Marred deep in the Pro Late Model (PLM ) point standings after a disappointing start to the season in the 95 KSJ 95, Josh Bragg needed to get his season back on track- and what better time to make up crucial points than in the first doubleheader of the season.
After qualifying on the pole for the first race of the evening, a 20-lap dash, the Helena, Mississippi native proved that his No. 22 would be a force to be reckoned with. Despite a slow start, and being passed by Garrett Jones on the first lap, Bragg quickly reassumed the lead on lap five and never looked back- scoring his first win of the season.
“The car started out real good. Once the air pressure came up and everything, we were cutting the center good,” said Bragg. “Once the air pressure came up late in the race we started getting a little free in (to the corners) and off the center, so I think we will make some changes and see what we can do for the 30 lapper.”
Despite the positive thoughts, and the elation of victory, there was a concerned side of Bragg following the race. With the starting positions for the second race of the night being an invert of the finishing order of the first, he knew he would have to start at the rear and only have 30 laps to make his way to the front.
To say that the second PLM race of the evening was odd would be an understatement. Bragg, who wound up finishing second, spun on two separate occasions under caution during the race, and because he wasn’t the cause of them, he never lost position.
Following a caution on lap 12 that was lengthened by oil on the racing surface, Bragg would lead the field back to green with Wayne Niedecken Jr. beside him. Going where few drivers dared to go, Niedecken was able to pass Bragg for the lead on the outside on the restart and pull away. With a clean track ahead of him, the Milton, Florida native cruised on to the win with Bragg and Elliott Massey behind him.
“We passed Bragg before the yellow came out and I felt like we could pass him again,” said Niedecken after the race. “Josh (Bragg) was really loose. He was loose in the same spot I was tight.”
“We were able to run outside fortunately, the car stuck, and I was optimistic about even trying it up there.”
Setting a new track record in qualifying, it didn’t take long for Jay Jay Day to make a statement to his fellow Pro Truck competitors. On top of his impressive qualifying performance, the native of Theodore won his heat race after starting at the rear.
Continuing the trend of the evening, it would take just four laps for Day to take the lead in the Pro Trucks’ 25-lap feature. After holding off numerous charges from Okie Mason, Day crossed the finish line first as the checkered flag waved with Mason and Chad Robinson behind.
“The truck was good,” said Day after the race. “It was good all day in practice, qualifying and the heat race. As hard as we worked on it, I don’t expect anything different. If we don’t win, we’re going to be a little down about it because we worked so hard on it all week long.”
“I’m pretty happy because this is the second win. The track record meant a lot to us and we went out and got that. I couldn’t do it without my Dad. He’s the only reason I could do it.”
Known simply as “Red Dog”, Lee Reynolds of Theodore came into Saturday night’s affair at MIS with one thing in mind: winning. With multiple second and third-place finishes this season, Reynolds was desperate to get the monkey off his back and make a trip to victory lane.
When it came time for the drivers of the sportsmen division to take to the track for their 25-lap feature, it didn’t take long for Reynolds to take the lead as he passed Bob Bryant on the third lap. Surviving multiple restarts and the advances of those behind him, Reynolds was able to score his first win of the season.
“It was a great win- it couldn’t have been any better,” said an Elated Reynolds in victory lane. “It’s my 26th wedding anniversary tomorrow and I’m fortunate enough to see it. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Behind him, a spirited battle for second-place raged on for most of the late stages. In the end, it was Mark Barnhill who brought home the runner-up honors.
Following his fourth consecutive win, and continuing his stranglehold of the Bomber division this season, a bounty was placed on Mobile’s B.J. Leytham for the driver who could cleanly beat him. With a target on his back, beating Leytham was the main order of business for his competitors.
Oddly enough, however; it was Leytham who nearly beat himself- as he was collected in an accident in the first turn of the first lap on Saturday night. Despite sustaining damage to the right side of his car and nearly getting bogged down in the saturated grass, his familiar orange and white car was able to continue on.
Just five laps later, Leytham would take the lead, but his teammate, Gene Denmark, had bounty money on his mind. On a restart following a caution on the penultimate lap, Denmark was able to squeeze inside Leytham. Despite having the advantage of the inside line, Denmark, who calls Dauphin Island home, was unable to pass Leytham- and would have to watch him cruise on to his fifth consecutive win of the season.
“Its luck, I’m telling ya’ll,” commented Leytham. “There’s no reason that I should have won that race. I got in the mud like the dirt days of packing a track and I couldn’t see anything to get to my pit stall. Then I had to stop and the guys didn’t know why I did.”
“We are going to have to do something,” he continued. “They have caught us now and it’s just a matter of time. Every one of my wins has been harder than the one before it.”
Racing action resumes on Saturday, May 24th as the stars of the Southern Super Series visit Alabama’s fastest half-mile for the second Miller Lite 125 of the season with local action from the Pro Truck, Super Stock, Sportsman and Bomber divisions.