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Saturday, July 19 - Today was going to be the only diversion from the original game plan. Racing at Screven Speedway looked iffy for today so the plan was changed to head north through the mountains of Northern Georgia into the southern end of the Volunteer state of Tennessee. The day was gorgeous with temperatures in the high 90’s (it was hot but I don’t have to tell you all that do I) and the drive was beautiful through the mountains of north Georgia The Cleveland Speedway was our objective, a 1/3 mile high banked clay oval east of Chattanooga where the Southern All Stars (SAS) would be competing tonight along with 5 other support divisions of racing. We arrived at Cleveland around six and placed our blanket down in the upper area of the wooden granstand with many weathered boards with stretched the entire length of the homestretch and into turn one. The track itself sits right alongside Route 11 with the backstretch not more than 75 yards from the highway. It is surrounded by concrete walls from turn 1 through turn 4 both inside and outside with a steel guardrail the length of the homestretch on the outside the barrier of choice. The main pit area is located behind turn three and some pits for the smaller vehicles located in the infield.
The thing I don’t understand about the southern style of racing is their insistance of running multi classes of their local divisions with small fields along with a special traveling group all on the same night. And in Cleveland’s case running heats for every class in addition to their features and not starting the actual racing until after 8:30. To their credit once underway they moved everything along quickly as possible but it is like the old analogy of trying to stuff ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag. It is just too much!!! First up were two heats for the 11 A Hobby cars on hand followed by time trials for the super late models of the SAS sanction with a good field of 42 making the trip. Brad Neat out of Kentucky was the last driver out for time trials and set the fast time in dramatic fashion to the tune of 13.844 seconds on the third mile oval. A dozen limited crates (limited late models) took time next before two heat races for the B hobby class field of 10 were spun off. This was followed by three consies for the SAS boys taking four qualifiers from each to join the 10 already locked into the starting field by the time trials. There would be two provisionals added to produce a starting field of 24 for tonight’s 50 lap, $5000 to win main event.
But we were not done qualifying yet as 10 pony stocks ran two heats, the limited crates ran two heats in addition to their time trials and last but not least the front wheel drives ran two heats for their 10 car field. It was already past 10:30 with the qualifying was finally completed. The 20 lap A Hobby feature rolled to the post at 10:40 with Tanner Wertz the class of the field winning his 11th feature of the year. It was 11:02 when the super late models sanctioned by SAS took the green flag with Dale McDowell taking the early lead from the second spot. He looked strong and led up to lap 24 when a tangle occured in front of him with several cars running near the back of the field involved. McDowell was unable to avoid the pileup and became one of the cars involved and ruined his chances at victory on this evening. We had to chuckle as a loud mouth to the left of us who had been betting with an older couple on every race during the evening had given the older man 2 to 1 odds and the rest of the field for a $5 bet with him taking Dale McDowell. The older man was reluctant in taking the bet and the younger guy got louder and louder. Finally the older man took the bet and when McDowell wrecked and dropped out silence reigned from the loud mouth and a $10 bill was handed over his shoulder to the older man. It was quite funny!!!
At this point, Jimmy Owens billed as the nightmare from Newport, took the lead and held it the rest of the distance weaving his way through lap traffic with Brad Neat pulling close on occasion but never to be considered a big threat. California’s Eric Jacobsen, pulling off the Southern Nationals tour and towing here instead ran a strong third on the evening with Rick Rogers fourth and Jaime Perry rounding out the top five with the checker waving at 11:30. There were still four features to go and even though Allan likes to see a complete show he imposes a midnight cut off point if the main class has run and the rule was invoked tonight. We watched the 20 lap B Hobby feature which went non-stop in nine minutes with Patrick Harvey winning but after three cautions and nine laps we headed for the exits as the 20 lap pony stock feature was still in progress. After already having been at the track for six hours in the heat it was surely a relief!!!
The track is a must see, the racing is good but there is just too much of it for our taste!! With an hour drive back south to the hotel in Dalton, Georgia it made for a long, long day. Sunday will be a double with an SCCA regional at Road Atlanta in the afternoon followed by a night show at Rome, Georgia on the dirt with the SAS as the headliner. The advertisement for Rome states seven divisions plus the SAS super late models. Oh boy!!! Can’t wait for this one. Allan and I have already agreed that as soon as the late models are over we are out of there as they have to drop us off near the airport at our hotel and head a ways north for their drive back to Michigan. Until the next blog get our there and enjoy some good short track racing.
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