Submitted by Ted Austad
Photo credits: Francis Hauke
(Senoia, GA – June 17, 2017) Tod Darda of LaGrange has thirty-nine career victories at Senoia Raceway, but had not won in the highly competitive Super Late Model division since he moved to that division three years ago. Darda changed that on Saturday night with a wire to wire win over the two-time defending track champion Clint ‘Cat Daddy’ Smith of Senoia.
Other winners included Hamilton’s Thomas Lewis in the Limited Late Models, Tyrone’s Jody Knowles in the Crate Late Models, Curtis Turner of Brooks in the Late Model Sportsman and Conyer’s Tim Harmon in the Bombers. Villa Rica’s ‘Smokin’ Joe Hillman picked up the $1000 pay day winning the Hobby Stock ‘Summer Sizzler’ while Hampton’s Mark Newton and Alabama’s Dean Williams won the Mini Stock and Hot Shots features. Newnan’s Mike Nelms won the hilarious, crash-filled ‘Waterless Boat Race’ as he was the last driver to have his boat, or remnants of, remaining at the end of the event.
Darda has been competing at the 3/8ths mile clay track since it reopened in 2010 as a dirt track. He has thirty-nine victories in the Limited Late Model division, but had not won in the Super Late Models since he moved there during the 2015 season. He had been the fastest qualifier, led a few times, but had not put all the pieces together for a victory.
Saturday night he jumped to the lead ahead of fellow front row starter Mason Massey of Douglaville. Not far behind was Clint Smith who was working his preferred high line around the race track. Smith worked past Massey early and then set his sights on Darda.
Smith tried to run the low side a couple of times only to have Darda slam the door shut. Smith then would try to top of the track which he has used to so successfully over the past two seasons, but again Darda would slide in front on the straightaways.
Darda finally pulled away in the final few laps and claimed his first career victory in the Super Late Models ahead of Smith, Massey, Fayetteville’s Ricky Williams and Senoia’s Bubba Pollard.
Another new winner this season also found the winner’s circle on Saturday night as Thomas Lewis made his first appearance at the track in 2017 a successful venture. Lewis topped the speed charts during Limited Late Model qualifying and then did not disappoint his fans during the feature as he led all twenty laps.
The Limited Late Model racing was left to a pair of regulars who are chasing each in the point standings. Battling for second were Brooks’ ‘Magic’ Matt Dooley and Locust Grove’s ‘Racin’ Jason Williams. The hard charging duo swapped the lead back and forth as they worked the high and low sides of the track.
On lap 18, Williams and Dooley ran into lapped traffic with Dooley trying to get low on McDonough’s Brant Hardin. The two touched briefly and allowed for Williams to move ahead and snag a second place finish behind Lewis. Dooley would settle for third ahead of Brand Lewis, the winner’s brother, and teenage sensation Bailey Williams of Fayetteville.
In the Crate Late Model feature, Jody Knowles charged to his second straight win while fending off all chances from Alabama’s ‘Thrillin’ Dylan Knowles. Charging up through the field was current Crate Late Model points leader Dennis Lykins, Jr., of Sharpsburg. Lykins would finish in third ahead of youngsters Colby Darda and Chase Baker from LaGrange. Another rising star, Josh Copeland of McDonough, had his best run of the season before fading the final couple of circuits to finish in sixth.
A massive wreck involving seven cars at the beginning of the Late Model Sportsman race ended the night for fast qualifier Richard Goode. That left the door wide open for Whitesburg’s Blant Duke, but some possible damage from the same accident may have caused his car to lose some of it’s handling. The man to pounce on the opportunity was Curtis Turner as he shot to the lead out of the turns on lap five and then never looked back winning for the second time this year. Behind Turner were points leader Keith Fields of Griffin and Duke. Locust Grove’s Billy Stevenson finished in fourth snapping his two week win streak and Grantville’s Blake Griffin rebounded from a tough first half of the season to nab a top five.
Joe Hillman was not going to be denied his division best sixth win in the Hobby Stock. Hillman dominated the Hobby Stock ‘Summer Sizzler’ pocketing the top prize of $1000. Whitesburg’s Shane Tidwell made several passes for position in the final five laps to gain the runner-up spot while fellow Whitesburg racer HB Duke finished in third.
Mark Newton passed Newnan’s Tommy Faulkner on the second lap of the Mini Stock feature and then held off Baldwin teenager Paris Simmons through a caution on lap fourteen. The restart was a not a problem for Newton as he cruised to the checkers, but Simmons spun his ride coming out of turn four. All of the drivers missed the young driver, but due to the spin Simmons would finish as the final driver on the lead lap. Locust Grove’s Jamie Nicholson, Sr. finished in second with Stockbridge’s Mike Younginer returning to the track after a lengthy illness running third.
The Bombers also had a one-lap dash due to a late race caution and Tim Harmon was able to keep Alabama’s Dunie Dillard behind him to claim the win. Dillard had started scratch on the field after arriving at the track too late for qualifying hot laps. Dillard had won the previous two Saturday night showdowns in the Bomber class. Fellow Alabaman Abe Chase was third with West Point’s Charlie Garrett fourth and Wilson Boozer of Jenkinsburg fifth.
Dean Williams won the Hot Shots main event for the second straight week after moving past points leader Morgan Pittman on lap four. Pittman would finish second and keep a firm grasp on his points lead heading into Senoia’s July 1st racing event.
The final event of the night was everything that fans had anticipated as the ‘Waterless Boat Race’ was filled with wild driving techniques and plenty of crashes. Mike Nelms was the last driver to still have a boat attached and running as close to fifteen teams entered the unique contest. Fans were on their feet for the entire fifteen minute contest that included several upside down boats, a car on fire and smashed up tow vehicles littering the track.
“That was like watching the old 70’s movie Rollerball,” said Newnan’s Shawn Stillman. “It looked like a survival scene with the fire burning out of control and all the carnage left on the track. That was fun to watch.”
It will take the track a couple of weeks to clean up the mess, but that works out as Senoia Raceway will not be back in action again until Saturday, July 1st when the Southern All-Star Dirt Late Models return to the track for a special holiday weekend race paying $5454 to win. The Michael Head, Jr. Memorial race is slated to take place along with all other divisions including Limited Late Models, Crate Late Models, Late Model Sportsman, Hobby, Mini, Bomber and Hot Shots. The night will conclude with a fireworks display.
The pit gates open at 4pm (maybe a little earlier to assist the travelling teams) with the grandstand gates opening at 5pm. Hot laps will begin at 6:30pm and racing will follow immediately.
Grandstand tickets for Saturday, July 1st are $20; kids 5-12 are $10; four and under are free. Pit passes and trackside parking passes are $35; kids 5-12 are $20; four and under are free.
Senoia Raceway is located just five miles west of Senoia, GA, on Georgia Highway 16. Easy access from both Interstate 75 and 85.
For additional information, visit the track website at www.senoiaraceway.com or call the speedway at 770.599.6161.
Official Results for Saturday, June 17, 2017
Super Late Models (Feature): 1-Tod Darda, LaGrange 2-Clint Smith, Senoia 3-Mason Massey, Douglasville 4-Ricky Williams, Fayetteville 5-Bubba Pollard, Senoia 6-Craig Scott, Newnan 7-Glenn Morris, Fayetteville 8-Shane Fulcher, Thomaston 9-Dustin Elliott, Pine Mountain 10-Trey Wood, Newnan 11-Dillon Tidmore, Gadsden, AL DNS: Cody King, McDonough Fast Qualifier: Darda (15.039 – 89.8 mph)
Limited Late Models (Feature): 1-Thomas Lewis, Hamilton 2-Jason Williams, Locust Grove 3-Matt Dooley, Brooks 4-Brand Lewis, Hamilton 5-Bailey Williams, Fayetteville 6-Oliver Gentry, Newnan 7-Chris Carr, Newnan 8-Dakota Weeks, Douglasville 9-Aubrey Merritt, Carrollton 10-Brant Hardin, McDonough 11-Steven Nicholson, Jackson DNS: Dennis Hale, LaGrange Fast Qualifier: T. Lewis (15.198 – 88.8 mph)
Crate Late Models (Feature): 1-Jody Knowles, Tyrone 2-Dylan Knowles, Lannett, AL 3-Dennis Lykins, Jr., Sharpsburg 4-Colby Darda, LaGrange 5-Chase Baker, LaGrange 6-Josh Copeland, McDonough 7-Jamie Maurice, McDonough 8-Wayne Harbin, Sharpsburg 9-Dow Kirkland, Lake Spivey 10-Tina Johnson, Senoia 11-Mike Abercrombie, Griffin 12-Bailey Temples, McDonough DNS: Ronnie McCullough, Franklin Fast Qualifier: D. Knowles (15.126 – 89.3 mph)
Late Model Sportsman (Feature): 1-Curtis Turner, Brooks 2-Keith Fields, Griffin 3-Blant Duke, Whitesburg 4-Billy Stevenson, Locust Grove 5-Blake Griffin, Grantville 6-Brandon McDanile, Byron 7-Ted Minnix, McDonough 8-Marc Gooden, Lafayette, AL 9-Clyde Alexander, Locust Grove 10-Jamie Nicholson, Locust Grove 11-Ben Snider, Valley, AL 12-Brandon Bright, Newnan 13-Johnny Stinchcomb, Newnan 14-Lee Fuller, Newnan 15-Chris Steele, Franklin 16-Joe Armistead, Jr., Senoia 17-Richard Goode, Hampton 18-Bobby Arnold, Newnan 19-Paul Holloway, Hampton Fast Qualifier: Goode (15.271 – 88.4 mph)
Hobby Stock (Feature): 1-Joe Hillman, Villa Rica 2- Shane Tidwell, Whitesburg 3-HB Duke, Whitesburg 4- Ryan Ray, Mableton 5-John Holcomb, Griffin 6-Griffin Alexander, Locust Grove 7-Ted Willingham, McDonough 8-Chris Kozusnik, Newnan 9-Mike Jenkins, Brooks 10-Lee McElwaney, Newnan DNS: Josh Pitt, Stockbridge Fast Qualifier: Hillman (16.639 – 81.1 mph)
Mini Stock (Feature): 1-Mark Newton, Hampton 2-Jamie Nicholson, Sr., Locust Grove 3-Mike Younginer, Locust Grove 4-Tommy Faulkner, Newnan 5-Paris Simmons, Baldwin 6-Brandon Jones, Newnan 7-Bobby Faulkner, Newnan 8-Bo Chambers, Griffin 9-Joshua Till, Atlanta 10-Rocky Johnson, Douglasville 11-Cassie Dingler-Still, Newnan Fast Qualifier: Simmons (18.001 – 75 mph)
Bomber (Feature): 1-Tim Harmon, Conyers 2-Dunie Dillard, Phenix City, AL 3-Abe Chase, Lanett, AL 4-Charlie Garrett, West Point 5-Wilson Boozer, Jenkinsburg 6-Carley Arnett, Lanett, AL 7-David Jackson 8-Dorough Bright, Newnan 9-Derrick Matthews, Whitesburg 10-Vern Miller 11-Randy Cornwell, Fayetteville DNS: Tim McCoy, Manchester; McKenna Nelms, Newnan Fast Qualifier: Bright (17.392 – 77.6 mph)
Hot Shot (Feature): 1-Dean Williams, Lanett, AL 2-Morgan Pittman, Grantville 3-Nathan Farrow, LaGrange 4-Mark Meyer, Ellijay 5-Dave McWilliams, Fayetteville 6-Cindy Matthews, Brooks 7-Stormie Cowart, Phenix City, AL 8-Ashley Amoson, Newnan 9-Austin Ezell, Phenix City, AL DNS: Remington Bryson, Douglasville