Donnie Wilson had it coming.
The Oklahoma-based Super Late Model driver finally picked up his first southern touring victory on Saturday night, winning the Nashville 125 Southern Super Series event at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
Wilson was crowned victorious after the originally-declared winner — John Hunter Nemechek — was disqualified for an unapproved driveshaft wrapped in aluminum.
The 42-year-old had seemingly settled for second-place at the drop of the checkered flag but instead was awarded his first touring victory in over 12 years, dating back to a 2002 ROMCO event at San Antonio Speedway.
Wilson is the 2001 champion of that tour but had not tasted a points-paying win since directing his efforts to the southeast. He has, however, posted a standalone victory at Mobile International Speedway in 2006.
Ricky Brooks, technical director of the Southern Super Series, shocked Wilson in the hours following the race by presenting him with the signature guitar trophy as he was loading up his hauler.
“Uh-oh,” Wilson said, recalling the moment he was declared the winner. “Obviously I knew something was up but it really didn’t dawn on me that I was in line for the win until he pulled out the trophy. I really don’t think the driveshaft made a difference for John Hunter.
“That’s a quality team with good people. But this officiating crew do the right things too so it’s just one of those things.”
Wilson, who started 11th, believes he would have eventually picked off Nemechek if given five more laps and was just relieved to be able to provide his team a much-deserved victory.
“The whole thing left me in shock, really,” Wilson said. “I didn’t think we had that good of a car judging from practice and qualifying. We were better on the longer runs once everyone else got real loose. I started 11th and was able to just keep picking them off.”
Wilson had competed in every Southern Super Series race up until the 2014 season-opener due to the rainout pushing the Rattler 250 back one week after the drivers, including Wilson, had already qualified. As a result, Wilson may not be able to parlay his victory into a run at the championship.
The driver of the No. 2w Ford is 11th in the standings after the first two races and 96 markers behind new championship leader Anderson Bowen. But Wilson believes he can catch up due to the slow start to several championship contenders, including Augie Grill (fifth in the standings), Daniel Hemric (seventh) and Bubba Pollard (ninth).
“We still got a single point for qualifying the car at Opp which could make a big difference,” Wilson said. “It’s up to us now to get out there and keep posting top-5s and try to win a few more of these races because you never know what can happen.”
Should Wilson find himself back in championship contention at the end of the season, his success at Nashville could play dividends with the season-finale taking place at the historic .6-mile venue for the All-American 400.
“No one has led more laps at Nashville over the past three years than we have,” Wilson said. “That gives me a ton of confidence. I think it’s one of those scenarios where, now that we’ve got that first win, we’ve got the bad luck out of the way and we might win a couple and I want to win the All-American pretty badly.”
The next Southern Super Series events will play out on April 25 and April 25 at Pensacola Five Flags Speedway and Mobile International Speedway, respectively. It’s the first of four Gulf Coast doubleheaders which make up the backbone of the tour.
Anderson Bowen takes championship lead after Nashville
Anderson Bowen has a lot going on this season.
He’s running partial schedules in the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR Pro Series East but his primary focus remains in the Southern Super Series, where after two races, he has inherited the championship lead.
Bowen finished second in the season-opening Rattler 250 and finished third on Saturday in the Nashville 125, enough to pace Kyle Grissom by 11 points with 14 events still remaining on the sophomore schedule.
“I feel like we’re making improvements each race and that’s key,” the 16-year-old said in a series news release. “We’ll just keep trying to improve and hopefully we’ll have a win come our way soon.
“At South Alabama, I feel like we got lucky when some of the good cars fell out and whatnot, but here I really feel like we were a contender in the race.”
That should be the trend all season now that Bowen is paired with veteran crew chief Ricky Turner, who led Chase Elliott in recent seasons. With respect to Grissom, Casey Roderick and Casey Smith, Bowen should especially feel relief that some of his toughest challengers are buried outside of the top-5.
Instead of pushing for wins, Bowen now finds himself in a position to just manage races and let the good results come to him, a tactic that will likely lead to Victory Lane anyway.
The top-15 in the Southern Super Series championship standings can be found below.
1.) Anderson Bowen (Ldr.)
2.) Kyle Grissom (-11)
3.) Casey Roderick (-18)
4.) Casey Smith (-21)
5.) Augie Grill (-26)
6.) Hunter Robbins (-37)
7.) Daniel Hemric (-39)
8.) Justin South (-57)
9.) Bubba Pollard (-71)
10.) Allen Karnes (-76)
11.) Donnie Wilson (-96)
12.) Zak Hausler (-98)
13.) Harrison Burton (-108)
14.) Landon Kling (-112)
15.) Chris Davidson (-114)