Johnny Stokes, seen here during a feature at Columbus last year, will pilot the No. 1 Street Stocks car at the Southern Street Stock Nationals this weekend. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
August 17, 2018 10:39:32 AM
Ask a racecar driver what it would mean to beat a full field for a top-shelf prize and they'll likely say, "the world."
Maybe they'll say, "a whole lot," then follow with anecdotes of how they dreamed of big victories when they were younger.
But ask them if the competition and stakes influence their setup or approach on race day, and, more often than not, they'll say, "no." They say they'll tighten each bolt the same and prepare as if it were any other race week. Their focus is myopic. But there's pressure and anxiety for most of them.
One can see the joy and relief after Bryan Fortner wins the $5,000 Golden Egg at Magnolia, the top win of his career, or when David Breazeale was brought to tears after finishing third in the 2016 Cotton Pickin' 100.
Johnny Stokes, who has raced and won Late Model races across the country, owns and operates Magnolia Motor Speedway. He races the No. 1 Street Stocks car for Stacy Robinson as a refuge from the full-time job of running Magnolia.
He doesn't have to dedicate the usual time it takes to work on the car throughout the week, and after 40 years of winning, it's hard to imagine any race or track moving his needle.
And though there are Street Stocks features that have more lucrative prize money than the Southern Street Stock Nationals at Whynot Motorsports Park, which will pay $3,000 to the winner this Saturday, the anticipation and excitement for this weekend's races rival other events throughout the Southeast, he said.
"I don't care who you are -- this is a big event -- kind of like our Lucas Oil and Cotton Pickin' (at Magnolia)," Stokes said. "People want to come to it. I want to win it just as bad as the next guy."
Stokes is one of a handful of Magnolia regulars who'll vie for the prestige of winning one of Whynot's biggest race weekends of the year.
Spencer Hughes, who finished second in the race in 2016 and won the Prelude event on Aug. 4, also will compete. Eddie Rickman and Stokes took second and third in that race.
Stokes revamps Cotton Pickin' schedule
In an effort to stem dwindling car counts in the Super Late Model division, Magnolia will offer two feature nights to the Cotton Pickin' 100 in late September.
Drivers will have a chance to compete in a 30-lap, $4,000-to-win feature Friday, Sept. 21, and a 70-lap, $12,000-to-win feature Saturday, Sept. 22.
"This is an unsanctioned race, and there aren't a lot of those left anymore," Stokes said. "Lucas Oil or World of Outlaws are getting to where they run for money both nights and give fans two different shows. We've been doing it one way so long, so we're going to shake it up, and hopefully get more late models there if they have a shot at winning money both nights."
Stokes said last year's Super Late Model car count at the Cotton Pickin' (42) was good, considering how the division has priced out many competitors. He recalled previous seasons when the race could draw as many as 75 cars.
"We don't need it to drop off any more than what we had last year," Stokes said. "I think it's going to be a lot better this year. Sometimes you have to shake things up."
The Magnolia State Cotton Pickin' 100 will feature an open practice session Thursday.
For the first time, each night will see a full docket of time trials, heat races, B-Mains, and a main event for the Super Late Model ranks.
The early entry fee for the weekend is $100. Super Late Model competitors have until Saturday, Sept. 15, to file an early entry for the event. After this date, the entry fee will be $150. Competitors must file an early entry by mailing a check to Magnolia Motor Speedway, 495 Highway 45 South, Columbus, MS 39701, or competitors can give Johnny Stokes (662-574-2572), Ben Shelton (901-335-3037), or any of the Magnolia Motor Speedway staff early entries.
Joining the Super Late Models on the docket are events for the Durrence Layne Late Models, Durrence Layne Sportsman, the Mississippi Street Stock Series (MSSS), and Factory Stocks/Pure Stocks.
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