Josh Hamner Runs Away With Blizzard Series Opener 51Sports / Series PR
“Domination” Describes Hamner’s “Amp 100” Performance at Five Flags Speedway
The roar of Super Late Models has everybody “Amped Up” again at Five Flags Speedway, especially Josh Hamner. Since December of last year, when Augie Grill put his car in victory lane for the 40th annual Snowball Derby, there has been a void of 600-horsepower engines at the Pensacola, FL speedplant. Now that roar has returned and in the first Blizzard Series event (the first of a five-race mini-series for SLMs that leads up to the Snowball Derby) of the season on Friday night, Josh Hamner wrote his name into the history books at the historic racetrack. He dominated the “Amp 100” series opener to win for the first time in Super Late Model competition at Five Flags Speedway.
Starting from outside of the front row in the 38-car field, Hamner put his #38 in front of pole-sitter Donnie Wilson going into turn one and then set the pace everyone would follow for the remainder of the event.
“At the start of the race Donnie said he wasn’t going to set a blistering fast pace,” said Hamner. “I figured if I get a really good start he would let me go since he wasn’t going to push it.
“I didn’t really plan on leading all those laps. I have been down here in that situation many times where I have led 96 to 99 laps and not win the race. You just have to keep the fenders and tires on it and stay out of trouble.”
While Hamner stayed out front, many drivers paced themselves throughout the race while waiting for the right moment to pit for two fresh tires. Grill, Bubba Pollard and Ryan Crane all came in for their tires before the majority of the leaders, something that almost paid off for each one of them. Unfortunately for all three, trouble reached out and grabbed them one by one.
Josh Hamner won his first Super Late Model race at Five Flags Friday in the Blizzard Series opener. (51 Photo)
Grill made his way back to the lead when Hamner, Logano and Robbins all pitted under yellow at lap 83 for an incident on the track that took out last year’s Blizzard Series champion Scott Carlson. On the restart, Grill and a lapped car made contact which put enough damage to the #112 machine to take him out of contention.
The incident put Crane in the top spot, but a few laps later his day would come to an end when he made contact with a fast charging Logano. Crane spun his #10.
Joey Logano's car crossed the line second with damage after contact with Ryan Crane. (51 Photo)
“I wasn’t sure where he (Crane) was going,” said Logano, who was racing a car from the Stanley Smith stables. “I was up to his door and all of a sudden he started coming down. I couldn’t even back out at that point and figured it is what it is. He hit me and we kept on digging there.”
For a new twist, only green flag laps are counted in this year’s 100-lap races. Pollard inherited the lead since he was scored ahead of Logano on the last recorded lap, but Pollard ducked down pit road to change tires during this caution period.
Logano inherited the lead during when the green came back out on lap 85, but Hamner was all over his back bumper. It only took Hamner only two laps to regain the lead and then the youngster drove off to score the biggest victory of his career.
“We kept a stopwatch on all the guys that came in and got tires,” explained Hamner. “They weren’t really much faster than us coming up through there.
“Before that run I planned on coming in around lap 65 to 70. That would give me enough time to get back up through the field. When my dad told me there were 17 laps to go, I was hoping there wouldn’t be a caution and sure enough it came out. I got beat last year by not coming in and taking tires, so I decided to come and get them.
“I didn’t really know how good Joey was. I knew he was pretty decent since he was behind me before that pit stop. I got a heck of a run coming off turn two and got to his door before turn three. I just kept it on the bottom and got the lead.”
Logano, who is using the Blizzard Series to get some seat time in before his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in May, was looking for the victory, but wasn’t disappointed with his second-place finish, especially since it was his first race at Five Flags Speedway.
“That #38 (Hamner) was a fast car,” said Logano. “He had that thing hooked up. I thought we were turning the center good, but we had no forward bite. He turned the center better than me and pulled off the corner better than me.
“We got those two tires and since I had never been here before I didn’t know what it would do. It picked it up quite a bit. We were passing cars on the high side fast and we were passing good cars like they were lapped cars. This is definitely a fun place to race. There is a bunch of strategy in it. Obviously I would have liked to win the race, but it is just nice to get back in the seat again.”
Another driver that paced himself throughout the race was last year’s Blizzard Series first-round winner Hunter Robbins. Not making a lot of noise throughout the race, Robbins made his presence known late as he crossed the line a strong third.
“At the start of the race our car was good,” said Robbins. “I got a lot of experience last year in these races, so I knew what I had to do. I rode for a while, but I started getting worried there at the end because our car wasn’t too good and a lot of people had taken their tires. The laps were winding down and I was praying for another caution. Luckily the caution came out and we came in to get our tires.
“Our car was pretty good after that. We gained as many positions as we could, then our car started going away again. It is still like a win for us. This is a great momentum builder.”
Both Logano and Robbins were satisfied with where they finished, but the man of the race was Hamner. The dominating performance he showed Friday night will have many drivers wondering if they will have what it takes to beat the Hamner Racing Engines #38 this season for the Blizzard title.
Hunter Robbins showed his hand late in the race, finishing third.. (51 Photo)
“I think this is going to start off a good year for us,” said Hamner. “We have had some good runs earlier in the year and as long as we keep our stuff together we will be good. I am really looking forward to this year.”
The next race for the Blizzard Series will take place on Friday, May 23rd. The “Red, White and Blue 100, Presented by Pepsi” will be the second race in the five-race 2008 series at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida for the Super Late Models.
For more information on the Blizzard Series or the 41st annual Snowball Derby, contact Matt Kentfield at (704) 788-2134 x 5 and visit www.5flagsspeedway.com.
For Speed51.com's Trackside Now coverage of the Blizzard Series opener at Five Flags Speedway, click here.
Blizzard Series “AMP 100” Results
Five Flags Speedway
1) #38H Josh Hamner
2) #49 Joey Logano
3 #6 Hunter Robbins
4) #94 Mitch Cobb
5) #82 Grant Enfinger
6) #21 Scott Carlson
7) #44 Michael Pope
8) #99S Casey Smith
9) #73 Corey Ruble
10) #70 Jeff Choquette
11) #14M Ken McFarland
12) #27 Jason Young
13) #07W Brad Webb
14) #26 Bubba Pollard
15) #88 Roger Reuse
16) #0 David Hole
17) #2 John Bolen
18) #99L Dale Little
19) #43 Dennis Schoenfeld
20) #10 Danny Bagwell
21) #48 Cecil Chunn
22) #11R David Rodgers
23) #28 Ron Joyner
24) #10C Ryan Crane
25) #91 Heath Hindman
26) #45 Dwayne Buggay
27) #112 Augie Grill
28) #98 Billy Tutchtone
29) #92 Ron McDonald
30) #41 Chris Davidson
31) #11 Donald Long
32) #32 Jeff Scofield
33) #1M Tim Martin
34) #14 Adam Crawford
35) #82W Donnie Wilson
36) #39 Gary Sullivan
37) #52 Matthew Stichmann
38) #114 Lee Carter