PARADISE ANY WAY YOU LOOK AT IT
By Robin Smith Miller
Notice anything different about this story yet? Check out my by-line, yes, I have a new name - Robin Smith Miller. Not much different; same initials still; I can use the same monogrammed towels. On October 18, I married my fellow KARNACIAN, our photographer, Max Miller, as the sun set on Mallory Square in Key West on the Eve of the start to Fantasy Festival. Those of you who know me, are shaking your heads and chuckling at the same time and saying, "only Robin would do something like that!"
We had a wonderful time in Key West but raced back on Saturday, driving from Key West to Lakeland to exchange one paradise for another, with a half an hour to spare before the start of the Discount Auto Parts 150 NASCAR Goodys Dash Series race at USA International Speedway in Lakeland. For our readers who prefer the "technical" race stories, let me steer you right now to my racing buddy Thom Watson's superb synopsis of the evening's race action. For those of you who prefer a little more rambling, I hope you will stick with me here.
My new hubby (that sounds really strange!) and I raced through the pits, just in time to get some good pictures during driver introductions. I got to say a very brief hello to some of the wonderful drivers I have met this year in this series like Tim Nichols, Kelly "Girl" Sutton, the Hobgoods, Cam Strader, local racers Derrick Kelley and Tony Hargraves. Missing in action was Doc Brewer and Angie Wilson, who elected to stay home this weekend. In all my years of racing, I have seldom met such a great group of people than those in the Goodys Dash Series!
I got a tear in my eye, as did most everyone there, when the "Boys Band" called 490 did a magnificent a cappella version of "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America" and yet again when Jessica Swartzkopf sang "The Star Bangled Banner". As a local service club unfurled a huge American flag, the fans waved little cardboard replicas provided by the Speedway. We all shared a moment of silence, remembering those we have lost in the past six weeks. This was the first race I had been to since the September 11 attack and it felt good to be "home" at an oval track.
The Willsboro, South Carolina Hobgood boys, Jake and Justin, were the two fastest cars in qualifying, making their dad Will proud yet again. It has been a great year in racing for this family including a one-two finish earlier this season at Myrtle Beach and domination at the season opener in February at Daytona International Speedway. Big brother Jake started on the pole but little brother Justin "ruled" most of the race, leading almost 100 laps. The only other driver not named Hobgood who led, was Randy Humphrey when the Hobgoods pitted midway through the 150-lap race.
My young friend, Scott Thornton of Jacksonville, was not so lucky. The young high schooler whose pit crew consists of his father and grandfather was out of the race before three laps were complete. Also, not having a good evening, was Kelly "Girl" Sutton who is a source of great inspiration to me. In her usual "never say quit" fashion, however, the Crownsville, Maryland driver held on to finish a respectable 14th out of 35 cars.
Tony Hargraves (left) and Kelly Sutton (right)
My eyes constantly followed the Rookie of the Year contenders, young Shane Hmiel of Pleasant Garden, N.C. and the #52 Old Milwaukee/John Boy and Billy Grilling Sauce/U.S. Air Force car of the oldest rookie of the year contender in the series, Tim Nichols of Cedar Bluff, Virginia. As I said earlier his car owner and teammate, Doc Brewer, kept his Pabst Blue Ribbon/John Boy and Billy race car home but Lakeland driver, Tony Hargraves, racing in only his third start this year, did the PBR logo justice by finishing in the top half of the field in 16th position.
In the end, Jake Hobgood took the series first ever win from the pole in his Cedar Creek Auto sponsored Pontiac and brother, Justin finished second in his Sunfire sponsored by Tracker Boats/Holiday Kamper and Boats.
Series point leader and last year's Rookie of the Year, Cam Strader of Wilson, N.C. finished third in his Wesson Oil/Peter Pan sponsored Cougar. Fourth place went to Chuck Gafrarar of Mooresville, N.C. in his Miller Lite Pontiac. Winter Haven's Keith Roggen finished fifth in his Chevy Cavalier sponsored by Southern Road Builders. Local favorite Derrick Kelley had the best finish of the "Florida boys", bringing his Discount Auto Parts sponsored Pontiac Sunfire to a sixth place finish.
Tim Nichols was credited with a 12th place finish, keeping him ahead of Shane Hmiel in the Mag-Klip Rookie of the Year points. However, Wayne Edwards of Sheppardsville, Kentucky, gained ground on Nichols, ensuring an exciting season ending race at Nashville Speedway on November 25. Strader needs only to start in the race to ensure his first series points championship.
Next on the track were the Executive Racing School SARA Late Models for a 100 lap race. One of "my" own drivers, Doug Moff of Fort Myers took the fastest qualifying time but had to start fifth. Another driver who I have been proud to watch and write about since he was 14 years old, young lion, Brad Barkis of Fort Myers sat on the pole after he qualified fifth. Barkis dominated the first 42 laps. It was then yet another of my old Charlotte County Speedway regulars, series champion Bobby Beauchemin of Davie took the lead.
Several laps later a wreck on the front stretch took Barkis and Jason Boyd out of contention. Moff was also involved but was able to remain on the lead lap. Beauchemin continued to lead as the wily Wayne Morris of Mulberry snuck behind him, taking the lead on Lap 82 where he hung on for the win. Joe Boyd of Tampa was third and Martin Pierce of Sanford was fourth. Rounding out the Top Five was Rookie of the Year contender and another of my home town favorites, Smokin' Joe Sumasky of Lehigh Acres.
I am sorry to say, by that point in time we were exhausted after our 500 mile trip so we didn't stay to see Aaron Dreher win the inaugural Erock Series race but again you can get the rest of the story from my buddy Thom.
I can't wait for Goodys Dash race rebroadcast to really watch the race and focus on it. For those of you who are interested, you can catch it on Fox Sport on Saturday, November 3rd at 11 am or Saturday, November 10th at 8 PM. It will also be shown on the Sunshine Network on Tuesday, November 6th at 2 PM or Wednesday, November 7th at 8 PM.
-Robin Smith Miller
Have an opinion on this story? Post a message on our Message Board!
or send a letter to the editor!