BRADBERRY SHOWS HIS STUFF IN $HOW ME THE MONEY 200 AT BIR
Birmingham, AL (April 3). Charlie Bradberry of Chelsea wore his poker face prior to the beginning of the O’Reilly Southern All Star Super Late Model Racing Series $how Me the Money 200, but raked in all the chips, $10,000.00 worth, as the last hand was played. Bradberry’s Veteran’s Oil Chevrolet fell back almost out of the top 10 in the early goings of the 200-lap, 125-mile event at Birmingham International Raceway, but that was part of his strategy.
“I wanted to outlast everybody on the first set of tires,” Bradberry explained as his engine was being disassembled for inspection. The flawlessly handling Port City Racing South car ran like it was on a rail through the turns.
Rookie Josh Hamner, also of Chelsea, set a new track record and the fastest qualifying time the night before with a blistering lap of 19.353 seconds/116.261 mph. He rolled a five-car inverted start, putting John Wilkinson, III, on the front row. It was Augie Grill, however, who got a jump on the start and was the leader for six laps. Wilkinson caught up and passed for the lead on the seventh lap.
The eventual winner made no challenges to the front runners. On lap 13 J.R. Dudley made a move on Bradberry in the fourth turn, forcing him into the grass and back into ninth running position. What could have been a damaging ride through the grass did no apparent damage, however, and Bradberry watched the lead pack dicing for position.
With Wilkinson leading and Grill in second, the fastest quailfier took over third position on lap 26. Wilkinson would go on to lead through lap 61, at which point Hamner made a backstretch pass and took the lead. Hamner exercised his muscle and pulled out for a comfortable leading distance. Bradberry was still back in eighth running position, almost a quarter lap behind.
The caution flag was waved on lap 77 for debris on the track. Bradberry pitted with a herd of cars, but was first out of the pits with gas and new tires. The restart after five caution laps gave Eddie Mercer a shot at the lead, with the Pensacola, FL, auto dealer taking the lead away from Hamner. Mercer’s four laps at the point ended with Grill rebounding back to the lead. That reign lasted one lap as the refreshed car of Wilkinson came back to the lead. Mercer’s best showing at BIR would come to an end when a pannard bar broke and sidelined him on lap 140. Seventeen year old Justin South had a moment of glory as he passed Wilkinson on lap 148, but was beat the caution flag. Wilkinson was returned to the front by virtue of his having led the last green flag lap at the start-finish line. South kept his position near the front, yielding only a few positions to other cars as the laps wound down. That caution period became the race’s only red flag period when the backstretch had to be cleared of debris from the wrecked cars of Matt Hawkins and J.R. Dudley.
On lap 158 Bradberry cranked a few more horses out the Jeff Hamner Performance Racing Engines powerplant and played his aces. He took the lead with tires still in good shape and with an engine that had not been over stressed. His pre-race strategy was working very effectively.
With five laps to go, Wilkinson spun out and returned with no damage. The green flag lap of 196 was interrupted when Hamner got loose entering the first turn. His car never got a good grip and took Grill to the outside wall of turn two, ending the day for Grill and damaging Hamner’s car. Gary Helton, who had broken into the top five, picked up positions and had a second running position.
Bradberry never saw a serious challenge from the point of his taking the lead, and finished ahead of the Helton, the only car left that had a chance to eventually catch him. Hamner came back from the spin to finish third, with South and Wilkinson, all on the lead lap, behind him. Ken McFarland, Jackie McGuire, Keith Cahela, Grill, and A.J. Ganino rounded out the top 10.
“I’ve never held $10,000.00 at one time before“, remarked the well-mannered Bradberry as he was handed a glass-topped trophy in Victory Lane. There was $10,000.00 in cash is the glass container atop the trophy.
The 200-lap event lasted two hours, seven minutes. Nine caution periods totaling 34 laps resulted in an average speed of 98.425 mph.
OFFICIAL FINISHING ORDER, LAPS COMPLETED, AND STATUS AT END OF RACE IF NOT RUNNING
1. Charlie Bradberry, 200, winner; 2. Gary Helton, 200; 3. Josh Hamner, 200, Fastest Qualifier, New Track Record; 4. Justin South, 200; 5. John Wilkinson, 200; 6. Ken McFarland, 199; 7. Jackie McGuire, 199; 8. Keith Cahela, 197; 9. Augie Grill, 196, wreck; 10. A.J. Ganino, 192; 11. Dennis Schoenfeld, 151, wreck; 12. Matt Hawkins, 147, wreck; 13. J.R. Dudley, 146, wreck; 14. Eddie Mercer, 140, broken pannard bar; 15. Heath Hindman, 134, tires; 16. Johnny Brazier, 86, rearend; 17. Chris Whorton, 80, mechanical; 18. Danny Bagwell, 58, power steering; 19. Gary Nix, 5, engine. 20. Lonnie Moon, 3, mechanical. 21. Andy Antinoro, DNS.
NOTES FROM THE $HOW ME THE MONEY 200 AT BIR
Of the 20 drivers starting the SMTM 200, 11 had previously won races at BIR, 7 of the 100 laps or more….The race was mostly a Southeast drivers show, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. A. J. Ganino, however, came from Lebanon, Ohio for the event….At 17 years old, Ganino has been racing something for 12 years…..Bradberry’s win was witnessed by his family. Mom, Gayle, had never seen him win a race and sister-in-law, Mrs. Gary (Karen) Bradberry, had never seen him race before…The winner’s car sported support from Veteran’s Oil, the primary sponsor, Port City Racing South, and Jeff Hamner Performance Engines….Hamner engines powered two the top three qualifiers and five of the top 10 finishers….A Daytona winner is in the starting field, Danny Bagwell of Cordova. Bagwell has won a 200-mile race in what was former known as the Goody’s Dash Series. His run at BIR ended early when the power steering went out….Bagwell drove a car intended for Andy Antinoro, who turned it over to Bagwell when Bagwell’s intended ride, the second Antinoro car, broke in practice the day before….Josh Hamner was not the first to break the BIR track record in $how Me the Money qualifying. Eddie Mercer
Turned in a 19.395 second lap, bested later by Hamner’s 19.352 seconds.