Cook VL - May 8
Ray Cook after his first Southern All Stars win at North Georgia in nearly two years. (Thomas Hendrickson)
Cook Nips Weaver For Overdue SAS Win at North Georgia
By Brad Byrd

CHATSWORTH, Ga. - May 8. Ray Cook has arguably been one of the hottest drivers in the southeast over the last 18 or so months. Yet when Cook arrived at North Georgia Speedway on Saturday, he was still looking for his first Southern All Stars win since August of 2008. Cook put all that behind him in grand fashion by leading all 50 laps of the Southern All Stars sanctioned North Georgia Speedway event and garnered a nice $5000 pay day.

“I am just so blessed to have Danny Dishman and Ron Ivey and all of the guys that help us with this race team. It’s always good to get a win closer to home.” Cook said after the race. Although Cook led every lap the win was far from easy. Randy Weaver and Skip Arp threw everything they had at Cook as the trio had several battles for the win.

Cook got his evening started off on the right foot when he captured the VP Race Fuels Race for the Pole Award by laying down a lap of 13.442 around the one third of a mile oval. Arp, making only his second start with a spec engine under the hood, clocked in second quick with a 13.510 lap. Ronnie Johnson, Tommy Kerr and Aaron Ridley rounded out the top five in qualifying. Hall of Famer Freddy Smith, North Georgia point leader Derek Ellis, Southern All Stars Rookie of the Year candidate Scott Creel, former Southern All Stars Champion Jamie Perry and reigning Southern All Stars Champion Randy Weaver completed the top ten that were locked in to the feature.

Multi-time North Georgia Speedway Track Champion Gary McPherson led the 14

Derek Ellis - Freddy Smith - May 8

Derek Ellis passes #00 Freddy Smith before taking a fourth place finish in Southern All Stars action at North Georgia. (Thomas Hendrickson)

car B-Main field to the green flag alongside youngster Ethan Hunter. At the drop of the green flag McPherson lurched ahead to the lead headed into turn one. But Hunter fought back to the outside and pulled even down the back straightaway. McPherson finally took the advantage as Hunter had to deal with a hard charging William Thomas. McPherson held on for the win with Thomas taking second ahead of Hunter, Daniel Baggerly and Preston Graves.

The field roared to life with Cook and Arp door to door as they flashed across the line. The North Georgia racing surface was in near perfect shape as drivers were able to move around and race all over it. Cook edged ahead to take the point while Arp was faced with an onslaught from Ronnie Johnson. Johnson moved to second by the third circuit and looked to reel in Cook. Meanwhile Arp dropped back to the fifth spot behind Aaron Ridley. In the middle of the pack Southern All Stars Rookie of the Year candidate Jeff Franklin began his charge to the front. Franklin, who started 16th, picked off five spots in the first eight laps.

Back up front Cook and Johnson were reaching backmarker traffic. Cook chose his line carefully which allowed Johnson to sneak to his inside on several occasions. But each time Cook prevailed. When the yellow flag waved over the field for the third time of the evening for Ridley’s lame machine, Johnson unexpectedly ducked into the pit area. It was later discovered Johnson broke an axle which ended his stellar run. With Johnson making his exit Weaver stepped up to the third position after starting tenth. When the green reappeared Cook scampered away. Weaver made quick work of Arp and took over the runner-up position.

Randy Weaver slides under Ronnie Johnson one his way to a second place finish after starting tenth on the grid. (Thomas Hendrickson)

With a long green flag run Cook was able to put some distance on Weaver. But once again when Cook found slower traffic Weaver was able to close up the gap. As the laps began to wane Weaver was all over Cook. Weaver first looked low and then high as the leaders worked the lapped traffic. With only five laps remaining the leaders were behind a gaggle of cars running two and three wide for position. Cook looked to find away around slipping up off the bottom. Seeing the opening Weaver pounced and dove inside the racelong leader. A rejuvenated Arp also saw the door open and ducked beneath both Cook and Weaver to make it three wide for the lead out of turn four.

Slight contact between the three leaders sent Weaver into a 360 spin. Weaver was able to right his machine and continue without stopping. However the yellow flag had been displayed and several drivers slowed. “This was one of those tough situations. The flagman was just trying to do what he thought was right but as it turned out the caution was a little premature. It was an inadvertent yellow so by rule we went back to the last completed green flag lap. It was just one of those things that happens. I explained the procedure on the Raceiver and again after the race to the top three drivers and they understood the ruling. We hate that it happened but I’m glad we have a rule in place for just such an occurrence.” said SAS Competition Director Kelley Carlton.

The field quickly reset and went back to green for the final four laps of racing. Weaver was giving all he could muster from his Bloomquist Race Car. He again looked both low and high trying to get by Cook. With the white flag waving Weaver gave it one last ditch effort as he nosed ahead of Cook exiting turn four. But Cook’s outside momentum was the difference. Cook flashed across the stripe to the win by a nose. “Man this track was slick. But it was a lot of fun. I had no idea we were three wide there I was just so focused on running my line and keeping the car moving forward. I know it was exciting for these fans. These guys did a great job with the track and we are just happy and blessed to be here.” Cook said in VP Race Fuels Victory Lane.

Weaver held on for second ahead of Arp. Weaver was visibly disappointed in his post race interview. “You know I was really wanting to win that race. My good friend Calvin Cheek passed away earlier this week and I really wanted to win that one for him. I probably tried a little too hard. We had a tough weekend. We hurt a motor at Waycross last night. We drove all night to get home and change it so we could make it here. So its been tough. Congratulations to Ray and his team and thanks to Junior and Josh and all my guys. We’ll settle for second and go get ‘em next time.”


Preston Graves 2 - May 8

Preston Graves is helped from his race car after flipping it on a lap 18 restart at North Georgia. (Thomas Hendrickson)

Finish - North Ga. SAS - May 8

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