Both the Northern and Southern divisions of the Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Series descended upon the Ponderosa Speedway on Friday night to contest the Pete Abel Memorial. After a fast paced night of racing on a track that had been made heavy from rain earlier in the day, it would be Mike Marlar who would emerge victorious following the Chris Tilley-promoted feature race. The Winfield, Tennessee driver drove his Rocket Chassis to the win and took a first prize reward of $10,000 from the Junction City, Kentucky facility.
A total of 24 cars were signed in for competition.
Hudson O’Neal was fastest in Group A qualifying when he toured the 3/8 mile clay oval in 12.784 seconds to beat out Spencer Hughes, Zack Dohm, Devin Gilpin and Jason Jameson.
Jensen Ford led Group B time-trials with an effort of 12.757 seconds besting Ricky Thornton Jr., Mike Marlar, Jared Hawkins and Dustin Linville.
Hudson O’Neal was the winner of the night’s first heat race when he topped Zack Dohm, Jason Jameson and Jason Ratliff while Spencer Hughes took the second preliminary ahead of Michael Chilton, Devin Gilpin and Scott James.
Mike Marlar outran Dustin Linville, Darrell Lanigan and Jensen Ford to win the third heat just before Tyler Erb defeated David Webb, Jared Hawkins and Dustin Nobbe in the fourth and final heat.
Tristan Chamberlain, Rod Carter Jr, Ricky Thornton Jr and Vic Hill transferred to the feature out of the lone B-main race.
At the start of the 50-lap feature, O’Neal jumped to the early lead with Marlar, Erb, Linville and Hughes trailing. Erb drove around Marlar to grab second on the second circuit while Hughes took fourth away from Linville one lap later.
Chilton began to move forward by passing Linville for fifth on lap 4. Soon afterward, Chilton led a pack that consisted of Linville, Dohm, Lanigan and Jameson as those cars fought for positions 5-9.
O’Neal continued to show the way with Erb giving chase as the race worked its way toward the halfway point. When the feature did reach the 25-lap mark, officials stopped the event to allow crew members to bring new helmets or additional tear-offs to their drivers to help combat the mud being thrown up for the track that had been made tacky by rain earlier in the day.
During the red flag period, then second-running Erb came to the hot pit area for work to be done on his car and would have to restart for the tail of the field.
A further delay was caused just before the race was about to resume when a bank of lights over turns one and two went out. Once the track was again illuminated, the high speed action returned.
Just after the resumption, Marlar seized on an opportunity. As the cars roared down the backstretch and toward turn three, Marlar dove to the inside line underneath O’Neal. Some contact was made between the two machines but both drivers were up to the task and continued on. However, Marlar now had the race lead with O’Neal left to chase.
Ratliff and Thornton spun on lap 29 to bring out a caution. On the ensuing restart, Jameson bolted into the fifth position and looked to gain even more spots. Over the next several laps the top-6 of Marlar, O’Neal, Hughes, Jameson, Dohm and Erb were evenly spaced out and logging laps on the super fast track.
Things turned sour for third-running Hughes on lap 37 when a broken J-bar forced him to stop on the track bringing out the final yellow flag of the night. Just after that restart, the most intense battle on the speedway that between Erb and Chilton as they exchanged the fifth and sixth positions multiple times.
But in the end, it was Mike Marlar who would sail under the checkered flag to collect the win.
Feature Finish: 1. Mike Marlar, 2. Hudson O’Neal, 3. Jason Jameson, 4. Zack Dohm, 5. Michael Chilton, 6. Tyler Erb, 7. Scott James, 8. Darrell Lanigan, 9. Jared Hawkins, 10. Justin Ratliff, 11. Dustin Nobbe, 12. Tristan Chamberlain, 13. Spencer Hughes, 14. David Webb, 15. Ricky Thornton Jr., 16. Dustin Linville, 17. Chris Combs, 18. Devin Gilpin, 19. Jensen Ford, 20. Ted Nobbe, 21. Rod Carter Jr., 22. Vic Hill