In what will likely go down as the most exciting racing event of speed weeks, the Tour-Type Modifieds put together a Wednesday night program that beat all expectations. Gone was the voodoo and gone was the wild west feel. No tonight’s racing had more than its share of accidents and weird occurrences but for one reason or another, it all made sense.
Night six wasn’t a curse it was the cure, the cure for the global ban on social interaction, the solution to empty grandstands in many states. Tonight was the medicine to help Carolinians forget about the absence of Bowman Gray Stadium. It allowed families that have attended Wall Stadium, Riverhead Raceway, Thompson, or Stafford Speedway to take solace in the fact that they could be there in person to watch their favorite driver. The supporting classes also put on incredible shows for fans of short track racing to enjoy.
The Pro Late Model race began with a Will Cox accident in turn three. Cox was a contender for the World Series points standings but his lap three crash on the front stretch made his journey harder. Lap seven Chase Williams had a tire go down and spun his car around. The great string of runs had by the points leader Conner Jones was interrupted by a shuffle from cars in front of him getting loose. Jones struggled a bit in qualifying and was mired in the middle of the pack.
Jett Noland started on pole, on lap 19 he was challenged by Lakeville Minnesota’s Nick Panitzke. Noland held on and started to drive away before a lap 31 accident between Kevin Folan and Chad Butz occurred after Butz made contact with Colt Hensley. The following restart Panitzke made his move to the inside and blew past Noland. Panitzke would hold on to get the win. Panitzke had a tough beginning to the World Series in Super Late Models before going back to the Pro Late Model division.
“We built this car for a Pro Late Model,” Panitzke said. “Blew a motor and switched back to the 604. Proud of my guys, we worked crazy hard we’re the last ones in the pits every night.”
Panitzke has no points battle to worry about so look for him to put it all on the line going forward. Noland wound up second followed by Brandon Oakley, Kody Swanson, and Jean-Phillipe Bergeron.
Florida modifieds only started 10 cars, pole-sitter Ricky Moxley spun around on lap two from Jerry Symons, both were sent to the rear but because of the attrition from tedious nights of carnage that penalty wasn’t as detrimental. Bill Burba and Tim Moore had issues on lap 18 as Zach Harris dropped out of the race for mechanical woes. Moxley came back from the penalty to assume the lead on lap 19 and went on to win the 35 lap event with Alan Bruns, Scott Lamp, Burba and Moore.
It was the David Rogers Super Late Models’ turn to put on a show for the fans. Jacob Goede started on pole but the start of the race proved that Derek Griffith, a two-time winner in the Pro Late Model division already during the World Series, was still fast. There were few cautions in the 35-lap event but drivers like Jesse Love would scrape the wall with some decent contact and continue to be a contender.
Connor Mosack was moving as he went from tenth to third in the first half of his run. It was Dan Frederickson and Giffith that had an absolute dogfight towards the end of the race. The two door-slammed hard on lap 26 and Frederickson ran Griffith high in turns one and two. Griffith would pull a crossover move and the two came together again across the front stretch. Frederickson had just enough to keep Griffith behind him and for the second time of the night, a Minnesota native would go to victory lane.
“I only had enough money to buy one set of tires and I said wouldn’t bring anything back but the cords,” Frederickson proclaimed.
It was finally time for the John Blewett III Memorial 76 lap feature to commence. The 39-car field at the start of the event was the largest field of Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway for 2021. Patrick Emerling started on the pole and it didn’t take long for the first of a slew of accidents to take place at the Florida half-mile. Lap one Jim Gavek and Randall Richard crashed in turns three and four. After the lap one incident, the Modifieds put together a sizable green flag run until just past lap 50.
Tom Martio Jr. spun blocking the pit entrance and an odd occurrence happened when after the caution flew he accelerated into the machine of Marcello Rufrano. On lap 61 Matt Hirschman went for a spin-off of the front nerf bars of Marcello Rufrano. On the ensuing restart Ryan Preece, who had started 39th and shotgun on the field due to qualifying on speed into the Daytona 500 grabbed the lead on lap 61 before Stephen Kopcic and Amy Catalano brought out the yellow.
Tyler Rykema and Eric Goodale got together fighting for second place on the restart. Both cars were sent to the rear after putting together such a strong run. During Preece’s improbable move into the top five, he and John McKennedy slammed nerf bars multiple times. A rivalry has been brewing between the two. Now Mckennedy would start right behind Preece in second. A lap 70 pile-up flung metal and dirt all over the speedway in turn one.
Anthony Nocella and Craig Lutz were sent to the rear for causing a caution that collected a bunch of cars. The next restart Ron Silk pushed hard into turn one causing a drift up the track to Burt Myers who collected Dave Sapienza and Jeremy Gerstner. A Buddy Charette spin on lap 72 set up the final restart. It was a barn-burning three-lap run to the finish. Ryan Preece went from worst to first and dodged plenty of smoke and shrapnel along the way. Second was Hirschman, followed by Emerling, McKennedy, and Silk.
The pain was measurable for many teams whose week is done. The amount of work and effort it took to get to the middle of the week is an insurmountable weight many will have as they take their haulers on the long trip with a wrecked race car up I-95. The performance of Ryan Preece may not be duplicated for quite some time. No matter the skill level, passing 38 race cars in less than 76 laps on a half-mile track is no easy feat. That performance will be remembered for some time. The pageantry of this event to honor John Blewett III was world-class and it meant something extra special for the Tour Modified group that fight like angry brothers but love like family. It all made sense at New Smyrna Speedway on night 6.
Follow the last three nights for updates and recaps of the World Series of Asphalt at race22.com, the Short Track Authority.