JEFFERSON, GA – Spring filled the air as Gresham Motorsports Park kicked off their Season Opener, The Larry Fleeman Memorial 198, with an eager and excited crowd.
The season started off with an intense Mini Stock race, with numerous cautions and ended with a memorable Outlaw Late Model victory. In the Mini Stocks, Spanky Hicks jumped in front of Avery Burgess to lead the field until the first caution flag fell for the Mini Stocks. Trace Embry took a wild ride into the wall on the back stretch and while crews were cleaning up debris from Embry’s wreck, Zack Minielly’s car went ablaze in turns one and two. Hicks jumped to the lead on the restart, leaving Burgess, Aaron Calvert, and Scotty Beck to battle over second place. Calvert tried to fill a small gap between Burgess and Beck, the cars made contact leaving Calvert spun out in turns one and two. On the second restart of the race Burgess and Hicks battled head to head for the lead, but in doing that, created the third caution. On the third and final restart of the race Hicks took the lead, but had to hold his position to capture the first Mini Stock victory at GMP for the season after 12 laps (due to the time limit of the Mini Stock race).
The Sportsman/Renegade race was smooth and steady from the beginning with no cautions. Jeff Chadwick jumped in front of Jackie Daniel to take a strong lead for the Sportsman division and remained in the lead for all 20 laps of the race and Daniel finished second. Bryan Beckner and Rob Hubbard fell back to third and fourth overall behind Chadwick and Daniel but ran 18 of the twenty laps. Beckner stayed in front of Hubbard for the entire race to win first place in the Renegades with Hubbard finishing second.
With the green flag dropping on the Truck race, Matt Vassar was out to the front with Emilee Riley claiming second position Vassar kept a strong lead with the Trucks behind him spaced out. On lap eleven, Riley started closing the gap on number Vassar, but was not able to take the lead. The Trucks ran consistently without any passing until lap17, when Taylor Dorner passed Jami Weimer in the back of field. As the race continued, the field remained the same and Vassar was able to stay out front to grab the checkered flag.
Rain threatened the Outlaw Late Model race, but GMP was able to complete the first 18 laps of the race. With the dropping of the green flag, Russell Fleeman jumped out in front and left a gap, but a battle began behind him on the fifth lap between Jason Bates and Hoyt Stephens until Stephens spun out of turn 2 into the wall for the first caution in the Outlaw Late Models. Fleeman took the lead off of the restart and Bates took second place from Todd Vanderford.
The Second caution, was caused by Vanderford in third place on the eighteenth lap. Because of the rain, the Oulaw late models were lined up and led across the front stretch by the Akins Ford Mustang to receive the checkered flag because it began to rain. Fleeman landed in Victory Lane with Bates and Brian Hardman finishing second and third.