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Magnum Trailers 125(USRA SLM) @ San Antonio Spwy.

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Bendele Breaks Smith’s Streak

There’s an old saying that one mans misfortune is another mans fortune, or something like that. So was case in the Magnum Trailers 125 USRA Super Late Model main on the high-banked San Antonio Speedway ½ mile. Casey Smith, who has dominated the last two USRA SLM races in San Antonio looked to three-peat easily until a late race restart when he broke an axle. Brandon Bendele, who chased Smith throughout the event, assumed the lead and led the final 18 laps to score the victory.


With the draw for invert, Doug Lege subbing for Thad Felton and Donnie Wilson lead the 16 car field to green. The duo of past ROMCO combatants stayed side by side through turns 1-2 with Wilson, the 2002 series champion getting the advatage. Casey Smith then moved along side Lege who got freight-trainede by Smith, Brandon Bendele and Matt Merrell. Smith wasted little time running down Wilson for the lead, catching and passing Wilson on lap 8.


By lap 10 the front of the pack broke into two six-car groups with a gap between them. Bendele got under Wilson for second on lap 12, with Merrell following for third as Wilson spun in betweens turns 3-4. On the restart, Bendele looked low on Smith, while Tommy Grimes took a peek high on Lege for fourth. The top 8 then did the Noahs Ark line as they divided into groups of twos Smith/Bendele, Merrell/Lege, Grimes/C. Davidson and Greg Davidson/John Kelly.


Grimes and the Davidson’s all reeled in Lege on lap 28 and smoked by on lap 29. While Smith and Bendele began to pull away from Merrell, Kelly, Jason Young, Tuffy Hudson and Tom Grotheus battled for eighth. Grimes finally got clear of the Davidson family and started to ease up to Merrell. Lege continued to lose spots as Kelly, Young, Hudson and Grotheus all freight-trained by on lap 38.


Grimes took over the third spot on lap 39 getting by Merrell, while father(G. Davidson) got around son©. Davidson) for fifth. By lap 50 Smith had built 1.2 second advantage over Bendele as G. Davidson ran down Merrell for fourth. G. Davidson’s charge to front came to an abrupt end on lap 55 when he broke and rolled to a stop in turn 3 to bring out the caution.


During the yellow, Bendele and C. Davidson tried to use pit strategy as they broke off and pitted for tires. On the restart, Smith got a good jump on Grimes and Merrell. As the race reached the crossed flags The top three remained with Kelly fourth and Bendele working back to fifth easily on new tires. Bendele then methodically picked off Kelly on lap 63, Merrell on lap 65 and caught Grimes for second on lap 68.


After a couple tries, Bendele moved by Grimes on lap 71, but was two and two tenths seconds behind Smith. Merrell, Kelly and C. Davidson then took up a battle for fourth. Even on older tires, Smith was able to increase his margin over Bendele to two and half seconds by lap 80. C. Davidson was pressuring Kelly for fifth on lap 90 when Kelly got sideways giving C. Davidson a run to take the spot in turn 1.


Yellow waved on lap 91 for Lloyd Alexander who took an off-road excursion through the grass out of turn 2. Bendele was able to close up on the bumper of Smith for the restart. Once back to green Smith and Bendele got ahead of Grimes, Merrell, C. Davidson, Kelly and Young. Merrell then put the heat on Grimes for third and made the pass on lap 99 bringing C. Davidson along to fourth.



Smith again was able to stretch out a lead over Bendele up to a second with 25 laps to go. That gap was lost again when Alexander went for a spin on the front stretch on lap 107. The restart proved to be the down fall when, as green waved, Smith failed to take off due to a broken axle. The field negotiated by with no major contact and Bendele now on the point as Smith pulled to the pits.


The top three of Bendele, Merrell and C. Davidson separated out leaving Grimes, Kelly and Young to fight it out for fourth. In the final 10 laps Bendele was able slowly increase his lead over Merrell, who was having his best run. As the checkers waved, Bendele took the win by 2.12 second in the Premier Minerals, Oval Components, KB Web Design, CPU Repair, Ohlin Shocks, 2002 Lefthander Chassis powered by a Hamner Racing Engine.


“I don’t think we could have done anything with Casey,” said Bendele. “We tried a couple different lines, but even on our newer tires he was stronger. I could have maybe stayed with him. We’ve lost a lot like that too. We were going up through the gears pretty hard on the restarts. But we’ll take it.”

“I think the tire strategy could have worked, but our car actually got tighter. It was a cool deal for the fans to get to see live pit stops. Our guys are really fast on pit road.”

This race was kind of a gearing up for the August race as part of the Texas Two-Step deal. It was good learning experience. We’ll change some stuff on the car. I think we can get faster.”

“It’s tough to swallow,” added Bendele on Smiths breaking. I know what he’s going through. I’m sure they worked their tails off. They won the last two races here and were looking forward to their third win here. It’s a credit to those guys.”


“It’s really disappointing,” replied a dejected Smith. “I’d have liked to pick up that $2,500 and not have it cost us anything to run down here this weekend. But, I’m happy we had another great racecar. We learned a little bit more this weekend.”

“Hat’s off to Brandon. No matter how fast your car is, you still have to last all 125 laps. So we’ll go back to the shop, fix it, and hopefully come back ever faster.”

Regarding the pit strategy Smith added, “When I saw Brandon and Chris pit for tires, I thought we were doomed. I just saved my tires the best I could and got as far out in the lead as I could. I think they had to burn their tires off trying to get back through traffic.”



USRA Super Late Model results


1. 81 Brandon Bendele (5)

2. 03 Matt Merrell (6)

3. 41 Chris Davidson (4)

4. 13/22 Tommy Grimes (7)

5. 57 John Kelly (9)

6. 27 Jason Young (10)

7. 7 Tuffy Hudson (8)

8. 99 Casey Smith (3)

9. 115 Lloyd Alexander (13)

10. 16 Danny Pike (16)

11. 96 Greg Davidson (11)

12. 11 Tom Grotheus (12)

13. 29 Doug Lege (1)

14 9w Eric Wallace (15)

15 82 Donnie Wilson (2)

16. 04 Cory Roper (14)

9B Gary Buchanan–DNS

35 Greg Davis—DNS, broke in practice

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