The season finale at Magnolia Motor Speedway happened much like the season opener. It didn't. Rain, as has been the theme for much of the 2015 race season, washed out what was supposed to be a big-money cap to the Magnolia schedule: the $50,000-purse, Carl Hogan USCS Fall Brawl.
DJ Sanders didn't have an ordinary summer.
Super Late Model drivers are in the middle of "Money Month." Three of the biggest money races in the state are this month. This weekend, the Magnolia State Cotton Pickin' 100 at Magnolia Motor Speedway is sandwiched in between last week's Gumbo Nationals at Greenville and next week's Fall Classic at Whynot Motorsports Park.
Five weeks ago, Calvin Cook parted ways with his car owner. On Saturday, the Pensacola, Florida, native pocketed $5,000 in his first win since partnering with Mike Williamson to form 151 Racing. Cook started fifth in the Fall 40 Street Stock race at Magnolia Motor Speedway and passed Jay Burchfield on lap 22 to clinch the highest purse for a Street Stock race in the Golden Triangle this season.
Before Lee Ray's first Street Stock race at Jackson this year, he faced a dilemma: He didn't know how to set up his car for the track. He was new to running the track as part of the Mississippi Street Stock Series, a series in which he'd never competed. Ray usually stuck close to the Golden Triangle, racing at Magnolia Motor Speedway and Columbus Speedway, so he leaned on the advice of Tony Bright, a close friend and fellow Street Stock driver, who advised him on what gears to run at the track. The two have relied on each other in one way or another this season, as both have competed on the 10-race state series and in the Golden Triangle. Bright is second in points, while Ray is third.
After each night Jason Williams spent watching dirt track racing at area tracks, he'd wake up the next day and search for cars on the Internet. Even if he found one he liked, he couldn't but it. Money wasn't an issue -- he'd raced previously, for roughly three years in open-wheeled modifieds in the early 2000s. He had to give up racing when his daughter, Hope, began to play travel softball and race horses in barrel racing. Saturdays were just too hectic.
Three weeks away from the race car didn't affect Evan Ellis. Nearly a month after winning Crate/NeSmith Late Model race during fan appreciation weekend at Magnolia Motor Speedway, Ellis returned to the track last weekend and won two $2,000-to-win NeSmith Late Model races, including a dominant performance Sunday, in which he turned a third-place start into a substantial lead (an average of six seconds or more) and an eventual win.
If you asked Nick Thrash how his season had been going Saturday prior to the NeSmith Late Model race at Magnolia Motor Speedway, he would have said, "Horribly." Coming off a 15th-place finish last week, the 20-year-old Meridian native entered the $2,000-to-win race with one top-five finish this season.
CARBON HILL, Ala. -- Jennifer Byrd could taste victory when she rounded turn four at Magnolia Motor Speedway on July 10. After three laps of battling back and forth with her husband, Jason Byrd, in the Factory Stock feature race, she thought she had enough of a run off the final turn to earn her first head-to-head win against him. But Jason, who'd been racing the high-line of the track, edged her at the line by 0.16 seconds.
Tony Shelton Jr. needed one race in a Late Model car to know he wanted to leave Street Stocks. It helps that first race in a Late Model resulted in a win, which came earlier this year at Columbus Speedway. That victory came in his father's ride, the No. 3 B&S Salvage car. Shortly thereafter, the Sheltons purchased the No. 68 Late Model car from the Rickman Racing team.
There wasn't a driver happier than Allen Simmons when the lights were shut off and the final hauler pulled out of Columbus Speedway on Aug. 1. Simmons didn't win a feature race that night. He didn't finish second or win a lot of money. The former runner-up in the speedway's Super Late Model points race accomplished a feat that had eluded him in seven years of racing: a win in a heat race.
The significance didn't hit DJ Sanders until she heard the national anthem. Up until that point, Sanders enjoyed her opportunity to play against some of the best players in the world as a member of the USA Softball Junior Women's National Team, but the enormity of the moment didn't sink in until "The Star Spangled Banner" started to play. That's when the fact that she had just won a gold medal representing her country hit her.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- D.J. Sanders has accomplished a lot in her athletic career. Now the former New Hope High School standout has a gold medal to add to her collection of awards and hardware. On Saturday, Sanders went 1-for-4 in the USA Softball Junior Women's National Team's 8-1 victory against Japan in the Gold Medal Game of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Junior Women's World Championship.
Jimmy Simmons can add the Possum Town Triathlon to the top of his personal list of competitive performances. Simmons, a Columbus native who resides in Atlanta, won the fourth-annual race Saturday with a time of 1 hour, 14 minutes, 22 seconds. Simmons made the top 15 last year and said he improved his time and splits from last year's race.
Danny Christian hasn't raced for a points title in more than 10 years. He didn't plan to this year, either, but a commitment to run a Street Stock slate at Magnolia Motor Speedway quickly turned into a "can't miss" schedule when he found himself in the points lead earlier this season.
It's clear who the top drivers are if you look at the NeSmith Late Model standings at Magnolia Motor Speedway in each of the last four years. Evan Ellis, Jeremy Shaw, Shay Knight, and Kyle Shaw have traded the top four positions this season -- much like the last few -- and at the halfway point of the slate at Magnolia, the fight for the points championship this year has narrowed to Knight and Kyle Shaw.
It looked like a two-man show for the $2,500 purse for the first half of the Mississippi State Championship Challenge Super Late Model race Saturday night. Series points leader Bub McCool, winner of five series races this year, was trading paint for first place with Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, who set the track record during qualifying with a 13.02-second lap. Chad Thrash, who entered the night trailing only McCool in points, was still searching for his first series win of the season. He held down third place for the first 25 laps, waiting for an opening against McCool and Hollingsworth.
STARKVILLE -- Nick Griffin has experienced almost everything a player can on a football field. The running back played four seasons in the Southeastern Conference, arguably the nation's best college football league. This past season, Griffin helped Mississippi State rise to No. 1 for five weeks and earn an invitation to the Orange Bowl last December. Last week, Griffin did something not many football players can say they did: He helped the United States win a gold medal at the International Federation of American Football World Championship in Canton, Ohio.
Jimmy Anderson Jr. might be the most consistent race car driver in the Golden Triangle this season. He leads the 602 Late Model points race at Columbus Speedway. He has finished fourth or better in four of the seven races at the track this season. He has done it without a feature win or a runner-up finish.
Bub McCool was patient Saturday night. For nearly 50 laps, the Vicksburg native was mired in a slugfest for second place in the Southern All-Stars Super Late Model Race at the 12-annual Governor's Cup at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
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