LAVONIA, GA – A fast car, an outside-pole starting spot and a smooth racetrack underneath him. Michael Brown was poised for victory.
Brown’s first career victory with the Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series Saturday afternoon didn’t come easy. He was forced to make the move around first-time Super Late Model starter Garrett Smith, who started on the pole, and wheel his McLeod Racing #24-D around the Lavonia Speedway through lapped traffic to claim the $5,000 top prize.
“Everything kinda played out in our favor today with the redraw and day racing, but we really had a good car,” Brown said. “I felt good about that.”
His well-handling car certainly showed on the track, as he took off at the drop of the green, chasing leader Smith and applying substantial pressure from behind as the laps clicked off.
Smith, a 17-year-old former Crate Late Model racer from Eatonton, GA, knew some fierce competition was knocking on his door at the head of the 22-car field, but stayed strong and held his own right up there with the big guns.
“Honestly, I was trying to stay as calm as possible, but it still gets to you a little bit because I didn’t think I’d be up there in my first Super [Late Model] race,” Smith said.
Smith continued to maneuver through lapped traffic with veteran-like skill, even holding strong through a few restarts before the halfway point. One of which came after the second in a series of unfortunate events for pre-Lavonia Xtreme Series points leader Kyle Strickler, who made hard contact with the Turns 3-4 wall after a restart on Lap 16. Strickler was in his backup car after first getting into the wall in the exact same spot in his Heat Race, ultimately leading to a hook off the track and 19th-place result in the Feature.
As the field came around for the halfway mark, Smith fell victim to a problem he discovered a few laps prior. With Brown right on his heels, he missed the bottom getting into Turn 3, opening the door for Brown to sneak underneath and make the pass.
“About Lap 15, I burnt my brakes up. After that, I just kept drifting up the track more and more. So, that’s one thing I need to learn for my next super race,” Smith said.
“He just kept skating [up the track] more and more, and finally he skated enough to where I could shoot the gap without making a whole bunch of contact,” Brown said of the move for the lead. “We were just kinda biding our time. I could see him getting looser and looser and I could see his right-rear tire under caution, and I knew it was a lot worse than mine.”
With Brown now out front and a clear track ahead of him, it was his race to lose. Until Smith’s right-rear tire wore through and brought out caution as he slowed on the front stretch with two laps remaining.
A hungry Kenny Collins and Daulton Wilson lined up behind Brown before the green-white-checkered restart, looking for a mistake from the leader to pounce on and steal the show. But Brown kept his cool and led the field back around to the checkered, claiming victory for his native Lancaster, SC.
Although he crossed the stripe in 11th, Smith had earned the respect of his fellow competitors for his efforts in his Series debut.
“That kid is one heck of a driver,” Brown said, recalling his battle with Smith. “He’s got a really bright future in the sport, for sure.”
Collins crossed runner-up, marking his best career finish with the Xtreme Series. He chased Brown in traffic for several laps before the final caution, but said despite his confidence in the car, he did not want to see a fate similar to that of Smith for himself.
“I thought we were as good as [Brown] for a long time, and then when we went by [Smith], it was apparent that he was better than us,” Collins said. “We went soft on tires, and I was really just trying to make sure we didn’t blow the tire and make all 40 laps.”
Defending Xtreme Series champion Chris Madden, of Gray Court, SC, ran solidly inside the top-five the entire race, getting the advantage on the outside of Daulton Wilson, of Fayetteville, NC, in the final laps to claim third and regain the points lead. Wilson hung on for fourth, while Dalton Cook, of Columbus, GA, brought home a top-five in his Series debut.
The Drydene Xtreme DIRTcar Series action pauses for the holiday break before returning to action at Cherokee Speedway on Jan. 9. Catch all the action at the track or live on DIRTVision!
Feature (40 Laps) 1. 24D-Michael Brown [$5,000]; 2. 48-Kenny Collins [$2,500]; 3. 44-Chris Madden [$1,700]; 4. 18D-Daulton Wilson [$1,400]; 5. 44D-Dalton Cook [$1,200]; 6. 421-Anthony Sanders [$1,000]; 7. 1C-Chad Thrash [$800]; 8. 102-Stephen Segars [$700]; 9. 99-Shun Thomas [$600]; 10. 57-Adam Yarbrough [$550]; 11. 10-Garrett Smith [$500]; 12. P4-John Price [$500]; 13. 2-Matthew Nance [$500]; 14. 44W-David Webster [$500]; 15. 33-Chuck Smith [$500]; 16. 66-Mark Dysart [$500]; 17. 99M-JR Moseley [$500]; 18. O3-David Yandle [$500]; 19. 8-Kyle Strickler [$500]; 20. 17V-Tim Vance [$500]; 21. 88-Trent Ivey [$500]; 22. 84-Jay Sessoms [$500] Hard Charger: 99-Shun Thomas[+6]