Night seven at New Smyrna Speedway was a bit more subdued than Night seven at New Smyrna Speedway was a bit more subdued than previous nights at the famed Florida half-mile. As other venues got hit with precipitation, the officials were able to push through and get the entire night-seven show in before mother nature had a chance to intervene.
The Thursday showing displayed why the front runners are positioned where they are, this time around it was a surprising division that became the problem child for destruction and mayhem. All features were 35 laps as the big finale races for most divisions take place on the last couple nights of the World Series of Asphalt. This didn’t keep competitors from driving hard or putting their cars in precarious positions.
The Pro Late Model race at New Smyrna Speedway night seven was nearly a flag to flag run of clean and green racing sans an early accident for Will Cox. Kody Swanson put on a clinic and led all 35 laps to open up the Thursday show. With around ten to go Connor Jones was able to get a nose inside and put heat on the heels of the pole-sitter. Ultimately the Swanson vehicle would pull away and pull off a wire to wire domination of the cleanest Pro Late Model event so far during Speedweeks.
The points battle is remarkably close, Jett Noland is leading with 142 points and Connor Jones and Kody Swanson are dead even with 136 points tied for second. It may come down to the final few laps to crown the World Series of Asphalt Pro Late Model champion.
Florida Modifieds were next on the docket and their field had been decimated from chaos earlier in the week Jeremy Gerstner was sent to the rear and on lap four Ricky Moxley took out young underdog Scott Lamp in turns one and two. Moxley was sent to the back but with only nine cars on the starting grid penalties for rough driving didn’t come with severe consequences. Jerry Symons had the lead early but raced hard with Bill Burba. Burba assumed the lead on lap 16.
The Florida modifieds settled into a rhythm as Burba set sail and claimed the victory. Jerry Symons came home second with Alan Bruns third, Wayne Parker fourth, and Ricky Moxley fifth. Heading into Friday the points race is extremely close. Jerry Symons leads with 136, Tim Moore sits second with 134 points. Travis Eddy has packed up and gone home after engine woes and accidents marred his hot start. Despite Eddy’s shortcomings this year, he and Burpa are tied for third with 132 points apiece.
The Tour Modified program had to clean up their act a little bit. Last night’s 76 lap John Blewett III Memorial feature brought the house down in terms of action but many cars were torn up and the field shrunk by five cars for the Thursday show. The driver’s meeting carried some warnings with it and teams were weary from the hard work it took to get back to the racetrack after a night of destruction. Ron Silk qualified on pole and showed the way before Ronnie Williams overtook the point. Lap 11 Tommy Catalano brought out the first yellow of the event.
The restart caused problems for Marcello Rufrano, Bobby Measmer Jr., and Buddy Charette when they became tangled up in turns three and four. The Chelmsford Massachusetts local John McKennedy grabbed the lead from Ronnie Williams on lap 15. The race started to settle in but one car was lurking and pushing closer and closer to the leader. Northampton Pennsylvania’s Matt Hirschman put pressure on the rear of a John McKennedy ride that is notoriously hard to pass.
The laps wound down as the flagman displayed two to go. When the white was displayed Hirschman put a nerf bar underneath McKennedy, they shot down the backstretch and with a bump, in turn three it would be Hirschman who drag raced McKennedy to the start-finish and won the night seven Tour Modified feature. Hirschman led the only lap that mattered on the night seven event.
The final feature of the night started earlier than any finale that had preceded it at New Smyrna Speedway in 2021. The time had barely gotten to nine o’clock as the truncated victory lane celebration and emphasis on expedience before impending weather lined the Dave Rogers Super Late Model field up with hometown hero Daniel Dye at the front. The green flag dropped and half a lap went by before Michael Hinde pounded his car nose first into the backstretch wall. After cleanup and a restart, the turn three barriers swallowed up the Justin Mondiek machine.
Lap one for the Super Late Models proved to be an expensive foray for the teams just trying to make it to the World Series finale Orange Blossom 100 on Saturday. The next restart turned ugly as Daniel Dye was spun in front of the field at the end of the front stretch. The pileup took out a host of cars in a brutal turn one that has ended the dreams of so many contenders this week. Drivers involved were Daniel Dye, Jake Finch, Jacob Goede, Jake Garcia, and Travis Wilson, Kelly Moore, Jett Noland, and Dan Frederickson.
After a red flag for extensive cleanup, the race resumed. Derek Griffith assumed control of the point. Jesse Love was hindered by a strange move from the damaged Jacob Goede vehicle as he cut across Love’s nose and flattened the third-place car’s left front tire. RJ Braun crashed hard in one and two on lap 19. Derek Griffith fought hard and clean with Stephen Nasse. Towards the end, Griffith sprinted away from a field that was decimated by accidents on night seven, and for the third time during speedweeks, Griffith took his team to victory lane.
“We had a good car, inverted two (for qualifying) we got out there and Nasse raced me clean, I have a lot of respect for him,” Griffith stated. “Three this week is unbelievable, we struggled down here for a long time.”
Griffith will compete in the ARCA race at Daytona on Saturday before he returns to New Smyrna Speedway to wrap up a likely World Series of Asphalt championship. Surprisingly, even with three wins Griffith only sits fourth in Super Late Model World Series points. Ryan Moore leads with 136, Justin Mondiek 134, Jacob Goede 132 Derek Griffith 130 and Sammy Smith at 124.
The night seemed like it would be over quickly before the Super Late Model race received the torch of carnage. Points battles in all divisions are taking shape as Pro Late Models conclude Friday. The Tour Modifieds will finish their trip to the Sunshine State on Friday as well. Super Late Models and Florida Modifieds have the night off before their finale Saturday night.
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Cover photo by Bridger Swinimer.