Sumter, S.C. (09/18/21) Another warm September afternoon greeted drivers, crews and fans as they all descended on one of the oldest tracks on tour for Round 8 of 9 of the 2021 South Atlantic Diesel Steel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Challenge presented by Racing for Heroes season. Another incredible crowd greeted the Bandits , filing in early for a well- attended autograph session with the drivers. With hearts and minds on the loss of Bandit queen, Denah Long earlier in the week and the absence of series director Jim Long Jr, the void was evident but the staff and drivers soldered on in her memory.
Twenty three drivers made the trip to Sumter Speedway for the Billy Cagle Tribute race as expectations were high after several Bandits had very good practices on Friday night. Action kicked off with Ricky Sullivan Jr Pole qualifying that saw Steve Banal break both the Late Model and the Super Late Model track record with a blazing lap of 14.600! Heat races for the evening were cancelled so the field was locked into the feature from their qualifying effort.As the field rolled out onto the speedway, each driver slowly rolled to the flag stand and handed Hope Wade, Denah’s daughter a rose as they all showed their support as a Bandit family. With Banal and Willie Milliken on the front row, the field gathered nicely in turn for as the large crowd came to their feet.
After a failed attempt at an initial start, Banal would gain advantage on Milliken on lap one. Several spins in the back brought out the yellow on lap 1 including one that changed the season for several drivers.As Banal brought the field to green on one of the restarts, Milliken and points leader Russell Erwin made contact at the flag stand resulting in Erwin’s left front suspension being broken. Erwin would come to a stop and eventually being towed to the pits.
All eyes were on Banjo Duke as the hometown favorite had a $600 bounty on him. Duke was never a factor but was able to cling to a fourth place run the entire evening. The event was plaques by several cautions that took away great runs for a few drivers including, Timmy Blackwell and Taylor Puckett, both were running in the top 10 before spins relegated both to 13th and 14tg place finishes. Meanwhile, on long green flag runs, Banal was able to pull away but Milliken drew close as the field caught lapped traffic. Derek Quade stayed in tow with all night as he chased the top two down. Shaun Harrell started 8th faded to 10th at one point, but then rallied through the field to get himself back in contention. Erwin would return to action with six to go after getting out of the car and repairing it himself, eventually coming home 19th in the final tally.Banal would go wire to wire to score the $7,807 victory ( pole, bounty, win) making him the sixth different winner in eight races and the fifth different pole winner on tour this year. Milliken was second followed by Quade,Duke and Harrell rounding out the top five.
Banal was super excited afterwards, “Man we didn’t even have this 525 until Tuesday night so we have been working all night every night this week to get here. Feels so good to race and have fun again! Banal on traffic- “ I knew they were coming. I just tried to stay in the black and hope they would move out of the way, the race director did a good job moving them. I really like this series, we’ll be a Cherokee and definitely be on board next year.”
Notable Tidbits* Championship points chase leaves Sumter closer than the entire year. You can throw a blanket over the top four with a new points leader (unofficially) when the points are tallied Monday.
* Both Millken and Erwin naturally had different views on the incident after the restart. Erwin- “ He flat wrecked me on purpose, you don’t break an entire left suspension by accident. I should be way ahead (in points) but I got junked at Lakeview and here. I think I’m going to be four points back if Eric’s math is right so this thing ain’t over.
Milliken’s view- “ Hard racing, I mean we’re racing for points, I’m not moving over and let him just go by, look at the side of my car, he slammed me all the way to the corner and took himself out, not my fault, not my problem.”*
Besides Banal, the biggest winner of the night is Harrell, who should inherit the points lead. The three team did exactly what they had to and played their strategy perfectly, nose clean and out of trouble.* Great run for James Murphy, the young man gets a top 10 finish (8th) in his first Bandit start.
* Heartbreak hotel for Dalton Ray Hodge as his night ends with a wreck in turn four putting the 2021 Sumter Champ on the sidelines.
Next up – Round 9, October 23rd,The 7th Annual Cash Money 100 , $10,000 to win , Cherokee Speedway
South Atlantic Diesel Steel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Challenge presented by Racing for Heroes
Sumter Speedway (Sumter, S.C.) – September 18, 2021 Results
Billy Cagle Tribute
- Steve Banal
- Willie Milliken
- Derick Quade
- Banjo Duke
- Shaun Harrell
- Dale Timms
- Zach Cox
- James Murphy
- Ray Miller
- Clint Hodges
- Matt Pridgen
- Kevin Godwin
- Taylor Puckett
- Timmy Blackwell
- Blake Sanderson
- Dalton Hodge
- Justin Sims
- Keith Woolford
- Russell Erwin
- Brian Strickland
- Tony Ayers
- Derek Lane
- Austin Mintz