stuff for a while and ‘leg it out’ at the end of the race. We ended up doing that and had a good, solid night.
“I saved about half of my stuff for the first half of the race,” Russell said. “I wanted to save the rear tires on it, keep the front end on it and make sure all the fenders were on. After the halfway point, I started just feeding it more, feeding it more and giving it what it could take. I started moving my line around, trying to just coast through the corners faster. We ended up picking up speed and we came away with a good win.
“It’s nice to come here for the first time and come away with a win.”
Over the second half of the race, Russell’s lead increased to nearly a full second and he caught lapped traffic with 35 laps remaining. As the laps wound down, Russell’s competition fell by the wayside. Lehr and Cope, who had stayed with Russell for nearly the entire race, tangled on lap 103 and were sent to the tail end of the lead lap. Sieg, meanwhile, dropped off with a mechanical problem and was unable to challenge Russell in the end.
Russell cruised through the final laps and brought his No 36 Rinnai Chevrolet safely into the winner’s circle.
Russell will defend his points lead when the Sunbelt Super Late Model Series returns to action April 28 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway.
Bronson Motor Speedway
1. #36 Tim Russell Longwood, FL.
2. #9 Kurt Jett Orange Park, FL.
3. #3 Daniel Webster Brooksville, Fl.
4. #57 Chad Pierce Orlando, Fl.
5. #26G Gary Grubbs Brooksville, FL.
6. #47 Keith Zavrel Brooksville, Fl.
7. #6 Mac Johnson Newberry, Fl.
8. #80 Brian Finney Merritt Island, Fl.
9. #4 Blake Lehr Orlando, Fl.
10. #61 Jimmy Cope Pinellas Park, FL.
11. #12 Corey Freed Orlando, Fl.
12. #0 J.R. Garcia Wimauma, Fl.
13. #24 Donnie Parkinson Williston, FL.
14. #39 Ryan Seig Tucker, Ga.
15. #57X Doyle Boatwright Starke, Fl.
16. #22 Dusty Cornelius Cocoa, Fl.
17. #4 Travis Towell Sanford, Fl.
18. #77 Wayne Anderson Wildwood, Fl.
19. #70 Jeff Choquette Loxahatchee, Fl.
20. #26 Travis Cope Bronson, Fl.
21. #07 Jeff Scofield Plant City, FL.