BATESVILLE, AR - Justin McRee of Woodstock, AL drove the High Roller Race Cars Special to his second career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Batesville Motor Speedway win on Saturday night, as he defended his Ozark Nationals title at the Batesville, AR track. McRee made the top groove work for him to come from the fourth spot to take the point on lap 14, and lead the rest of the way.
McRee passed defending NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS National Champion Ronnie Johnson, who was looking for his second straight Batesville Motor Speedway win. On lap 13, McRee, who started fourth, sailed around the outside of Mack McCarter for the second spot, and stayed on the top shelf to pass Johnson for the lead.
McCarter would stay close to McRee for the remaining 37 laps, and was even able to pull along an a couple of occasions, but McRee stayed out front and went on to post his 10th career NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series victory in a race car of his own make.
"We committed to run the top of the race track from the start, and that's why we call these cars High Rollers," McRee said. "Most everyone was on the bottom of the track, so that left the top wide open for us. I knew I had to get around Johnson on the top because I knew my car wasn't any good on the bottom. Then I saw McCarter inside of me a couple of times, but I was confident we could stay out front by just running the groove that got is to the front."
McCarter finished second for the second straight night, and for the third time this season. Josh Adkins finished in the third spot. Johnson finished fourth and Johnny Stokes came from the 15th starting spot to take fifth.
Ashley Newman, Brent Barrett, Chase Edge, Tait Davenport and Casey Findley rounded out the top 10.
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series point leader Walker Arthur was running fourth on a lap 21 restart, and almost spun down the front straightaway. That triggered a multi-car pile-up and sent Arthur to the back of the pack for the restart with a damaged race car.
Walker finished 11th, and combined with the finishes of McCarter, Adkins, and Johnson, set up a log jam at the top of the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series point standings in the battle for the $20,000 National Championship. Just ten points now separate the top four drivers in the standings.
Walker's 20-point lead going into the race has now shrunk to four points over McCarter in second. Johnson is third, two points behind McCarter, and Adkins is fourth, four points behind Johnson.
In preliminary action, Johnson was the fast qualifier among the 27 entrants with a lap of 14.259 seconds. The two ten-lap B-Main races were won by Caleb Myers and Chris Noah.
Johnson took the lead at the start of the 50-lap race from the pole position followed by McCarter, Arthur, McRee, and Chandler Petty. The field was slowed by the first of seven caution flags on lap three when Ronald Dunn spun in turn one.
The top ten drivers in the "Dixie Style" double-file restart were Johnson, McCarter, Arthur, McRee, Petty, Barrett, Adkins, Myers, Findley, and Edge. Adkins passed Barrett for the sixth spot on the restart, and Stokes moved up to eighth by lap five. Gavin Landers drove up to the eighth spot by lap nine.
The charge to the front of the pack for McRee began early in the race, as he got by Arthur for the third spot on lap six, and seven laps later, McRee sailed around the outside of McCarter for the second spot.
Keeping his high-side momentum on lap 14, McRee drove around the outside of Johnson to take the lead. Before McRee could put any distance between himself and Johnson, the caution flag was in the air on lap 15 when Jerry Buck stalled in turn four.
McRee had Johnson, McCarter, Arthur, Petty, Adkins, Landers, Findley, Stokes, and Barrett doubled up behind him for the restart. Landers spun in turn two on lap 18 to bring out the third caution flag of the race. The Top 10 for the restart was McRee, Johnson, McCarter, Arthur, Petty, Adkins, Stokes, Findley, Noah, and Barrett.
When the green bulb was ignited, McCarter drove under Johnson to take the second spot coming off the fourth turn. By lap 20, McCarter was looking inside of McRee to challenge for the lead.
Lap 22 was a lap a third of the field would like to forget, because they weren't around to complete lap 23. It all began when Landers stalled on the front straightaway to bring out the caution flag. On the restart, Findley spun in turn two that collected Michael Blount and Shawn Knuckles.
A big tangle that put fourth-place Arthur sideways in front of the field happened on the next restart. The ensuing melee sent fifth-place Petty, ninth-place Noah, Myers, Chase Washington and Roger Witt to the pits for the evening. Arthur was able to continue, but had to restart at the tail end of the lead lap cars.
That left 13 cars on the race track for the next restart that was clean and green. McCarter began to put pressure on McRee for the lead, looking to the open inside groove, while McRee continued to be a "high roller." McRee mustered up enough momentum to open up a three car-length advantage on McCarter by lap 30.
The leaders had no pressure from behind, as they pulled out to a full straightaway advantage over third-place Johnson, who was feeling the heat from Adkins. On lap 32, Adkins was able to use a lapped car as a pick, and drive around Johnson for third coming off the fourth turn.
The battle for the lead between McRee and McCarter encountered lapped traffic on lap 39, but before things could get interesting, the caution flag came out on lap 41 when Dunn done spun for the second time in the race down the backstretch. That set up a 10 lap dash to the finish with McRee leading McCarter, Adkins, Johnson, Stokes Newman, Barrett, Davenport, Edge, and Findley.
McRee hit his marks after the restart, and pulled out to a three car-length lead by lap 46. McCarter stayed on the bottom of the track, but could build up enough steam to challenge for the lead. McRee took the checkered flag with a .674 second margin of victory.
The next two NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series events will take place over the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend with a pair of 40-lap, $2,000-to-win races. The series will make its annual visits to Whynot Motorsports Park in Meridian, MS on May 24 and Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, MS on May 25.
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
Batesville Motor Speedway