Special from Speed51.com – Saturday night’s Pro Late Model feature at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway was relatively uneventful for the first 80-plus laps. However, the same cannot be said for the final 20.
At the end of the night, Michael House of Murfreesboro, TN escaped a wild race with the checkered flag.
The first yellow flag of the race came out with 16 laps to go after race-long leader Mason Mingus made contact with the lapped car of Mike Murray, which resulted in Murray spinning on the frontstretch.
It would only get more chaotic from there. Championship rivals Cole Williams and Dylan Fetcho tangled soon after, with Fetcho getting the worst of that encounter.
The biggest incident of the night would happen just after a restart with eight laps to go. Mingus, Hunter Wright and Christopher Tullis attempted to go nearly three-wide into turns three and four following a restart. After each driver made contact with the other entering turn three, all three drivers ended up crashed in turn four.
Mingus took the least amount of damage, but it would still end his night prematurely after taking the lead within the first 10 laps of the race. He took blame for putting himself in the situation after his run-in with a lapped car to bring out the first yellow.
“I got into the lapped car to cause that first caution and I probably should’ve been more patient, but I don’t think he knows where he is on the race track,” Mingus told Speed51. “It’s week after week he causes wrecks, he about wrecked us in practice. He couldn’t pick a lane and he got in front of us and we dumped him. That brought out the first caution and put us in a bad spot.”
What was his best run at Nashville since winning the All American 400 last November was cut short after being involved in the wreck in turn four.
“I think the No. 12 (Tullis) got underneath us getting into three. I think we were racing hard, he probably got a little too aggressive but it is what it is. I put us in a bad position.”
Tullis, the Show Me the Money Series points leader at Montgomery Motor Speedway, found himself in contention for his first Nashville win after Williams and Fetcho collided. It was a three-wide move by him to avoid a potential incident on the backstretch that helped trigger the eventual wreck in the corner.
The Georgia driver felt like it was going to be settled by he and Wright before the wreck.
“I know the 84 car (Mingus) went to junk there at the end of the race. The restart before he ran the 89 (Dylan Fetcho) up the hill before the 89 and the 46 (Cole Williams) wrecked,” Tullis said. “We restarted third and I was pretty sure he’d try to shove second up the hill again and he did. I felt like he stuffed the No. 29 (Wright) in the wall there halfway down the backstretch so I kind of went low to miss and get by them if I could. The next thing I know he came across our nose and sent us both up the hill.
“I hate it, I thought we had a good shot. I knew he was falling back, it was probably going to be between me and the 29. I hate it for me and Hunter because I know it was going to be one of the two of us there. It was a hard race for sure, it was just one of those deals I guess.”
Wright felt the same way as Tullis did when it came down to the final laps. The leading Rookie of the Year contender managed to come away from the Fetcho/Williams incident unscathed, but would end up taking the worst damage of the three drivers in this one.
“I really felt like I had the car to win in the last 20 or so laps, I felt like we did a good job saving it. We were the fastest car before that restart with ten or so to go,” said Wright. “I got run up out of two and got hit down the back straightaway and got loose. From what I’ve heard, it opened the door to let another car make it three-wide.
“That doesn’t work. I got hit in the door, spun out and hit the wall and it was on.”
The big wreck with eight to go opened the door for 2018 track champion Michael House, who was on the backside of the top-ten for most of the race. He took full advantage of others’ misfortune, passing Michael Bolden for the lead with less than five laps to go to steal the win.
It was an eventful day for House, who didn’t show up to the track until after practice was completed. His first laps on Saturday was when he went out to qualify.
“This is our Super Late Model, we pulled the engine out of it and put the crate motor in it after tearing the other car up,” House explained. “We had a steering issue and I was running down parts. I went to Willie’s (Allen) shop this morning and I ended up getting parts. I finally got it fixed but by the time I got it here there was no practice, and with the busy schedule I couldn’t get one or two laps to shake it down.”
He was a non-factor for most of the race as he struggled to find the handling through most of it. While three contenders were taken out in the crash with eight to go, House’s race took a big swing of its own.
“We had a good car but it was really loose and people would get to me and I just couldn’t get in the throttle. I let a couple people go, fell back. We had that long caution for that incident over there in three and four and man, it tightened up and it came alive. I think they said I ran a 19.68 on the white flag lap. It feels good to be back, I’ll tell you.”
Stay tuned to Speed51.TV in the coming days for comments from Williams and Fetcho on their dust-up.
Fans who missed Saturday’s wild Pro Late Model feature from Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway can watch a replay here on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Jeff Ames