Sammy Smith believed he had earned a modicum of redemption from Five Flags Speedway on Friday night, but that particular narrative will have to wait.
After crossing the finish line first in the Southern Super Series SERF 100, Smith was disqualified in post-race technical inspection when his No. 22 Donnie Wilson Motorsports HAMKE was found to have an non-compliant carburetor throttle shaft.
Specifically, the shaft was measured at .0179, when it should have read .0183.
The result was a double figurative gut punch for Wilson, who was poised to secure a 1-2 finish with Smith and Chandler Smith, but instead suffered the worst possible outcome. Chandler Smith led 40 laps but fell out from the lead on Lap 52 due to an overheated engine.
That’s when Sammy Smith inherited the lead, eventually crossing the finish line first, but ultimately losing the win to Stephen Nasse following a thorough teardown of the top-five finishers.
Wilson claimed responsibility for the technical infraction via his social media channels.
“Same carb we ran at the (Snowball) Derby,” Wilson wrote. “I take blame for, I guess, not having checked it before the race. We haven’t touched it since the Derby so the DQ blame goes on me.”
Meanwhile, Nasse and crew chief Chris Cater were permitted to celebrate in Pensacola at a track where two marquee wins have been taken away over the past two Decembers.
This time they were the beneficiary of the Room of Doom.
“Obviously, in the record books, tonight will show as a win,” Nasse said. “Do I feel the same joy that I would getting out of the car in front of the crowd or making the pass on the track? Definitely not. But we’ve worked really hard since splitting off (from Jett Motorsports) and doing our own thing, me and Chris Cater thrashing on the cars, and people saw that we had one of the best cars.
“Definitely one of the best long run cars.”
At the same time, Nasse sympathized with Sammy Smith and Donnie Wilson Motorsports, because he’s been there.
“This shouldn’t take away from their night,” Nasse said. “I had some harsh words for him at the Rattler and had some run ins. He’s really grown up and is working hard. He was starting to slip up there at the end and kept his head up under him and didn’t let me get to him.
“So, I was really happy for him, and seeing the trophy get taken away gave me some bad flashbacks from what I went through. You don’t want to see anyone go through that. I’m not going to flaunt the trophy around, because we want to go earn it tomorrow night.”
Sammy Smith maintained the lead after his teammate’s mechanical failure and survived a restart with 24 to go next to Jeremy Doss. Nasse picked off Doss shortly after the restart and began to run his fastest laps of the race over the final 10 to 15 laps of the race.
In hindsight, Nasse says he felt like he should have passed more cars earlier in the race to gain track position but was trying to conserve tire life on a night where it was hard to pass.
As for Chandler Smith, it’s been since the July 2020 ARCA Racing Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana that he has won, and his initial foray into the NASCAR Truck Series has been fraught with challenges.
This is a win he really wanted, especially since it’s been so long, and with the Snowball Derby looming over the horizon.
“We came back close to what we had last year in the Derby and that was close, but couldn’t match Majeski and Thorn on a short stint,” Smith said. “I though (Chase) Elliott and I were stronger on the longer runs, so that’s what we’ve been working towards.
“A very similar package and it was obviously really strong tonight.”
At the same time, it’s likely but verified that both Donnie Wilson Motorsports cars were out of tolerance so maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.
Which would have been even more frustrating for Chandler Smith who misses Victory Lane.
“To say the least, it’s frustrating,” Smith said. “Out of everything I’ve driven this year, that’s the best driving car I’ve had and to have it against this caliber of competition stings too, but we’ll take the gains we made towards December and keep working towards the Snowball Derby.”
As will Nasse, who still claims the mantle of Unofficial 2019 Snowball Derby winner due to his unapproved brakes disqualification from the race that year.
The SERF 100 win was his first driving the No. 51 under his own family team banner. That makes it special, but only years down the road or if he can win the Rumble by the River 125 on Saturday just three hours north in Montgomery.
“It’ll mean something one day,” Nasse said. “This isn’t entirely the way we wanted to win it, but I know it means a lot to my crew chief Chris and he works really hard on these cars. It will mean a lot more if we can do it again tomorrow and do it on the track and that’ll make it easier for me to kind of claim as our first real win.”
Jesse Dutilly brought out the first caution on Lap 49 for a stall on the backstretch. He was running top-five before that issue. Bubba Pollard made his return to Super Late Model racing after a three month hiatus but fell out of the race 20 laps in.
The Southern Super Series season will resume with the second half of the Florida Alabama Super Late Model Challenge on Saturday night at Montgomery Motor Speedway.
- Stephen Nasse
- Hunter Robbins
- Jeremy Doss
- Matt Craig
- Kyle Plott
- Jake Garcia
- Connor Okrzesik
- John Deangelis
- George Gorham
- Lee Tissot
- Jett Noland
- Michael House
- Ross Kenseth
- Chris Davidson
- Casey Smith
- Grant Enfinger
- Jeff Choquette
- Kodie Conner
- Daniel Dye
- John Bolen
- Jackson Boone
- Johanna Long Robbins
- Jace Hansen
- Justin Drawdy
- Jeremy Pate
- Connor Mosack
- Dusty Williams
- Kyle Bryant
- Colten Nelson
- Jake Finch
- Chandler Smith
- Jesse Dutilly
- Nick Neri
- Bubba Pollard
- Ryan Crane
- Sammy Smith (DQ)