Track record. Pole position. Forty laps led.
Johanna Long, the teenage driver from Pensacola, made the Pro Late Model race look easy Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better race,” she said.
Her biggest issue came in practice when another car sideswiped her. Her crew had to replace the entire left side of the body, but the car was still fast.
Her qualifying time of 16.985 seconds set a Pro Late Model record.
“We came out here on Thursday and knew we were fast,” she said. “I’ve been wanting that track record and fortunately, the damage didn’t affect the car.”
Another nervous moment for her was when she rolled the dice to determine if the field would be inverted.
“I saw it at 6, then it rolled over to a 1,” she said.
That meant she was able to start on the pole and she pulled away and was never challenged. Keith Thorpe and Ronnie Smith finished second and third in the caution-free race.
“I tried to get a run on her in the first 10 laps, but then the car got tight,” Thorpe said. “The main thing was finishing ahead of the 27.”
The 27 is Smith who entered the race tied with Thorpe for the points lead. Thorpe gained two points in qualifying and another six points and now unofficially has an 8-point lead going into the 100-lap season finale in October.
“We’re still OK in points,” Smith said. “The car got real tight tonight. We tried a new setup because we weren’t going anywhere with the other setup.”
Thorpe’s biggest worry was starting outside of Long, while Smith was behind her. But Thorpe pulled quickly behind Long and Smith stayed third the entire race.
Stevie Mercer won the 30-lap Sportsman feature, but the points chase behind him also drew some attention.
With double points on the line, Billy Hoover finished second and gained on points leader Randy Thompson. Thompson had worked his way to second, but had to pit on a caution and restarted in 13th.
He finished seventh and saw his 89-point lead shrink to 67 points unofficially with two races left.
Jim Pokrant took the lead on the opening lap and held it through the first 11 laps. Mercer passed him for the lead, but the caution came out, putting Pokrant back in front.
But on the restart, Mercer passed him again and held it this time for good.
“I really enjoyed the first 10 laps with all that side-by-side racing,” Mercer said. “Then the cautions started to slow things down.”
Four cautions in the race included some in which tempers flared. Steve Buttrick, who spun out Chris Palmer and had to restart on the back, worked his way back to finish third.
Nathan Ingersoll won the 25-lap Modified feature and also took over the points lead.
He entered the race 12 points behind Chris Cotto, who suffered a flat tire with three laps left. Ingersoll now leads the points race unofficially by eight points.
Phillip Merryman finished second, while Jeff Darby was third.
Pete Kitchen won the 15-lap Bomber feature, while Michael Kitchen finished second to hold off William Goulet in the points race. Goulet trailed Michael Kitchen by 10 points going into the race.
He passed Michael Kitchen for second with five laps left, but Michael Kitchen retook the position a lap later. Goulet finished third.
Pete Kitchen passed Mike Goraum on a restart.