The Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series made its second appearance of 2017 at Smoky Mountain Speedway on Saturday night for a $5,000-to-win event billed as the Big Daddy 500. Donald McIntosh battled his way by Chris Ferguson then had to hold off a hard charging Skip Arp to score his first ever Southern All Stars win on the Maryville, Tenn. facility that serves as the home track for his Blount Motorsports team.
Ferguson began the night by setting fast time in Group A qualifying by turning a lap 16.008 seconds around the 4/10 mile clay oval. Also locking into the feature lineup from this group were T.J. Reaid, Carder Miller, Shanon Buckingham and series points leader Austin Horton.
McIntosh led the way in Group B and overall as he toured the track in 15.938 seconds. Arp, Bobby Giffin, Tripp Gerrald and Brad Skinner joined the fast qualifier in being locked into the main event via qualifying.
Due to time constraints, heat races were removed from the lineup and the entire field was set from time-trial results.
Ferguson went to the early lead at the start of the 40-lap feature with McIntosh, Reaid, Arp and Miller in his tire tracks. Reaid quickly went to work as he attempted to take second away from McIntosh on the second lap but the No. 7 machine was up to the task and held the spot.
The a lap 2 caution flag waved when Giffin slowed while running in the top-10 causing much of the field to take evasive action to avoid his limping machine.
On the ensuing restart, Arp grabbed the third position away from Reaid and immediately went to work on McIntosh as he attempted to take the runner-up position. Once that battle sorted out, the top-4 of Ferguson, McIntosh, Arp and Reaid pulled away from the rest of the pack in an attempt to break away and settle the issue among themselves.
However, a lap 10 caution flag bunched the field back together and once again provided an opportunity for advancement on the following restart. Arp once more took advantage and moved by McIntosh to take second when the green flag was again unfurled. At the same time, Buckingham slipped by Miller to advance into the top-5 while Kerr moved around Miller to claim sixth just one lap later.
While that racing was going on behind them, Ferguson, Arp and McIntosh again broke away from the pack. On lap 17, McIntosh began to make his forward as he looked under Arp in hopes of regaining second. Two laps later McIntosh made his move and secured the runner-up position.
It was at this point that slower traffic began to play a major role in the action. Both McIntosh and Arp made contact with slower machines as they continued to battle while slicing through the lapped cars. Ferguson, in the meantime, was having issues of his own among the slower cars as he too was held up.
On lap 22, McIntosh made the decisive move of the race when he caught Ferguson coming into turn three then executed a slide job pass as the cars exited turn four to take the lead. Four laps later, Arp would also pass by Ferguson.
As the laps clicked off, Arp began to close in on McIntosh as he employed a high line around the track while the leader stuck to the bottom groove. In the closing circuits, it looked as if Arp might be able to make a move for the lead but was never able to get close enough to pull off the pass.
McIntosh won the race to the checkered flag to score his third feature win of 2017.
Feature Finish: 1. Donald McIntosh, 2. Skip Arp, 3. Chris Ferguson, 4. T.J. Reaid, 5. Shanon Buckingham, 6. Tommy Kerr, 7. Austin Horton, 8. Robby Moses, 9. Eric Hickerson, 10. Billy Ogle, Jr., 11. Stacy Boles, 12. Tristan Sealy, 13. Ryan King, 14. Phil Helton, 15. Anthiny Sanders, 16. Eddie King, Jr. 17. Carder Miller