This past Monday night, the Grassroots Vintage SK Shootout Series visited the Five Flags Speedway for their 8th race of the season leading into the first off-week prior to the SARA Big 3 event. The division would battle it out for 125 laps on the Pensacola, Florida half-mile.
In Time Trials, it was rookie Christopher Alcares that picked up his first career SARA pole when he set the fast lap with a time of 16.276 seconds. His time up front wouldn’t last though as a 7-car invert dropped him back into the pack as the top ten cars advanced into the Qualifying Dash. The invert brought Matt Rolfe up to the front of the field for the Dash, but it was Tim Bills that got by early and went on to pick up the Dash victory.
For the feature event, Rolfe was scheduled to start on the point but would be sent to the back of the field after winning the previous two races in the division. This moved Bills up to control the start and he quickly jumped out in front to take over the lead in the early laps. With Bills out front, Cody Kelley quickly moved up into the second spot as the top few cars began to break away from the field.
As the green flag run continued, Kelley followed in Bills’ tire tracks though lap 18 before setting up the pass to take over the lead on lap 19. Kelley would begin to stretch his lead over the next 40+ laps as the run continued to lap 63, as the advantage grew out to over 3.5 seconds. Joe Schaffer made his way up into second just past lap 50, prior to an incident inside the top five that dropped Austin Yarbrough and James Linkiewicz to the back of the field, moving Bills back up to the third spot.
After another quick yellow, Kelley led the field back to the green flag for another 15 lap run, but with his large gap out front eliminated, Schaffer was able to stay within a couple of car lengths during the run. Bills remained in the third spot and was joined by James Wenzel who had a strong run going inside the top five, as much of the pack battled it out behind them with Alcares moving back up into the top five followed by Russell Berry in 6th.
On lap 86, Kelley would get loose out of turn four allowing Schaffer to get the run to his inside. Shaffer took over the top spot for a brief time though as the tables would turn the very next lap as he would get loose exiting turn four and Kelley would beat him back to the line to regain the lead. The fight for the lead would be slowed by the next caution on lap 92, setting up a restart with just over 25 laps to go.
The top four cars remained the same during the next run, but as the laps wound down, one more caution set up a 3-lap dash to the finish. Kelley got the jump back out in front, and this time he was able to get away as cars behind him fought it out for second. Kelley would pull away by about 10 car lengths as he would go uncontested for the final few laps on his way to picking up the checkered flag. The win for Kelley was his second of the season, and his 37th career SARA victory.
While Kelley went uncontested the last couple laps, things got messy behind him as a couple of incidents out of turn four shook up the running order. Contact between Bills, Schaffer and Yarbrough left Schaffer as the odd man out as he would end up crashed just before the start/finish line. Bills would continue on to finish in 2nd after leading early and running inside the top five all night. Yarbrough recovered from his earlier incident to work his way back up to finish in 3rd. Rolfe worked his way up from starting at the tail of his field to climb into the top five late to finish in 4th. Jason Stewart came across the line for his first career top five after running outside the top ten for most of the night before sneaking through the last lap incidents to take 5th. Conner Blaise, Matt Eddy, James Wenzel, Charlie Kuzma, and Russell Berry rounded out the top ten.
After the event, and with drop races being taken out during the off-week, Bill Martin carries the points lead into the next event at Stafford with an 11 point lead.