The Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series headed to the Sunshine State to contest a pair of feature races for the weekend at Southern Raceway. The Friday night event at the Milton, FL track featured contact that led to a late race pass for the lead. At the end of the evening it was Gr.R. Smith who scored the victory in a race shown live by FloRacing.com. The North Carolina driver earned $3,000 for his efforts.
A total of 23 cars were entered in competition.
Joseph Joiner earned the pole position for the main event by leading the way in Group A qualifying as he topped G.R. Smith, Rusty Schlenk, Tristan Seely, and Leon Henderson.
Defending Southern All Stars champion Billy Franklin was fastest in Group B and overall with a lap of 14.434 seconds around the 3/8 mile clay oval. He beat out Ryan Crane, Payton Freeman, Dean Carpenter and Austin Franklin.
The top-5 from each qualifying group were locked into the feature.
Garrett Smith outran Chad Thrash and Collin Shipley to win the first B-main of the night then Brandon Carpenter defeated Mike Lane and Allen Ashley in the second B-main.
At the start of the 30-lap feature it was Joiner who went to the early lead with Franklin, Smith, Crane and Schlenk trailing. Smith quickly took second away from Franklin as the cars completed their second lap.
Joiner began working slower traffic by the fourth lap which allowed Smith to close right to the rear spoiler of the front runner. Just behind, Crane and Franklin fought for third on lap 10 with Franklin holding the spot.
A lap 11 yellow flag for Luke Bennett slowed the pace and bunched the field for a restart. When the green flag waved, Freeman bolted into the top-5 just before another caution flag was displayed when Garrett Smith spun.
On the lap 12 restart Smith threw a slide job on Joiner and briefly took the lead in turn one but Joiner was able to return the favor by crossing over and regaining the lead on the back stretch.
Disaster struck a couple of the top-10 runners on lap 16 when Dean Carpenter was turned sideways on the front stretch then collected Crane. The Carpenter car rolled over and ended up on its roof as a result of the mishap but the drivers were reported to be uninjured.
By lap 20, Smith had pulled to the rear of Joiner’s car and was in hot pursuit. One lap later, Smith made his move to the inside of Joiner. Contact between the two cars forced the early race leader up the track and opened the door for Smith to grab the lead.
Over the closing laps, Smith was able to hold Joiner off in the race for the checkered flag.
“It feels good,” Smith said in victory lane. “We struggled with this car at the beginning of the year and we’ve been working on it hard. We needed one to get going. I love coming here and I love all the fans. This is really a hidden gem.”
Regarding the contact with Joiner, Smith was apologetic.
“I want to apologize,” the winner said. “His crew guys knew where to be. I slid him one time and I cleared him and then he kind of knew where to go to protect that line. I was getting such good runs on him and I saw him getting free, like I said, I tried to get in there and I got on the binders but it was just one of those racing deals.”
For his part, Joiner was disappointed in the outcome but took the result in stride.
“I don’t know if the door was open but he opened it,” Joiner replied. “It was just close racing.”
Feature Finish: 1. G.R. Smith, 2. Joseph Joiner, 3. Billy Franklin, 4. Brandon Carpenter, 5. Payton Freeman, 6. Collin Shipley, 7. Austin Franklin, 8. Mark Dodson, 9. Chase Wilson