Night four at New Smyrna Speedway was a wild one that gave the fans every bit of their ticket value and more. It was the ARCA East Series and Tour-Type Modifieds turn to put on a show that was immersed in the essence of a wild-west shootout. There were no spurs or six-shooters visible but track owner Rober Hart’s former ranchland was the perfect setting for the events that would transpire on the premises. The ARCA East series would be the first to go out in front of the well attended Monday night crowd.
The night started with a 175 lap blitz around the facility with Parker Retzlaff showing the way early. Drivers were content to save some of their equipment and ride around until the halfway break brought out the competition caution. Some confusion about the pit procedure was evident as cars that came in for fuel were allowed to change two tires per stop without losing position. If they came in again as many did drivers that stopped just once would have position over them. After the shuffle, Sammy Smith and Mason Diaz took over the top two spots. A crash in turn one for Jack Wood was the first accident of the day.
Just when it looked as if Smith would run away with the season opener, a caution for debris with 10 to go came out. Then with the one to go signal given, the skies opened up. Over an hour of rain delay occurred before the ensuing restart. When the green finally flew again, Taylor Gray spun Diaz into turn one. Another Green White Checkered would have to settle it.
Smith and Gray ran each other very hard. As they took the white Smith had the lead but was fending off a challenge from Gray. The two made contact in three and four which opened the door for Max Gutierrez. They careened three-wide to the line in a photo finish. It was Gutierrez out of nowhere to grab the win leading 1 lap of the whole race. Smith would take second with Gray, Diaz and Joey Iest rounded out the top five.
The clock had ticked past 10:30 before the start of the Tour modified feature. The Tour-Type Modified drivers had waited all winter, many in harsh northern climates, to get back out to competition.
Craig Lutz sat on the pole alongside Patrick Emerling. The race started smoothly as all 37 competitors did everything they could to click some laps in after a clean start. Lap 14 was a moment of destruction for many. Chris Ridsdale spun on the inside back straightaway causing Ryan Preece and John McKennedy to make contact. McKennedy would end up facing the wrong way down the straight as the big field tried to dart and dodge around the nearly stopped racecar. Cars began to pile in, besides Ridsdale and McKennnedy others involved were Zane Zeiner, Anthony Nocella, Eric Goodale, Stephen Kopcik, Burt Myers, and Tommy Catalano.
The yellow would fly again as Tommy’s brother, Timmy Catalano brought it out for a crash in one and two, collecting Riverhead competitor Dave Sapienza. When the cars took the green flag after that the Modifieds could race freely for some laps before the pace would slow once more, a great effort considering how large of a field the race began with. The next yellow would fly for a Jim Gavek accident in turn four. 41 of 50 laps were in the books before the caution came back out. Now as a nine lap shootout was in store, the desperation for a victory caused other issues. The lap 41 restart was squirrely, cars midpack spun their tires, and the drivers that were mixed in the fray narrowly avoided a disaster. Anthony Nocella brought out the next yellow on lap 46 for a spin.
The final last few laps of the Tour-Type Modified opener were frantic as Matt Hirshman made a Bonzai move to assume the lead on lap 46 but Orchard Park NY’s Patrick Emerling would cross back over on the ensuing lap. The battle allowed for the Eric Goodale machine, who joined Burt Myers in recovering well from the lap 14 incident to make contact with the leader. Goodale sent Emerling into spin cycle with just two laps to finish it. Another restart would be short-lived as Chris Ridsdale spun to the inside again, this time on the front-stretch. The shuffling allowed pole sitter Craig Lutz to return towards the front as he and Matt Hirschman dueled in a Green-White-Checkered finish. Lutz would get the better of Hirschman as the Miller Place, NY native ripped across the line as the victor.
Well after midnight Eastern time, the 46 of Craig Lutz celebrated his team’s first win of 2021. Night 4 at New Smyrna Speedway needed swinging saloon doors and a Sheriff because the wild west shootouts of both premier features were the theme of the night. The ARCA East Series will move to Pensacola on February 27th.
The Tour-Type Modifieds will be at New Smyrna Speedway for four more nights. You can follow the events with live updates on Facebook plus a recap of the action at race22.com the Short Track Authority.
Cover photo by Bridger Swiminer.