New Smyrna Speedway’s Night three started off with some gut-wrenching and sobering news. Unfortunately and tragically we lost longtime tech inspector Russell “Rusty” Crews. The 59-year-old longtime employee of New Smyrna Speedway had broken up a would-be brawl in the Sportsman division on the front stretch just hours before his untimely passing.
Medical officials came to his aid as he began suffering symptoms of a heart attack. Crews was pronounced deceased at 2:00am. The officials and many crew members lined up on the front stretch for opening ceremonies that included a moment of silence to celebrate his life. Just as Rusty would have had it, the race went on.
The David Rogers Super Late Model event bore witness to a Bubba Pollard spin into the grass in turn four that also included local Brad May. A Connor Mosack spin on lap eight led to a very serious problem for one of the Super Late Model points contenders. The series points leader Jett Noland had an awful day and night in terms of luck. Noland had already suffered a blown motor in practice and was borrowing a car from fellow Super Late Model competitor Jesse Dutilly. With an 81 plastered over the side door panel, Noland went off into turn one on lap 11 of the 35 lap feature as the left side of his car began to spark before he careened into the outside retaining wall.
Ryan Moore had a nice lead early but the reset from the lap 11 incident allowed for Smith to charge past the Moore entry as well as Justin Mondeik. Smith warped into rhythm that went largely unchallenged for the rest of the feature. Smith had eclipsed Mondeik, Moore, Jacob Goede fourth and Stephen Nasse who finished fifth.
The Florida Modified division also did not go without controversy, plus a fall from grace from the series leader. At the very start of the 35 lap feature, Tim Moore spun the tires and got hit from behind. Contact from the front nerf bars of Jerry Symons sent the St. Pete FL native up the race track just enough to clip the car of Travis Eddy. Eddy’s vehicle bounced the right front tire into the outside wall with plenty of momentum to badly damage the suspension components.
The series points leader and driver that dominated the last two events of the division found himself out of the race before a single circuit could be completed. The race continued on with some more attrition as the Symons machine succumbed to issues stemming from that early contact. Other cars like Alan Bruns and David Hite fell to mechanical woes. Ultimately it was Moore who would come away victorious. Followed by Bill Burpa, Zach Stacy, Jeremy Gerstner and Al Stacy.
The Pro Late Model feature was an eventful show that began with the only French speaker in the field, Jean-Philippe Bergeron, on the pole. On lap seven Conner Jones assumed the lead. A Kevin Folan mechanical issue proceeded as Justin Drawdy endured a spin. An accident involving Paige Rogers and Jeremy Miller occurred after a messy restart accordioned the field. The Colt Hensley entry suffered serious front end damage as the reluctant caboose of the train of cars that connected with one another. The field reset again before the contact between Braison Bennett and Andrew Sheid caused their cars to pile into the wall in turns one and two.
As the scoreboard finally clicked a few concurrent laps off without incident, the action up at the front heated up. Hunter Wright and Jones mixed it up back and forth from laps 18 to 22 and the two cars never got away from each other completely. The laps wound down and one could feel the potential of a last-lap finish at the line. Wright got inside coming out of turn four. The two made contact as the checkered flag unfurled. Jones snagged the flag by mere inches.
“This feels amazing,” Jones said of winning the Pro Late Model race. “I’ve actually never raced a Pro Late Model until this week. Hopefully, we can use this momentum the rest of the week.”
Hunter Wright gave everything he had but came home second. With Will Cox, Stephen Nasse and Jett Noland rounding out the top five.
It was a very sad day for the racing community at New Smyrna Speedway and Beyond. Rusty Crews’ passing was heavy on the hearts of employees, official, competitors and fans. If there was anything that could have been an honor to his legacy it was a side by side finish at the line and a safe and competitive night for the entrants. The staff at New Smyrna will have to press on just as Rusty would have wanted.
A recap of night four of the World Series of Asphalt will be found right here at race22.com the Short Track Authority.