Johnny Stokes (1) holds off Bryan Fortner down the back stretch Friday at Magnolia Motor Speedway. Stokes won the Street Stocks feature, while Fortner finished second. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
April 14, 2018 7:32:44 PM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
In a typical "dry-slick" night Friday at Magnolia Motor Speedway, Bryan Fortner wasn't surprised to see Johnny Stokes hold a smooth line through the middle and win the Street Stocks feature.
"Johnny's strong wherever he goes," said Fortner, who finished second after Stokes passed him on the second lap. "When it gets slick, you have to understand that this is Stokes' track, not because he owns it ... he's good, he's smooth. You can depend on it every time. I wish he'd retire - maybe I'd win one."
Stokes, who drives the No. 1 car for Stacy Robinson, started second and endured six re-starts in the first four laps to win his second Street Stocks feature at Magnolia this season. Like Fortner's assessment of the longtime driver, promoter and track owner, Stokes said his key to running effectively in the slick is to be "smooth."
"I really pull a higher gear than everyone else and can roll through the center and keep the car up under me," Stokes said. "You can't be jerkin' around when you're as old as I am."
Stokes started second and passed Fortner in turns 3 and 4 on lap 2, but his best move came a lap prior, when he split Fortner and Lee Ray to take the lead in turns 1 and 2. The move didn't count because of the race's second caution, but it showed that Stokes would be the man to beat.
"Lee took the inside and Bryan was out front ... I rolled him pretty good, but they had another caution," Stokes said. "Then Lee rolled past Bryan in three and four, but then we had another caution. I thought Bryan would get down low and it left it wide open for me. The car was really, really good tonight."
TK King and Ray finished third and fourth, respectively. Matt Byram took fifth. Rodney Wing climbed from seventh to second in just three laps but spun out in turn 3 and was forced to the rear. He finished 10th.
Friday marked the second time Fortner has finished second to Stokes at Magnolia this year. Fortner finished third at the Ice Bowl in Talladega, Alabama earlier this year after leading much of the race. He's eager for a win and dryer conditions, which he said favors the setup on his Fast Forward chassis that he debuted at the end of last year.
Still, Fortner was reluctant to leave the bottom to try and find a way around Stokes.
"Tonight, the track had some bite on the top," Fortner said. "I didn't really try it, though -- I was scared to get off the bottom. It was an idea here or there, but that idea will put you in the back really quick."
The Street Stocks feature had the largest car count of the night (24 of 26 started), and 86 cars entered four divisions in the weekly show. The weekend was originally slated to be the two-day Golden Egg Spring Nationals, which was postponed to April 24-26 due to rain on Saturday.
Ellis wins again
Evan Ellis likely used up whatever bit of traction was left up top during the NeSmith Late Model feature, which he rode to a second-straight dominant win at Magnolia.
Ellis won his fourth race in the Club 29 car that he debuted at the end of 2017. The results in 2018 have been exactly what he'd hoped: two wins and a second.
Ellis started on the pole and led all 20 laps, pulling away by as much as two seconds just a lap after each re-start.
Ellis said he didn't know he'd built such sizable leads until he watched the video shot by his grandfather, Billy Evans.
"Everything started good. I got up top where a little bit of traction was still left, and the car went around the track very good. There were a couple of places where the car wasn't reacting the way I wanted, but I was just very pleased with the way the car ran."
Bryant Marsh finished second in just his second race of the season. He said Ellis' performance up top signaled that he'd be racing for second.
"Evan's been very, very fast [this year]," Marsh said. "On that first start, I was trying to get up around the top to get a run going, but that didn't work for me. That's the first time I've ever really tried that, and I shot myself in the foot with that. Then it was just pretty much around the top and impossible to pass him. I just held on for second place."
Jamey Boland finished third, Chase Washington took fourth, and Steve Russell finished fifth.
In other race action, Nick Thrash won the Late Model Sportsman feature. Tony Shelton climbed from 10th to second, and Chad McCool finished third after starting 22nd. Mark Thorne and Terrell Harris finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Scooter Ware won the Factory Stocks feature. Jason Byrd finished second, while Cody Chism, Blaine Davis and Brandon Hardin rounded out the top 5.
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