Russell Victorious In Wacky Sunbelt Race at Lakeland by Steve Neely
Scofield Comes Back And Still Mad At Officials
To the victor go all of the spoils... as Tim Russell found out Saturday night. (51 Photos)
The fans that left early in Saturday evening’s second leg of the FASCAR Sunbelt Series Triple Crown event at USA International Speedway missed an incredible series of oddities at the finish. After leading 102 laps of the 200-lap event, it appeared as if Fort Pierce, Florida-native Justin Drawdy would win handily, but it was another driver who would take the checkers; Tim Russell
It was not surprising that Russell captured the win. It was how he captured the win.
“We didn’t have the car to dominate like (Justin) Drawdy was able to early,” said Russell. “I’d say we had a top-five car, maybe about a third-place car, and I’m just glad to hang onto it.”
Drawdy was up by as much as a half a lap over second-place and lapped up to seventh-place out of the 26 cars that started the event. However, in the blink of an eye, that seemingly unstoppable car dropped off the pace with a plume of smoke trailing behind it on a restart with less than 50 laps to go.
“A few restarts before that, I felt something in the motor, and I knew it was just a matter of time,” said Drawdy. “On that last restart, a rod went through the oil pan. We had a fast car and a good team, so it’s tough. We’re changing motors. Maybe that will get the monkey off our back. We’ve had problems upon problems with motors. Hopefully that will be the end of that.”
Meanwhile, Drawdy’s unfortunate situation was good fortune for veteran David Rogers, who inherited the lead. On the ensuing restart, Jeff Scofield, who had been banned from FASCAR competition before the series later recanted, took over the point by following the winner of the first leg of the Triple Crown, Wayne Anderson past Rogers when Anderson got his lap back.
Then, almost simultaneously, the complexity of the race changed yet again. Dustin Skinner broke an axle and brought the field under caution on lap 195. While under caution, second-place Rogers developed engine woes and began leaking oil around the track. As the field went green, Scofield spun in the oil and slid down the track into the grass on the front straightaway.
Meanwhile, almost simultaneously, Rogers’ car began to smoke, and he brought it into the pits and subsequently retired from the event. This put Russell the lead in overtime, in which FASCAR rules state that the cars must run five green-flag laps.
Drawdy's #12 was the car that looked like it was headed to VIctory Lane.
On the restart, the top-three cars of Russell, Travis Cope, and Justin Larson all made amazing saves as they slid through the fluids again. Wayne Anderson charged from sixth to second in the closing laps, and pulled up on Russell’s bumper coming to the checkers, but Russell was able to hold on for the victory.
“We’ve got luck on our side, and we just have to keep rolling, and take them how you get them. I want to thank my friend Patrick Williams for getting me to run a dirt track back in January in a hobby stock. I had a blast doing it and I had to pedal it pretty hard because the track was so slick on those last couple laps. I think it was oil. It was very slick, and my window is covered with it.”
For Russell, it was his third victory in the FASCAR Sunbelt Series in the 2007 season. In addition to the victory, he also extended his points lead in the series championship over Brian Finney.
Triple Crown Race #2 Notes:
Scofield Criticizes Officiating
When Jeff Scofield spun while leading on a lap 195 restart, he was more than a little perturbed. With the laps winding down, the USA International Speedway officials declined to bring out the speedy dry for a minor amount of fluid on the track. However, by the time the green flag flew, the oil leak on David Rogers’ car got progressively worse, and Scofield spun in that oil in turn four.
Wayne Anderson (left) and Jeff Scofield (right) talk after the race at Lakeland.
“I guess somebody was putting a little oil down,” said Scofield. “It put out the caution and it’s unfortunate since before that we had a full straightaway lead. There wasn’t nobody here that could run with us tonight. (Justin) Drawdy was the fastest one, and he fell out unfortunately, and I didn’t get up there to contend with him.
“I just felt I got the short end of the stick a little bit since they didn’t check the track. I was hollering on the radio to check the track. It’s just not my year in the Sunbelt Series, and I got everybody mad at me earlier this year, and I got a dark cloud over me. It’s hard to run a series when you’re against the promoter of the series. I can tell that and everybody else can tell that.”
Scofield has had his run-ins with competitors, and subsequently the FASCAR organization, in the past. The two most recent encounters came after a crash with Jeff Choquette at Bronson Motor Speedway in April and a tussle between his team and Ryan Sieg after the two made contact in turn one in the first leg of the Triple Crown at USA International Speedway in June, which landed him a suspension that was later recanted.
“The last time, I was the bad guy, but this time I don’t think I did anything wrong,” said Scofield. “I’m just not going to get any breaks. I’m going to have to earn everything, and I think I proved that tonight. I hung there where I started, then ran to the front, never touched nobody, and had a real clean run. I got an awesome motor, and it was fun, and I’ll get them next time.”
Engine Problems Ground Jett
Kurt Jett, a 16-year-old rookie in the Sunbelt Series, came into the Triple Crown event with one goal, just to log laps and finish the race. With engine problems at his last two events at Five Flags Speedway and Mobile International Speedway, he was counting on avoiding trouble.
However, the mechanical gremlins continued to ground Jett, this time after completing only 20 laps.
“We haven’t diagnosed the problem with the engine yet,” said Jett. “They looked at it and said it looks like it might be a broken piston. We bought an O’Connell (engine), so we’ll see how it goes. It just lost a little bit of power, and kind of changed pitch, but nothing else than that. I still had oil pressure and everything, so who knows.”
Jett was credited with a 24th place finish in the race.
Anderson Charges Back From Battery Woes
Wayne Anderson, the winner of the first Triple Crown event at Lakeland in June, looked to be a factor early in the event, running in the top five before he began to develop battery problems. He dropped a lap down before changing the battery during a caution about one-third of the way through the event.
“We lost the battery and lost all power,” said Anderson. “I had to run half-throttle for probably 50 laps and lost a lap. Then we came in and took all the time to change the battery, so we didn’t put tires
on. I was hanging on until lap 160 and finally got tires, and the car came to life. I just ran out of laps. It went green for so long, that by the time I made my lap up under green and took so long to get a caution, it just really hurt me.”
Anderson got back on the lead lap by making a daring move in turn three on David Rogers, and held onto the lead lap until a caution came with only a handful of laps left. Anderson clawed his way up to second, adding to a dubious “bridesmaid” record in the Florida State Super Late Model Championship event.
“I just really wanted to win this race and I think I’ve finished second about five times,” said Anderson. “Nonetheless, I think a first and second-place finishes in two 200-lappers is great, and I can’t say enough about how important it is to have good luck and have all the fenders on the car getting out of here.”
The double didn't got well for Dwayne Dempsey, who wrecked in both the SLM (top) and Modifieds (bottom).
Two Times the Trouble for Dempsey
One driver, Dwayne Dempsey, attempted the double at USA International Speedway, running both the FASCAR Sunbelt Series Super Late Model and Gulf Coast Modified events. Unfortunately for Dempsey, he had to load up two wrecked cars at the end of the night.
In the Super Late Model event, he was involved in an early wreck that landed him hard into the inside wall on the front straightaway, crumpling the right side and rear of the car
“The 28 car (Scotty Crockett) was on the outside of me and I guess he wanted the inside,” said Dempsey. “He just drove down into me in turn four and turned me into the inside wall. That’s pretty much…well, I can’t say it. I’m really kind of mad right now.”
In the Gulf Coast Modified race that followed the Super Late Model event, his luck wasn’t much better, getting caught up in one of the night’s numerous accidents.
“In the modified, Kevin Durden blew up right in front of me and about two or three of us went into the wall,” said Dempsey. “Not much I could do.”
Dempsey finished 26th in the Super Late Model race, and 12th in the Gulf Coast Modified event. Robbie Cooper held off Jerry Symons for the victory in the Gulf Coast Modifieds, adding to his points lead in that series.