ANDERSON AND ROWE CAPITALIZE IN SPEEDFEST 100s by Matt Kentfield
Late-Race Heroism Win Both South and North 100s
"I got under him a couple times going into the corner, but he would motor me down the straightaways. Coming off four, he got a little loose and I got a little loose and we just got together. It wasn’t anything intentional. I hated it for him and it almost was a disaster for us too.”
From there, it came down to Rowe and Butch Miller, who was out front for the majority of the race, with the exception of a few laps that Hoffman was in control before his misfortunes mid-race. The short track legend Miller was quick in Friday’s practice and it showed in the North 100. He had a seemingly dominant car, but that domination slipped away late as his car began to handle poorly. That gave Rowe the chance he needed.
disaster on an opening-lap crash and kept perservering to be in position to take the lead from Butch Miller late in the North 100. It was Anderson’s muscling of Middleton with five laps remaining in the South 100 that had the entire pit area at USA International Speedway buzzing after the race.
When Tim Russell brought out a caution with five laps remaining in the South 100, Anderson saw his opportunity to get Middleton. Middleton had led every lap of the race, but the late yellow proved to be his undoing. Going into the first turn on the restart, Anderson took a peek to the high side, but could not complete the pass. On the next lap, he did the same thing, but this time Middleton slid up to try to block. That gave Anderson all the room he needed to jump low. The two raced side-by-side down the backstretch before Anderson muscled Middleton in the third turn for the lead.
“Getting into one, I tried to stay on the outside of him and he slid up,” said Anderson. “I was just far enough behind him that when he slid up, I was able to cross over and get under him off of two. He kept pinching me down going down the backstretch, but I had enough momentum that we were wheel to wheel.
“We went into three and I had to get down on the flat a little bit and that shot me up into him in the corner. But once you get to that point, you’re all just hanging on. The tires were kind of used up. He did what he had to do to try to protect the lead and I did what I had to do to take it.”
Sure Middleton was bummed out that he could not seal the deal in the South 100, but he knew the competition he was working with, as he and Anderson have raced together for several years in the Florida SLM circuits and have had plenty of battles for victories.
“It’s disappointing,” said Middleton. “It came down to a late-race shootout and if there’s anyone you don’t want to see in your mirror it’s Wayne Anderson. All the credit to that guy. I gave it all I could. We’ve got a great car though for tomorrow.”
Both Wayne Anderson and Ben Rowe have found their way into victory lane in various Super Late Model series throughout the country during their careers. Anderson, who is one of the most successful SLM stars from Florida, has won races and championships in the Sunbelt Series, Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) and beyond. Rowe has been a force in the PASS North SLM series for years and was a frequent victor in ACT Late Model events recently.
While that late caution was a win-killer for Middleton, it was Anderson’s only shot at catching the youngster.
“I thought if I had some cautions, I might have a shot at him,” said Anderson. “I wasn’t going to kill myself because I knew there would be some cautions. If there wasn’t going to be any cautions late, he would’ve won it hands down.
I didn’t think I had him, but I knew I had a bit of a gap ahead of (Justin) Drawdy after a lap or two, so I thought I could shoot to the outside to see what was out there. He was trying to protect the bottom, so that ended up working for me.”
Anderson may have thought he had an uphill climb to get a victory in the South 100 had it not been for that late yellow, but Turner, Maine’s Ben Rowe has had an even steeper climb throughout Speedfest weekend. Motor issues in Thursday’s practice session kept the Richard Moody Racing #4 team off-track and under the hood all day. The same issues crept up Friday morning in practice, so an admittedly underpowered motor was put into the #4 machine for the North 100.
But if there is one thing that Rowe proved in that race, it is that even with a struggling racecar, good things can still happen with a little luck. Rowe escaped a first-lap crash that took out many frontrunners by the skin of his teeth, then overcame damage from an incident with Scott Hantz mid-race to take the lead from a dominant Butch Miller to take the North 100 victory.
“It was an eventful night, that’s for sure,” said Rowe. “It’s been eventful since we got here. We came down here pretty excited and feeling pretty good. We brought the same motor that we built for this race last year, but we
had trouble with it all day yesterday. We only got three or four laps with it. We stayed here late last night, pulled it out, looked at it and put it back in.
“Then we were fighting it again this morning and it was doing the same thing. So we pulled out our PASS North-legal motor. We knew we were going to be down 50 to 60 horsepower from these other guys. Our plan going into tonight, starting last, was to just get through tonight and then put the motor back in after tonight.”
The opening start of the North 100 was called off after an incident in the first corner. On the lap-zero restart that ensued, outside-pole sitter Ryan Lawler failed to come up to speed, causing the entire field to stack up behind him. Several favorites, including former Speedfest winner Charlie Menard, Shelby Howard, Jeff Fultz, Mike Rowe, Corey Williams and a host of others were knocked out of contention. Ben Rowe looked to be right in the middle of things when the carnage began, but a shot from behind steered him through the traffic.
Wayne Anderson and his crew celebrate his thrilling victory in the South 100 on Speedfest Friday. (51 Photos)
Middleton was disappointed with not taking the South 100 victory.
Ben Rowe had a strong contingent who made the trek to Lakeland from Maine in victory lane with him.
“Luckily when the guy behind me hit me, it shot me right through it. All the cars just parted ways for me. All you can do is pick a hole. It started off as a little hole that I went for and it became a big hole.
“After that, we pitted to make sure that nothing was going to fall off after we got hit like that. Then we got up to fifth and I thought that would be a good run for us for all that we’ve been through. Then the 8 car (Eddie Hoffman) broke, then I got by Cassius (Clark) and was running behind Scott Hantz.
Ben Rowe at speed at Lakeland.
The two veteran racers have undoubtedly won in just about every way possible. In order to win so many races like they have, determination even when there seems to be no chance at victory is the secret to success. Neither driver had the fastest car on Friday night in the preliminary 100-lap features for the North and South competitors during Speedfest weekend at USA International Speedway (FL), but they positioned themselves perfectly for the win after the dominators’ of their particular races slipped up.
Anderson was about a full straightaway behind Jay Middleton for seemingly the entire South 100, but a late-race restart closed the gap and Anderson took advantage. Rowe, on the other hand, narrowly escaped
“After that contact with Hantz I was tight, so I figured I’d just stay behind Butch Miller. There was no way I was going to beat Butch Miller. I mean, it’s Butch Miller. We were following him, but then I kept seeing when he would go around lapped cars, he would get up high and it would start pushing on him. I knew if I was going to have a chance, it would have to be when we were passing a lapped car.
“Going into one, he took off pushing and I got by him, but I just figured in a lap or two he’d get back by me. If he didn’t run out of gas with five to go, he probably would’ve mounted a challenge, I’m sure.”
Butch Miller almost had a North 100 victory to add to his already-impressive short track resume.
As a result of their victories, Rowe and Wayne Anderson now have front-row staring spots in Saturday’s Speedfest 200 lap feature. We will have a full recap and results from Speedfest following the race here on Speed51.com.