Jeff Oakley Back in Victory Lane at Dominion Raceway – Wins 2016 Season Finale
Thornburg, VA – Jeff Oakley has shown speed all season long at the newly opened Dominion Raceway. It looked like it was going to be a dogfight all summer long between he and Nick Smith. However, with some issues in the tech shed and some bad luck on the racetrack, Oakley found himself outside of the top five in points and just about mathematically eliminated.
Even with those odds that did not stop the driver from flexing his muscles again in the final race of the tracks inaugural season. Earlier in the afternoon Oakley was the only driver to break into the 14-second bracket, a 14.953 (96.302 MPH) to snag the pole position. That however, would be negated after pulling a number four pill for the redraw, inverting the top four qualifiers. Jeff Oakley, Nick Smith, Doug Barnes, Jr., Michael Hardin and Trent Barnes were the fastest five in time trials.
In one of the more interesting race formats that we have seen this season, the 150-lap race was broken up into three parts; a 50-lap segment where the fans voted on a top two, four, or six car invert, a 75-lap segment where there would be a random pill draw fro the leader at the time, and finally a 25-lap shoot out to determine the winner. Each break was only five minutes and teams were not allowed to change tires.
Michael Harden, who was awarded the pole position after the initial redraw, was able to lead every lap in the first 50-lap segment. Hardin was able to keep a solid three to four car advantage over the entire top five through the first segment. Points leader Nick Smith and Jeff Oakley looked like they were just riding saving tires – teams were not allowed to swap tires at all during any of the breaks. Some of the best racing however was back in the sixth position, the last possible invert spot from the fan vote. Connor Hall was the man to hold those honors after holding off the #82b of Cameron Burke – who eventually had engine issues that took him and Ganoe out the feature.
The caution flag for Cameron Burke essentially took the field to the first of two five minute breaks. This was when the tower looked to the fans to determine how many cars would be inverted for the second 75-lap segment. The crowd had three choices; two, four, or six. It was all but unanimous as the fans selected the top six, handing the lead over to Hampton, VA native Connor Hall.
When it was time to go back racing Connor Hall handled himself like a true contender and jumped out to a solid lead. Took several laps for the top five to catch the bumper of Hall to start applying pressure for the lead. This generated a pretty good battle between Nick Smith and Trent Barnes. Little contact from both drivers but overall some good hard racing! At one point Smith and Barnes were three wide with a lap car and some how found a way to keep racing.
Once Smith got around the lap machine he was able to get by Barnes as well and set his sights on Connor Hall who had been leading since the field went back green. The veteran driver gave Hall a little tap as they worked through turn two which allowed Smith to take the lead. Smith would open up a pretty big gap over the field for the most part of the second segment. Oakley was able to get to the back bumper of Smith before the lap 125 break but looked pretty content riding in the second position as that was one of the invert spots.
At the break Smith was given the honors of pulling the third and final redraw pill. The magic number was three, handing the lead over the Trent Barnes. Jeff Oakley got to keep his position while Smith would have to start from the third position. Connor Hall and Michael Hardin would round out the top five and get to keep their positions on the restart.
With 25-laps left it didn’t take long for things to get interesting. Barnes and Oakley sail it off into one and make contact coming out of two. Oakley gathered the car back up and mounted a charge back around Barnes to his outside. Another almost scary moment for the leaders after Barnes got pretty lose and came across Smith’s nose – kudos to both drivers for keeping the car under them. With the third and final segment being so short, Smith was just able to reel in Oakley but ran out of laps and would settle for second.
The best battle on the speedway was again centered around Connor Hall. This time doing all he could to hold off Michael Hardin. The two would stay glued to each other for the final fifteen laps. Hardin eventually getting around Hall to take home the fourth position. Hall showed great skill, and with the help of his spotter I am sure, to find a way to slide into the fifth position and avoided be freight trained to what was almost a seventh place finish.
1.#11 Jeff Oakley; 150
2. #12 Nick Smith; 150
3. #1 Trent Barnes; 150
4. #7 Michael Hardin; 150
5. #77 Connor Hall; 150
6. #5 Billy Morris; 150
7. #57 Eddie Johnson
8. #13 Tyler Daniels; 150
9. #07 Richard Storm; 145
10. #56 Doug Liberman; 111
11. #27 Kevin Sims; 99
12. #66 Zach Wells; 85
13. #61 David Polenz; 70
14. #82b Cameron Burke; 43
15. #82 Mike Ganoe; 43
16. #88 Doug Barnes Jr.; 24
17. #01 David Moon; 2
18. #17b Joe Brown; 2