EAST MANATEE -- On a night that saw a lot of bent sheet metal, flaring tempers and even flying fists between a pair of longtime rivals, it was Nick Neri who found himself holding the trophy after Saturday's Turner Tree and Landscape with Sunoco Southern Racing Fuels 50-lap Super Late Model feature at Desoto Speedway.
Joe Boyd grabbed the lead from pole-sitter Michael Atwell at the drop of the green flag. As Boyd and Atwell ran nose-to-tail around the three-eighths-mile oval for the first 25 laps, the action was tight in the battle for third through sixth between Chris Fontaine, Icebreaker 100 winner Jeff Scofield and Jesse Dutilly.
On Lap 25, Dutilly and Scofield made contact in Turn 4, with Dutilly losing several spots in the exchange. The caution flew two laps later for Dylan Martin's spin.
As Boyd continued to pace the field, Dutilly was slowly working his way back up toward the lead pack. He was back in the top five in just a span of five laps and passed Scofield on the outside for fourth just before Dylan Bigley's spin brought out the yellow on Lap 44.
Fontaine and Scofield got by Atwell on the restart. Fontaine briefly took the lead from Boyd on a Lap 47 restart, but Boyd returned the favor and reassumed the top spot a lap later.
With Boyd starting to pull away, a three-way battle for third ensued between Scofield, Dutilly and Nick Neri. Scofield and Dutilly made contact in Turn 1, allowing Neri to slide underneath both cars and into third.
Heading into Turn 3, Dutilly made hard contact with the wall. On the front stretch after the accident, a fight ensued between Dutilly and Scofield, drawing a wild reaction from the packed house.
On the restart, Fontaine and Boyd battled side-by-side for the lead for three laps. The duo got together going into Turn 1 on Lap 62, sending Boyd into the wall and Fontaine to the pits with a flat tire. Boyd was allowed to resume the race in the lead despite heavy damage to the rear of his car.
On the restart, Boyd couldn't keep his damaged car out front, handing the lead to Neri. On the next restart, Atwell got the lead and was pulling away when the caution flew again on Lap 64.
Atwell appeared to spin his tires on the restart, causing a huge crash that sent Tyler Scofield hard into the front stretch wall and nearly on to his roof heading into Turn 1.
Dylan Bigley took advantage of the situation and vaulted past Neri to the lead on a restart with 13 laps to go. Bigley appeared to be on his way to the victory before he and Scott Walters made contact coming to the white flag, forcing Bigley into a spin.
Bigley was allowed to keep his spot and had to fight off Neri and Atwell in a green-white-checker finish. On the first attempt, Bigley and Neri made contact in Turn 2, sending both cars into the wall -- and Bigley out of contention for the win.
On the final restart, Neri got the jump on Atwell and Nick Hernandez and cruised to the victory.
"This is amazing," Neri said in the winner's circle after completing a series of celebratory donuts in front of the stunned crowd. "It got a little rough and tumble out there in the last practice, and we had to piece the car back together for qualifying. It worked out for us because we were able to keep our nose clean."
Hernandez finished second and was followed by Atwell's battered car in third. Dylan Bigley rallied back to fourth, while Anthony Cataldi rounded out the top five.
The Joey Coulter Florida Pro Truck Series was also on hand to kick off its 2015 season with a 50-lap feature event. Outside pole-sitter Steve Darvalics grabbed the lead from the start and was leading a three-truck breakaway with J.R. Garcia and Bradenton's Danny Anderson in tow when the caution flew for an accident involving Taylor Hosford and Derek Pugh.
Three laps after the restart, Anderson used a slight "bump-and-run" to get by Darvalics for the lead. On Lap 18, defending series champion Becca Monopoli got by Darvalics for second and was reeling in the leader when the caution flew two laps later for a spin involving Scott Hogan and Bill Vandevender, who were fighting for fourth just behind Darvalics.
After the restart, Monopoli kept pressure on Anderson and was making a pass for the lead when the yellow flew again 16 laps from the finish. Anderson, who was fighting a loose truck over the second half of the race, held Monopoli at bay over the final laps and drove on to the victory. Monopoli, Darvalics, Rodney Haddock and Vandevender rounded out the top five.
In the 25-lap Mini Stock feature, Cameron Cruse went from fifth to first by the end of the first lap and had nearly a full straightaway lead when Laura Mammina's blown engine brought the caution out at the halfway point of the race. On the restart, Cruse and Ronnie Robinson battled for the lead, and Robinson grabbed the lead after Cruse slipped high in the fourth turn with 10 laps to go. Jessica Ostrovskis followed Robinson and was making a bid for the lead when the caution flew for Kristen Milthaler's blown engine with four laps to go.
Robinson held off a challenge from both Ostrovskis and Cruse on the final restart and went on to win for the second week in a row. Ostrovskis and Cruse finished second and third
In other action Saturday night, Carl Thompson won his second consecutive 25-lap Bomber feature, and Cody Benoit held off Donny Funk to win the 25-lap LKQ Pick Your Part Pure Stock feature.
Winged Sprint Cars and Sportsman highlight Saturday night's action at Desoto Speedway along with Street Stock, Pure Stock, Modified Mini.SATURDAY'S RESULTS
Super Late Models
1. 17 Nick Neri, 2. 4 Nick Hernandez, 3. 51 Michael Atwell, 4. 128 Dylan Bigley, 5. 00 Anthony Calaldi, 6. 21 Gene Anderson, 7. 13 Scott Walters, 8. 75 Tommy Kelly, 9. 07 Tyler Scofield, 10. 7 Dylan Martin, 11. 5 Joe Boyd, 12. 28 Billy Bigley Jr., 13. 47 Chris Fontaine DQ, 14. 07 Jeff Scofield DQ, 15. 30 Jesse Dutilly DQPro Trucks1. 50 Danny Anderson, 2. 59x Becca Monopoli, 3. 41 Steve Darvalics, 4. 31 Rodney Haddock, 5. 84 Bill Vandevender, 6. 51 Dylan Bigley, 7. 32 Jeff Firestone, 8. 9 Cody Jett, 9. 37 Michael Goddard, 10. 13x J. R. Garcia, 11. 2D David Patterson, 12. 12 Scott Hogan, 13. 75 Robert St. John, 14. 09 Tommy Caveney, 15. 13 Taylor Hosford, 16. 3 Derek Pugh, 17. 28 Corey Bigley.Bombers1. 75 Carl Thompson, 2. 23 Kenny Gibson, 3. 57 Aaron Holmes, 4. 22x Randy Spicer, 5. 77 James Dellea, 6. 39 Jerry Tetting, 7. !9 Sheri Krom, 8. 24 Jeff Pacheco, 9. 34 Jody Gill.Pure Stock1. 98 Cody Benoit, 2. 29x Donny Funk, 3. 8 Shane Leonard, 4. Kyle Best, 5. 26x Bryan Hillyer, 6. 36x James Widner, 7. 72 Roger Dufrense, 8. 77 James Dellea 3rd, 9. 24 Jeff Pacheco, 10. 44 Rick Hess, 11. 110 Chris Hagens, 12. 57 Ben Kelly, 13. 80x Chad Cummings DQ.Mini Stock1. 05 Ronnie Robinson, 2. 91 Jessica Ostrovskis, 3. 91c Cameron Cruse, 4. 008 Ren Wright, 5. 67 Jimmie Best, 6. 48 Roger Wright, 7. 28 Eric Daniels, 8. 15 Jorden Miller, 9. 9 Josh Calvert, 10. 54 Ryan Thompson Jr., 11. 99 Johnny Marra, 12. 23 Jerry Groves, 13. 10. Kristen Milthaler, 14. 77 Laura Mamamina, 15. 13 Bryan Ferguson, 16. 56 Ryan Thompson Sr., 17. 3 Sherry Best Myakka, 18.. 56 Eli Thompson Palm Harbor (rookie)