Qualifying Features Kick Off Sunshine Nationals

Brown Sunshine Nationals

Dillon Brown was one of four crate late model qualifying feature winners at Volusia Speedway Park Friday. (Chris Anderson photo)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. – The fifth annual DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals kicked off Friday night with nearly 70 DIRTcar Pro and Crate Racin’ USA 604 Late Model division entries in the pit area at Volusia Speedway Park.

The Chevrolet Performance Crate engine-powered machines put on four entertaining qualifying features, with Dillon Brown, Richie Stephens, Austin Yarbrough and Brock Pinkerous emerging victorious and entering Saturday’s finale with momentum as they chase the $10,000 grand prize in the 30-lap finale.

Feature #1

Brown has been a multi-time World Short Track Championship winner at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and a multi-time Crate Racin’ USA feature winner, but became a DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals feature winner Friday.

The 31-year-old from Gaffney, S.C., made the trip to Volusia for the inaugural running of Sunshine Nationals in 2020 but did not get the results he was looking for.

Brown returned to the half-mile oval this week and immediately got what he was looking for, leading all 20 laps of the first pro late model qualifying feature.

While he controlled the race from start to finish, Brown’s lead of over 3.5 seconds nearly evaporated in the closing stages after he caught lapped traffic.

“When I caught those guys, the car that I was gonna lap – he pulled to the bottom down the front straightaway like he was going to give me the top,” Brown said. “But when I arrived at the corner, he wanted the top again. It’s the dirty air running so fast here.

“The racetrack was just so narrow that when he moved across me, the air just moved my nose and up the racetrack I went, and I really thought I was in trouble. If I didn’t have that lead, I would’ve been in trouble.”

Fortunately, Brown had the racer’s instinct and devised a plan to stay out front, even with the traffic in front of him.

“I was in control of the race, and I decided to stay in control of my pace,” Brown said. “Just did a really good job of pacing myself from the lapped car [in front of me] to those guys [behind me]. When my sticks would get two car [lengths], I’d catch the lapped car two cars.

“When my sticks got four cars, I’d catch back up to those guys. So, I just kept pacing myself.”

Feature #2

As a past Sunshine Nationals entrant, Stephens has made laps around Volusia before, and made his best ones Friday night en route to his first career Sunshine Nationals win at the half-mile oval.

 

The 41-year-old from Phenix City, Ala., started on the pole and took over the top spot after lap-one leader Mark Whitener suffered a mechanical failure only eight laps in.

From there, Stephens held on, fending off pressure from Cole Exum and Matt Henderson in the final green-flag stretch to secure the win.

Feature #3

One year ago, Yarbrough scored his first career feature win in a pro late model at the Sunshine Nationals. Fast forward to Friday night, and he won again – this time, in thrilling fashion.

New track record holder Nevin Gainey appeared to have the field covered through the first half of the 20-lap event, maintaining a strong gap over Yarbrough until a caution was thrown with 13 laps complete.

Before the ensuing restart, that’s when Yarbrough devised a plan to go for the lead.

“The long caution really helped me get the top packed-in, and that was my only shot to beat [Gainey] – for him to get tight on the bottom and me pass him on the outside,” Yarbrough said. “That caution really played into our favor. He didn’t know that the top was going to be better.”

Yarbrough pinned the throttle at the drop of the green and took the high side into turns three and four while Gainey stuck to the bottom. Charged with the high-side momentum, Yarbrough shot past Gainey to his outside and took the lead down the front-stretch.

From there, Yarbrough held the field off for his second career victory at Volusia.

“I felt like my car was really good on long runs; [Gainey’s] would just fire-off really good,” Yarbrough said. “Honestly, I didn’t think the outside was gonna work. I tried it just because it was so packed-in.

“I tried and we were able to get out of here with a win.”

Feature #4

At only 13 years of age, Pinkerous made his first mark on Volusia Speedway Park history, winning the fourth and final pro late model feature Friday.

The teenage racer traveled from his home in Ellenville, N.Y., to get a taste of the sunshine and found it in his first feature event, leading all 20 laps en route to his first CRUSA Feature win.

He took the lead at the drop of the green from third on the grid after polesitter Will Roland jumped to the high side in turn one, opening the door for Pinkerous to shoot into the lead underneath him.

From there, Pinkerous played defense, holding off big pressure from Roland and fellow Southeast Crate Late Model standout Riley Hickman the rest of the distance to secure the win.

“I knew they were back there, and I knew I was pulling away,” Pinkerous said. “When I caught the grip, I could hear them getting close. Other than that, yeah, they were on me a bit, but I wasn’t too worried.”

Additional Action

In other racing Friday, Chaz Haskins and Nevin Gainey gained valuable momentum during Friday’s 602 Late Model portion of the DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals, earning wins in the qualifying features for that class.

Each earned $1,000 for their victories and can raise another trophy on Saturday night.

Both fields of late models return to Volusia for the Sunshine Nationals finale Saturday night, with a $10,000 grand prize on the line for the winner of the 30-lap main event.

The results:

PLM Feature #1 (20 laps): 1. 6-Dillon Brown [1]; 2. 18-David Showers Jr. [4]; 3. 4-Rye Faulk [2]; 4. 16-Caleb Gay [3]; 5. 17-Rob Pitcher [7]; 6. 119-Joe Belkey [8]; 7. 23-Cory Hedgecock [9]; 8. 35-Christian Augspurger [11]; 9. 18B-Mark Fleischer [16]; 10. 47E-Thomas Earl III [10]; 11. 9-Nick Johnson [13]; 12. 87C-Jarrod Carey [14]; 13. 39-Jake Rainey [17]; 14. 26-Derrick McGrew Jr. [18]; 15. 11-Daniel Dial [15]; 16. 7-Corey Neil Jr. [5]; 17. 1G-Ross Bailes [12]; 18. 5R-Lucas Ruark [6].

PLM Feature #2 (20 laps): 1. 00-Richie Stephens [1]; 2. 86-Cole Exum [4]; 3. 22-Matt Henderson [8]; 4. 18I-Clay Harris [7]; 5. 74-Jason Garver [12]; 6. 5-Dustin Carter [9]; 7. 39W-Brandon Wells [11]; 8. 515-Bubba Roling [5]; 9. 42-Steven Stratton Sr. [15]; 10. 21X-Ryan French [16]; 11. 30-Steven Stratton Jr. [10]; 12. 31B-Brad Seagle [17]; 13. 5W-Mark Whitener [2]; 14. 31M-Tyler Millwood [3]; 15. 14-AJ Miller [13]; 16. C4-Freddie Carpenter [6]; 17. 29S-Cameron Saunders (DNS).

PLM Feature #3 (20 laps): 1. 127-Austin Yarbrough [2]; 2. 17G-Nevin Gainey [1]; 3. 08-Joey Love [3]; 4. 111-Demetrios Drellos [4]; 5. 2-Zack Carley [7]; 6. 21-Mario Gresham [12]; 7. 12-Johnny Collins [8]; 8. 20-Owen Osteen [6]; 9. 54T-Tuck Trentham [9]; 10. 66-Jody Knowles [16]; 11. 47-Dean Abbey [10]; 12. K7-Keaton Smith [14]; 13. 38-Nick Love [15]; 14. 71C-Davy Cline [13]; 15. 80-Ben Scott [11]; 16. 07B-Bailey Cardwell [5]; 17. 1A-Ricky Haugen [17].

PLM Feature #4 (20 laps): 1. 555-Brock Pinkerous [3]; 2. 22R-Will Roland [1]; 3. 17H-Riley Hickman [5]; 4. 2L-Trynt Lloyd [10]; 5. 31-Lincoln Smith [6]; 6. 17J-John Winge [4]; 7. 131-Matt Herlong [9]; 8. 721-Ivedent Lloyd [11]; 9. K37-Drew Kennedy [12]; 10. 9C-Ches Chester [8]; 11. C10-Carl Currin [13]; 12. 73-Larry Fitzsimmons [16]; 13. 89-Von Casey [14]; 14. 96-Josh Vinyard [15]; 15. 44P-Kole Platt [7]; 16. KB1-Kerry King [2]; 17. 7S-Brian Smith [17].

Pinkerous

Brock Pinkerous celebrates his DIRTcar Sunshine Nationals qualifying feature win Friday at Volusia Speedway Park. (Trent Gower photo)

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