By Riley Hicks –
It’s been a long time in the waiting, but the fans and drivers finally got to the season opener at Senoia Raceway this past Saturday night. The weather was near perfect with clear skies and over 130 racecars signed in, ready to compete on the always challenging Senoia gumbo.
Some divisions were so full of cars that the Pollard’s decided to split them into two features, so everyone had the opportunity to compete instead of having to call it a night early and load up on the trailer.
When it came to the fans in attendance, nearly every seat in the house and every spot around the track was filled, ready to see the Southern Nationals Super Late Models season debut at Senoia for $10,053 to win.
Before giving the rundown of that feature race, let’s quickly get a recap of all the other divisions that were on the schedule and who took home the checkered flag in those races. First, Senoia Raceway had its opening debut for the Modifieds, making their first-ever run at the track.
A handful of drivers made the trip ready to race, but one driver outclassed the rest of the field.
Michael Blakeney started the feature on the pole and quickly jumped out to the lead following the green flag. He had to fend off a charging Scottie Hiett at times, but Blakeney held strong and took home the first-ever victory in the Modifieds at Senoia.
In three of the other classes of the evening, the win went to three drivers that blistered their entire competition to come home with a cruising victory. First, in the Chargers, Darrin Ray started on the pole and led all 15 laps to the checkered flag. Also, Jason Young had quite the run in the Hot Shots opening the race in the third position and quickly working himself into the top spot. Once getting his way into first, Young managed to break away from the rest of the pack and cruise to the win.
Finally, Blant Duke crushed his competition in the Bombers with by far one of the largest margins of victory on the night. Duke led every lap and didn’t even look like he pressed the break once as he made his way around the track and onto the win.
If Duke continues to run as he did on Saturday, he may have this division on lockdown all season.
Moving to the most packed classes on Saturday, the Crate Late Models had 30 drivers signed in while the Sportsman had 34. So to accommodate every driver to have the opportunity to race, each of these divisions was broken down into two races apiece with two separate winners. In the first feature race for the Crates, the fans got to experience one of the best finishes of the night.
Colby Darda started the race on the pole and quickly fell back to third place, while on the other hand, his top competition Michael Page started on the third row and, in just a few laps, jumped all the way into first. Darda didn’t let the bad start discourage him, though, as he gained some grip and caught up with Page to retake the lead late. If it wasn’t for a last-lap caution, Darda would have captured the checkered flag.
Instead of on the last lap, Page made a diving effort on Darda to take the lead and come home with the win. In the second feature for the Crates, Dusty Jones dominated his race and drove away from the field. Jones easily led every lap as he finally managed to work his way back into victory for the first time in quite a while.
The Sportsman, just like the Crates, had one tight race and one that was completely dominated by one driver. In feature one, Booger Brooks had a tough battle on his hands early with Cass Fowler. Unfortunately for Fowler, his car broke down midrace, leaving nothing but a clean surface ahead for Brooks.
The runner-up Payton Stevenson tried to work his way up to Brooks and challenge for the lead. However, Brooks built a good advantage early that Stevenson ran out of laps to catch up. Feature two for Sportsman looked to have Brandon McDaniel easily making his way into victory lane, but a late caution made things a little more interesting.
During the entire race, McDaniel cruised as he knocked down laps, unfortunately with under five laps to go, the dreaded caution would make an appearance. Jesse Enterkin used this to his advantage and made the pass on McDaniel, looking to steal the win.
McDaniel somehow gained the momentum back and regained the lead, and just narrowly beat Enterkin at the finish line. All of these races the entire night just made fans more excited with what they got to look forward to for the rest of the season. These races also were a great opening act for what they were about to experience in the main event of the Super Late Models Spring Nationals.
The field was packed with some of the best drivers around in the Southeast who all had a chance to take home the big paid day. On this particular night, nobody in that entire infield was going to have anything for Shane Clanton as he dominated from qualifying until that checkered flag waved, solidifying him as the winner.
Clanton started on the outside pole beside the always dangerous Chris Maddon, but Clanton didn’t waste any time getting to the lead and staying there for all 53 laps of the feature.
Shane was so dominant that he managed to lap almost the entire field as he got all the way up to the fifth-place finisher. Madden might have given Clanton a run.
Unfortunately, he got caught up with a lapped car putting an end to his night early. Ashton Winger, who won his heat race, putting him starting in the third position, looked to have quite a good finish brewing for him, but with four laps to go, he connected with yet another lapped car causing a flat tire to bring out a late caution along with ending his night as well.
Dylan Knowles, who started fifth, took every caution to his advantage and worked his way all the way into the second position to capture one of his best finishes in the Supers at Senoia.
Knowles knew he had nothing for Clanton, but he did do a great job fighting off some strong competition behind him. Rounding out the podium was Mark Whitener as he managed to get by six drivers to work his way into third.
Many drivers had some of their best finishes ever in Supers, but on this March night, the Georgia Bulldog Shane Clanton was the man on a mission for a win, and nothing was going to stand in his way. The Pollard’s did just a great job preparing the track and getting it ready for this race.
If Saturday night said anything, it showed that 2022 is going to be a fantastic racing season. Senoia Raceway will take the weekend off and only will have practice and the annual swap meet this Saturday, March 12th. The action will pick up on the 19th with all regular divisions back on the schedule, including the Mini Stocks and Limited Late Models.