MILTON, Fla. — Jake Knowles used tire management to win the 11thannual Southern 100 for the Durrence Layne Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series on Saturday night at Southern Raceway.
Knowles took the lead on lap 25 and led unchallenged the rest of the way to collect the $10,000 top prize in the Knowles Race Parts and Bodies Longhorn.
In a race that saw 14 caution flags, the two most important for Knowles occurred on lap 25, and on lap 69. During the lap 25 caution period, early race leader Travis Pennington had to give up the point and pit with a cut left rear tire on his U.S. Duffie Site Prep Special. That gave Knowles the lead he would not relinquish the rest of the race.
While the lap 25 caution flag may have given Knowles the eventual race win, the lap-69 caution flag put Knowles to within 10 points of the Durrence Layne Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series point leader Ashton Winger took a 48-point lead over Knowles into the Southern 100, and started the race from the pole.
Winger was trying to race back into the top five after a lap 16 spin in turn two while running third. Winger had climbed back up to the eighth spot by lap 68. On a lap-69 restart, Winger’s Keyser Manufacturing Rocket fell off the pace. Monte Skinner slammed into the left side of Winger’s lame race car in turn three.
The right-front Hoosier Racing Tire of Skinner’s Capital Race Car Special was hung on the driver’s side door of Winger’s race car like a tray of burgers and fries at the local drive-in.
Winger was credited with a 19th-place finish and Knowles closed the gap from second in the points to a 10-point difference with one race left in the 2018 Durrence Layne Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series season.
“This was the first time I have been here racing in the sand, but I knew I had to be patient, manage my tires, and try to get through the lapped traffic without abusing them,” Knowles said. “I knew Andy was close to me in traffic, but I knew he would race me clean when it came down to racing for the win. I was just trying to run just fast enough to stay out front.”
Andy Picklesimer was the only driver that could stay close to Knowles in the closing laps of the race. The 2016 Southern 100 Champion fell one spot short in the Hyma Motorsports Special of becoming a two-time winner. In fact, Picklesimer had to hang on for dear life to finish second, as he cut down a right-rear tire going down the backstretch on the 100th lap.
“I think I used more energy in the last half lap of the race than I used in the 99 previous laps just to get to the checkered flag,” Picklesimer said. “I don’t know what it is about this place, but we always seems to do well here. This sand is so much different than what we race on at home, so maybe I just need to move down here, and I know the weather is better most of the year.”
Local favorite Joseph Joiner drove the Cole Services Special to a third-place finish and Clint Smith was the Hard Charger of the Race after starting the Cliburn Truck Lines Rocket 13th and finishing fourth. Bryant Marsh was the Cruise With The Champions Rookie of the Race with a fifth-place finish.
Jake Knowles, Andy Picklesimer, Joseph Joiner, Clint Smith, Bryant Marsh, Jamey Boland, Travis Pennington, Colton Leyendecker, Walker Arthur, D.G. Hawkins, Marcus Minga, Micha McCall, Steven Jernigan, Rodney Bruce, Kyle Bryant, James Gilmore, Oakley Johns, Monte Skinner, Ashton Winger, Ryan Boudreaux, T.J. Brittain, Kenneth Montiel, Tyler Wood, Bo Slay.