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National Late Model Sportsman Report and Results from East Georgia

7 July 1997

SWAINSBORO, GA - Taking advantage of his many years of experience and a little good fortune, veteran Cecil Eunice of Blackshear, GA piloted his Gary Johns/Snow Brothers/Norman Pontiac/Ace Pole Co. Chevrolet to victory in the National Late Model Sportsman Series, Southern Dirt Tour, Bearden Oil/SUNOCO Skyrocket 75 Friday night at East Georgia Motor Speedway in Swainsboro, GA. Eunice led all 75 laps of the event, but never could afford the slightest mistake, as the snarling pack was never more than two car lengths behind the entire race. Current points leader Gene Maine expanded his margin with a second place finish in the Bennett Brothers/Russell Brown Racing/Ives Racing Chevrolet and Billy Godowns brought the Dave Wynn/Walter Newman/Henderson Chevrolet/Godowns Farm Camaro home in third place. Wendell Durrance nabbed the fourth finishing position and Dennis Smith rounded out the top five.

"That was a tough one," Eunice said in the winner's circle afterwards as he collected the $4,000 winner's check. "We could not afford the slightest slip all race long. I could feel the pressure all the time. We had some good luck that enabled us to stay in the race and Gene (Maine) was all over me all race long. The competition level in this series is so high that you can not afford to be off a hair if you hope to win."

Eunice lost the starter out of his car around the halfway point of the race, but until the checkered flag came out he was unaware that it was missing. When the starter fell of, on the backstretch, the wire leading to it wrapped itself around a frame rail and the live end never touched anything that would have caused it to short out the ignition system. Lady Luck was certainly smiling on the "Blackshear Bandit" this evening.

There were 29 cars on hand to try and make the 24 car starting line-up, and when qualifying time trials were finished the entire field was within 1.08 seconds of Dewayne Chancey's fast time of 19.29 seconds around the high banked, half mile clay oval. Eunice was second fast in time trials followed by Steve Jones and Maine. In heat races the winners were Chancey, Eunice, Maine and Chris Usry.

Chancey, a Rookie of the Year contender on the Tour, was making his first ever start on the front row and Eunice was able to use his experience to quickly grab the lead as the cars headed into turn one. Chancey fell into second spot followed by Maine. It did not take long for Maine to put pressure on Chancey and he was soon around the rookie and breathing hard on Eunice's rear bumper, Godowns, Usry and Wendell Durrance were also able to slip around the erstwhile pole sitter and by the sixth lap the front five were locked up nose-to-tail with Chancey two car lengths back in sixth. Following Chancey were fellow Rookie battlers Jones and Henry Carter Jr.

On lap 15 Chancey drifted a little high in turn four, and Jones headed for the low side to make the pass. Unfortunately Chancey was trying hard to protect his position and came down on Jones and the two tangled resulting in a multi-car spin on the front straight as the tightly bunched field scrambled to avoid the two. Chancey suffered a broken trailing arm that would end his night just three laps later and the damage to Jones' car would eventually force him to retire to the pits on lap 47.

Once the clean-up was complete, it was back to racing again, with Eunice continuing to lead the tightly bunched field. From front to back the cars were running bumper-to-bumper and each move had to carefully considered before it was executed. A careless attempt to pass the car in front would result in the loss of one or two spots. Thrust and counter thrust became the rule as drivers would probe for the advantage before slipping past.

At the halfway point Eunice continued to hold the lead, with the entire field perched on his rear bumper. Maine, Godowns, Usry and Durrance filled the top five positions as the leaders were all in tight formation. Just over a car length back came the cars of Tracy Walden, Ricky Brant, Terry Lumley, Brian Stewart and Dennis Smith, again in nose-to-tail formation, as was the entire field. Each time someone would open a gap, it would close on the next lap. The only respite for the drivers from the constant pressure was the occasional caution period for a spin or a car that slowed on the track. Dennis Smith had moved into the top ten from his 13th starting spot while another diver making his way forward was Brain Stewart, running in eighth spot on lap 42 after beginning the race in fourteenth position.

A three car battle in the middle of the pack involving Terry Lumley, Joe Kump and Jimmy Lee Davis saw Davis work his way past Kump, only to have Lumley get a little sideways in turn two forcing Davis to check up to avoid hitting the local favorite and Kump quickly shot by to regain the spot on the low side. Stewart, having worked his way as high as eighth, saw all his work negated when he went high in turns one and two, and almost the entire field drove by him on the low side before he could find room to slip back into line.

Just five laps from the end, Chris Usry, diving the sole Ford in the race, was forced to head for the pits with an overheating engine surrendering his fourth place, and on the last lap Brant slipped a little too high and went from fifth back to seventh between turn four and the finish line. Eunice's final margin of victory was one car length in a race that was slowed by only eight cautions, including one for a dog that ran onto the track. The race took just 46 minutes and 35 seconds to complete and all the cars running at the end were on the lead lap. So evenly matched were the cars that not one car was lapped on the track during the entire race.

The next stop for the National Late Model Sportsman Series will be at Cochran, GA for another 75 lap run on the fast 3/8 mile high banked Cochran Speedway on July 18 and 19.

John Kaiser -- The Auto Channel

East Georgia Speedway - NLMS - Official results for the 
National Late Model Sportsman Series, 
Skyrocket 75:
Ps.Ql.No.  Driver , Car                                          Laps 
-- -- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- ----- 
 1  2  22  Cecil Eunice    Norman Pontiac/Ace Pole          Chev  75       
 2  3 201  Gene Maine      Ives Racing/Russell Brown Racing Chev  75         
 3  5  20  Billy Godowns Jr Godowns Farm/Henderson Chev     Chev  75       
 4  7  32  Wendell Durrance Bills Timber/Bennett Bros Motor Chev  75       
 5 13 D21  Dennis Smith    Holliman Heat & Air/Friecheck    Chev  75       
 6 11  55  Terry Lumley    Hollywood Race cars/Hadden WrkingChev  75       
 7 12  44  Ricky Brant     Atlas Sand & Gravel/Compet Prod  Chev  75       
 8 19 721  Joe Kump        A-1 Specialty/Car House          Chev  75       
 9 18   3  Jimmy Lee Davis Trident Supply/Aggressive Signs  Chev  75       
10 23  11  Tracy Mimbs     Flexsteel/KFC/Pepsi/FHelton      Chev  75       
11 20  35  Randy Ellenberg Bagwell's Framing/Bagalo Chassis Chev  75       
12  6  28  Henry Carter Jr Mimbs Farms/Sweats Port Build    Chev  75       
13 14  74  Brian Stewart   Lloyds Bumper to Bumper/Rhino    Chev  75       
14 25   3T Mike Mishoe     Little's Paints/Cork's Fabricare Chev  75       
15 23  31  Mike Akeson     Fan Five Racing                  Chev  75       
16  4  12  Chris Usry      Washington Wood/Robinson TruckingFord  70       
17 22  17  Alex Vickers    Autozone                         Chev  60       
18 10  21  Ivedent Lloyd Jr Snow Bros/Larry Moore           Chev  49       
19  8   0  Steve Jones     Quality Saw Works/Beardon Oil    Chev  47       
20  9   2  Tracy Walden    Infiltrator Systems/Ferguson Ent Chev  43       
21 16  00  Jimmy Sharpe    Country Classic Homes            Chev  42       
22 17  46  Everett Phillips Everett's Custom Services       Chev  33       
23 24  10  Lee Jackson     Mallard's Auto Parts/Bounty Hse  Chev  33       
24 15 2x4  Johnny Collins  Castrol GTX/Fickling Bros        Chev  29       
25  1   2c DeWayne Chancey Performance Elec/Fast Trak Comm  Chev  18       
26 26   1  Scotty Nipper   Scotty's Muffler/Go-Fast GraphicsChev   0
Cautions          :  8 for 34 laps
Time of Race      :  46 min 35 secs
Margin of Victory :  1 car length    
Track Length      :  0.5000 Miles