In an encore performance of his last-lap pass at Montgomery Motor Speedway to start the month of May, Jake Garcia went to victory lane at Five Flags Speedway in the Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series by passing Kyle Plott with two laps to go in the 100-lap event. While Garcia celebrated the win, two drivers who went into a lap 80 restart hoping to challenge Garcia for the win were left frustrated with one another.
Garcia took the lead on the second lap of the race and maintained the top spot until the caution flew with 80 laps complete. Garcia took the outside lane for the restart, with Connor Okrzesik lining up to his inside. That restart also allowed Kyle Plott to join the battle for the win, with all three drivers battling fiercely and making contact over the next few laps.
When the dust settled, Plott led the way, with Garcia rallying to play catch-up and Okrzesik falling through the field with damage. Garcia chased down Plott, taking the lead with two laps to go, while Plott settled for second and Okrzesik fell to eighth.
The lap 80 caution was the last thing Garcia wanted to see after leading nearly every lap to start the race.
“That caution came out, and I was really struggling and debating whether or not to take the top on that restart,” Garcia told Speed51. “I took the outside, so, I don’t know, it kind of worked out but not really.”
“We all got stacked up there and went three wide. I didn’t want to crash my race car over it, so I just hung back, waited for themselves to get sorted out, and passed them all.”
When Garcia set his sights on Plott hoping to retake the lead, he flashed back to his win over Christopher Tullis at Montgomery on May 1, hoping to recapture that late race magic.
I was thinking back to a couple of weeks ago at Montgomery. We were a straightaway behind Christopher Tullis with 10 to go or whatever it was. Just being able to run consistent laps and ask the most out of your car without hurting yourself or making a mistake. I think that’s what I was trying to do, the same thing as last week, just reel him in and pass him.
“I told my guys over the radio, ‘Man, these Pro Late Model races stress me out.’ It’s too, too close. A couple of weeks ago, we won with one to go. Tonight, we won with two to go. Maybe next time, on lap 97 we’ll take the lead.”
As jubilant as Garcia was following his win, Plott and Okrzesik were equally frustrated in defeat. The two briefly exchanged words on the front stretch following the race, and did not mince words when discussing the late-race restart afterwards.
“I had a really good run coming out of two and made it three wide,” said Plott describing his view of the lap 80 restart. “I knew it wasn’t going to work, three-wide never works. I backed out, gathered everything back up. We went into one, and I think Jake was up under [Okrzesik], I was up under Jake. Just one of those chain deals. I was there and couldn’t let off. I got into them and they both went out of the way. It worked out for me and I took the lead.
"Passing the 14 [of Okrzesik], he wants to right-rear me down the front straightaway. He ain’t ever had no problems with me, but he better know I’m not one to mess with. We’ll see. His dad wants to flip me off and call me all kind of names."
Okrzesik shared a differing view of the late-race battle.
“I was really surprised when Jake chose the outside,” said Okrzesik. “It obviously worked out for him in the end because third place, we had a freaking monkey who can’t drive a race car to save his life, apparently.
“It felt like a power steering belt or something came off. I got taken three-wide three times by the same car, then I got ran over, then I got doored.”
"I wouldn’t have been mad if I had gotten moved. It’s just time after time. It’s not the first time I’ve had trouble with this idiot. It won’t be the last time I have trouble with him, either. I’m sure it will continue. I hate to say that, but it is."
Plott was disappointed to come away with a runner-up finish, but tipped his cap to Garcia on his late-race charge to the win and took solace in finding speed since his last appearance at Five Flags.
“I’m frustrated,” said Plott. “We had a good car. We definitely improved from our last race here. We went back to the shop and did a lot of work just trying to figure out what we needed to do to get the car handling better. We got it there, we’ve just got a little more work to do.
“I’m happy we could end with second place and glad I could race with Jake. He had a really good car, he had us beat, no doubt. He raced us clean, got around us and took off.”
Okrzesik was also happy to see Garcia ultimately took the win.
“I love the fact that Jake won,” said Okrzesik. “He’s one of my favorite drivers on the race track. If I’m gonna get beat, it’s going to be by Jake and I’ll be fine with that if it’s anybody.”
Defending Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series champion Chris Davidson finished third, with Charlie Keven and John Bolen completing the top-five.
The Allen Turner Pro Late Model Series will return to action on August 20. The next race date for Five Flags Speedway is June 4, headlined by the season opener for the Deep South Crane Blizzard Series for Super Late Models.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo
Unofficial Results – Allen Turner Pro Late Models at Five Flags
- Jake Garcia
- Kyle Plott
- Chris Davidson
- Charlie Keeven
- John Bolen
- Dylan Fetcho
- Matt Craig
- Connor Okrzesik
- Ryan Luza
- Augie Grill
- Elliott Massey
- Colin Allman
- Rafe Slate
- Steven Chunn
- Bryson Shaffer
- Colt Hensley
- Steven Davis
- JoJo Wilkinson
- Justin Bonnett
- Brandon Sager
- Greg Fore