Tony Grady Dominates the 2014 Thanksgiving All-Star Classic

IMG_5678Lucama, NC – Not a cloud in the sky for the final day of racing in the 2014 edition of Thanksgiving All-Star Classic. A weekend plagued with temperatures barely breaking 50 degrees we were certainly in for a warm up. We were literally and figuratively in for a warm-up, by 9am temperatures were already in the mid 50s with a forecast of 64 degrees for the drop of the green flag. All the practice was complete, drivers put in their best lap for time trials and played the chest game that we call heat races. Today was the day to ‘Put up or shut up’ as they say.

A feature that had normally been part of the Saturday program at The Park got their own time to shine after owners Jerry Brown & Mike Diaz decided to move the Late Model program to their own date. Nineteen limited’s packed their haulers and headed to Kenly, North Carolina for a chance at $4,000 and the opportunity to put their name in the Thanksgiving All-Star Classic history book.

Tony Grady – yes the same Tony Grady that went for an unexpected ride through the catch fence just a few weeks ago – was the man to beat for most of the weekend. Kind of ironic that he was close to packing things up and heading home stating the car was so bad Friday during the test. Granted, isn’t that what just about all these drivers say when the car is –quote, unquote – bad? Hats off to the entire crew for figuring things out because Grady was bad fast all day Saturday, in fact, the only car to post a time in the 15.6 second window. He would also go on to win his heat race, locking up the Sellers Racing Pole Award.

TWR Starting Five;
1. #4 Tony Grady
2. #21 Joey Throckmorton
3. #15 Clay Jones
4. #16 Rusty Daniels
5. #98 J.D. Eversole

It did not take long for the field to settle down and hit the cruise control button and start rolling through laps. Tony Grady dove into turn one secured his position at the lead of the pack while his son Andrew Grady slithered on up to the second spot forcing Rusty Daniels to deal with the third place position. 15 – 19 – 19 should have been the Pick 3 numbers to play as it only took 15 laps for Grady to put the #19 of Adam Congrove a lap down – the first of 19 cars to lose a lap to the leader.

One car who I personally did not expect to see fall a lap down was that of 2014 SNMP track champion Haley Moody. Not but twenty laps in she had already started making her conservative move towards the front when her car lost power, plenty of track position, and a lap to the leader. No caution flag would wave as the car came back to life by turn one but the damage had already been done. By damage I don’t mean cosmetic or mechanical, I mean all her hard work from the drop of the green flag seemed for nothing. We later learned as Moody went to hit the switch for her fan she must have hit the ignition switch also and cut all life to the power plant.

We did not see our first caution until lap 75 – well let’s go ahead and say 76 as because it took that long for all the cars to pass the scoring line before race control could throw the yellow and not jack anything up. Halftime for the limited much like of any 200 lap LMSC race – pace car brings the field down pit road, 10 minute work session when all cars have stopped, normal pit stop adjustments only, able to change right side tires if you would like. Most teams that I saw took that offer pretty easy, as well as make some minor adjustments to counter act the shade stretching from the entry of turn one to about midway down the backstretch.

You know that other saying in racing, Cautions breed cautions, well I guess that stigma doesn’t discriminate against competition cautions either. As the field stampeded into one not sure if Daniels had help, got a little to high or not enough heat in those right sides but he went for a spin up the banking to bring out the second caution of the day. Unable to rejoin the field where he left it, Daniels brought his ride to the attention of his crew for a good look over the car to insure nothing was wrong.

After the field got back to green flag racing we finally had a battle for the lead. Clay Jones started to take a bit of a higher entry into the corners. He was only able to get to the rear bumper of the 4 car a few times but would eventually slip into the grasp of Andrew Grady. It’s not like I’m saying Jones lost a lot of ground because the top three hooked up nose to tail and started to roll.

Until ANOTHER yellow flag brought out by the #9 machine of Charles Watson & Robert Bruce made contact out of turn two. Haley Moody stood to gain the most for this caution period, she was the free pass car and would restart on the lead lap. With only 50 laps remaining and plenty of fluid on the track, race director Juston Ellis, decided to put the field under the red flag so the fans would not get robbed of a good show.

Once clean up was complete the order to place the cone was given and take a guess who was the first taker… Andrew Grady himself. Father-son front row coming to the green flag but Clay Jones had better ideas and tried to pull a cross move. As epic as it was, Jones was not able to hold onto it and Grady would remain your second place car. Meanwhile Chris Chapman decided it was time to make something happen, he tried dive bombing Throckmorton but couldn’t make it stick, his car would go for a ride and bringing out yet another yellow flag.

Again out came the infamous orange cone but this time Andre Grady leaves the temptation behind, cannot say the same for Jones. The green flag was displayed again and the hunt for the race lead was on! Grady and Jones spent the entire lap door to door with plenty of contact to boot, Jones able to hold on more this time and we had a new leader as of lap 118. All that racing must have gotten to exciting for McGee & Phillips as they made contact bringing out yet another yellow flag.

After clean up was complete and the cars removed from the racing surface we were able to get back to green flag racing. With laps ticking down drivers were cracking the whip, so much in fact we were three wide out of two. Daniels, Glenski, and Throckmorton make things work a bit with Throckmorton getting the raw end of the deal forcing him to backwards.

Looking back up front, the top four now nose to tail with only 20 laps left in the race. Clay Jones knew the pressure was on because he started trying every line in the book to drive under or above the four car but just could not make it stick. All the while Rusty Daniels riding in the catbird seat waiting for the Grady’s and Jones to slip up and take home the win.

Though a good idea at the time he did not have enough car to make any moves, however, Andrew Grady had other plans for the Clay Jones machine as the field took the white flag. Andrew dove the car deep into one hoping to make it stick, it did and he was able to drive away to a second place finish. Clay Jones, Rusty Daniels, Joey Throckmorton finished out the top five.

Unofficial Results:
1. #4 Tony Grady; 150*
2. #1 Andrew Grady; 150*
3. #15 Clay Jones; 150
4. #16 Rusty Daniels; 150
5. #21 Joey Throckmorton; 150
6. #28 Ryan Glenski; 150
7. #50 Haley Moody; 150
8. #98 J.D. Eversole ; 150
9. #21c Monty Cox; 150
10.#36 Mark Simpson; 149
11. #51 Corey Walker; 147
12. #11 Wayne McGee; 143
13. #51b Chris Chapman; 107
14. #29m Mitch Walker; 106
15. #29 Robert Bruce; 96
16. #9 Charles Watson; 95
17. #12b Joey Phillips; 87
18. #19 Adam Congrove; 85
19. #42 Daryn Cockram; 39

*Andrew Grady already DQ. Tony Grady’s engine under further review

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