April 17, 2017 10:11:14 AM
Tyler Erb hadn't been to Magnolia Motor Speedway in more than two years.
His first and only appearance at the track -- the 2015 Cotton Pickin' 100 -- ended early after he'd made the feature field.
Entering Saturday's Mississippi State Championship challenge Series Super Late Models race, Erb wasn't in the greatest of form. He was coming off a sixth-place finish in a B-main at a Lucas Oil show last weekend in Batesville, Arkansas.
Erb wasn't slated to race at Magnolia, per the schedule on his web site, but the Texas native made the trek to "make some laps."
Erb didn't look like a driver trying to work out kinks in his Rocket car after he started on the pole and won the 50-lap State Series race for his second feature victory of the season.
"We were off for the next two weeks, so we needed something to do," Erb said. "We were terrible last week, so we needed to get better. We had a really good night from start to finish."
Erb went back and forth with Dane Dacus, who debuted his new Rocket car last week at Greenville. Erb finally pulled away once the leaders hit lap traffic.
"Tyler was good from the start," said Dacus, who finished second. "We were able to stick with him there for the first couple of laps, but after lap 10 he pretty much took off. I was a little worried when they watered the race track. We didn't know what it was gonna do it, but it ended up being top-dominant for the guys running up there. Regardless, Tyler was the better car, and we'll take it and move on."
Erb ran all but a handful of laps on the highest possible line, as did half of the 22-car field. Erb and Dacus said the top side could have lasted "for another 50 laps."
"It just got really tricky ... you just couldn't run in real sideways or else you'd rip the deck out like a lot of them guys," Erb said. "I felt pretty comfortable around it. We were right up against it, but we were never in danger of ripping the deck out. Everything is so slick, and when you have that little bit of traction, it's hard to beat it.
"Magnolia is a bit like Eldora, but it's not as 'racey' as this. You can start on the bottom and slide them guys, and you can do everything."
Erb was unsure of his plans for the next two weeks and said he might return to the Golden Triangle for the State Series race next week at Columbus Speedway.
Michael Arnold, Rick Rickman, and Brian Rickman rounded out the top five.
Shaw wins first race of season
It has been tough for any NeSmith Crate Late Model driver to get around Chase Washington this season.
Washington had won five-straight features entering the Gumbo Nationals last week at Greenville, where he had finishes of second and fifth. For many of Washington's wins, Jeremy Shaw was the runner-up.
On Saturday, Shaw solved the puzzle, leading every lap and winning the NeSmith Late Model feature for his first win since August 2016.
"I think I saw him one time there when we were coming to the checkered flag," Shaw said. "He's always tough, and I kind of knew by the way the track was what I could expect. I was just trying to hit my marks. Chase has always raced me clean, and I knew to expect that from him. I've finished second so many times to him. I'm glad we finally came out on top."
Shaw said he and car owner Brad Logan have started to adjust to new springs from RE Suspension in South Carolina.
"When we got them back, we knew we were faster right out of the box," Shaw said. "It just took a few weeks to get everything tuned in the way we wanted it. We made a few changes and adjustments, just kind of learning everything on the car. We went to Greenville last weekend and tried some things down there. We had a really good car but got in the wall early. We brought that same stuff up here, and it just kind of took off tonight.
"One of the things toward the end of last year, we really had to have a cushion to lean on, and now it just seems like it will drive anywhere. It's by far the best car we had all year."
Neil Baggett, Hunter Carroll, and Kyle Shaw rounded out the top five.
In other race action, TK King won the Street Stocks feature. Lee Ray, Eddie Rickman, Jay Burchfield, and Matt Byram rounded out the top five. Jeffery Walker won the 602 Sportsman feature. Allen Simmons, Tony Shelton, Zack Shelton, and Chance Pennington rounded out the top five. Scooter Ware won the Factory Stocks feature. John Beard, Jason Byrd, Brandon Whitley, and Matt Haney rounded out the top five.
On Friday at Columbus Speedway, Hunter Carroll won his second-straight NeSmith Crate Late Models race at the venue. Mark Stokes, Ben Brocato, Justin Carter, and Chad McCool rounded out the top five. Lee Ray won his second straight Street Stocks feature at Columbus. Johnny Stokes, Doug Dodd, Jamie Sudduth, and Brent Mitchell rounded out the top five. Daniel Gann won the Late Model Stock feature race. Jamie Pickard, Ray Mauldin, Tim Bell, and Garrett Taylor rounded out the top five. Joey McKinney won the 602 Late Model feature. Brooke Carter, Jonathon Pridmore, Chase Pennington, and Tony Shelton rounded out top five. Jason Byrd won the Factory Stocks feature. Brandon Whitley, Bill Sudduth, Johnny Kelly, and Kevin McWilliams rounded out the top five. Allen Gilreath won the Mini Stocks feature. Sam Ramsey and Ronnie Guin finished second and third, respectively.