NEW SMYRNA, Fla. - A night after he joked he ‘ran out of talent,’ Jeff Choquette found it again – and, with it, plenty of speed – at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway.
The 31-year-old from West Palm Beach, Florida, led 99 of 100 laps en route to winning the 32nd annual Red Eye 100 on Saturday night. On a night when temperatures where 39 degrees at green flag, there was nothing that could cool off Choquette. He set fast time earlier in the evening, and redrew fourth in post-qualifying, and then jumped past defending race winner Bubba Pollard to take the point on lap 2.
From there, only a caution with 20 laps to go slowed him down. On the restart, though, he blasted back into the lead and pulled away for the win.
“It was a pretty clean race,” Choquette said. “We were able to get away on the restart and get out to a comfortable lead again. I can’t thank the Jet (Tools) guys enough, and hopefully we can keep going.”
It was a far cry from Friday evening, when Choquette smacked the wall in practice and destroyed a good deal of the right side. They changed the rear end on his No. 9 right before qualifying and he was fast from there.
Of course, Choquette knows his way around the high-banked half-mile. The grandson of 1954 NASCAR Modified champion Jack Choquette, Jeff won the 2005 Red Eye 100. He also has wins in the Orange Blossom/Pete Orr Memorial 100 (2005, ’08, ’10, ’17), the Florida Governor’s Cup (2004 and ’07) and is two-time winner of the World Series of Asphalt Racing (2008 Super Late Model, 2017 Pro Late Model).
It looked like Choquette’s only challenger would be Senoia, Georgia’s Bubba Pollard, winner of two of the last three Red Eye 100s. The Super Late Model veteran qualified third, redrew second and led the first lap before Choquette got by. Pollard seemed content to run second during the extended green-flag run, before suddenly exiting the track on lap 53. He reported he broke the upper A frame on the left side of the car.
That opened the door for 20-year-old Derrick Griffith from Hudson, New Hampshire, to take second place, followed by Gus Dean. Ryan Moore and former national champion David Rogers rounded out the top five.
Jared Irvin, son of former Cup driver Ernie Irvan, qualified second and finished sixth. Michael Atwell, Anthony Sergi, Jerry Artuso and Stephen Nasse completed the top 10.
Former race winner Travis Cope exited the race just past the halfway point and finished 19th, and Pollard followed a lap later and wound up 18th in the 21-car field.
The Super Late Models will be back on track at New Smyrna on January 20 for the Marion Edwards Memorial 100.
The 52nd Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing will run at New Smyrna from Feb. 9-17, and will be highlighted by Super Late Models, Pro Late Models and Tour-Type Modifieds. It will also include the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener on Sunday, Feb. 11.
New Smyrna Speedway – New Smyrna Beach, FL
Red Eye 100 – January 6, 2018
1. #9 Jeff Choquette
2. #12g Derek Griffith
3. #56 Gus Dean
4. #74 Ryan Moore
5. #11 David Rogers
6. #28 Jared Irvin
7. #51 Michael Atwell
8. #20 Anthony Sergi
9. #5a Jerry Artuso
10. #74n Stephen Nasse
11. #5K Daniel Keene, Jr.
12. #33 Dustin Smith
13. #9m Brad May
14. #22 Sam Mayer
15. #David Green
16. #98 Justin Ashburn
17. #12j Joe Graf, Jr.
18. #26 Bubba Pollard
19. #26c Travis Cope
20. #24 Ricky Anderson
21. #32 Harold Crooms