What won Saturday night’s 602 Thunder main event for Michael Smith at Laurens County Speedway was not a start but rather a restart.
Such a restart midway through he race enabled Smith to find his way to victory lane.
Smith won $1,200 in the night’s headliner. Smith, who qualified third, was followed by Justin Mintz in second, Austin Mintz in third, Rod Roberts in fourth and Billy Rushton in fifth. Former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield finished sixth.
Smith qualified with a time of 15.762 seconds to challenge for the pole position, but John Price and Austin Mintz proved too fast and ended up taking the top two spots. Price clocked a time of 15.559 seconds to take the pole, with Mintz finishing .055 of a second behind.
When the race got underway, Price gave the fans a thrill as he went high in turn 2 and appeared to ride the wall for a moment, but he managed to come back down and continue onward without any trouble. Both Austin and Justin Mintz found their way to the front of the field as Smith and Price eventually settled into the next two spots. By the time three laps were done, the two Mintz drivers had a secure grip on the lead, with Justin holding the top spot. Smith appeared well off the pace for the lead by this point, but a caution flag on lap 12 helped reset the field and gave Smith’s hopes for victory life.
The first attempt at a restart on lap 12 was wiped out due to an accident coming out of turn 2, which involved four cars, including Price, who ended up being knocked out of the contest just before the halfway mark. When the race resumed, Justin Mintz chose the inside of Row 1, while Austin Mintz went to the inside of Row 2. That gave Smith, who had remained in third, the chance to move to the outside of Row 1 on the restart. Once he got to the outside of Row 1, Smith used a strong restart on the outside line and took the lead out of turn 4.
Smith won the race by 1.012 seconds.
Limited: Frank Coates and Dean Long dueled each other and put on an impressive show for the fans. Long passed Coates five laps to go and pulled away to win the main event. Coates was second and Tony Quarles was third.
Coates held a lead of .464 of a second over Long with 10 laps to go, but Long started to close the gap enough to mount a serious challenge. He pulled away from Coates in the final five laps and won by a second and a half.
Thunder Bombers: Rod Tucker won the main event, finishing ahead of Scott Pulley, but it was a protest gone bad that eventually led to Pulley being disqualified – losing points and money – and left Tucker’s position unchanged.
Tucker led wire-to-wire over Pulley and eased in for what appeared to be a straightforward victory. After the race, Pulley moved to challenge Tucker’s car, protesting both Tucker’s front and rear suspension, and the rear end of his vehicle. However, when Pulley’s tires were cited as being too soft, not only was he disqualified from the race but the protest of Tucker was thrown out.
That left Tucker as the winner, with Dylan Chappell moving to second and Chris Lyons to third.
4-Cylinder: Phillip Wilson grabbed the lead from J.R. Baker on the fourth lap of the main event, eventually pulling away to win the race by more than three seconds. Baker was second and Bubba Kolb third.
Baker jumped to the lead after starting the race on the pole. Kolb, who was on the outside of Row 1, couldn’t hold his position after Wilson made his way by out of the first two turns. Wilson soon set his sights on Baker but could not make a first-lap pass for the lead. The two, though, battled for the next three laps before Wilson finally found his way by as Baker’s car wobbled just enough to give Wilson the way past.
Wilson, now in the lead, began to pull away from the field and eventually won the race by 3.423 seconds. A better duel was for second as Baker and Kolb found themselves in a fierce battle that went down to the final lap. Baker, as it turned out, had just enough to secure the runner-up spot, finishing ahead of Kolb by .165 of a second.
Front-Wheel Drive: Billy Medlin was the top driver, taking the checkered flag by less than 6/10ths of a second. Joel Cabe was second and Seth Smith third.
Medlin and Jason Bishop dueled early in the race for the lead before Medlin won out. His momentum was briefly halted after a crash on the third lap that effectively ended Bishop’s hopes at victory and led to a flat tire. He was able to continue racing but finished fifth.
SECA 604 Crate: Brad Rachels rolled to his second straight main-event victory, with Brad Stacey finishing second and Danny Howell third.
Rachels, much like he did the week before, stormed out of the pole position and immediately built a lead. By the end of the first four laps, he held a lead of more than two seconds, and Rachels eventually led by 4.326 seconds at the halfway mark of the 20-lap main event. The lead eventually grew to more than a straightaway over Stacey, who could do little but watch Rachels drive off into the night and claim a one-sided victory.
Young Guns: T.J. Teal, left well behind by Landon Davis, rallied as Davis’s car faltered to win the main event.
Davis almost lapped Teal, but he slid up the track and tapped the wall, costing him half of his lead. Davis continued to have trouble as he scraped the wall again, allowing Teal to go from a near-blowout loss to the lead with two laps to go.