Bobby Labonte had his sights set on winning his third straight SMART tour feature but Jonathan Brown had other ideas about knocking Labonte off the winners podium.
With a fresh coat of PJ1 on the Caraway surface dialing in the 600 plus horsepower modifieds became a challenge for some but Brian Loftin found the right setup and topped the time trials to take the $200 pole award, then redrew the outside front row alongside pole sitter Dennis Holdren.
Loftin blasted into the initial lead with Jeremy Gerstner following from row two. Two fan favorites, Burt and Jason Myers both had to start at the rear of the feature. Jason had to replace a broken spindle and Burt had a suspension brace failure, both after qualifying. But it didnt seem to slow their progress as both passed 6 and 7 cars in just four laps.
By lap nine Gerstner had seen enough of Loftins rear bumper and raced to lead by lap ten. By lap ten both Myers brothers were in the top ten.
The first of four yellow flags flew on lap 22 for a minor spin and on the restart Gerstner roared off with the lead with Loftin in hot pursuit.
By lap 26 Loftin tried to dive under Gerstner in turn one and bumped the inside curb which drove him into Gerstner’s left rear. Gerstner spun from the lead causing the caution flag to wave. Under caution Gerstner showed his displeasure to Loftin with a drive-by and brake job.
Loftin was now the new leader on the restart with Labonte holding the runner up spot. Four laps later on lap 30 the competition caution came out. Again Loftin took command and Labonte found the outside groove to his dislike as he got freight trained back to seventh. By lap 36 Jason Myers was second, Burt Myers third and young Caleb Heady driving the Tommy Baldwin 7NY was forth.
On lap 44 Jason took over the lead bringing Heady with him dropping Loftin back to third. Myers and Heady pulled away slightly from the rest and then on lap 50 Heady used a cross over move to become the next leader of the event.
A lap 57 spin by James Civali slowed the action briefly and the entire field pitted making adjustments for the final run to the checkers. The first one off pit road was Heady with Jonathan Brown second, Labonte third and Gerstner fourth. It only took one lap and Brown powered by Heady bringing Labonte, Gerstner and Burt Myers with him. Heady dropped back to fifth with an ill handling race car, apparently missing their stagger set up.
The last yellow was shown on lap 63 for a spin by Civali and again there was a slight altercation between Civali and Jason Myers under caution.
Brown now showed his muscle by racing Labonte for the lead and on the next lap Gerstner passed Labonte. By lap 70 the first four cars of Brown, Gerstner, Labonte and Burt Myers ran nose to tail looking for any advantage. By lap 89 Labonte found the speed to pass Gerstner for second and two laps later Burt Myers raced by Gerstner for third. Labonte worked over Brown inside and outside but Brown was in clean air and was not to be denied the victory. Labonte finished 0.105 seconds behind Brown. Brown is the seventh different winner this year on the SMART tour.
In victory lane Brown said “It feels pretty awesome. Wow, I’m almost speechless. We had a strategy, a plan. The car stayed under me, I was surprised how long it stayed like that.” He added, “With that PJ1on top we ran up there alot and when it was time to run down lower it was even better. It was just awesome.”
Story by James Snape
Courtesy of YankeeRacer.com
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