Joe Armistead, Jr. made it three wide near the onset of the opening round of racing at the 3/8ths mile clay raceway on March 31st. The Senoia hot shoe shot down low to sneak under pole sitter Racin’ Jason Williams while outside pole sitter Lavon Sparks of Phenix City, AL held the top side. Armistead squeezed past en route to victory in the track’s Spring Fling 40 for the highly popular late model division.
Also taking home checkered flags at the 2012 season opener were Newnan’s Marcus Caswell in the B Cadet, Carrollton’s Clifton ‘Hog Head’ Moran in the Summit Racing Equipment Hobby Stock, Lagrange’s Stephen Hill in the Mini Stock and Newnan’s Casey Bruce in the Bomber. Bruce’s victory was his first career win at the west Georgia speed plant.
Joe Armistead, Jr. started the evening qualifying faster than the other nineteen competitors signed in for the Jodeco Auto Sales Late Model event. Armsitead was not excited about the new dice roll implemented by promoter Tim Moses, as the fastest man rolled a three and found himself starting behind last season’s two hottest drivers at Senoia Raceway. The inversion roll landed 2011 season point rivals Racin’ Jason Williams and Lavon Sparks on the front row.
Armistead’s daring move to create the three wide tussle for the number one spot brought the large opening night crowd to it’s feet and showcased the new racy surface for the first time. The track underwent a transformation during the off-season removing the old asphalt surface which had been covered up the past two seasons with a layer of clay. The clay surface the past couple of years has dried out quickly which handicapped the drivers from racing from the top to the bottom of the track. Things are better with the asphalt gone. The drivers can race where ever they can get their car to run fastest.
Armistead pulled away through the first half of the race using lapped traffic to keep Sparks and Williams at a safe distance. Sparks had trouble on lap 16 getting around lapped traffic as Fayetteville’s Troy Tyson tried to move up on the track to allow Sparks to pass. The two tangled in turn one which brought out a caution.
Battles for position between Alabama’s Dana Eiland and Fayetteville’s Glenn Morris and Jason Williams and Athens’ Kenny Collins kept eyes scanning the bull ring. Williams and Collins locked horns on the 20th circuit after Williams slid high in turn one before sliding back down and into the right side door panel of Collins. Both drivers kept going through the third turn before Williams slowed with handling problems.
The final position caution came out a few laps later when Newnan’s Craig Scott passed Lavon Sparks for second out of the fourth turn. Sparks fought back and tapped the quarter panel of Scott which sent him spinning in turn two. Both drivers were relegated to the back with Sparks eventually parking it in the pits, but Scott charged back up to finish in the number six spot.
Armistead stayed in front of the all the paint swapping action to secure his first win of the season and the $1500 pay day. Kenny Collins stood his ground to finish as the runner-up followed by ‘Magic’ Matt Dooley, a sixteen-year-old phenom from Brooks. Glenn Morris and Dana Eiland rounded out the first five finishers.
Marcus Caswell ran the high side of the track, side by side, with Roger Arnett at the drop of the green flag in the B Cadet season opening feature. Caswell was able to power past the Alabama driver to snare the lead on the second lap. Last year’s B Cadet point champion, Jeff Carter of Stockbridge, ran third with Newnan’s Thomas Mewborn hot on his tail.
Carter and Mewborn swapped the third place position while Caswell and Arnett moved out to comfortable leads. Chris Arnett and Corey Payton followed closely behind fighting over the number five spot.
When the checkered flag flew over the field, Caswell had secured the first win of the season in the B Cadet. Roger Arnett came home second followed by Jeff Carter, brother Chris Arnett and Lithia Springs TJ Joiner
Last season, Carrollton’s Clifton ‘Hog Head’ Moran dominated the Summit Racing Equipment Hobby Stock division. Moran won an unprecedented eighteen features in 2011 en route to his track points title. Moran started the main event side by side on the front row with Blant Duke. The Whitesburg driver was one of only a few that challenged Moran last season and when the green dropped it looked like Duke may have called his number.
Duke shot out to the lead with Moran trying to scoot past on the high side and then attempting to slingshot back to the inside. Duke slammed the door shut each time and looked like he was on his way to nabbing the glory on opening night. Moran was settling into the number two spot while Dusty Jones, William Blair, Gary ‘Cornbread’ Brand and Chris Story fought for third through fifth.
All changed on lap 8 when Duke’s car started smoking and eventually shut off causing the race’s first caution. The unfortunate turn of events handed the lead over to Moran with Brand, Story and Jones moving up a spot for the restart.
Moran would hold off Brand, then William Blair (who blew up his engine on lap 17) and finally Dusty Jones to pick up where he left off last September. Lagrange’s Dusty Jones faded early before fighting back to snare second behind Moran. Jones was making his Hobby Stock debut after two successful seasons in the Mini Stock. Concord’s Todd Hatchett battled early evening problems to finish in third just ahead of Smith Station, Alabama’s Chris Story and Lagrange’s Wayne Tidwell.
In the Mini Stock feature, Lagrange’s Stephen Hill stopped all advances from the 2011 divisional champ Gary Parker. The Barnesville competitor tried to get a run on Hill several times during the 15-lap race, but would have to settle for second. Hoganville’s Tim Collier finished in third ahead of Douglasville’s Matt Thompson and Roopville’s Chad Cleveland. Fourteen year old Newnan high school student Trey Wood made his first career start and finished in the eighth place position.
Newnan’s Casey Bruce picked up his first career win in his first career race at Senoia Raceway. Bruce survived a couple of crashes to secure the win over Griffin’s David Johnson and the ‘Riverdale Rocket’ Mike Ray.
Senoia Raceway will be back in action this Saturday, April 7th with an Easter weekend special event. All divisions of racing will be on the schedule including the Jodeco Auto Sales Late Models, Summit Racing Equipment Hobby Stock, B Cadet, Mini Stock and Bombers. The raceway will also host the first race of the season for the newly created Buzz Cars.
The track will also host an Easter Egg Hunt for kids of all ages. There will be thousands of eggs filled with hundreds or prizes available. Senoia Raceway staff will separate the kids by age and then turn them loose for a pre-event holiday hunt for goodies. Senoia Raceway offers affordable ticket prices to maintain a spot on the entertainment calendar for many families. Ticket prices are $12 for adult grandstand admission. $5 for children ages six through twelve. Five and under are admitted for free.
This Saturday, April 7th, the pit gates will open at 5pm. Grandstand gates will open at 6pm. Hot laps will crank up at 7pm. The Kid’s Easter Egg Hunt will take place around 7:30pm with the first green flag set to unfurl at 8pm.
For additional information on Senoia Raceway, visit the speedway website at www.senoiaraceway.com, join their family of friends on Facebook or call the speedway at 770-599-6161.