Night five at New Smyrna Speedway had its share of thrills and spills. Some days it seems as though a voodoo-specter haunts the land around the New Smyrna Speedway in Samsula, Florida.
The track crew and the officials did everything in their power to get the race started on time. Instead of rain or a red flag this time, the start was delayed due to a car accident on FL highway 44, just outside the pit gate entrance. The Tour-Modified qualifying session that was interrupted for emergency vehicles, finally resumed about an hour after the scheduled opening ceremonies. At about 8:45pm race finally commenced.
The event started out with the Pro Late Models for a 35 lap feature. The Pro Late Model class began with a very heavy crash by Derek Griffith who received the bad luck early with a totaled racecar in turn 4. The Hudson, New Hampshire driver felt the full Ying and Yang of karma from the motorsports Gods on night five, but his Pro Late Model car was completely destroyed. On lap 12 the pole-sitter Max Calles-McDonald found himself sitting backward at the pit road entrance. The McAllen, Texas inhabitant had a little bit of help from none other than Pro Late Model points leader Jett Noland. Noland was sent to the rear for rough driving which would take him out of contention.
An Andrew Sheid spin on lap 19 would bunch the field up on a restart. The caution bred calamity towards the rear of the field. Kevin Folan’s car got loose and climbed atop the nose and door of Hayden Sprague. The voodoo was in full form at thos point; it was discovered a mere 5 laps later that Hayden Sprague’s transponder fell into Folan’s car. The crash-addled Attleboro, Massachusetts driver suffered another accident on lap 24. Timing and scoring officials had to have been scratching their heads as Hayden Sprague kept being scored while behind the wall.
14-year-old Conner Jones climbed towards the front early, and on lap 26 he overtook the lead car of Will Cox. Jones did not look back. The Dominion raceway regular won the Pro Late Model feature. In victory lane, when asked what it was going to take to win the World Series title Jones said “consistency, consistent top 5’s, a win is nice here and there. We just got to be near the front as much as we can.” It was Kody Swanson, Stephen Nasse, Will Cox and Nick Panitzke that rounded out the top 5.
The Voodoo was not over. The 75-lap Florida Modified division feature saw Art Kunzman spinout twice in two laps. Driver John White was banned for racing without a spotter on lap 17. Jeremy Gerstner spun on lap 33. Jerry Symons suffered a spin on lap 34 which collected David Hite. Ricky Moxley, Zach Stacey and Jeremy Symons crashed on lap 54. Now, “former” points leader Travis Eddy suffered mechanical issues and was forced to park for the night. Tim Moore spun from second place with three to go. Seven of the 16 entries finished the final lap of the race. Bill Burba won from the pole, followed by a surprised Jerry Symons, Scott Lamp, David Hite and Ricky Moxley in the top five.
The gargantuan 37 car Tour Modified field was set to go on Night Five. John Mckennedy started on pole but something haunted his motor early. Matt Hirschman assumed the lead on lap nine after McKennedy dropped back until he would pit for mechanical issues on lap 13. A Michael Curtis spin on the backstretch brought out the first yellow on lap 15. Eric Goodale swung past Hirschman on the restart and held the lead until a Tommy Catalano spin set up a restart where Orchard Park, New York Native, Patrick Emerling swung to the point. Just as the lead changed hands, on lap 22, a huge mess on the front stretch caused minor damage to many cars as the field was stopped for a red flag.
Four cars were damaged to the point of no return including Marcello Ruffrano, Doug Coby, Tommy Catalano, and an unlucky John McKennedy who had just gotten back out to turn laps. A Bobby Jones spin on lap 32 turned the nerf bars back into pinballs as the ensuing restart would sprinkle in more chaos with an accident involving Zane Zeiner, Eddie McCarthy and Chuck Hossfeld. The final restart of the day was clean despite a rapid pace. Eric Goodale had a few good looks to the inside but it wasn’t enough to top the Patrick Emerling machine. Goodale would wind up second with Matt Hirschman third, Ryan Preece fourth and Craig Lutz finishing fifth.
David Rogers Super Late Models were the premier feature of the night. The race was fairly clean, likely because the source of Voodoo that plagued earlier divisions had to be home by curfew. New Smyrna Speedway is a tough track to pass on with the Super Late Model Cars. Whether it’s the lack of tire degradation, or the setup of the gearing, making a pass without overdriving or making contact with the car in front is not an easy task. Jacob Goede started on the pole and on lap one his side panel mixed paint with Derek Griffith. Griffith pulled off the lone pass for the lead on lap seven of 50 for the feature.
Stephen Nasse made some daring moves to 3rd position and Jesse Love may have had something for Derek Griffith had the race continued longer. Derek Griffith emerged victorious and unharmed from his brutal strike with the turn four barrier earlier in the Pro Late Model class. Griffith felt the highs and lows of racing all in one night.
“I couldn’t have done it without this team, these guys put together a great piece for me, once we got out in front the car handled really well.” Derek Griffith spoke highly of his team after his winning performance.
Behind Griffith was the hard-charging Jesse Love, Stephen Nasse, Local Deland Florida driver Daniel Dye, and Jacob Goede. They were credited for the top five positions.
The racing gods were active in night five at New Smyrna Speedway. Whether or not one believes in forces beyond human control influencing chaos and delays, outcomes and mishaps in racing, it seems that New Smyrna Speedway in February attracts odd and disorderly events that unfold. New up and comers have made their presence known and competitors that had an early handle on their points battles will have to have some strong runs by the end of the week to see successful results. Follow race22.com the Short Track Authority on Facebook for special coverage and live updates including recaps for every night of the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway.
Cover photo by Bridger Swinimer.