February 24, 2024 | By Helm Communications

Mark Smith outduels Terry McCarl in USCS at Southern Raceway

MILTON, Fla. — Mark Smith of Sunbury, PA rode in the catbird’s seat for 27 laps, and pounced in lapped traffic with three laps to go to take the lead.  Smith went on to take his tenth United Sprint Car Series Presented by K&N Filters win at Southern Raceway since 2019 on Saturday night in Round 9 of the Winter Heat Series.

Terry McCarl of Altoona, IA led the first 27 laps of the race and was looking for his second straight win at Southern Raceway after posting the USCS win on Friday night, but the second-generation National Sprint Car Hall of Fame driver had to settle for the second spot.  Mark Covington of Glenpool, OK finished third, and Mark Ruel Jr. of Jacksonville, FL was fourth.

Corbin Gurley of Hebron, IN drove to a fifth-place finish and Lance Moss of Cherryville, NC started 12th and finished sixth to earn the Wilwood Brakes Hard Charger of the Race Award.  Seventh went to the 2023 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame 360 Sprint Car Driver of the Year Jason Martin of Liberal, KS, and Bradley Fezard of Bonnerdale, AR finished eighth.

Van Gurley Jr. of Valparaiso, IN was ninth, and the defending 15-time USCS National Champion and National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Inductee Terry Gray of Bartlett, TN rounded out the top ten.

In preliminary action, McCarl won the six-lap Hoosier Racing Tire Speed Dash to earn the Pole Position for the Main Event.  The pair of eight-lap Heat Races were won by Austyn Gossel in the Engler Machine & Tool First Heat, and Smith in the Butlerbuilt Racing Products Second Heat.

McCarl took the lead from the pole position at the start of the race, followed by Smith, Brett Wright of East Chatham, NY, Gossel, and Ruel.  Covington charged up from the eighth starting spot to pass Ruel for fifth on lap two, and Gossel took over the third spot from Wright on lap three.

While McCarl began to pull away from Smith at the front of the field, Covington passed Gossel for third on lap nine, and Ruel got around Gossel for fourth on lap ten,  Gossel’s issues got worse on lap 11 when he spun in turn one while running fifth to bring out the first of three caution flags.

That moved Gurley back up into the top five, but that was short-lived for the moment, as Wright took over the fifth spot on the restart.  By the halfway point of the race on lap 15, McCarl held a 1.308 second lead over Smith.  The second caution flag came out on lap 19 when Todd Bliss of Baton Rouge, LA, cut down a left-rear tire in turn one.

During the caution period, Wright stalled out of the fifth spot on the backstretch as the field was getting set for the restart.  Wright was able to restart, and he stalled once again on lap 21 to bring out the third and final caution flag of the race.

When the field went back to green flag action, McCarl and Smith pulled away from Covington in third, while Gurley passed Ruel for the fourth spot.  With five laps to go, McCarl held a .803 second lead over Smith, but lapped traffic loomed ahead.  As the leader entered turn one on lap 28, McCarl drifted to the outside of a lapped car and Smith pounced to the inside.

Smith came off the bottom of turn two with the lead, put another lapped car between himself and McCarl for good measure, and held the lead to the checkered flag with a .863 second margin of victory over McCarl.

“I tried to stay close enough to Terry until we got into lapped traffic before I could make a move,” Smith said.  “It’s easier to make a move when you’re running second because Terry had to slow down for the lapped car and decide which way he wanted to go, and he had no idea how close I was.  When he went high, I committed to the bottom and made the pass.”

The next two events for the United Sprint Car Series Presented By K&N Filters will be at Hattiesburg Speedway in Hattiesburg, MS on Friday night, March 1, and Saturday night, March 2. 

For more information, visit the USCS website at uscsracing.com and the series Facebook page, or call the series office at 770-865-6097. 

United Sprint Car Series Marketing Partners are K&N Filters, Engler Machine & Tool, Hoosier Racing Tire, Huggins Cams, Hero Graphics, DMI/Bulldog, J&J Supply of NC, Racing Electronics, JE Pistons, DHR Suspension, Wilwood Disc Brakes, KSE Racing Products, PRO Shocks, Schoenfeld Headers, and Arizona Sport Shirts.


FEATURE RACE – 30 Laps:  1. 43 Mark Smith, Sunbury, PA (2); 2. 24 Terry McCarl, Altoona, IA (1); 3. 95 Matt Covington, Glenpool, OK (8); 4. 83 Mark Ruel Jr., Jacksonville, FL (5); 5. 12 Corbin Gurley, Hebron, IN (7); 6. 36 Jason Martin, Liberal, KS (6); 7. 23 Lance Moss, Cherryville, NC (12); 8. 938 Bradley Fezard, Bonnerdale, AR (14); 9. 13 Van Gurley Jr., Valparaiso, IN (9); 10. 10 Terry Gray, Bartlett, TN (11); 11. 16 Austyn Gossel, Fort Collins, CO (4); 12. 6 Bryan Gossel, Windsor, CO (10); 13. 28 Jeff Willingham, Ripley, MS (13); 14. 2 Tommy Hall, Natchitoches, LA (15); 15. 14 Brett Wright, East Chatham, NY (3); 16. 121 Todd Bliss, Baton Rouge, LA (16).

HOOSIER RACING TIRES SPEED DASH – 6 Laps:  1. McCarl; 2. Smith; 3. Wright; 4. A. Gossel; 5. Ruel; 6. Martin.
HEAT RACES – 8 Laps:

ENGLER MACHINE & TOOL HEAT 1:  1. A. Gossel; 2. Martin; 3. Wright; 4. Ruel; 5. Covington; 6. Moss; 7. Fezard; 8. Bliss.

BUTLERBUILT RACING PRODUCTS HEAT 2:  1. Smith; 2. McCarl; 3. C. Gurley; 4. V. Gurley; 5. Gray; 6. B. Gossel; 7. Willingham; 8. Hall.


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