August 4, 2018 9:34:48 PM
Off-nights are rare during racing season, so Neil Baggett and his wife Tarran scheduled "date night" for Friday.
Then, Neil's friend Jeff White called.
White, a Kosciusko native, owns the No. 44 Super Late Model normally driven by his son, Brett, who was out of town. Jeff asked Neil to pilot the car at Columbus Speedway while Brett was out of town and help the team troubleshoot some handling issues.
"I said, 'sure,'" Neil said, "but I called my wife first, and she said, 'if you want to race, let's race.'"
Whatever tightness Neil experienced driving the No. 44 Friday night wasn't evident to the rest of the field, as Baggett dominated qualifying, his heat race and the feature for his sixth Super Late Model win of the season.
Neil currently leads the Mississippi State Championship Challenge Series points and competed Saturday at Whynot Motorsports Park in Meridian.
Columbus hosted a Super Late Model race for just the second time this season, and Baggett, who lives in Columbus, said the race surface Friday was perfectly crafted and reminded him of the "history" of track.
"When this track's right, it's 'get up on the wheel,'" Neil said. "You're driving into that corner at a hundred miles an hour, and you just gotta whip it left. It's a place where you got to be aggressive, and I like that kind of racing.
"I used to come down here as a kid, and this is the first place I ever drove a race car, when it was the old way."
Mark Dodson took second, while Robert Moore, Jason Milam and Tombo Callahan rounded out the top 5. Dodson echoed Neil's sentiments about the incredibly fast race surface and praised track promoter Rod Taylor for locking in enough moisture to hold it through the feature.
"It was like Columbus used to be - hammered down, wide open," Dodson said. "I had to backpedal just a bit in the feature, but you expect that in August with all this heat. It was nice to go out there and not worry about finding traction, because the track had it in it."
Dodson said he felt his car could match Neil down the straightaways, but he lost ground in the corners. Still, he'll gladly take second after losing speed on experimenting with different setups in his last handful of races.
Dodson, a Lowndes County native and regular on the State Series, has competed almost exclusively this year on the Southern All-Stars Super Late Model Series this season and is currently second in season points. He'll compete in a $10,000-to-win SAS race at Talladega next week.
"I just wanted to do something different," Dodson. "I like to race at different tracks and travel. We've been blessed - we've finished every race but one."
Rickman dominates SS feature
Eddie Rickman has raced everything from Late Models, to Modifieds and Street Stocks in a racing career that spans 50 years.
He's always maintained that, once he isn't running fast and being competitive, he'll step away. His No. 68 wasn't running fast earlier this season, which could have been an omen that his time behind the wheel was over. But Rickman, who won a pair of features last year at Magnolia Motor Speedway and had a pair of seconds at Columbus, took a couple of months off to change motors and rear ends on his car.
Friday, his car looked plenty fast. So fast that he started on the pole and led every lap of the feature.
Rickman said he couldn't remember his last victory at Columbus or what kind of car it was in.
"Sometimes, it's just like, 'ahh, I won another one. Good,'" Rickman said. "I don't know. You have certain tracks that are harder to win at, and certain races that are harder to win, and those are the ones that stand out. But I really enjoyed this one. It's been a while since I had fun racing."
Rickman ran comfortably around the top and quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, which saw several positions change between a pack of four cars. Mike Barton, Jamie Sudduth, Lee Ray and Trey Bright rounded out the top 5.
In other race action, Evan Ellis won the 602 Sportsman feature. Dalton Hood, Kurt Radojcsics, Aaron Fitzhugh and Mike Pickard rounded out the top 5.
Jeff Daniel won the Outlaw Street feature. Chris Caldwell and Dustin Whitaker rounded out the top 3.
Jason Byrd won the Factory Stocks feature. Kevin McWilliams, Chase Pennington, Scooter Ware and Zack Middleton rounded out the top 5.