By Ronald L. Jerger, Jr.
Saturday night Florence Speedway continued its 2015 season points championships with a 35 lap $2000 to win late model special. Promoters Jerry, Mona & Josh King welcomed 73 entries to compete on “The South’s Fastest ½ mile High-Banked Dirt Oval” and home of the “North/South 100” and “National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame”
Night #3 of our season long point’s battle, proved to be a night of first as the Late Models saw a 1st time heat race winner, and our Crate Late Model feature went to a long time competitor that was finally able to capture his first ever “A” main and The Hornet class followed suit as they to sported a first time ever feature winner.
In the 35 lap Late Model $2000 to win feature event, The front row starters of James Rice and Mike Meyers paced the field to the green flag, and the local favorite Rice jumped to the point with Meyers slipping back to 6th and 3rd starting Scott James grabbing 2nd as lap (1) was scored. It didn’t take long for “The Silver Shark” to devour his prey as James gobbled up Rice on lap (2). Before lap (3) was completed the 3rd running “Wildthang” Greg Johnson would spin coming off of turn four and bring out the only caution of the event. The ensuing Delaware double file restart posted James out front with James Rice and 7th starting Nick Latham in row two and Cody Mahoney and Josh Rice in row three. Latham would get by Rice for 2nd on lap (4) and pressure James for the point. Josh Rice got by brother James on lap (6) for 3rd. While 9th starting Mike Jewell making his first appearance at Florence in nearly two years moved into 5th. On lap (11) Josh Rice eased by Latham for 2nd and started pressuring James. By the halfway point (lap 18) James showed the way with Josh Rice, Latham, Jewell and Mahoney in tow. Two laps later traffic would once again come into play. James again calculated his moves as he would go high and low to get through, all the while Rice and Latham was pressuring him. Lap (25) still had James leading with Josh Rice, Latham, Mahoney and James Rice in the top five. Lap (29) would shake things up a little as Latham would get by Josh Rice for 2nd. The final five laps would once again have to be cautiously run as James once again approached traffic as a group of lead lap cars would stand between him and victory lane. “The Silver Shark” would make all the right moves as he maintained his distance over Latham. Lap (33) James would get by 10th running Johnson to finally give him a little breathing room over Latham. As the checkers waved, James gained a couple of car lengths over Latham as Josh Rice, Mahoney and James Rice completed the top five. It would be James’ 15th career Late Model “A” Main victory at Florence Speedway.
The 43 year old James was driving the DPL Consulting / James Motorsports owned Rocket/Dargie/Camaro and sponsored by Powell Leasing Services, DLP Racing, State Dock Lake Cumberland, Kay Bar C Bucking Bulls, Sparklin Acre Farms, Jerry’s Truck and Diesel Repair, Joseph Stocker and Sons and New Era Recycling.
Finishing 2nd was Latham, 3rd Josh Rice, 4th Mahoney and 5th James Rice.
The “Hard Charger” of the race with an impressive run was the #18 of Ethan Burgess of Sharonville, Ohio who started 19th and hustled his way up to 9th.
In the Time Auto Sales Modified 20 lap feature, 2014 season champion Josh Rice and Jeremy Hayes would lead the field to the green flag. Rice would shoot to the front over Hayes with Brandon Ramsey, Ryan Morton and Brandon Green in tow as lap (1) was scored. Lap (2) Morton would took 3rd from Ramsey. Lap (3) Green would get by Ramsey for 4th. The first caution of the race would fly for the spinning #25 of Brad Tanner; the restart had Rice out front with Hayes, Morton, Green and Ramsey inline. Lap (7) Morton and Green would get by Hayes for 2nd & 3rd dropping Hayes to 4th while 9th starting Billy Vaughan moved into the 5th. Lap (8) Green takes 2nd from Morton. Lap (9) Hayes takes 3rd from Morton. The halfway point (lap 10) saw the race long charge of 14th starting Larry Pickelheimer, Jr. crack the top 5 as he moved Billy Vaughan to 6th. One lap later Pickelheimer gets by Morton for 4th. Lap (12) Vaughan passes Morton for 5th. The charge for Pickelheimer would continue as he took 3rd from Hayes on lap (13). Lap (15) the 2nd and would be final caution flew for the spinning Tanner and that would disqualify him for the event. With only (5) laps remaining and Rice picking up where he left off last year, would have to prove he was the one to beat. During the lap (16) restart Vaughan would get by Hayes for 4th. Lap (17) Pickelheimer would get Green for 2nd. But Rice was just too strong as he captured his 1st feature win in 2015 and the 8th of his career at Florence Speedway.
Rice piloted the John Kuzman owned Impressive/Dickens and sported the sponsorship of Kuzman Racing, Sunesis Construction, DeCal Designs, Alexander Safety Solutions, Brewer Autobody, Extreme Sportswear, Valor Motorsports, MSR Mafia, Rice Autobody and Valvoline.
Finishing 2nd was Pickelheimer, 3rd Brandon Green, 4th Vaughan and 5th Hayes. The “Hard Charger” of the race was #56 Pickelheimer of Bethel, OH who started 14th and powered his way to 2nd.
The Crate Late Model 15 lap feature event landed long time Florence Speedway competitor Jeff “The Bluegrass Bricker” Alsip to victory lane for the first time ever. Alsip started from the outside pole position with 2014 season champion Trevor Landrum alongside. Alsip would grab the lead on lap (1) with Grant Garrison, Tom Collini, Shawn Snelling and Conner Meade in the top 5. Lap (2), Meade slid by Snelling for 4th. Lap (3) 10th starting Adam Bowman gets by Snelling for 5th. Then one lap later Snelling returns the favor. Lap (6) Meade and Bowman would get by Collini for 3rd & 4th. Before lap (7) would be scored #94 Jordan Hedger would stop on track for the first of two cautions. The restart showed Alsip leading the way and Garrison, Meade, Bowman and Collini in tow. Lap (8) Bowman passes Meade for 3rd. The final caution was thrown on lap (10) for the stopped #7 of Sean Thomas in the middle of turns 1 and 2. The final restart still posted Alsip out front and Garrison, Bowman, Meade and Collini chasing him. The 5 lap dash to the finish had Garrison gaining on Alsip while Collini got by Meade for 4th. The checkered flag flew and Alsip would not be denied his date with history.
Alsip was driving the John Webber owned Club 29/Dodge Charger, sponsored by Zimmer Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, Devin Powell & Jonathan Gadd, Heat Technologies, Jennifer Vorhis Reality, Diamond Cut Lawn care, Woodard Defensive Solutions and Bock’s Place
Finishing 2nd was Garrison, 3rd Bowman, and 4th Collini, 5th Tony Roland. The “Hard Charger” of the race was the #28 of Tony Roland of Independence, KY who started 14th and moved up to 5th.
Florence Speedway’s kicked off our 4th season of humming in the front wheel drive Hornets division. The 12 lap feature event had Willie Butler and Ottis Gibson across the front row, Lap (1) had Ottis Gibson taking the lead with 3rd starting Brandon Gibson, Jr. taking the 2nd spot, Ottis Gibson would show the way for the first six circuits until Brandon Gibson, Jr. overpowered Ottis for the point. Ottis would hound Brandon over the final (6) caution free laps, but to no avail, Brandon was first to the checkers. Brandon Gibson, Jr. while making only his 3rd ever career start here at the speedway and at only 12 years and 4 months of age became the youngest victor ever at Florence Speedway (to my recollection).
Gibson, Jr. was driving the Brandon Gibson, Sr. owned Chevy Cavalier, sponsored by Pine’s Mobile Home Village, PS Graphics, Bill’s Auto Service, Bee Cleaning, Avon and Busse Racing.
Finishing 2nd was Ottis Gibson, 3rd Butler, 4th Carson Freeman and 5th Tony Reed. The “Hard Charger” of the race was the #33s of Michael Sand who started 10th and finished in 7th.
The Pure Stock Division did not run.