Hunt The Front Super Dirt Series

Rock Gault Memorial delivers richest payday for Mitchell
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6/22/2024

6/22/2024

Hunt The Front Super Dirt Series


Rock Gault Memorial delivers richest payday for Mitchell

GAFFNEY, S.C. (June 22) – On Friday night at Lancaster (S.C.) Motor Speedway, Zack Mitchell chased eventual winner Jeff Smith of Dallas, N.C., in futility for 13 laps before settling for second place in the Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series weekend opener. On Saturday at Cherokee Speedway, Mitchell, of Enoree, S.C., refused to be denied.

After following race-long leader Michael Brown of Lancaster for the same distance – an identical 13 laps – Mitchell, who started fourth, forced his way by Brown with a slider in turn two, watched as Brown made a cross-over move down the backstretch and then completed the pass for the lead as they raced out of turns three and four.

Mitchell went on to lead the final 24 laps for a $20,000 payday in the fourth annual Rock Gault memorial, his first career victory with the second-year Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series and the richest win of his career, topping his $12,000 triumph in the Southern All Stars-sanctioned Mike Duvall Memorial at Cherokee on Sept. 30, 2023.

Mitchell has won four of the last seven Super Late Model specials at Cherokee that he’s entered and didn’t finish worse than sixth in the other three. Saturday his prowess at “The Place Your Mama Warned You About” was on display again. After slipping by Brown, Mitchell went on to finish 1.449 seconds ahead of fifth-starting Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., in a race slowed by five cautions.

“I just, I hope I cleared Michael (Brown) pretty good there when I slid him,” said Mitchell before thanking his crew. “But man, this thing was on a rail. I knew when we fired off, I was like, man, we got something for them. Hats off to my crew, man. My dad, my wife, Breana, Mike, Dalton, Daniel, man, Ricky … everybody. You know, I feel like they should be standing up here just as much as me. And they deserve it just as much as I do.”

Hampton, Ga.’s Ashton Winger, who started sixth alongside Bailes in the third row, completed the podium, while 12th-starting Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., finished fourth. Trent Ivey of Union, S.C., rallied from 19th to finish fifth. It marked the second straight night that Mitchell, Bailes (third) and Winger (fifth) occupied spots in the top five at the finish.

Though it took Mitchell more than half of the 50-lapper to grab the lead, he knew from the start that he needed to get to the front as fast as he could, a plan he had based primarily on his tire choice, which is always critical at the finicky 4/10-mile oval.

“I feel like I had to drive my ass off for that one, but I guess it was all worth it,” Mitchell said. “I knew we went really hard (on tire compound choice). I wasn't sure what everybody else had on in the field. I rolled up there (to the starting grid and it) looked like Brandon (Overton) had a dirty right front, so I figured he had a (NLMT) 2 on. So, I figured he might not have went with a 4 on the right rear. But I knew it was probably one of the hardest ones in the field, so I knew I could push it really hard. That's why I was trying to get around (Brown) as fast as I could. But man, this thing was on the rail.”

After losing the lead, Brown, who won a $10,000 Rock Gault Memorial prelim feature in 2022, eventually slowed with a flat tire himself on lap 39. He rebounded to finish eighth.
Bailes ran fourth for much of the main event but managed to slide into the runner-up spot ahead of Winger on a lap-45 restart. He had little for the leader over the final six circuits however. He felt his best shot to get ahead of Mitchell came earlier in the race.

“Zack, he drove a really good race. I got by him there at the beginning and then he was able to get back by me,” said Bailes. “That's probably what won the race for him. But this track, it was good. It was rubbered up top. But you actually could throw some sliders and stuff, made it interesting. It was a fun race. These guys, they just race hard, so you've got to race hard with them.”

Like Bailes, Winger felt like his fate was likely determined earlier in the event.

“I didn't need that caution when Chris (Ferguson) broke (on a lap-14 restart),” said Winger. “I was able to kind of split the middle there when I think Zack kind of got into some bad air down here and pushed. I was able to turn left and split the middle. And then we went down into three and Chris broke. I was hoping and praying we would get back to the line and count the lap. Because, man, Zack’s not going to mess up much here. I really wanted to win here. This crowd's electric. But we'll settle for a third and go on to the next one.”

Evans, Ga.’s Overton, the series points leader, salvaged a 12th-place finish after pitting twice to work on suspension issues. He never found the balance he was looking for, but still managed to leave Cherokee with a 64-point advantage over Sam Seawright of Fort Payne, Ala., who finished 10th.

The Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series returns to action on July 6 with a $20,000-to-win main event at Senoia (Ga.) Raceway.


Article Credit: Robert Holman | ZSK Photography

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