Takeaways From Protect Your Melon - Buckle Up SpeedFest

Looking back on the start of the ASA season at Protect Your Melon - Buckle Up SpeedFest in Georgia.

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The ASA season is now underway following Protect Your Melon - Buckle Up SpeedFest at Crisp Motorsports Park on Saturday. Here are some of our takeaways following the event.

Sutton Fourth in Super Late Model Debut: After 150 laps at Crisp Motorsports Park, there were three cars numbered 26 in the top four positions of the final running order.

It was no surprise to see Bubba Pollard win his third straight SpeedFest or to see Casey Roderick in contention for the win. However, Dawson Sutton certainly raised eyebrows with his fourth-place run.

Sutton’s trip to SpeedFest marked his first appearance in a Super Late Model, making the jump after putting himself in contention for the Allen Turner Pro Late Model championship at Five Flags Speedway in 2023.

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Sutton showed speed all weekend, setting fast time in practice on both Friday and Saturday. After the top-eight redraw, Sutton started on the pole for the 150-lap main event and led the opening lap before turning the top spot over to Jett Noland.

Sutton was one of the drivers who pitted at the halfway mark and stayed out at lap 109. While many of those drivers faded into the field, swallowed up by competitors with fresher tires, Sutton held his own for a fourth-place finish.

Phillips Shines for PLM Podium Finish: George Phillips has teamed up with Jamie Yelton and Fat Head Racing for the 2024 season, and the partnership produced immediate results with a third-place finish in Saturday’s CRA/JEGS All-Stars Tour 100-lapper.

READ MORE: Nasse Outduels Chastain in Sunshine State Battle for SpeedFest PLM Win

Phillips has impressed in the Carolinas so far in his young career, including six wins en route to the Carolina Pro Late Model Series championship in 2023. This year, the focus with a new team is traveling to more venues across the Southeast and beyond against top Pro Late Model competition.

With New Smyrna’s Red Eye unfortunately postponed due to weather earlier this month, that made SpeedFest the first chance for the team to get on track against that competition. After drawing the eighth starting spot in the redraw, Phillips methodically worked his way into the podium, moving into third on lap 79.

"It felt great finishing P3," Phillips told Racing America. "We were racing really hard with Bubba Pollard and Stephen [Nasse] and Ross and all those really great guys out there.

"The car came in at the end of the race and it worked really well for us. I'm so excited to be here. I want to thank God and all of my team for believing in me and supporting me."

ASA Southern Super Series Title Chase Underway: For the first time in SpeedFest’s history, this year’s race counted as a points-paying event for the ASA Southern Super Series. Thus, Pollard’s fourth career SpeedFest win is also his 35th ASA Southern Super Series win.

Of course, this also means he is the series’ points leader at this very early stage. Naturally, it’s not a focus of his in January, but Pollard leaves Cordele with a four-point advantage over Casey Roderick.

“We’ve just got to win races,” said Pollard in victory lane. “We just started the year off on the wrong foot last year and had some things happen. We have some fast race cars.

“We just have to win races, that’s the whole key to winning a championship. I haven’t really raced for championships over the years. I just win races and they come.”

The next ASA Southern Super Series event is also the season opener for the ASA STARS National Tour, the Clyde Hart Memorial 200 at New Smyrna Speedway on February 12-13. The race is also part of the David Rogers Super Late Model Division’s week-long battle at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.

Bandolero Barnburner: There was a dramatic SpeedFest finish even before the Late Models hit the track.

In the Bandolero division, Gerald White III and Lily Impellizzeri battled side-by-side in the closing laps for the checkered flag. White nosed ahead entering the final lap and held on for the win as Impellizzeri spun exiting turn four while attempting a last-minute move to the lead.

In the Legends division, Cale Hall took the checkered flag ahead of Garrett Gumm and Jonathan Taylor in their 25-lap feature.

RESULTS: Protect Your Melon – Buckle Up SpeedFest 2024

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