Just a few short weeks ago, the opening round of the Show Me the Money Series at Montgomery Motor Speedway in Alabama started off with a 13 car pileup in turn one, nine total caution periods plus three red flags. Augie Grill was the driver to beat that night until a flat tire with two laps to go let Hunter Robbins maneuver around to claim the victory. While Robbins cashed in, Grill was relegated to a seventh place finish.
But on Saturday, May 7th, the planets once again aligned for Grill in round two of the SMTM Series.
This time, all of Grill’s tires held up to the fast pace that the Hayden, Alabama driver put them through, resulting in a 4.137 second margin of victory over young gun Kyle Benjamin. Grill led 91 of the 100 laps in route to his win and is now second in the series’ points standings, just nine points behind the leader Robbins.
“The car was good,” said Grill. “We brought it just like it was the last race here. Actually, we changed a radiator after trying something new that didn’t work, but we didn’t change anything else on the car.
“The car qualified good, practiced good and raced good. I don’t know how it could’ve been any better to be honest with you.”
Grill won the pole for the race, however, after rolling a three for the Dice Roll Invert, Josh Hamner moved up to the number one starting position. Hamner led the race’s first nine laps, and was very fast all night. For his effort, Hamner brought home a solid third place finish. This was a much improved result over the last time he raced at Montgomery. In that race, he had a right front tire blow out and made contact with the turn three wall.
“You always want to win and we haven’t won in a long time,” said Hamner. “The car wasn’t bad, congratulations to Augie, they have pretty good stuff. We have a five year old car that hasn’t been to the race track in two years, blew the dust off of it, threw some shocks and springs on it, then came out here and gave it a shot... it’s not bad. I got to that all my guys who worked their butts off the past couple weeks to get this thing ready. Maybe we can take this and build on it; just keep working on it and get it better.”
Hamner’s five year old car was from his family owned race team and carried the number 7, which is the number his father, Jeff Hamner, ran with in his driving days. Hamner had been running for car owner Stanley Smith, however after a string of accidents to start off the 2011 racing season, Smith’s inventory of usable racecars has been diminished. After being asked if they plan on running this car more in 2011, Jeff Hamner told Speed 51 that they'll keep running it as long as it's running good.
Perhaps the surprise of the night, should be no surprise at all. Kyle Benjamin was the fastest in practice and showed that his speed was not a fluke come race time. Benjamin started sixth and ran in the top five all night long, and made his way up to second on lap 80.
“It’s an unbelievable finish, I don’t think I’ve ever finished this good. Second place, that’s pretty cool.”
Bubba Pollard had to fight to finish fourth. After starting fifth, Pollard quickly began to drop back and on lap 16 during a caution period, he brought his car down pit road to the attention of the Ronnie Sanders Racing crew.
“We struggle here,” said Pollard of Montgomery. “We don’t have a good base line on what we need. We worked on the car during practice the best we could. At the start of the race we were really tight, so we figured it was early in the race so we’d come on in and pit I try to make ourselves better. We have been able to finish a race and learn anything the last couple of races here. We made a couple of adjustments and got in pretty close there at the end but it’s still not where it needs to be.”
Pollard wasn’t the only driver to struggle this weekend. After having very strong runs in the last Show Me the Money race, Chris Serio and Jason Young both found themselves out of the race before halfway. Serio retired after mechanical issues and Young spun in turn two and made contact with the outside wall.
Grill and Hamner were the races only two leaders. The race finished in just over an hour and had five cautions. Thirteen of the 22 cars that started finished and of those, only eight remained on the lead lap. There was only one Lucky Dog, Chase Knox on lap 66. In addition to leading the most laps and winning by 4.137 seconds, Augie Grill also set the race’s fastest lap, 19.230 seconds on lap 20. This was Grill’s first win of 2011 and the first since the World Crown 125 at Gresham Motorsports Park in November 2010.