To say that the racing action in the Schaeffer’s Oil Southern Nationals presented by Old Man’s Garage finale at the Tazewell Speedway was wild is actually an understatement. There was every type of racing situation imaginable to occur in the 53-lap feature on Gary Hall’s super high banked track on a crazy Saturday night.
In the end, it was California’s Eric Jacobsen who outlasted the competition to claim the win and South Carolina’s Chris Madden who earned an unprecedented fifth series championship.
The night began with Brad Neat setting fast time in qualifying with a quick lap of 10.976 seconds around the third-mile oval to lead Group A and overall. Chris Madden was fastest in Group B with a time of 11.091 seconds. Those two drivers were joined by respective second fastest qualifiers in each group, Chad Ogle and Eric Jacobsen, in a dash race to determine the starting order for the first two rows in the feature.
Madden claimed the pole by winning the dash ahead of Ogle, Neat and Jacobsen.
Justin Ratliff and Vic Hill won the two B-main preliminaries used to set the remainder of the starting lineup for the main event.
The initial attempt at starting the 53-lap feature served as an indication as to how the entire night would go. Four cars were involved in a melee in turn one before a lap had even been completed.
Once the race finally got underway, it was Madden who jumped out to the early lead with Chad Ogle running right in his tire tracks and applying heavy pressure. Neat, Jacobsen and Hill filled out the top-5 during the initial laps.
A critical moment in the event would occur on lap 23 when the race leading Madden slowed with a flat tire to bring out the feature’s third yellow flag. Just prior to that, the early second place runner(Chad Ogle) dropped from the race with mechanical trouble.
Neat inherited the lead at that point and set out to drive away from the pack once the green flag was restored. However, a lap 29 caution for a crash by Australian Craig Vosbergen again changed the complexion of the event.
On the ensuing restart, Jacobsen seized the lead with an inside pass through turns one and two. At the same time, a hard charging Madden was slicing through the field and re-entered the top-5 by lap 36.
With less than 15 laps remaining, Neat closed to the rear of Jacobsen’s machine and began to apply heavy pressure. However, the runner-up bobbled in turn one on the 41st circuit and bounced of the outside wall, losing several car lengths and falling into the clutches of the third running Vic Hill.
On lap 47, Neat again found the turn one wall as he challenged Jacobsen for the top spot. This time, however, the contact proved to be too much to overcome and Neat was forced out of the race.
With only five cars remaining in this attrition filled and caution plagued event, a final yellow flag waved on lap 50 when Billy Ogle, Jr. swerved to avoid running over an axel that had been ejected from Hill’s car. In doing so, Ogle suffered a broken wheel which sent him spinning into the path of an oncoming Stacy Boles.
In the end, only four cars finished as Eric Jacobsen held off a strong late charge by Tazewell regular Bryan Hendrix while Stacy Boles and Vic Hill limped to the checkered flag.