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Dillon Brown’s Victory Welcomes Rome Back to Action

Dillon Brown’s Victory Welcomes Rome Back to Action

ROME, Ga. (April 15) — Rome Speedway reopened its doors after a one-year absence and fans poured through the facility’s gates in large numbers to welcome back the high-banked track to a sport that holds the storied place in high regard, and Dillon Brown of Gaffney, S.C., grabbed a $10,000 victory Saturday night in the Thunder in the Mountain 50 as the Newsome Raceway Parts Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series competed for the first time at the historic facility.

The track has been owned and operated by co-owner Mickey Swims and his late wife Martha since it was purchased by them in 1968 and opened under their direction with its first event in March, 1969, but it has been closed for over a year after she was diagnosed with cancer. She passed away last summer after a long battle with the disease.

Electing to spend their time caring for the family matriarch and the acknowledged “first lady” at both Dixie Speedway and Rome, the Swims family focused their efforts and attention on her during her illness, and temporarily closed both tracks to give themselves proper time to care for a much-loved woman who was considered to be among the most friendly and efficient in the short track racing industry.

Fans showed up in droves to pay their respects to the family as the facility reopened and was decked out in mostly blue paint—Martha’s favorite color—rather than its traditional red and white walls and grandstands. Her husband and an assembled crew worked long hours to make sure the facility was freshened up for its return after the layoff. Ironically, a postrace rain shower not long after the checkered flag waved might have appropriately seemed like a few tears from heaven as a reminder that its co-owner was looking down on the entire night. She reportedly had a deep affection for the facility, and its pretty location amid the rolling hills that are prominent around the region.

The same could probably be said for the crowd because the grandstands were pretty much jammed to see the facility’s grand re-opening. The event was a hallmark moment for Crate Racin’ USA, which had previously appeared at the track on three occasions with its currently-inactive Chevrolet Performance Super Late Model Series for CT525-powered cars, but was making its first stop with its highly-popular national touring series division for 604 Chevrolet Performance-powered Late Model machines.

A Big Win for Brown
The eventual winner, who paced the final 33 circuits, emerged from a side-by side duel with early leader Chip Brindle to snatch the lead on the 18th circuit and led the rest of the distance to claim the lucrative first-place prize over the Chatsworth, Ga., competitor, who was the fastest qualifier in a whopping 59-car field with a lap clocked at 14.922 seconds.

“Winning this race is really cool, and to see such a big crowd turn out for the track’s return to action was even better,” Brown said. “The atmosphere was so charged up here tonight, and people kept rolling into this place. I mean…we had 60 cars here and I looked around at all of the top drivers in the pits, and I told my guys that whoever won this race was gonna have to be a bad man tonight. I’m glad we could win the race, and it sure means a lot to our whole group.”

Brindle settled for a runnerup showing in the 27-car field ahead of Ronnie Johnson, Mark Whitener and 10th-place starter Ashton Winger.

The Duel for the Lead
Brindle led the opening laps from the pole and at times stretched a lead over outside front-row starter Brown and a trailing Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn. The trio exchanged glances and maneuvers, with Johnson’s sights occasionally focused on the outside groove. He had used that top lane to pass and defeat Ricky Greene in the first of six heat races, but his intentions met with resistance in the main event and he was only able to briefly challenge for position en route to a third-place ending.

The door-to-door battle between the leading Brindle and the challenging Brown was a bit more interesting as the pair dueled for several laps before the lead exchange was sealed in Brown’s favor.

“We were pretty good, and possibly one of the only ones near the front who went with three hard tires,” Brown said. “I knew I’d have to wait for ‘em to start working, and I needed the left-rear to get going. It took about six or seven laps, and then it got the right amount of heat in it. You need to have all the corners working together on tires. When that finally happened, I could feel the grip, and from there we just had to keep the heat in ‘em.”

Using the bottom lane and diving underneath Brindle in lapped traffic to execute the eventual pass as the leaders approached Trynt Lloyd’s slower machine, Brown slipped into the top spot and took a lead he never relinquished en route to his first-ever victory on the Crate Racin’ USA $100,000+ Challenge circuit.

“We raced door to door for about four or five laps,” Brown said. “We were side by side. I felt like he turned left on me when I got under him and w made contact, but I was as low as I could go and the next stop was down in the mud. He did what he had to do, and I did what I had to do, and it wasn’t nothing wrong. I’ve been around him a few times and I really like him, and we talked a few times during the afternoon and before the start, and I knew from those conversations that we’d race each other clean.”

Brindle’s loss of the lead in lapped traffic happened on the 18th circuit, and the first caution of the event occurred a single lap later for Ricky Greene’s slowing car.

“We had a very good race for the lead, but I made a little mistake in lapped cars,” Brindle said. “I’ve never been really good here, but we made progress tonight with this new car. It’s a Longhorn Chassis by Josh Gunter, and Grant Pearl has also been helping us a little bit. We actually won the second night out with the car, and everything has been really good. The track here was just way slower up top in the feature tonight, and you had to be on the bottom.”

After taking the top spot, Brown maintained that bottom line to fend off Brindle’s return efforts. Brindle’s choice to use the higher lane in traffic proved to be a costly error when Brown slipped underneath him before he’d completely cleared a slower machine.

“We scraped together when he got underneath me, but I really didn’t know he was already there,” Brindle said. “I felt him, but by the time that happens you’ve already turned left. It wasn’t nothing either of us really did wrong…it just happened. A lap or two after he got by me we had a caution, or it might have worked out different. You just never know.”

Forging Ahead, and Looking Ahead
The “series within a series” Crate Racin’ USA $100,000+ Challenge is a collection of designated races that each pay at least $10,000 to the winner, and carries a separate points fund from the regular touring circuit. This was the first event in the 3-year history of the series that was completed without sponsorship backing from E-Z-GO.

The program has been extremely successful for the organization, and will be continued. Series officials are currently searching for a replacement marketing partner for the 10-race bonus program. Two events have been completed, and eight races remain.

Brown’s sponsors on his Longhorn-chassied machine included Cherokee Landscaping, Pro Fabrication, Trailer Queen, Performance Automotive, Moorhead Bros. Inc., RK Designs Fabrication & Technologies, Renegade Fuels, Cruisin’ Thru Grab ‘N Go, Wray’s Wraps, Penske Shocks and Hardison Suspension Technologies. Hendren Racing Engines provided the power under the hood.

The next event on the schedule for the Adam Stewart-managed touring series will be April 28-29 at Deep South Speedway in Loxley, Ala. The Billy Roberson-owned track has undergone many changes and improvements under his direction over the past three years, and the last time the touring circuit visited the oval was Nov. 21, 2021. Wil Herrington of Hawkinsville, Ga., took the checkered flag in that event. The race will pay $10,000 to the winner.

Thunder in the Mountain 50: 1. Dillon Brown, 2. Chip Brindle, 3. Ronnie Johnson, 4. Mark Whitener, 5. Ashton Winger, 6. T.J. Brittain, 7. Cody Overton, 8. Austin Horton, 9. Michael Page, 10. Jadon Frame, 11. Jake Knowles, 12. Mario Gresham, 13. Jason Welshan, 14. Jimmy Thomas, 15. Jeremy Steele, 16. Bryson Mitchell, 17. Stephen Pedulla, 18. Jake Traylor, 19. Trynt Lloyd, 20. Blake Craft, 21. Matthew Brocato, 22. Hunter Peacock, 23. Dalton Polston, 24. Ryan King, 25. Cody Haskins, 26. Ricky Greene, 27. Hayden Cardwell.

Entries: 59
Fast qualifier: Chip Brindle, 14.922 seconds.
Lead changes: One among two drivers
Lap leaders: Chip Brindle 1-17; Dillon Brown 18-50.
Cautions: 4
Margin of victory: 0.832 seconds
Heat winners: Ronnie Johnson, Dalton Polston, Mark Whitener, Dillon Brown, T.J. Brittain, Chip Brindle.
B-main winners: Jake Knowles, Blake Craft, Austin Horton.
Non-qualifier feature: Jake Herrell.

Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series (current points) 1. Cody Overton, 180 points; 2. Mark Whitener, 178; 3. (tie) Trynt Lloyd and Jason Welshan, 158; 5. Blake Craft, 150; 6. Mario Gresham, 148; 7. (tie) Jeremy Steele and Jimmy Thomas, 146; 9. Jake Knowles, 144; 10. Hunter Peacock, 136; 11. Cody Haskins, 132; 12. Matthew Brocato, 122; 13. Hayden Cardwell, 120; 14. Jimmy Sharpe Jr., 110; 15. (tie) Kyle Bronson, Dillon Brown and Lucas Ruark, 100; 18. Chip Brindle, 96; 19. Ronnie Johnson, 94; 20. Parker Martin, 92.

Crate Racin’ USA $100,000+ Challenge (current points): 1. Cody Overton, 180; 2. Mark Whitener, 178; 3. (tie) Trynt Lloyd and Jason Welshan, 158; 5. Blake Craft, 150; 6. Mario Gresham, 148; 7. (tie) Jeremy Steele and Jimmy Thomas, 146; 9. Jake Knowles, 144; 10. Hunter Peacock, 136; 11. Cody Haskins, 132; 12. Matthew Brocato, 122; 13. Hayden Cardwell, 120; 14. Jimmy Sharpe Jr., 110; 15. (tie) Kyle Bronson, Dillon Brown and Lucas Ruark, 100; 18. Chip Brindle, 96; 19. Ronnie Johnson, 94; 20.  Parker Martin, 92.

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