National Late Model Sportsman Series Report and Results: Season Finale
3 November 1997
Brunswick, GA - Golden Isle Speedway, Brunswick, GA, the fastest track on the National Late Model Sportsman Series Southern Dirt Tour was the Host for the season ending finale, the Showdown on the Coast. After 100 laps of non stop action it was 1996 NLMS Champion Ivedent "Speedy" Lloyd Jr of Ocala, FL who drove his Koury Racing Engines/Snow Brothers Chevrolet to the checkered flag in first place and punctuated an up and down season with the biggest win of his career. Finishing in second spot was rookie Steve Jones of Milan, GA while 1995 Series Champion Skip Pannell of Albany, GA took third. Both Pannell and Jones had to run consolation races to gain a starting position in the highly competitive field.
" I can't believe that we finally did it," an elated Lloyd said, after dancing on the roof of his car in Victory Lane. "Man, this is the one we have wanted to win, and we did it. What a year, we were down and out at one point and now this, Wow!"
Lloyd started on the outside of the front row and took the lead heading into turn one . From that point on it was a question of who had the speed to catch him as he led all 100 laps and picked up a check for $12,800 including lap money, halfway leader bonus and the $2,500 bonus as the representative of East Georgia Motor Speedway in Swainsboro, GA.
Cecil Eunice of Blackshear, GA was the quickest car in time trials with a blistering lap of 18.545 seconds around the .625 mile semi-banked oval at an average speed of 121.326 mph. For "The Dinosaur" this was to be the highlight of an otherwise miserable weekend. On the first lap of his heat race, Eunice tried a little too hard going into turn one and spun the car 180 degrees coming to a stop in the middle of the track. As the pack of cars behind went both high and low to avoid, Chris Usry had no place to go and slammed head on into the stationary Eunice machine with enough force to raise his front end four feet off the ground. Eunice would spend the rest of the day and the following night repairing the car while for Usry, his race was finished.
Gary Spivey took the heat win and thus the pole for the Showdown, while Lloyd, Larry Perry and Wendell Durrance captured the wins in the three other heats to gain the top four spots in the starting field. Tracy Walden and Billy Godowns Jr won the two Consolation Races. Provisional starting positions went to Pannell, Andy Stewart and Tuck Trentham.
Gary Spivey led the field down to the green but it was Lloyd who rocketed into the lead at the drop of the green. Spivey fell into second place with Tracy Mimbs third, Durrance fourth and Mike Carter in fifth at the end of the first lap. Carter quickly made a move to the inside of Durrance on lap 2 to take fourth, only to have the move nullified by Johnny Lieupo spinning into the turn four wall and rebounding onto the track. Everyone behind him began to take avoiding action, and Eunice tried to go low, only to find his way blocked and he hit the tires protecting the end of pit wall hard, once again severely damaging the front end of his car. For Lieupo and Eunice, it was the end of the race, while others who suffered damage included Jones, Stewart and Trentham.
As the race got back underway the fastest car on the track seemed to be that of Billy Godowns who was picking off cars at the rate of one or two a lap as he made a charge towards the front from his 18th starting spot. On lap 8 he slid below Johnny Collins to take tenth and was soon putting the pressure on 1997 NLMS Points Champion Gene Maine for ninth. On the 12th lap Durrance went to the inside of Mimbs in turn three to take over third and the move caused Mimbs to slide high, slipping him back to eighth before he could recover. Gene Ross was on the move, and by lap 20 he had moved into fifth place and then on lap 22 he went to the inside of Carter in turn three to take fourth.
At the 25 lap point it was Lloyd on the point with Spivey second, Durrance third, Ross fourth and Carter fifth. Behind the leaders there were plenty of good battles all up and down the order as cars fought for every spot. Godowns had moved up to sixth with Maine now in seventh and Mike Mishoe running eighth. Rounding out the top ten at the quarter-point of the race were Collins and Henry Carter.
On lap 31 as the cars came off turn four, Spivey's engine seized on him causing a massive pile-up on the front straight that included the leading cars of Maine, Godowns, Durrance, Mishoe and Ross. With the track completely blocked, the red flag came out to allow safety crews to clean up the carnage, but all the drivers were able to walk away from their cars uninjured. Obviously impatient with the time the crews were taking to attend to his car, "The Lumberjack" Durrance simply picked up the rear of Mishoe's car and moved it away from the front of his machine so he could better evaluate the damage. Of those involved, He would be the only car able to continue after some repairs in the pits.
With so many of the front runners out of the race it was now Lloyd in the lead with Carter on his bumper as the green flag flew again. Collins was up to third with Everett Phillips and Jones rounding out the top five. Pannell was in sixth followed by John Rankin, Ricky Brant, Dennis Smith and Stewart. Lloyd showed the strength of his car once again as he was able to open a small lead as the cars came off turn two and flashed down the backstraight. Jones and Pannell worked their way around Phillips and quickly closed on Collins to set up a spirited three-way battle for third.
At the halfway point the cars were stopped on the front straight for crews to make adjustments and refuel before the second 50-lap segment commenced. At the halfway mark the order was Lloyd, Carter, Collins, Pannell, Jones, Phillips, Rankin, Stewart, Joe Kump, and Mimbs in the top ten.
When the green came out for the second half, Jones slipped inside Pannell on the back stretch and took over fourth again as they headed into turn three. Durrance slid past Kump to gain a spot and begin his move towards the front. Lloyd and Carter were doing battle for the lead, but Lloyd's strength getting out of turn two was obvious as he would pull out away from Carter on each lap and soon had a three car length lead. Behind the leaders Collins, Jones and Pannell were still involved in a heated battle for third. On lap 69 the battle had carried them up to Carter and Collins went to the inside in turns 3 and 4 to grab second place. The next lap Jones took third away from Carter and Pannell followed him through. Jones now began working on Collins and on lap 71 he powered past him on the back straight to take over second. Jones pulled away slowly and soon was closing down the gap between himself and Lloyd. Collins was not finished, he soon closed back up to the rear of Jones and on lap 78 he retook the second spot. Unfortunately for Collins, with just 9 laps left in the race his rear end let go and he was forced to the pits and out of the battle. Jones and Pannell fought hard for the second spot behind Lloyd with the rookie able to hold off the veteran.
Making a late charge through the leaders was Ricky Brant, who with 10 laps left was running tenth. Within the last ten laps Brant was able to move up to fourth place at the checkers. With two laps left Durrance brought out the last of seven cautions when he spun in turn three thus setting up a green, white, checker finish. Lloyd was too strong for Jones on the restart and took home his first win of the 1997 National Late Model Sportsman Series season. Jones, Pannell Brant and Carter rounded out the top 5 with Trentham, Mimbs, Kump, Rankin and Maine the rest of the top 10.
Lloyd's victory made him the ninth different winner in 16 Southern Dirt Tour events and closed out the series most successful year to date. 1998 promises to be even better with more drivers and teams opting to run "The Most Competitive Series in the Southeast".
Golden Isle Speedway - NLMS - Provisional results for the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Showdown on the Coast: Ps.Ql.No. Driver , Car Laps -- -- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- ----- 1 21 Ivedent Lloyd, Ocala FL Koury/Snow Brothers Chev 100 2 0 Steve Jones, Milan GA Quality Saw Bearden Oil Chev 100 3 HP3 Skip Pannell, Albany GA Seabolt & Leslie Dyno Chev 100 4 44 Ricky Brant, Pooler GA Atlas Sand & Gravel Chev 100 5 5 Wiley McDaniel, Macon GA Robertson Racing Chev 100 6 42 Tuck Trentham, Deland FL Bennett Brothers Chev 100 7 11 Tracy Mimbs, Dublin GA Flexsteel/KFC/F Helton Chev 100 8 721 Joe Kump, Hollywood FL A-1 Specialty Chev 100 9 53 John Rankin, Ocala FL Rankin Construction Chev 100 10 D21 Dennis Smith, Jacksonville FL Holliman Heat & AirChev 100 11 32 Wendell Durrance, Gainesville FL Bill's Timber Chev 100 12 75 Andy Stewart, Evans GA Wendy's Auto/BFI/Howe RE Chev 100 13 D28 Russell O'Quinn, Brunswick GA Morris Drake RacingChev 99 14 2 Tracy Walden, Louisville GA Infiltrator Systems Chev 93 15 2x4 Johnny Collins, Jacksonville FL Castrol GTX Chev 91 16 201 Gene Maine, Quitman GA Ives Racing Chev 85 17 10 Lee Jackson, Brooklet GA Mallard Auto/Bounty HousChev 77 18 33 Gene Ross, Lake Park GA Cauthan Const/Scruggs Chev 74 19 46 Everett Phillips, Lake City FL Everett Custom SrvChev 54 20 28 Henry Carter, Swainsboro GA Mimbs Farms Chev 53 21 3t Mike Mishoe, Nahunta GA Little's Paints Chev 39 22 20 Billy Godowns, Louisville GA Godowns Farm Chev 31 23 3 Gary Spivey, Jacksonville FL Wiggins Racing Chev 31 24 22 Cecil Eunice, Blackshear GA Norman Pont/Ace Pole Chev 1 25 112 Johnny Lieupo, Valdosta, GA Lieupo Motorsports Chev 1 26 P21 Larry Perry, Lake City FL SMC Trucking Chev 1 Time of Race : 1 hour 5.6 minutes Lap Leaders : Lloyd 1-100 Cautions : 7 Track Length : 0.6250 Miles
John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel