Justin McRee (near) tries to pass Monte Skinner in the NeSmith Late Model feature Saturday at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
March 19, 2018 11:29:46 AM
The nearly seven-hour round trip to Columbus was worth it once again for Monte Skinner.
The late model driver and resident of Mobile, Alabama, made a handful of appearances at Magnolia Motor Speedway in 2017, but he has won two consecutive NeSmith Late Model races there this season, including the points opener Saturday night.
Skinner piloted his Capital race car to the pole and fended off Justin McRee in a two-lap, door-to-door tussle on laps 13 and 14. Skinner was mostly unchallenged the rest of the race. McRee had engine failure on lap 14 and finished eighth. Evan Ellis took third, while Chase Washington, Steve Russell, and Tim Dees rounded out the top five.
"We bounced up through a rut and I saw (McRee) pass me," Skinner said. "He was closer than I thought he was. Then I saw him drive across that same rut and I got back by him.
"We worked hard over the winter and stepped up our program to be able to run with these guys."
Skinner said his early season form has carried over from 2017, a year in which he had neck surgery and missed nearly a dozen weeks of competition. Skinner and his crew chief, Mark Tindle, had already boosted their race program entering that season. Finishing second in the 2017 Cotton' Pickin 100 race after leading for 47 laps motivated him to further enhance the program.
"After surgery last year, we still weren't sure if the doc would release me, but we sold our other car and decided to get a new car," Skinner said. "We tried all the new tech, but it wasn't working. In July, we backed it up, started it over again, and we kept progressing. Over the winter, we took a big stab at it and went all out, tried new suspension parts and shocks and springs setup."
Skinner's preferred tracks are Magnolia and Whynot Motorsports Park after Deep South Speedway in Loxley, Alabama, shut down last year. He has raced about a dozen times at Magnolia since then, citing the quality of the venue, level of competition, and racing surface as reasons he continually competes there.
"I tell everyone it's kind of the NASCAR scene at the dirt track," Skinner said of Magnolia. "It's a totally different surface than what we have down here. The red clay down here is mixed with sand, and it ends up single groove and eats tires up. You can take better care of your equipment up here."
Skinner was leading by as many as three seconds and was saving his equipment late in Saturday's race McRee reached his door off turn two.
"I couldn't hear anyone's motors," Skinner said. "I had no idea he was that close."
McRee "just wanted to finish the race" after starting fifth, but he "saw an opening" through traffic.
"I felt like I was running a bit lower than everyone and trying to be a bit smoother," McRee said. "We were just riding and I saw an opportunity to get forward and maybe go for the win. We stepped out there, tried it, got the pass, but the motor just didn't stay with us.
"We've been slow to get started on the late model this year, but maybe this here will fire us up, maybe get us some sponsors, and maybe get us another motor to get back at it."
Lux holds off Ray in Street Stocks
Logan Lux is a fan of Lee Ray.
Now Lux can say he beat him.
Lux, in just his second start in Street Stocks, held off Ray during a late-race re-start to win the feature. Lux started second and led the field by as many as four seconds before Ray tried to pass him low on consecutive laps. Ray finished second.
"I grew up watching Lee Ray race," Lux said. "He always there to help me out when I need something for my car. He's been dominating, so it's fun to race with him. It's just fun to outrun him one time."
Lux raced Factory Stocks prior to stepping into a Calvin Cook-built Street Stock car.
Doug Dodd took third Saturday, while Bryan Fortner and Jeremy Isbell rounded out the top five.
Lux is unsure of his 2018 race schedule, but he plans to travel to several tracks in the state.
Ray, who won the state Street Stocks points series in 2017, will once again compete on the circuit. He has a win and a runner-up finish in four races this year.
In other race action, Jamie Pickard won his second-straight NeSmith Sportsman feature at Magnolia. Buddy George, Chance Pennington, Chad McCool, and Kurt Radjoscics rounded out the top five.
Scooter Ware also won his second-straight feature at Magnolia, leading the Factory Stocks feature from front to back. Kevin McWilliams, John Beard, Aidan Fletcher, and Josh Holbrook rounded out the top five.