PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Johnny Gilbertson survived an ailing engine and late race challenge by Troy DeCaire to win the BG Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series season finale Saturday at 417 Speedway.
It was Gilbertson’s first SSSS victory of the season.
Gilbertson took command of the race from the start when he beat polesitter L.J. Grimm into the first corner to assume the lead. Gilbertson began to build up a sizeable lead by the halfway point. In typical DeCaire fashion, he slowly began to close on Gilbertson as the race was winding down, with Joey Aguilar following DeCaire patiently.
With five laps remaining, DeCaire made his move, diving under Gilbertson as the duo exited turn two, making contact with each other. The caution flag immediately waved for the stalled car of Daniel Miller.
The cars lined up side-by-side for the restart. When the race resumed Gilbertson took command of the event once again going the final five laps uncontested. In victory lane Gilbertson revealed he had an ailing engine late in the race. DeCaire damaged the front-end suspension of his car in the late-race incident with Gilbertson and could not challenge Gilbertson on the restart.
“The motor was going south on me that last restart and I kinda thought it was over,” explained Gilbertson. “I drove it into turn one and two without touching the break and kinda pretended I was at East Bay Raceway Park. I kept enough momentum I guess and held on for five (laps).”
The win was the second consecutive in the season finale for Gilbertson at 417 Speedway, where clinched the 2018 series title one year ago.
“I think we have a pretty good package here. We’ve been pretty good every time we’ve come here. I think we’ve found something I can be consistent with. I just love coming here. It’s a good Florida track,” concluded Gilbertson.
Following Gilbertson were DeCaire, Aguilar, Clayton Donaldson and Grimm.
With his second-place finish, DeCaire secured his first BG Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series championship and collected 10 wins in 2019. Ken and Theressa Statham claimed the BG Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series car owner’s championship.
Johnny Gilbertson, Troy DeCaire, Joey Aguilar, Clayton Donaldson, L.J. Grimm, Garrett Green, Tommy Nichols, Travis Bliemeister, Gary Wiggins, Ty DeCaire, Scotty Adema, Ryan Adema, Daniel Miller, Willie Henson, Phil haddad, Chaz Hambling.