BACK IN BLACK
It accompanied the lone checkered flag Frank Deiny, Jr. claimed in 2011. And it shrouded Deiny’s first victory of 2012 Saturday night…
A dramatic night at Motor Mile Speedway ended with a contentious climax in the Bull & Bones Late Model Stock Car nightcap.
… It was just a bump-and-run. But couple an aggressive move with the backstory of a simmering rivalry and a strained relationship between a pair of Late Model heavyweights, and the result is a calamitous sequence of events that began to unfold 12 laps from the finish of the Shelor Motor Mile/Cavalier Supply finale.
The race was physical from the outset. Three cautions preceded the fourth yellow of the evening on lap 32, precipitated by contact between frontrunners Derrick Lancaster and Josh Berry, who tangled while battling for first out of turn four. The evasive chain-reaction moves behind the leaders initiated a single-car spin further back in the field.
As Lancaster paced the proceeding 11 circuits uncontested, Lee Pulliam marched into contention. Pulliam entered the final 100-lap feature on a three-race winning streak, having orchestrated a dominating victory over Tommy Lemons Jr. in the opening contest. Mandated to start sixth per Motor Mile Speedway’s Two Wins-in-a-Row Policy, Pulliam spent much of the early portion of the race patiently rallying to the front of the field.
Pulliam eclipsed Lancaster for the top spot on lap 51, and for the next 27 laps, Pulliam coasted out front with Lancaster in pursuit.
The event’s fifth caution would change the complexion of the race. Deiny had maneuvered into third prior to the yellow, and as the restart converged the field, the driver of the No. 5 was positioned directly behind Pulliam.
White-knuckle racing action ensued. As the leaders barreled into turn one, Deiny offered a tap to the rear of Pulliam’s No.1. An identical bump in turn four forced Pulliam into the second groove and directly into the path of Lancaster, who was maintaining second place despite his disadvantaged position on the high side of the track.
The close-quarter action continued as the lead trio crossed the line on lap 89.
Viewpoints on what happened next vary. But camera four, positioned on the back straightaway, captured the definitive angle.
As Pulliam’s lead machine rounded the apex of turns one and two, he incurred another significant shove from Deiny. This time, Pulliam didn’t save it. Pulliam’s No.1 abruptly snapped loose, skating up and into Lancaster’s No. 25, positioned at Pulliam’s right rear quarter panel on the top of the race track.
The contact punted Lancaster into the outside retaining wall. For a fleeting moment, the top three were three wide.
Lancaster ricocheted off the wall, pinching Pulliam into the No. 44 of Dylan Lupton. The big one began to unfold in a sea of sparks and a shower of car parts.
Two of the top three contenders were relegated to the garage in the aftermath. At least five cars were involved, and the carnage of the event’s sixth and final yellow warranted the red flag.
The fiasco staged a sprint to the finish, with Deiny tallying his first win since July 23, 2011. The wily veteran offered little in the way of an explanation about the contact that sparked the collision.
“From my perspective, I was leading when the wreck happened and the caution came out, so I really don’t know what happened,” Deiny stated. “Had a great time tonight. I saved my car in the first race, and I had something to fight with in this race. We battled real hard.”
The move was questionable. Dirty? Maybe. Penalizable? No, determined track officials.
“Everybody’s talking about it. Why did he not get the black flag?” questioned Lancaster, whose impressive showing ended with a dismal fifteenth-place finish. “He didn’t get him once. He got him twice. He got him plum sideways, and then Lee [Pulliam] tagged me and got me up into the wall.
“That’s Frank [Deiny] for you….he’s a bull in a china closet.”
Pulliam, who finished the finale fourteenth, declined to comment.
For an unbiased, objective perspective, enter Josh Berry. The Late Model points leader netted a runner-up effort in the nightcap; in eight starts this season, Berry boasts eight top five finishes.
“It was just hard racing all night,” Berry said. “My comment is…you’ll have that in big-time auto racing.”
Tommy Lemons Jr. rounded out the top three.
It’s been a disappointing season for Deiny. The patriarch of the FDJ Motorsports juggernaut has struggled at the .416-mile oval; Deiny had notched just two top-five finishes in seven races prior to his breakthrough win Saturday night. Deiny is currently scored third in the standings, 64 markers behind Berry.
IN OTHER DIVISIONS
COLLISION PLUS LIMITED SPORTSMAN
The top groove—no man’s land at Motor Mile Speedway.
For Bryan Reedy, it was a path to the promised land.
A stunning top-side pass with 12 laps to go in the 50-circuit Collision Plus Limited Sportsman feature propelled Reedy past the pair of leaders and into victory lane for his first career win in the division.
It was a veteran move… executed by a rookie.
“We were up front, and there was an opening on the outside. They kept trying to go to the inside, so I thought we might as well try it; we weren’t going to get inside of them. I went up there, and it stuck.”
After two cautions dotted the opening 32 circuits of the contest, an eight-lap green flag run ushered in the most riveting laps of the race. After dominating the event, leader Karl Budzevski began to fade slightly, falling into the clutches of Kyle Dudley. As the duo scrapped for the preferred lane on the bottom of the track, Reedy was making great strides in the second groove.
The black and gold No. 17 came out of nowhere.
From a dismal ninth-place starting spot, Reedy joined the fray for first on lap 38. After eclipsing Dudley for second on the outside, Reedy muscled past Budzevski’s no. 26 down the back straightaway in a spectacular display of strength. As Reedy’s No. 17 rocketed to the lead, Budzevski’s machine snapped loose in turn three, unfurling the third caution of the evening.
Reedy forestalled the advancements of Preston McGhee and Dudley through one more caution period in the closing circuits to capture the win. McGhee and Dudley finished second and third, respectively.
It was the surprise storyline of the event, as Saturday night heralded a coming out party for Reedy and the upstart Limited Sportsman racing team. It’s been a modest start to Reedy’s maiden season in the Limited Sportsman ranks; only one top five effort preceded his breakthrough triumph. The finish vaulted the team to fifth in the Limited Sportsman points race.
“It’s huge. I grew up with my Dad running a car just like this, and we were in victory lane with him all the time,” Reedy explained. “For me to be the driver in this same spot, it means a lot to me, and I think it means a whole lot to the crew.”
NEW RIVER NISSAN MOD-4
Wayne Corprew notched his second consecutive win in the New River Nissan MOD-4 division, besting runner-up Denny Sloan and Rocky Yates.
CARPET FACTORY OUTLET STREET STOCK
It was a triumphant return for Chad Conner’s No. 53 team, winning in their first outing of the 2012 season at Motor Mile Speedway. Dr. Sheryl Carls tallied her third consecutive runner-up finish, closing to within two points of Barry Gregory in the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock division standings. Scooter Hollandsworth posted third.