After 24 hours of intermittent rain and cloudy skies, the sun came out in Cordele, Georgia on Saturday. During the last few laps of the Pro Late Model 125 lapper, the storm came back out, this time on track.
It was a clinic in Stephen Nasse domination, leading early and consistently after passing Daniel Dye following a 9-car invert. Within 15 laps, Nasse pulled away to an almost three second lead. It took 77 laps for the first caution of the night to wave, Ronnie Kittle sliding into the wall.
It set the tone for a tense restart, Nasse once again besting Steve Dorer for first place. It would be one of many restarts where Nasse would have to defend his position. The cautions kept coming, four of them in the course of ten minutes.
With less than 25 to go, Nasse made the first dramatic save in what could have been a race-ending incident. Daniel Dye and Hayde Sprague tangled on lap 102, which they would do again on the next lap. Two more cautions, two more restarts where Nasse had to hold on.
On lap 104, he cleared Dawson Fletcher.
“The 71, (Fletcher) I really felt like he jumped that restart to get back by me, and they gave him the spot and I guess he slipped up and he’s still a rookie, so I made him pay for it,” Nasse told STS.
Then, another caution. Dorer drove under Allen, spinning.
Another restart. Fletcher was able to nearly catch Nasse with 13 laps left, and then with 12 to go, he did. Then, Fletcher spun his tires on a restart after taking the lead from Nasse. Augie Grill took advantage of that, jumping in front of them and had a mechanical issue with less than ten laps to go, paralyzing Fletcher’s run in the front of the pack.
“It sucks, I was working hard, kept telling myself we got this. A yellow would come out, we’d do it again, after about five times we finally got the lead, got a little loose and things went downhill from there,” Fletcher said in a post-race TV interview.
But the driver who got the pole before the invert, Willie Allen, was there, side-by-side with Nasse. He wasn’t afraid to get physical, making contact with the 51 of Nasse. Nasse got sideways, making a daring save,
Then, with two to go, another caution, and you guessed it, another nail biting restart.
“I was just getting really nervous to be honest, I knew I was running out of luck, I knew one of those times I wouldn’t get too far out in front and that’s what happened on that last restart,” Nasse told STS.
Side by side, with one left to go, Allen made it by Nasse. Fans on their feet, Nasse slid back by Allen with inches between the two, as the front of the pack passed the start-finish line in a cloud of smoke behind the pair.
“I thought I was going to get him, he took my line coming off four and kind of drove me up in the wall but it’s one of those things, it’s racing,” said Allen.
Nasse admitted he was aggressive.
“Allen is a class act and I hate to have to get dirty with him at all, but at the same time, I gotta do what I can do to win and I know he would do the same thing,” said Nasse.
Allen said the close racing was understandable.
“As long as he’s cool with me doing the same thing, it’s part of it, it’s short track racing,” he said.
It was still a disappointing outcome for Allen, who won the pole and rallied back from the invert to be in position to win at the end.
“I thought I had him, I thought on the last lap,” Allen said.
1. Stephen Nasse
2. Willie Allen
3. Steve Dorer
4. Dawson Fletcher
5. Evan Shotko
6. Ryan Rackley
7. Daniel Dye
8. Ryan Herbert
9. Billy VanMeter
10. Harold Crooms
11. Harrison Halder
12. Austin Maynard
13. Gage Rodgers
14. Brandon Oakley
15. Rafe Slate
16. Joe Ross
17. Kyle Plott
18. Christopher Tullis
19. Augie Grill
20. Stacey Crain
21. Dylan Fetcho
22. Hayden Sprague
23. Justin South
24. Ronny Kittle
25. Russell Fleeman
26. Shane Chastain
27. Chuck Tuck
28. David Hodges