latemodelamerica.com - Aug 1 - Magnolia Motor Speedway
LateModelAmerica.com by Sam Holbrooks

 
 

NeSmith Racing Series: Stokes Gets First Series Win in Magnolia Thriller

COLUMBUS, Miss. – Aug. 1. Johnny Stokes of Columbus, Miss. drove to his first career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series victory Sunday at Magnolia Motor Speedway in the 40-lap main event that was one of the most exciting, hottest races in series history.

Johnny Stokes - Magnolia Motor Speedway

Johnny Stokes en route to his win at at Magnolia Motor Speedway.  Brian McLeod photo

Race fans that braved triple digit temperatures were treated to three and four wide racing, as single file nose-to-tail competition was nowhere to be found on the 3/8-mile clay surface known as “Black Ice.” But that did nothing to chill the race time temperature of 102 degrees with a heat index of 118 degrees.  

It was difficult for those that witnessed the event to keep up with all of the action that was as hot as the temperature. While the leaders raced three-wide, there was four-wide racing, and even seven-wide racing at one point, throughout the field. 

Stokes held off the defending NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS National Champion and current point leader Eric Cooley of Fulton, Miss., driving the 78 Towing and Recovery Victory Circle by .196 seconds in a side-by-side finish.

Stokes took the lead on lap 28 after early race leader Justin McRee lost a driveshaft.  “J-Mac” had a big lead before his misfortune, and was the only driver on the track not battling wheel-to-wheel for position.  

Matthew Turner of Dawsonville, Ga. ran up front all night long, and led for three laps early in the race before having to settle for third at the checkered flag.  Stokes, Cooley and Turner spent most of the race battling three-wide for second, and then for the lead after McRee dropped out.

Stokes ran the high side late in the race with Turner in the middle, and Cooley taking the short way around on the bottom of the track. Stokes and Cooley broke free of Turner with two laps to go, and Cooley began to try and set Stokes up for the “slide job” where he would dive to the bottom of the track and then slide up in front of Stokes. 

Cooley made an unsuccessful try on lap 39, but got a better run going down the backstretch on lap 40. Cooley dove to the inside, and appeared to have Stokes cleared coming off the fourth turn to the checkered flag. Stokes, however, had a lot of momentum coming off the high side of turn four, and stayed alongside Cooley down the front stretch.

Cooley had to slow his momentum just enough to keep from running into Stokes on his right, and that’s all Stokes needed to inch ahead at the start-finish line and take the win by less than a half a car-length. 

“I’m about dead after three straight nights of racing, and traveling back and forth from Greenville to work on the track here,” an exhausted Stokes said after climbing out of his race car in Victory Lane. Stokes raced on Friday and Saturday nights in NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS National Touring action at Greenville Speedway in Greenville, Miss., 150 miles from “The Mag.”

The back-and-forth travel had to do with Stokes’ duties as the Magnolia Motor Speedway promoter and preparing the racing surface. “Dr. Dirt” prepared a race track that everyone liked, both those driving on it, and those watching from the grandstands.

NeSmith Racing Series - Magnolia Motor Speedway
1) Johnny Stokes, 2) Eric Cooley, 3) Matthew Turner, 4) Jamie Tollison, 5) Jeremy Shaw, 6) Chip Brindle, 7) Chris Ragan, 8) Shannon Lee, 9) Shay Knight, 10) Rodney Wing, 11) Jason Hiett, 12) Larry Harrod, 13) Jay Burchfield, 14) Evan Ellis, 15) Terrance Nowell, 16) Chase Edge, 17) Mark Tice, 18) Chris McElhenney, 19) Marcus Minga, 20) Kevin Henderson, 21) Michael Blount, 22) Justin McRee, 23) Charlie Henderson, 24) Tim Staples
Fast Time (28 entries): Chiip Brindle (15.864 secs.); Heat winners: Shaw, Ragan

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