John Smith comes Home With Victory at Franklin County Speedway
5/8/2021 - Kenny Minter Classic marked the longest race of the season thus far for the SMART Modified Tour in terms of laps, with teams making 110 trips around the 3/8-mile Franklin County Speedway (VA). As it turned out, the race needed all 110 to determine a winner.
On a chaotic late-race restart, John Smith passed James Civali on the final lap for his first win with the SMART Modified Tour in 2021, making four winners in the first four races of the season.
Smith, started deep in the field after a poor showing in qualifying, found himself in the right place at the right time as laps clicked off and several strong contenders fell by the wayside. In the end, Smith was able to pounce on the final lap for the win.
“It was just chaos,” Smith told Speed51. “It all worked out for me. I was sitting there trying to play my cards right, and everything fell into place.
The win is the first for Smith since taking over the wheel on Buddy Ellis' former Modified, which had sat on a trailer for seven years and needed so much work that Smith nearly missed the season opener at Caraway Speedway (NC). To come from the last-minute appearance at Caraway to victory lane in a matter of weeks was incredibly gratifying for Smith.
Civali finished second, just ahead of Jason Myers in the frantic last-lap scramble to the finish.
“We had a good car, but we were a little off at the end. We were too tight and holding everyone up at the end. We just couldn't hold them off. John Smith got underneath me. We both drove in there hard and he had enough car to drive away from me to the checkered.”
While Civali left with a runner-up finish, he drew the ire of several competitors along the way. Contact in separate incidents with Civali brought an end to strong showings for both Burt Myers and Bobby Labonte.
Labonte was largely able to shrug off what had been a frustrating ending to an otherwise strong showing for the 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion.
“Obviously, we're on the outside. I thought I had a clear shot into one and got hit in the right-rear. Short track racing at its finest.”
Myers was more pointed in his criticism of Civali.
“The one restart with about 25 to go, I was inside of [Frank Fleming] and it popped out of high gear on me. Those last 25 laps, I'm driving holding it in high gear, driving it one-handed. I get to the outside of the 79 [of Civali] and he never lifted until he ran over me there. It ended up breaking the left-front tie-rod. We ended up getting back out but couldn't recover.
“It was a frustrating night, racing a guy on the outside and him running over you is pretty bad. He did the same thing to the 25.”
The next race on the SMART Modified Tour schedule is July 3 at Caraway Speedway.
Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51
Franklin County Speedway Finishing Order 5/8/2021