Submitted by Ted Austad
Photo Credits: Francis Hauke
(Senoia, GA – March 11, 2018) On a night that the forecasters called for rain, rain and more rain, Senoia Raceway braved the forecasts and dropped the green on the annual Thousand Dollar Thriller. Alabama’s Cruz Skinner and Senoia’s Clint ‘Cat Daddy’ Smith both were happy the track decided against listening to the weatherman as the dynamic duo claimed their second wins of the season each in the Limited Late Model and Crate Late Model divisions. Each of them pocketed the one thousand dollar winner’s purse for their efforts.
“We will not call a race just because the forecast is bleak,” said promoter Mayes Massey. “We watch the radar and determine which way the weather is moving and if we feel we have a good chance to get everything rolling and race, we are going to try. We will never call a race before it rains at the track. Our drivers and our fans can count on that from us. We love to race.”
Skinner was again the man to beat in the Limited Late Models. The seventeen-year-old driver clocked in the fastest in preliminary qualifying action and then held off a brief challenge from Clint Smith to snare the lead. Behind him is where the action heated up.
Smith had his hands full with Tennessee young gun Christian Hanger as the two swapped the second place position back and forth before Hanger took control on lap twelve. LaGrange’s Dennis Hale and Oliver Gentry of Newnan were also a fierce fight over the next two spots in the rundown.
As rain drops became heavier, officials were forced to cut short the feature giving Skinner his second win in as many weeks. Dennis Hale made a strong charge to finish second with Clint Smith third. Oliver Gentry ended up fourth while Fayetteville’s Bailey Williams rounded out the first five. Hanger dropped to sixth after developing problems just seconds before the race went to caution for the increased moisture on the track.
Prior to the rains developing, the Crate Late Model drivers put on a whale of a show for the fans. Senoia’s seventeen-year-old Ashton Winger jumped to the early race lead with Winston’s Michael Page and Alabama’s ‘Thirllin’ Dylan Knowles running side by side for second.
Clint Smith had to start sixth due to the track’s second division rule, but made no one wonder why he is considered one of the best at the track. Smith worked past McDonough’s Jamie Maurice on the second lap before catching Page for third a lap later. The veteran short track ace then performed the perfect slide job cutting off Knowles momentum in turn two to snag the second place position. That left only Winger in his quest for the money and a second straight victory.
Racing through the field was some of the best witnessed at Senoia Raceway. Drivers in positions three through seventh were running side by side, many times three wide trying to gain a spot on their competitors. Lake Spivey’s Dow Kirkland, Winston’s Marty Massey and Wayne Harbin of Sharpsburg had fans hooting and hollering as they ran three wide for fifth on lap nine.
Lap 9 is when Smith and Winger would swap the lead back and forth. Smith would gain the lead out of turn two while Winger would slide his ride back in front in turn four. Smith finally was able to gain the lead for good on lap 10.
He would push his car to a five car length lead over Winger who had his hands full with Michael Page on lap 18. It was a near same scenario with these two as it was a few laps earlier with Smith. The only difference is Winger would stay in front of Page for the second place nod.
Smith claimed the checkers and nabbed the thousand dollar pay day. Winger settled for second ahead of Page. Jamie Maurice made a last lap pass on Dylan Knowles to finish in fourth.
The three wide racing that has made the ‘Bull Ring at Senoia Raceway’ so popular the past couple of seasons was on display again in the Late Model Sportsman division. Three middle Georgia drivers made the trek north to take on the ‘Guardians of the Gumbo’ and they did not disappoint. Byron’s racing brothers, Wiley and Brandon, battled with Dublin’s Tyler Sanders in a classic three wide tussle for the lead with only four laps remaining. The older Wiley got the advantage down low as Sanders tried to keep his nose in the middle and young gun Brandon keeping his ride as close to the exterior concrete as is nerves would allow. Race fans were on the feet cheering on the trio of drivers from out of town.
Wiley McDaniel finally broke free from his brother and Sanders to claim his first career win at the tough bull ring. He would best his brother Brandon and Sanders leaving the track regulars to finish of the podium. Locust Grove’s Jamie Nicholson, Jr. and Griffin’s Keith Fields were fourth and fifth. It marked the first time since the unique gumbo gray clay has been the track surface that not a single local driver finished among the top three.
“Those boys came to town to have some fun and they put on a show,” said an excited Mayes Massey. “That was a race!”
In the Hobby, defending points champion ‘Smokin’ Joe Hillman made his season debut. Hillman returned to familiar surroundings as he led until the final five laps of the feature. Mansfield’s Blake Harmon found an opening down low as the two charged into the third turn. Sliding up the track Harmon bumped Hillman hard enough to send both drivers spinning and a caution flag followed. The leaders would be relegated to the rear of the field.
Harmon’s father, Tim Harmon, would inherit the lead and it was a lead he would not relinquish despite a bad push in his race car. It was the elder Harmons first Hobby race and he would pick up the victory over Hillman and his son Blake Harmon. Senoia’s Brandon Henderson and Locust Grove’s Larry Bednar would round out the top five finishers.
Dunie Dillard and Shannon Ethridge dominated their respective features in the Bombers and Mini. Both led the main events from flag to flag. It was Dillard’s second straight win while Ethridge claimed his first victory since April of last season.
The Hot Shots feature race was the only scheduled event to not beat out mother nature. Their feature race will be made up on Saturday, March 31st during the Spring Nationals presented by Textron Off-Road Vehicles.
The 2018 racing season rolls on this Saturday, March 17th with the Shamrock St. Paddy’s Day Special! A full night of racing action is scheduled in the Super Late Models, Limited Late Models, Crate Late Models, Late Model Sportsman, Hobby, Mini, Bomber and the Legends Cars. This will mark the first time in over a year that the motorcycle engine powered Legends Cars will compete at Senoia Raceway.
The track is located just five miles west of Senoia, GA, on Georgia Highway 16. Easy access from both Interstate 75 and 85.
The pit gates open at 4pm and the grandstand gates open at 5pm. Practice rounds and qualifying is set to start at 6pm with racing to follow around 7:30pm.
Tickets are $12; kids 5-11 are $5; four & under are free. The track also offers trackside parking and spectator viewing.
Pit passes can be purchased for $30; kids 5-11 are $20 while four & under are free.
For additional information, visit the track website at www.senoiaraceway.com or call the speedway at 770.599.6161.
Official Results – Saturday, March 10, 2018
Limited Late Models (Feature): 1-Cruz Skinner, Oxford, AL 2-Dennis Hale, LaGrange 3-Clint Smith, Senoia 4-Oliver Gentry, Newnan 5-Bailey Williams, Fayetteville 6-Christian Hanger, Winchester, TN 7-Dalton Polston, Lithia Springs 8-Justin Hammett, Zebulon 9-Corey Payton, Newnan 10-Dalton Cook, Columbus 11-Glenn Morris, Fayetteville DNS: Jaques Daniel, Cartersville Fast Qualifier: Skinner (14.893 – 90.7 mph)
Crate Late Models (Feature): 1-Clint Smith, Senoia 2-Ashton Winger, Senoia 3-Michael Page, Winston 4-Jamie Maurice, McDonough 5-Dylan Knowles, Lannett, AL 6-Wayne Harbin, Sharpsburg 7-Dow Kirkland, Lake Spivey 8-Travis Price, Oxford 9-Chris Carr, Newnan 10-Tina Johnson, Senoia 11-Marty Massey, Winston Fast Qualifier: Smith (14.861 – 90.8 mph)
Late Model Sportsman (Feature): 1-Wiley McDaniel, Byron 2-Brandon McDaniel, Byron 3-Tyler Sanders, Dublin 4-Jamie Nicholson, Jr., Locust Grove 5-Keith Fields, Griffin 6-Jason Turner 7-Jack Mills, Griffin 8-Drew Larson, Marietta 9-Dave McWilliams, Brooks 10-Ty Ellis, Covington 11-Payton Stevenson, Locust Grove DNS: Dylan Knowles, Lannett, AL Fast Qualifier: Knowles (15.264 – 88.5 mph)
Hobby (Feature): 1-Tim Harmon, Conyers 2-Joe Hillman, Villa Rica 3-Blake Harmon, Mansfield 4-Brandon Henderson, Senoia 5-Larry Bednar, Locust Grove 6-Keith West, Mableton Fast Qualifier: Hillman (16.195 – 83.3 mph)
Bomber (Feature): 1-Dunie Dillard, Phenix City, AL 2-Abe Chase, Valley, AL 3-Larry Pierce, Griffin 4-Shannon Stephens, Franklin 5-John Holcomb, Griffin 6-Bud Roland DNS: McKenna Nelms, Newnan; Curtis Turner, Brooks Fast Qualifier: Dillard (17.185 – 78.6 mph)
Mini Stock (Feature): 1-Shannon Ethridge, Carnesville 2-Bobby Faulkner, Newnan 3-Todd Brewster, Villa Rica 4-Jeff Dean, Helena, AL 5-Gary Parker, Barnesville DNS: Tommy Faulkner, Newnan; Jamie Nicholson, Sr., Locust Grove Fast Qualifier: Ethridge (17.728 – 76.1 mph)
Hot Shots (Feature): Rained Out – make up set for Saturday, March 31st