Ernest King played the strategy game to perfection, winning the Red Snapper 105 at Five Flags Speedway after stretching his tires for a 25-lap run to close the race.
King raced his way into the Red Snapper field, finishing fourth in the B-Main won by Rusty Wallace. Despite starting 28th in the field, King found his way to victory lane with a bold strategy call.
The caution flew for the final time on lap 75 after Chris Crutchfield slowed with a header failure. When the race restarted on lap 80, this left 25 laps on the Pensacola facility’s abrasive asphalt, worn down by the Gulf Coast salt and sand.
Nearly every driver in the field pitted during the final 25 laps, with tire wear causing considerable drop-off in lap times over the course of a green-flag run. King instead rolled the dice, staying out for the final stretch. On the lap 80 restart, he was 18th, one lap down. On lap 105, he was headed to victory lane, finishing less than five seconds ahead of Danny Vandoorne.
Vandoorne had pitted for tires after leading 44 laps in the race, claiming the bonus for most laps led in the event. The runner-up finish boosted Vandoorne to fourth in the Short Track Simulation Circuit (STSC) points standings ahead of Chester Curd. Curd started third and ran in the top five for the early stages of the race before a camshaft failure ended his night on lap 11.
Harvey Bakerfield finished third, with Wallace and Rick James rounding out the top five. James’ top-five finish came after overcoming some adversity of his own, as he was involved in an early accident but brought his damaged car home with a strong finish after racing near the front of the field throughout.
In the STSC title picture, the race was a big one for points leader Kurt Gunnabee. Gunnabee scored a sixth-place finish while his closest competition faltered. Entering the race, three drivers trailed Gunnabee by fewer than 18 points. Now, his lead over second-place Jack Stevens is 55 points.
Stevens finished 23rd, one lap down, matching his worst finish of the season as the only driver other than Gunnabee to make all ten A-Mains this season. Luis Cabrera Perez is now third in points after finishing 28th following a retirement, with Vandoorne fourth and Curd fifth.
With the win, King pocketed an extra $5,000 as this was one of four “bonus” races in the inaugural STSC schedule. The last bonus payday will come at the season finale at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway, where the winner will take an extra $10,000.
The STSC will next head to Michigan for the Titus 90 at Kalamazoo Speedway. As the STSC enters the final third of the season, it will be interesting to see how the 1/3-mile oval will shake up the title hunt.