Eddie Hoffman
Butch Miller
Justin Drawdy
Cassius Clark
Ryan Crane
Charlie Menard
Jeff Choquette
Tim Russell
Brian Finney
Brian Scott
Jerry Artuso
Jay Middleton
Corey Williams
Jeff Fultz
Billy Mowery
Travis Wilson
John Webb
Jonathan Eilen
Ben Rowe
Mike Rowe
Clay Jones
Scott Hantz
Wayne Anderson
Jeff Scofield
Scotty Crockett
Travis Cope
Joe Boyd
Eddie Van Meter
Patrick Laperle
Chuck Barnes Jr.
Jeremy Lepak
Steven Davis
Brock Burns
Blake Lehr
Mac Johnson
B.J. McLeod
L. B. Skaggs
Perry Brown

Rowe and Middleton Tangle Makes Eddie Tops in Lakeland
record at USA International Speedway in qualifying Friday afternoon with a lap of 20.369.  Nobody else came close in qualifying, but Butch Miller came as close as anyone could on the final lap of the 200 lap feature Saturday night.  Miller chose to race clean and followed Hoffman to the line, while Justin Drawdy brought home third in a backup car.  Maine’s Cassius Clark and Florida’s Ryan Crane rounded out the top-five.

We’ll have more stories from Lakeland later this week in Leftovers here at Speed51.com

The only emotion greater than Hoffman’s excitement in victory lane was the disappointment on Ben Rowe’s face as he stared at his wrecked racecar following the race.  Even though Middleton apologized to Rowe after the incident, it was no consolation.

“He ran through me,” said Rowe.  “He knows it and he admitted it.  He’s a man, he apologized, but what can you do now?  He wrecked me and he knows he did it.  There were four to go and he knew I was going to drive away in a lap or so.  I was protecting the bottom, he wasn’t going to get under me, so he drove into me.  He got me up in the air and I figured he’d lift, but he didn’t.  He just drove right through me.

“It just ruined both of our nights because it wrecked me and they sent him to the rear.  I talked to him, but what can you do?”

Middleton did talk with Rowe following the incident, but in the end Middleton was equally disappointed as Rowe for what happened between them.  Middleton took the blame for the contact, but also admitted he may have had no choice but to hit Rowe.

“It was super frustrating from every perspective,” said Middleton.  “I’ve talked to Ben Rowe, I raced against him and he’s a class act.  He’s a good racecar driver and he had an excellent car tonight.  It came down to four laps to go and he had me beat the whole race.  Every restart, he was killing me.  I caught up to him and I had the same kind of car I had all day. 

“I pulled up behind him off the corner and he ran my line.  I thought he blew up.  He pretty much stopped coming off the corner and I nailed him.  I straight up nailed him.  He
The Speedfest 2007 winner’s trophy was all but etched with Ben Rowe’s name as its champion Saturday night at USA International Speedway (FL).  Rowe had the dominant car throughout the 200-lap event and as hard as drivers like Jay Middleton, Butch Miller, Wayne Anderson and Justin Drawdy may have tried, nobody was going to catch Rowe.
didn’t do nothing wrong, I didn’t think.  I guess he didn’t break, he probably just tried to keep it from coming around.  He stopped hard, though.  I guess other than dropping back about three carlengths, there wasn’t anything I could’ve done differently and you can’t do that when there’s four laps to go in the race.  I’ve got a guy on the back of me and he’s got a guy on the back of him and you’ve got to go.  If you don’t go, something bad’s going to happen.”

The carnage nearly collected a third victim, as Hoffman, who was right on Middleton’s bumper when Middleton and Rowe tangled, narrowly passed the two machines ahead of him to take the lead.  When he saw Middleton and Rowe make contact, Hoffman was not worried about taking the lead – he was just worried about not getting involved.

“First of all, I had to get through it,” said Hoffman.  “I didn’t think I was going to get through it.  I was pretty far back when it happened, but it looked like they were going maybe a little under the speed limit we were going before that.  We all do it, and it looked like the 4 (Rowe) was trying to clamp it down on the bottom, and when you do that you lose a little speed, and the 74 (Middleton) got in the back of him and away they went.

“I didn’t have any real room except to go low, so I went low and somehow got through.”

Once he was clear and the yellow flag flew, Hoffman could breathe a little easier.  That is, until he looked in his rear-view mirror at the new second-place runner.  Butch Miller had been fast all Speedfest weekend and was in a position to capture another huge win in an illustrious short track career.  On the restart, Miller was stuck to Hoffman’s bumper, but no contact was made and Hoffman was able to hold him off four the final circuits to claim victory.

“I knew I had Butch behind me, so I knew I didn’t have it won,” said Hoffman.  “I also knew I wasn’t going to get knocked out of the way because if there’s someone you want behind you in that situation it’s Butch.  There are some people you’d rather not have behind you in that situation and I was fortunate.”

Fortunate is not a word that has been thrown around a lot when it comes to Eddie Hoffman in recent months.  Following his victory in the ASA Late Model portion of the All American 400 event at Music City Motorplex in Nashville in November, his TK Racing team’s hauler was involved in an accident.  The truck and trailer were heavily damaged, as were the racecars and pit equipment inside. 

A discussion between Hoffman and team owner Tom Kmak over whether or not to continue was held after the highway crash, but the end decision landed Hoffman in Speedfest victory lane.

“We had a great weekend in Nashville and we had an unfortunate accident.  We lost the truck, trailer and it beat up all the pit boxes.  We lost those, lost some parts, lost some bodies on the racecars.  It was a pretty big financial hit.  And I told the boss, since the stuff wasn’t insured except for the truck and the trailer, that if there was ever a time to quit, this was it. 

Ben Rowe's car went from dominant (and in one piece) on Saturday in practice (top) to wrecked (bottom) at the end of the Speedfest 200.  (51 Photos)
Jay Middleton's #74
Eddie Hoffman was thankful to clear the Middleton/Rowe wreck to get into victory lane.  (Jamie Williams photo)
“He thought about it, but he decided to go back and give it another shot.  We bought a new truck, a new trailer and we put the work load on (crew chief) David Dotter and the guys in the shop.  We almost didn’t come (to Speedfest).  A week ago, we weren’t ready, but we actually got done a night early.  We were done on Monday night and we thought it’d be Tuesday night.  Then, we just hit on a few things here early in practice that surprised me.  We just had a good setup in the car.”

That “good setup” not only won Hoffman the race, but it also allowed him to set a new Super Late Model track

Eddie Hoffman's #8 at speed
But when the caution flag flew just four laps short of the finish for, ironically, a spin by Ben’s father Mike Rowe, it was a whole new ballgame.  Jay Middleton, who did not seemingly have a chance to catch Rowe under green, closed right up to Rowe’s bumper.

Just one night earlier, Middleton dominated the South 100 preliminary event, only to lose the lead to Wayne Anderson on a late-race restart.  Like Anderson did Friday night, Middleton took a peek around Rowe on the green flag lap with four to go in Saturday’s Speedfest 200.  He couldn’t make the pass and fell in behind Rowe through the corner. 

Then, down the backstretch, everything changed.  No longer was it going to be Rowe’s name on the trophy, nor Middleton’s.  Middleton slammed into the rear of Rowe’s #4 machine.  That allowed Eddie Hoffman, who was running third, to close in and pass Middleton for the lead as the field hit turn three. 

Rowe was done for the night.  There would be no Speedfest trophy with his name on it.  Middleton was penalized for rough driving by race officials.  The lead fell into Eddie Hoffman’s lap and he was not going to let it go.  Hoffman pulled away from Butch Miller on the final restart after the Middleton/Rowe incident to score a thrilling victory that just four laps earlier did not seem possible.