The third week of the racing season at Orlando Speedworld saw the Bright House Challenge Series for Super Late Models come to town for the first in this season’s series, which will combine the points from both FASCAR tracks in crowning its champion. A full field of regular weekly divisions made this a bumper night of racing for the fans that were enjoying the unseasonally warm evening in the grandstands.
Afternoon qualifying had seen local favorite #9 Rich Clouser set the fastest time but the surprise of the qualifying session was the 3rd fastest time set by #17 Ken Lilley Jr, the teenager in his second season of SLM racing after graduating up from the Pro-Trucks. Another surprise was in store when the draw for the inversion put Lilley on pole alongside #11 Dave Rogers, with Clouser and #10 Brad May behind. The third row would contain #77 Jeff Scofield and #92 Dalton Zehr, the latest driver to take a seat in the legendary Dickie Anderson machine.
From the green flag Lilley showed he wasn’t going to be overawed by the company he was keeping at the front and he raced away, forcing Rogers to quickly drop in behind him. Clouser and May would stay side-by-side in their battle for 3rd. Lilley would keep his lead with Rogers up close against his bumper as the race began to settle down, but it was an early exit for May as he retired on lap 10 with mechanical problems. This left Lilley, Rogers and Clouser clear at the front, but the cars were soon back in close order formation after a spin in turn 4 for #28 Mark Adams that brought about the race’s first caution.
The restart would see Lilley unintimidated by the wily Rogers alongside him and he maintained his position in the lead, while Rogers would now have Scofield right on his rear fender on the outside line as they came around to complete another lap. But disaster struck for young Lilley just one lap later and his lead would last just 15 laps as his car got loose out of turn 4 and began to turn. The youngster managed to wrestle the car back under control, but it was enough to force Rogers on his outside to check up. With Scofield so close behind contact was inevitable, which sent Rogers spinning out and the pace truck back onto the track. Both Lilley and Rogers would be sent to the rear for the restart, which saw Clouser pull away into the lead for the first time in the race, leaving Scofield and Zehr to watch him pulling into the distance as they fought for second place.
The race now put some more green flag laps into the books with Clouser well clear at the front. Further back both Rogers and Lilley were working their way up through the field and were soon involved in the race for 4th between #127 Brandon Booth and #20 Anthony Sergi. This brought about the next caution when Booth got into the rear of Sergi to spin him out, and from the restart Scofield put Clouser under pressure and took the lead on the high groove, with Zehr in 3rd place under a lot of pressure from Rogers. Another caution for a spin by Lilley slowed the pace down once more soon after and this time it was Clouser dominating on the high line to take the lead and roar off away from Scofield.
The race was now approaching halfway and the race had split into separate battles with Clouser well clear at the front, while Scofield, Zehr and Rogers fighting it out for 2nd and a bunch of cars including Sergi, Booth Lilley, #10x George Gorham and #19 Ray Black Jr all vying for 5th. It was this group that provided the next caution, just after the crossed flags were shown to the drivers, when Booth again span Sergi out, sending both drivers to the rear yet again. A couple of restarts would be needed before the race was satisfactorily restarted with Clouser fending off Scofield’s nudges to stay in the lead.
Clouser would run off at the front leaving Scofield to defend his second spot from Rogers and the race ran incident free until the 65th lap when Lilley and Sergi relived their old Pro-Truck duels and got together in turn 4, the luckless Sergi again being turned around and left stranded on the track. Two more restarts later and Clouser was still away at the front leaving all eyes on Scofield, Rogers and Zehr fighting it out for second. Behind them Sergi was swiftly dealing with traffic and was soon fighting Gorham for 5th.
A spin for #67 Chad Allman late in the race was soon followed by a spin for Black, but on both restarts Clouser stayed out in front. With less than 10 laps remaining Lilley would see his tires badly degrading causing him to spin twice in quick succession, but Clouser’s rivals found him in no mood to give up the lead and on both occasions he pulled away at the flag and was soon coming around to take the checkers ahead of Scofield and Rogers. Zehr would take 4th ahead of Sergi, who had no luck all evening and was sent to the rear several times through no fault of his own. In fact all ten finishers deserved a lot of credit as all the remaining cars stayed on the lead lap, which is a testament to the parity in this division given this was 100 laps on a short 3/8th mile course.