Chris Wilson of Crossville won the J.T. Kerr Memorial 40 for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series on Friday night in front of a standing-room-only crowd at 411 Motor Speedway. Wilson took the lead on lap 30 and then held off a strong challenge from his boyhood hero Hall of Fame driver Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga to pick up the $4,000 top prize.
“I know J.T. Kerr was looking down on us tonight with a big smile on his face with the great racing and the great crowd that turned out to watch it,” Wilson said. “This is a big win for me because Ronnie Johnson was my hero when I was growing up, and to race him like that and win is something I will always remember.”
Wilson drove the Dale’s Auto Sales GRT to his second career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series win, and Johnson finished second in the Hedman Husler Special for Turner Motorsports.
Polesitter Larry Harrod of Plains, GA was third in the Harrod Logging Special and Mack McCarter of Sevierville, TN took the fourth spot in the CVR Race Cars Special.
Greg Martin of Oliver Springs, TN started 14th in the Biff Motorsports Special and finished fifth to earn the Hedman Husler of the Race Award. John Cobb of Loudon, TN drove the NAPA Auto Parts Special to a sixth-place finish, and David Smith of Inman, SC was seventh in the McCarter Towing TNT.
Two-time NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Champion and current point leader David Earl Gentry of Murfreesboro, TN finished eighth in the Eads Farms/Hardy and Associates Warrior, and Chris Cantrell of Chester, SC was the VP Racing Fuels Rookie of the Race with a ninth-place finish in the CANCO Rocket.
Matthew Turner of Dawsonville, GA rounded out the top ten in the Hedman Husler Special to stay within 28 points of Gentry in the battle for the $20,000 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Championship.
After a four-wide "salute to the fans" and special tribute to the late J.T. Kerr, the 24-car field took the green flag to start the J.T. Kerr Memorial 40, and it was Harrod leading Adam Beeler of Knoxville, TN in the CVR Race Cars Special, Wilson, Cantrell, and McCarter. Mark Vineyard brought out the caution flag on lap three when he stalled his Smithbuilt Homes Special on the backstretch.
The field line-up for the Dixie-Style double-file restart with Harrod leading Beeler, Wilson, McCarter, Cantrell, Cobb, Smith, Brian Ligon of Augusta, GA in the Big Dog Disposal Special, Johnson and Cory Hedgecock of Loudon, TN in the Eagle Racing Engines Rocket. When the field went back to green flag action, Johnson was on a mission coming from ninth to fifth by lap four.
The lead changed hands on lap seven when Beeler got around Harrod, and then began to pull away. Beeler had almost a full straightaway lead on Harrod by the time he reached the cars on the tail end of the lead lap on the 14th tour. Johnson passed McCarter to take over the fourth position on lap 18, and the reeled in Harrod and Wilson on lap 20 to make it a three car dance for the second spot.
Wilson got by Harrod for second on lap 22, and Johnson passed Harrod to take over the third spot on lap 24. While Beeler worked through heavy lapped traffic, Wilson and Johnson began to close the gap on the leader, and were within a couple of car-lengths by lap 29.
Coming off the fourth turn on lap 30, Beeler got tangled up with several lapped cars, got sideways, and spin down the front straightaway collecting Wilson, Johnson, Harrod, and the lapped car of Johnny Stokes of Columbus, MS in the Bassett Hound Motorsports GRT. Beeler’s car rolled to a stop in the infield, but that’s where Beeler’s night got worse.
The caution was charged to Stokes, so Beeler could have restarted the race in the lead if he was able to continue. But Beeler took off his helmet, climbed out of the race car and was done for the night. This misfortune earned Beeler the Dominator Race Products Hard Luck Award.
That gave the lead to Wilson for the restart followed by Johnson, Harrod, McCarter, Cobb, Martin, Smith, Cantrell, Gentry, and Ligon. In the 11 lap dash to the finish, Johnson made several tries to drive under Wilson for the lead, but Wilson was just too strong coming off the corners on the high side and kept his hero behind him.
In preliminary action, Harrod out-timed the 36-car field with a lap around the 3/8-mile high-banked clay oval in 14.842 seconds. The two 12-lap B-Main races were won by David Crabtree of Maryville, TN in the Smoky Mountain Brewery Special and Gentry.
The next four events for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series will be the Salute To America Speedweek on July 4-7.
The action starts at East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City, AL on July 4 with a $2,500-to-win 50 lap race, then a pair of 40-lap $2,000-to-win races on July 5 and 6 at Penton Raceway in Penton, AL, and then a 50-lap $2,500-to-win race on July 7 at Albany Motor Speedway in Albany, GA. If a driver can win all four races, there will be a $1,000 bonus paid to make it a $10,000 payday for sweeping the Salute To America Speedweek for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series.
For more information about the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series visit the series web site at www.nesmithraching.com or visit the series on Facebook at NeSmith Racing. Becoming a fan of the NeSmith Racing Facebook page will make you eligible for special prizes that will be given monthly.