BRISTOL, Tenn. – Mike Skinner earned his redemption at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In the 2018 Short Track U.S. Nationals, the former NASCAR Cup regular and Truck series champion was leading the Pro Late Model portion of the diverse event when he collided with a slower car with 29 laps remaining.
Skinner closed the deal in style late Saturday night by leading the final 58 laps of the 100-lap Pro Late Model event.
“I don’t know what’s got into us this year. I’m retired, but we’ve won five of the six races I’ve ran,” Skinner said. “This sure is fun. I think that I’m just going to do a mic drop after this race and maybe take the rest of the year off.”
Skinner posted a lap a 14.939 seconds at 128.442-mph en route to winning the pole in a track record time, but he was forced into the pits on lap five with serious brake problems.
“The brake master cylinder was torn off our car and we lost all the [brake] fluid,” Skinner said.
Thanks to ingenuity of his sons Jamie and Dustin, Skinner recovered.
“I just told the boys not to panic because we had a really good hot rod,” Skinner said.
After restarting from the back of the field, Skinner advanced to the second position by lap 30 and grabbed the top spot 12 laps later.
“We were blessed with a couple of cautions and the boys were able to jerry-rig the brakes. I don’t even want to look at what they did,” Skinner said.
Kyle Ivey, driving for the team owned by former NASCAR racer Sterling Marlin, was the first casualty of the race after his car suffered heavy front end damage in a lap-three accident that involved Skinner.
More drama unfolded on lap 11 when leaders Clay Greenfield and James Kirby III crashed together while trying to avoid lapped traffic. After a lengthy red flag caution to clear the track, Indiana’s Jack Dossey III held the lead until Skinner completed his mission.
There was one other obstacle for Skinner. Due to the inversion process, he was forced to start the race in the No. 10 position.
“I hate inverting starts,” Skinner said. “I understand why we do it. We’re in show business and we’ve got to put on a good show for the fans, but we about got wiped out by a car that we shouldn’t have behind to begin with.”
Dossey held on for second place, with Jake Garcia, Mandy Chick and Ricky Moxley rounding out the top five.
After being awarded a ceremonial gladiator sword that goes to all BMS race winners, Skinner spoke about his love of BMS.
“Winning at Bristol is awesome,” Skinner said. “If they gave me a pop bottle here, it would be fine.”
Defending Pro Late Model winner Josh Reeves (Abingdon, Virginia) finished ninth while short track ace Lee Tissot (Arden, North Carolina) finished tenth.
The top five qualifiers surpassed the 128-mph mark.
Super Late Model
Florida’s Stephen Nasse grabbed the pole with a lap of 14.526 seconds at 132.094-mph, as a total of 11 drivers in the 34-car field topped the 130 mph mark in qualifying.
Due to the multiple caution in Saturday’s other three events, the 100-lap marquee event of the program was still under way at press time.
After two red flag conditions following multi-car crashes in the B-feature, 36 cars started the 50-lap man.
Following five cautions, top qualifier Chuck Barnes, Jr. (108.708) from Louisville, Kentucky, emerged as the winner for the third straight year.
Barnes was forced to start sixth due to the inversion process, but he took the lead with around 20 laps to go by passing Brett Hudson on the outside.
“I watched my dad [Charles Barnes Sr.] race at Salem Speedway all my life and his deal was to lay low and be there at the end of the race. That’s kind of what we’ve done the last few years here,” Barnes said. “I had my kids at the track for the first time this year. They said they were making the long drive for only 50 laps, but I think their trip was well worth it.”
Charles Barnes Sr. finished second.
“It’s always good to see my son win a race,” Barnes Sr. said. “I had a front row seat there for a while. I got a chance to get close to him, but not close enough.”
Hudson, Skeeter Crum and Jeff Lane rounded out the top five.
The 50-lap compact race, which features front-wheel drive, four and six-cylinder vehicle which go as fast as 115-mph in the corners at BMS, was still underway at press time.