The SERF 100 Southern Super Series event at Five Flags Speedway on Friday night was an interesting affair from the moment we walked through the gates until the waving of the twin checkered flags.
Giovanni Bromante earned his second consecutive SSS victory to remain perfect in his Super Late Model career but did so against a field of largely fringe contenders on any other given weekend, since many of the biggest names in the sport were noticeably absent.
In fact, Bromante became the first racer not named Bubba Pollard, Jeff Choquette or Casey Roderick to win a Blizzard Series race at Five Flags since May 2016, when Harrison Burton claimed a victory.
How did this happen?
Roderick and Connor Okrzesik crashed out of first and second with 16 laps to go when they drove over oil in Turns 1 and 2 and into the crashed car of Jett Noland who had suffered the same fate just seconds before.
Even Bromante spun in the fluid from third, but suffered no damage, and had to race from eighth to the lead over the final eight laps to score his second straight victory.
But where was Pollard or Choquette? How about Wilson or Stephen Nasse?
Roderick had similar questions upon arriving to the track on Friday morning.
Let’s take a deep dive into the defending Southern Super Series champion’s statement here:
“You know you have a problem on your hands when the infield looks like this one at the home of the Snowball Derby. (There are) a lot of issues going on in short track racing right now and it’s a shame.
“It’s time to act on this issue. Starts with being ruled to death and the new rules for 2019 suck. It’s clear in this video we have a problem for the first race of 2019 for Five Flags Speedway we have maybe 17 cars.
“Trying to save racers money in the wrong places. How about one day shows, lower cost on these terrible tires we’re on — different tires, less practice, and tech needs a lot of work as well. These teams in (this) video have been here since 10 a.m. and all we’ve accomplished is tech. Time for some serious cleanup. Change for the future of our sport in short track racing. It’s no fun as a racer we’re here to put show on for the fans.”
There were actually 18 cars that took the green flag, not that it detracts from Roderick’s point.
There’s a considerable amount of strife in the Super Late Model world right now. Sure, there’s the recent BoP ruling that went against Hamner Engines or the ongoing next-generation body debate, but there are a lot of other issues in the discipline too.
There was also a lot of chatter about the new rear-end regulations that Ricky Brooks has begun to implement.
As Roderick pointed out in his post, teams are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the performance and cost of their tires; or just how long teams are spending at the race track doing nothing.
Or even more costly … the endless parade of testing and practice.
Roderick suggested that he really didn’t want to speak further on the matter on Friday, feeling as though he drew the ire of series and track promoter Tim Bryant, as well as some of his other racers.
But again, 18 cars at Five Flags for the Blizzard Series opener is a major problem.
For the sake of comparison, this event drew 27 just a year ago this weekend. So what gives?
Pollard has spent much of the past two months on the road and opted to stay home this weekend. He will be racing his dirt car near him home at Senoia Raceway in Georgia.
Wilson has yet to received his new Rowdy-Hamke car, despite a social media protest that stated he was boycotting the Southern Super Series in response to the BoP decision against Hamner Engines.
Nasse said earlier in the year that he was scaling back his racing operations for 2019 and likely would only focus on major events instead of weekly racing.
To that summation, Tim Bryant said he felt like Friday’s low car count was likely the result of cyclical circumstances. He conceded there might be some frustration over some recent rule-making decisions, but nothing unlike what comes up from time to time in short track racing anyway.
The Rattler 250 two weeks ago had a pretty good, top-heavy entry list, so perhaps the SERF 100 was just a combination of circumstances.
FRESH FACES UP FRONT
While it was unfortunate that the race only had 17 starters, and even more unfortunate that Roderick, Okrzesik and Noland were wiped out due to an oil leak, it was equal parts refreshing to have fresh faces near the front of the field.
Approaching 10 to go, the likes of Logan Boyett, Jeremy Pate and Kyle Plott were in contention.
These guys don’t get written about enough here, and that’s on me, but it was nice to see them get the spotlight in the closing stages until Bromante marched his way back through the field.
Each of these three aforementioned drivers worked on their own equipment and are definition blue collar racers and that needs to be mentioned here at least.
Anthony Campi Racing’s Fast Start
Anthony Campi Racing won the last race of the year at Five Flags, a rain delayed Snowflake 100 with Chase Purdy, and have now won the first one of 2019 with Bromante.
Campi himself said he was surprised because this place has challenged him and his team over the years, but that it’s also why the Florida half-mile is one of his favorites.
“I need to be challenged,” he said in technical inspection after the race.
Right now, there aren’t a lot of challenges at ACR, at least with Bromante who looks every bit the emerging star and could be the Southern Super Series championship favorite — maybe even by default — depending on what Roderick does the rest of this season.
And again, full circle, it comes back to the empty pit area.
It’s something that Tim Bryant and company need to address in form of phone calls and conversations before it gets lower.
Like Roderick said on the Instas, #NoCarsNoFans
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