Chase Elliott has won on many occasions at Five Flags Speedway including the 2011 Snowball Derby and the 2010 Snowflake 100, but the Dawsonville, Georgia teenager proved once again that he is wise beyond his years in Saturday night’s running of arguably the biggest pro late model race of the year.
Elliott and fellow young gun Kyle Benjamin from Easley, South Carolina ran identical lap times in qualifying; however, it was underfunded Alabama competitor Justin South who surprised many by setting the fast time for the 100 green flag lap event. South himself was not surprised, remarking that “we expect nothing less.” He proved this was the case as he shot into the lead from the start and pulled away from the field for the first 23 laps.
Elliott bided his time, which was the focus for the race. “We got to be there when it counts and go get this thing,” Chase said over the radio to his team prior to the green flag. Elliott began his move to the front following a brief caution and cleared South for the lead a quarter way through the race. South was not finished yet and took the lead back two laps later and led past the halfway point.
At this point in the race, South’s machine began to free up allowing Elliott to move back to the lead in turn three. Benjamin followed to second. Another caution would fly shortly thereafter, but Elliott proved that he is a master at restarts in these cars. Throughout a longer green flag run towards the closing laps, Ben Kennedy was moving swiftly through the field. Kennedy started seventh, but slipped back a few positions before making his run to the front later on. Closing in on the ten lap to go mark, Kennedy had driven past Benjamin for second and set his sights on the leader.
Things would change at lap 91, when during a caution Kennedy was forced down pit road with an oil leak. A series of cautions and restarts then culminated in a nine car pileup in turn two forcing a red flag period. South caught a part of the wreck and was relegated to a 17th place finish. Following the race, South recapped that “it was a matter of time before they would get us. We felt we could be there for all 100 laps, but we weren’t.”
After a brief break in the action the race resumed and despite another caution period, Elliott continued to get the jump on the competition. Five Flags Speedway pro late model champion Mike Garvey ran in the top five the entire race, but didn’t make his move for second until the closing laps. Benjamin settled for third.
It was once again Elliott’s night though: “I knew the late caution would come out…that never fails. I knew to be prepared for multiple restarts and we were able to hold on.” Most importantly, the over 100 laps on the track will prepare Elliott once again for a possible Snowball Derby repeat and could result in him being the first driver to win both Sunday’s prestigious race and the Snowflake 100 in the same weekend.