Sammy Smith wins Winchester 400
By Stan Kalwasinski
Winchester, Ind., October 17—As they say, “It isn’t over till it’s over.” – that’s a pretty good way to describe Sunday afternoon’s 50th Lucas Oil Winchester 400 ARCA/CRA Super Series presented by Jegs late model stock car special at the historic Winchester Speedway.
The last lap or so saw the likes of Jack Smith, Sammy Smith or Jake Garcia as a possible winner of the traditional Midwestern stock car event with Sammy Smith coming home the victor after a green-white-checker run to the finish.
Leading since lap 333, Jack Smith was out front when the original white flag flew with Sammy Smith in hot pursuit. The pair got together as both drivers fought for the top spot with Jack Smith spinning in turn three and backing hard into the outside wall. The yellow flag flew with a one-lap shootout being setup with Jake Garcia now the new leader. Garcia, 2019 race winner Stephen Nasse, Eddie Van Meter and Sammy Smith were the only cars still on the lead lap.
Sammy Smith was sent to the back of the field only to see all lapped cars wave him by, making it a tight four-pack for the one-lap dash to the checkered flag. When the green flag waved for the final time, Garcia was the leader only to see the young Georgia driver get into the marbles and tag the wall.
The door opened and Sammy Smith went charging to the front, having a 0.794-second margin of victory over Nasse at the finish. Van Meter came home third, followed by Garcia and Dusty Williams, who started last in the 22-car field.
Smith, the 17-year-old racer from Johnston, Iowa, drove his Donnie Wilson Racing-owned, TMC Transportation/Engine Ice-sponsored Toyota Camry No. 22 to the victory with Smith taking home $25,000 for his winning effort. Smith led the race a total of four times for 174 laps.
“I was inside and he (Jack Smith) came down,” said Sammy Smith after the race. “I wasn’t going to lift for the last lap. I was at his quarter (panel) and he was coming down. He was all mad about it but, at the end of the day, I’m sure he would have done the same thing.
“The car was good all day. We fought it at bit when we started putting the lefts (tires) and rights on it. We were on a different strategy than everyone else. We got tires with 20 (laps) to go. It made the difference.”
The race was slowed for a total of 64 laps for two red flag incidents and numerous competition cautions every 50 laps as race officials were concerned about tire wear.
Despite losing numerous laps in the pits to make repairs because of suspension problems, Hunter Jack, from Auburn, Ind., captured the ARCA/CRA Super Series championship. Both Cody Coughlin and Kyle Crump, the two other drivers in the series’ Championship Chase, were not running at the finish. The fourth driver in the championship battle, Scott Tomasik, was not in Sunday’s lineup.
Mechanical problems put fast qualifier Corey Heim, who led the early laps, out of the race after 331 circuits. Another early race leader, Chandler Smith, lost a number laps in the pits because of an electrical issue but still marched to an eighth-place finish. Last year’s 400 winner Carson Hocevar was involved in an accident on lap 80 with J.P. Crabtree flipping over in turn two. Crabtree escaped injury.
Seven-time “400” winner Bob Senneker was on hand for Sunday’s race with Senneker and his 1979 “Bluebird” Camaro drawing a lot of fan attention behind the grandstands. The 76-year-old Senneker, from Dorr, Mich., won the 400 lapper five straight years (1974 through 1978) and paced this year’s race in his familiar No. 84.
For the first time in 20 years, a late model stock car special was televised live with MAVTV Motorsports Network handling the telecast.
Winchester 400 Finish:
Sammy Smith, Stephen Nasse, Eddie Van Meter, Jake Garcia, Dusty Williams, Jack Smith, Albert Francis, Chandler Smith, Rick Turner, Dakota Stroup, Colby Lane, Hunter Jack, Corey Heim, Cody Coughlin, Dalton Armstrong, Cayden Lapcevich, Kyle Crump, Carson Hocevar, Josh Ebbert, J.P. Crabtree, Tommy St. John, Chris Munson