NASCAR veteran Mike Skinner led a parade of winners Saturday at the third annual Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Other main feature winners of the major short track race included Super Late Model rising star Stephen Nasse, Kentucky driver Chuck Barnes Jr. in Street Stock who completed the three-peat and Indiana native Tom Gosser, who finally grabbed a Bristol trophy in Compacts.
Former NASCAR Truck Series champ Skinner earned the Pro Late Model 100-lap victory after passing defending JEGS Pro Late Model Series champ Jack Dossey III on lap 42. From there he cruised to the victory at The Last Great Colosseum.
Skinner avenged his Bristol loss from last year, where he tangled with a lapped car and crashed out of the race early after leading a bunch of laps.
Skinner, who won the pole with a quick lap of 14.939 seconds, nearly got collected in an early race crash after the field was inverted, but managed to avoid most of the mayhem. His No. 5 machine suffered minor damage to the brakes, but his team managed to put a band-aid on the problem during the two following cautions.
Once the car was repaired, Skinner started from the back of the field and put on an amazing driving display as he worked his way through the field, weaving through traffic on the famed all-concrete high banks. Once he closed in and was clear of Dossey III, he pulled away from the field and marched to the checkered flag.
“I ran through the debris after that crash a few laps in and it tore the brake master cylinder off it,” Skinner said. “I just told the boys don’t panic and we’ll get it fixed. We were blessed with a couple of cautions right after that and they were able to get the thing back on there and I didn’t even want to look at it. I knew we had a fast hot rod and we’d be OK if we could get it back on the track.”
Prior to this victory, Skinner’s only Bristol victory came in a Truck Series race in 2005. Now, he has some additional Gladiator hardware to add to his collection.
“I love this sword,” Skinner said. “If Bristol Motor Speedway gave me a bottle of soda for winning a race I’d put it in my trophy case. That’s how much it means to me to win a race here.”
Jake Garcia finished third and was followed by rising stars Mandy Chick and Mason Keller to complete the top five. Last year’s winner, local favorite Josh Reeves from nearby Abingdon, Va., started 19th and finished ninth in his No. 96 Wealth Lopez Management machine.
In the 100-lap Super Late Model race Nasse recovered from a loose wheel early in the race and reeled in Casey Roderick in dramatic fashion during the closing laps to take the victory. Nasse felt the loose wheel and decided to pit to correct the problem, but in doing so he gave up track position. However, he charged from the back of the pack in an impressive 60-lap jaunt to retake the lead with four laps to go.
“We came from the back to the front and put on a great show for the fans,” said Nasse, who celebrated the victory with his parents and young nephew. “It was a great night for our family for sure.”
Nasse, who set a BMS track record for quickest lap with a qualifying best of 14.526 seconds, says this is one of the biggest victories of his young career.
“It’s right up there for sure,” Florida native Nasse said. “I won last week at a track that’s five minutes from my house so that was a big one for my family, but winning here, it’s Bristol, baby, and that’s all you need to know.”
Roderick held on to finish second, while Steve Wallace, son of NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, was third. Josh Brock and Anthony Sergi completed the top five.
Nasse said he got an on-track visual assist from Wallace in the early laps when he and his team suspected that he had a loose tire.
“I felt a vibration and Steve came up beside my car and let me know that it was wobbling,” Nasse said. “Without his help we probably wouldn’t be here right now and would’ve had a wrecked race car.”
In Street Stock, Barnes took the lead with 20 laps to go and never looked back, taking his third straight victory in this event. He started eighth in his No. 44 machine and worked his way up through the field. His car got better as the laps wore on and a late caution bunched the cars up for one final restart with five laps to go. Barnes got a great jump on the final restart and held off his father, Chuck Barnes Sr. at the finish line.
“In the past Brett Hudson led all the laps and we came in at the end and took the win, but this year we tried to set our car up to run better the entire race and we were able to do that,” Barnes said. “It’s awesome to win here again, and to finish one-two with my dad makes it real special.”
Hudson finished third, Skeeter Crum was fourth and Jeff Lane rounded out the top five in Street Stock.
In Compacts, Gossar led all but three laps to finally grab a Gladiator trophy and sword at BMS. After contending for the victory the last two seasons, Gossar came up short both times. Tonight, however, he wouldn’t be denied.
“We finished second last year and ran well the first year here and should’ve won that one too,” Gossar said. “This is Bristol and it’s on every short track racer’s list of places they want to win. Our car was running great this weekend and we felt like we had a good shot at winning. We’ve been close here a couple of times, so it feels good to finally get it done.”
Justin Brown finished second and was followed by Todd Metz Jr., Terry Eaton Jr. and Gossar’s brother Trent, who completed the top five.
In the earlier transfer races, Shawn Smith of Louisville, Ky. won the 25-lap Street Stock B feature; Reuben Fetty of Milton, WVa. claimed the 20-lap Compact C feature; and Jeremy Mitchell of Louisville, Ky., claimed the 25-lap Compact B feature.