Late Model Turkey Shootout 100 at Thunder Bowl Speedway: Report and Results

1 December 1997


Valdosta, GA - Jack Pennington of Winston, GA was in the right place at the
right time in his Barry Wright/Clements/Partain & Ward One Stop Racing
Chevrolet Monte Carlo to take the win and the $10,000 first place check in
the ninth annual Turkey Shootout at Thunderbowl Speedway in Valdosta, GA.
The win, the first for Pennington in the new Barry Wright built Monte Carlo
came at the expense of early leaders Ed Basey and
Kenny Merchant. 

        Basey, of Evans, GA, the fast qualifier in Friday evening time
trials in the in the Barry Wright/Clements/Thomas Automotive Chevrolet,
took the lead on the drop of the green and quickly began to open a gap
between himself and Merchant in the Warrior/Clements/J.D. Caver Ford
Mustang. Pennington rode in third with Ronnie Johnson fourth and Earl
Pearson Jr. fifth as the first of fourteen caution flags flew on just
the second lap. 

        Basey soon reopened the lead to almost a straightaway by lap 9 as
he began to lap slower cars. Back in the pack Mike Head was making a move
towards the front as he went inside Mickey Rose. Basey almost spun in turn
two on lap ten as he was lapping a backmarker, but such was his lead that
he was able to recover without any challenge being made. On lap 11 Pearson
jumped inside Johnson to take fourth in turn three but otherwise the top
five remained the same with Basey continuing to open the lead. 

        On lap 26 Pearson slipped inside Pennington on the backstretch and
took over third as the two cars entered turn three.  Cautions continued to
fly with regularity, but on each restart Basey quickly jumped out to big
lead. By the halfway point of the 100 lap event Basey was still leading
with Merchant second, Pearson third followed by
Pennington and Johnson.

        On lap 62 Mark Miner and Mike Head got together coming out of turn
four with Miner spinning to bring out yet another yellow. By this point
only nine cars were left on the lead lap, such was the pace being set by
leader Basey. On the restart as the cars came around to complete the 63rd
lap, Pennington swung low out of turn four and powered
past Pearson to regain the third spot. Although Pearson tried to retake
third on the next two restarts he was unable to complete the pass and
settled back into fourth.

        On lap 79, on a restart Basey suddenly slowed in turn two with a
flat right rear tire. As officials had already decided that due to 83 laps
being run under caution at this point to refuel the cars, Basey was able to
change the tire, refuel and rejoin the race in eighth place, the last car
on the lead lap. 

        Merchant now inherited the lead, and he set a torrid pace, opening
a 5 car length gap between himself and Pennington in just two laps after
the restart. Then on lap 90 a large cloud of smoke emerged from the flying
Ford, and Merchant was forced to the pits and out of the race with a blown
engine. Pennington now took over the point and he too
found the front to be the fastest position as he was able to pick his own
line around the track without any lapped traffic in the way and he soon had
a three car length lead over Pearson, who was up to second. Johnson was
running in third with Dennis Franklin having moved into fourth and Basey
moving up to fifth on the restart.

        Pennington led the remaining laps to take the win, with Earl
Pearson Jr finishing second and Ronnie Johnson third. Franklin took fourth
at the checkers with Basey fifth, Leland Prewitt sixth and Mike Head coming
home seventh, the final car on the lead lap.

        "The car was tight at the start of the race," Pennington commented
later. "I hated to lose third to Earl (Pearson) but then as the race went
on the track came to me and I was able to get back by him. I was just in
the right place at the right time when the two others fell out."

        There were 26 Late Models on hand for the event, which suffered
through a 24 hour rain delay, with heat wins going to Basey, Merchant and
Pennington. The race took 2 hours and ten minutes to complete with 14
cautions for a total of 88 laps run under the yellow.

Pos Car     Driver                      Hometown                Laps
1.    01    Jack Pennington             Winston, GA              100
2.     7    Earl Pearson Jr             Jacksonville, FL         100
3.     5    Ronnie Johnson              Chattanooga, TN          100
4.     2    Dennis Franklin             Gaffney, SC              100
5.     4    Ed Basey                    Evans, GA                100
6.    11    Leland Prewitt              Savannah, GA             100
7.    54    Mike Head                   Ellenberg, GA            100
8.    81    Lonnie Roberts              Sparks, GA                99
9.    98    Pete Broughton              Wimauma, FL               99
10.   32    Larry Blankenship           Mooresville, NC           98

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel

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