PHENIX CITY, Ala. – Jake Knowles had an exciting start, then an easy race for 40 laps, followed by an anxious last 10 laps during Saturday’s Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series event at East Alabama Motor Speedway.
But he hung on to win the 50-lap event at the three-eighths-mile clay oval, and in doing so took over the point lead.
Knowles survived a spin at the start of the race, but after the restart he took command on lap two, pulling out to over a full straightaway lead. By lap 32 Knowles caught some lapped traffic and on lap 40 his big lead had evaporated, as National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame Inductee Ronnie Johnson closed in to challenge Knowles for the point.
Knowles kept the bottom groove covered, leaving Johnson the outside. With no place else to go, Johnson stepped to the outside, and even pulled alongside Knowles on a couple of occasions, but he slipped high in turn four on lap 49, and Knowles hung on for a .997 second margin of victory.
“My Dad was signaling me that my big lead was going away, and it was pretty frustrating being stuck behind a lapped car that ran me all over the race track,” Knowles said. “I looked up at the scoreboard with ten laps to go, and saw the No. 5 up there in second, and I knew I could be in trouble.”
Johnson had to settle for his second-straight second-place finish in the NeSmith Chevrolet Special, and Tyler Crowder drove the Crowder Trucking Rocket to a third-place finish. Adam Martin celebrated his 30th birthday with a fourth-place finish in the Seals Insurance Special, and was the Rookie of the Race. Dingus Griffin was fifth in the Tommy Pope Construction Special.
Knowles swept the show, as in addition to leading 49 of 50 laps and winning the race, he also set fast time with a lap in 15.514 seconds. The victory also gave Knowles the Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series point lead with 194 points to hold a two-point advantage over Johnson.
Knowles’ perfect night was almost a complete disaster by the time he got to the first turn on the first lap of the race. Knowles led the field to green from the pole position, with Martin starting on the outside of the front row. Knowles slid in front of Martin in turn one, but drifted high in turn two. Knowles got sideways coming off the corner and slid across the track.
Drivers getting hard on the brakes to keep from hitting Knowles caused a multi-car pile-up on the backstretch to bring out the caution flag and necessitate a complete restart. Since no laps were completed, Knowles was able to restart on the pole position.
Not so fortunate were Chase Edge, Tim Busha, Jake Teague and Jacob Grizzle, whose respective race cars were damaged to badly to continue.
Knowles played it a little more conservatively on the restart, and Martin took the lead on the first lap. Knowles got inside Martin in turn four on lap two coming off the fourth turn to take the lead. Once out front, Knowles packed his bags, turned in the key and checked out on the field. By lap 10, Knowles had opened up a full straightaway lead over Martin.
Crowder climbed into the second spot on lap 14 when he got an inside run on Martin and drove under him coming off the fourth turn. By the time Crowder took command of the second spot, Knowles wasn’t even in sight, as he held over a full straightaway lead. Johnson made an inside move on Martin going down the backstretch on lap 17 to take over the third spot.
While Johnson went looking for Crowder to race for the second spot, Knowles began to encounter lapped traffic on lap 32. Johnson passed Crowder for the second spot when made an inside move in turn two on lap 36. The more Knowles tried to lap the eighth-place car of Barrett, the closer Johnson got to the leader.
With 10 laps to go, Johnson was right on Knowles back bumper and looking both high and low to make a move. Johnson could pull alongside Knowles, but couldn’t get a strong enough run to make a pass for the lead stick. With three laps to go, Crowder joined the lead duo to make it a three car dance for the win. Knowles kept the bottom groove covered and hung on for the $3,000 win.