We went to Southern Raceway in Milton, Fla., Saturday night for the annual Mid-Season Championships and Fourth of July Fireworks show. The night went about as well as I could’ve hoped. I won the Late Model Sportsman feature and didn’t get a scratch on the car.
Other than winning, one thing that made my night was being able to run the top so late in the evening. The Late Model Sportsman feature was the fifth out of six events to run, and I was worried that the top groove would be dried out and unusable before it was our turn to race.
That wasn’t the case.
I was scheduled to start fourth, but after polesitter Taylor Jarvis had a flat on the first attempt to start the race, I moved up to the outside pole. When we took the green, Colton Leyendecker and I raced side by side for the lead on lap one. He was on the bottom; I was on the top. On lap two, I drove into the top of turn one as hard as I could and hoped it would stick. It did and I nosed ahead going down the back straightaway. I repeated the process going into turn three and took the lead for good coming to the stripe to complete lap two.
Leyendecker stayed close but I kept him behind me the rest of the race.
After the races, Ricky Haugen came up to me and thanked me for showing everyone that there’s a top groove at Southern Raceway. I thanked him for doing the same thing. At the beginning of the night, I had watched Haugen use the top groove to make what turned out to be the winning pass in the Vintage division feature.
I also watched Frank Wilson make a high-side pass for the lead in the Street Stock division, and I even saw Pure Stock winner Tally Warrick make several passes on the top side as he came from a mid-pack starting spot to win the final feature of the night.
My point is that there was a fast top groove from the first feature to the last Saturday night at Southern Raceway. And if you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that the track has been racy pretty much all season. My victory Saturday night was my third feature win of the year. In two of those three races, I’ve made the pass for the lead on the top. In the other win, I made a pass for the second position on the top.
Other drivers like Haugen and Warrick have been making passes on the top all year too.
I know it sounds crazy, but I’m convinced that Southern Raceway has the potential to be a legitimate multiple-groove racetrack. I’m talking about side by side racing from the front to the back of the field in every division all night long.
However, that won’t happen if only two or three drivers out of a 15-car field are actually willing to move up off the bottom. That’s the thing that gets me: there seems to be only a handful of us drivers taking advantage of Southern’s top groove. Other than Haugen, Warrick, myself, and a few others, very few drivers are willing to move around and make plays. As a matter of fact, it seems like it takes an act of Congress for some drivers to get rid of the old school mentality when it comes to racing on the Gulf Coast.
Guys, you don’t have to dive to the bottom as soon you can anymore, you don’t have to ride in a line around the inside berm anymore, and you won’t get freight trained if you move up a little anymore.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. I’m not going to point any fingers or call any names, but on the first attempt to start our race I saw the front-row beating and banging with one another, fighting over the inside groove when there were two whole grooves wide open above them. One of them had a flat because of it. I moved up to fill his spot and raced side by side with the inside car for two solid laps without touching him. Then I cleared him and went on to win the race.
You don’t have to beat and bang and fight over the bottom. Just race around the top. Get up on the wheel and make plays.
I’m not trying to be ugly or call anyone out, but the more cars that use the top groove, the faster it’ll be and the better the racing at Southern Raceway will be.
Having a racy dirt track close to my Milton, Fla., hometown is something I’ve wished for since I started racing in 2000. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched an online video of a good, side by side race at some far away track and thought to myself, “Man, I sure wish we could race like that around home.”
Well, now we can. Up until the last year or so I went to Southern Raceway because it was the closest option I had for racing. Half the time when I went there, I went begrudgingly knowing that if I didn’t get a good draw, I probably wasn’t going to win the race. Now, I go there excited every week because more often than not the track will be racy enough that I can make things happen no matter where I start.
Why that is I don’t know. Maybe it’s the new dirt that was put on it over the winter, maybe more emphasis is being put on track prep each week, or maybe the top groove has been there all along and we just didn’t know it. Whatever the case, I’ve enjoyed racing at Southern Raceway this year.
I’ve also enjoyed driving by people on the outside, and if they don’t move up off the bottom I’m going to keep right on doing it.