The Southern Nationals Bonus Series and the Iron-Man Series co-sanctioned a night of Super Late Model racing on Tuesday night at the Tazewell Speedway that would dish out $5,000 to the winner. And when all was said and done it was Kentucky native Eric Wells who came away from the track with the winner’s share of the purse money along with a trophy.
Wells won the Spring Nationals mini-series earlier this season despite not being able to garner a feature win on that tour. However, all was made right for the No. 18 team when Wells steered his car into the victory lane of the high-banked track located in upper east Tennessee.
Brian Smith led the way in Group A qualifying by posting a time of 11.720 seconds around the third-mile clay oval with Chad Ogle, Aaron Ridley, Chicky Barton and Clyde Overholt following.
Dakotah Knuckles proved to be the fastest in Group B time-trials and overall as he toured the high-banked track in 11.491 seconds to beat out Wells, Vic Hill, Jeff Neubert and Layne Clifton.
At the start of the 40-lap feature it was Knuckles who showed early dominance as he roared to the front of the pack with Smith, Ogle, Wells and Ridley in his tire tracks. Ridley hoped to move forward early on as he challenged Wells for the fourth position but was thwarted in his initial attempt on lap 2.
Knuckles built a sizable lead in short order as he pulled ahead by a straightaway over the battle between Smith and Ogle for the runner-up spot. Ogle made an attempt to take second away from Smith on lap 5 but was unable to make the pass. That, in turn, allowed Wells. Ridley and Hill to close in.
On lap 10 it was Ridley who made a move as he took fourth away from Wells. However, Wells returned the favor just three laps later. Then disaster would strike Ridley, who entered the night as the SoNats Bonus Series points leader, when brought a caution on lap 15 as he slowed with a flat tire.
A major development occurred during that caution period as the leading car of Knuckles pulled into the pit area with smoke billowing from under the hood of his machine. A ruptured oil line eventually cost him a chance at scoring his second Super Late Model win of the season at Tazewell.
Another major development took place on lap 17 when a crash involving top-10 runners Ogle, Hill, Barton and Neubert took place on the front straightaway. All of those cars with the exception of Neubert’s fell victim to attrition either at that moment or shortly thereafter.
Just prior to the lap 17 caution Wells had taken the lead of the race away from Smith. However, the yellow flag negated his move as the lap was not completed. But on lap 19 Wells once again passed by Smith to grab the top spot on the leader board. And this time the move stuck.
Meanwhile, David Payne, who suffered a flat tire during qualifying and had to start well back in the pack as a result, took advantage of a good running car and the misfortune of others to move himself into the top-5.
After his move to secure the lead, Wells controlled the race as he drove on to his first victory of the 2018 campaign.
Feature Finish: 1. Eric Wells, 2. Brian Smith, 3. David Payne, 4. Chicky Barton, 5. Clyde Overholt, 6. Matt Tharp, 7. Jeff Neubert, 8. Joey Standridge, 9. Mitchell Childress, 10. Mitchell Burke, 11. Brad Dyer, 12. Lynn Leach, 13. Chad Ogle, 14. Vic Hill, 15. Steve Smith, 16. Aaron Ridley, 17. Dakotah Knuckles, 18. Layne Clifton, 19. Eric Webber