MILTON — Drivers from across the United States and Australia competed March 10 for the 30-pound Gator as the Lucas Oil Southern States Midgets Series held its annual Gator Dirt Nationals at Southern Raceway. Competitive fields in all four classes put on shows for two nights with Saturday’s races for the giant 30-pound gator. Taking home gators on Saturday were Chet Gehrke of the Midgets division, Jimmy Young for the 600 Mini Sprints, Jonathon Joiner for the 604 Crate Late Models and Reese Nowotarski for the Slingshots.
In the Midget feature Chett Gehrke and Chase McDermand battled it out for the Gator. After McDermand almost lapped the entire field on Friday night, Gehrke made the necessary adjustments and stayed ahead of McDermand for the entire feature to claim the Gator. Cody Reed brought out the first two cautions of the race on laps two and three before debris brought out two more cautions. After McDermand, Reed Salony finished third followed by Andy Baugh and Jesse Vermillion to round out the top five. Friday night, McDermand stood out finishing a couple of seconds ahead of Gehrke followed by Baugh, Otto Scrape, and Ryan Fowler. Fowler, the former Open Wheeled Modified Champion as Southern, received the opportunity to work with a midget team for the first time.
600 Mini Sprint Division
In the 600 Mini Sprint feature Saturday night, Jim Young show dominated the race. Young’s closest competitor was Robby Hoffman, who finished second on both nights. Saturday night, Young had to wait to put his hands on the Gator as a six-car pileup blocked the entire track on the first lap leading to a complete restart. Tyler Walker, running third at the time, got loose coming off of turn four and his spin resulted in five more cars crashing to bring out the red flag. No one was injured in the accident. The delay did nothing to disrupt the rhythm Young had found Saturday. Rounding out the top five Saturday were Micha McCall, Tim Nye, and Zack Corski. Friday night belonged to McCall, who started from the tail end of the field, to take the lead on lap 13 passing Robby Hoffman. Rounding out the top five Friday were Young, Walker, and David Hall.
604 Crate Late Models Division
In the 604 Crate Late Models, a couple of early cautions shook up the entire field. Chris O’Connor and Jonathon Joiner immediately took a big lead at the drop of the green flag but saw their lead disappear when Tucker Byrd brought out the first caution. On the subsequent restart, Kevin Jernigan came to a stop on the back stretch for caution two, while a second incident involving Benny Boudreaux, Blake Martin, and Matt Chavers occurred in turn four. Restart number three on lap three involved the leaders. Joiner got a great run off of turn two on the high side and was challenging O’Connor in turn three. As both cars entered turn four, drivers made contact leading to O’Connor spinning and bringing out the third straight caution. O’Connor had to restart at the tail end of the field and Joiner was sent to the very back for causing the spin leaving both drivers 17 laps to get back to the front. Joiner picked his spots and managed to take the lead from James Ward in the waning laps of the feature, while O’Connor came home in third. Martin and Boudreaux rounded out the top five.
In the Slingshot division, Washington State’s Reese Nowotarski dominated from the start of Friday and Saturday’s features. Nowotarski finished both features will almost a straightaway advantage both nights ahead of Abby Cauley. Rounding out Saturday’s top five were Levi Nelson, Brent Cartwright, and Dakota Fox. On Friday it was Cartwright, Fox, and Keegan Wright rounding out the top five.
Next weekend Southern Raceway will host the Southern All-Star Super Late Models who will be featured March 16 and 17 in the 2nd Annual Spring Break Bash. This two-day racing show will also feature racing in the Pure Stock, Street Stock, Open-Wheel Modifieds, Vintage, 602 NeSmith Sportsman and Stinger divisions. Southern Raceway is located at 9359 Nichols Lake Rd. Gates open at 4 p.m. and racing starts at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Admission is $10 for adults, military and seniors is $9, students (13-18) $7, youth (6-12) $5 and children 5 and under are free. Please note that sprint and late model night are extra. Visit Southern Raceway on the web at www.southernraceway.com or on Facebook @southernraceway.
March 9 Heat Results
600 Mini Sprints
Heat 1Tyler Walker Rick Barrengare Zack Corski Bobby Z Tim Nye
Heat 2Jim Young Robby Hoffman Paige Moss Freddie McCall Jr. David Hall
Heat 1Jesse Vermillion Chase McDermond Reed Salony Andy Baugh Otto Scrape
Heat 2Blake Vermillion Rohan Beasley Ryan Fowler Paige Moss Bob Jordan
Heat 1Reese Nowotarski Abby Cauley Keegan Wright Dakota Fox Brent Cartwright
604 Crate Late Model QualifyingChris O’Connor 15.570 seconds Jonathon Joiner 15.577 Kyle Bryant 16.393 James Ward 16.585 Matt Chavers 16.585
604 Crate Late Model
Heat 1Chris O’Connor James Ward Kyle Bryant Matt Chavers Jonathon Joiner
March 10 Heat Results
600 Mini Sprints
Heat 1Jimmy Young Robby Hoffman Tyler Walker Tim Nye Freddie McCall
Heat 2Bobby Z Zack Corski Eddie Moss Ray Lynne Moss Dirk Miller
Heat 1Chase McDermond Chett Gehrke Andy Baugh Jesse Vermillion Otto Scrape
Heat 2Reed Salony Frank Beck Blake Vermillion Cody Beard Paige Moss
Heat 1Brent Cartwright Kyndall Kimmons Dakota Fox Lillie Strehlow
Heat 2Reese Nowotarski Levi Nelson Keegan Wright Abby Cauley (DNS)