WHEATLAND, Mo. — What has been a challenging season for Tucker Cox at Lucas Oil Speedway, including a massive crash that sidelined him for nearly two months, ended with his biggest triumph on Saturday.
The Jefferson City driver, who broke his foot in a hard crash in mid-April, took control late in a wild State Tech Hermitage Lumber Late Model Fall Brawl to walk away with the $4,000 winner’s check.
The inaugural Fall Brawl also saw Chris Tonoli take the $1,500-to-win Springfield Mechanical Services Inc. POWRi Pure Stock Shootout. Also earning feature wins were Damen Clevenger (Show-Me Vintage Racers Series) and Bart Miller (American Iron Racing Series).
The rare daytime event, moved up in anticipation of evening rain, turned out to be a memorable one with Cox scoring an emotional win in his new Capital Race Car.
Cox was running fourth or fifth most of the race, but pounced when misfortune found the frontrunners in a wild last 10 laps. He took the lead on lap 34, lost it to Tommy Cordray on lap 36 and regained it the next time around in the 40-lap main event.
“I was just trying to be patient,” Cox said. “I had to calm it down. I was getting a little too anxious there the first 15 or 20 laps. I apologize to Cordray, for getting into him, but I wanted to win really bad. We were going for four grand, so rubbin’s racin.”
The two main contenders were eliminated in an incident on lap 31, changing the complexion of the season-ending special for drivers in the Hermitage Lumber Late Model weekly division.
Johnny Fennewald led the first 30 laps but as 11-time 2023 winner and track champion Justin Wells was passing him for the top spot on lap 31, those two tangled and wound up wrecked. Two laps leader, Jace Parmley fell out of contention, with mechanical issues, while leading.
Fennewald started on the pole and set a fast pace in the first half of the event, but got bogged down in lapped traffic on lap 25. That allowed ninth-starting Wells to close within .066 seconds. By lap 30, Wells was right on the leader’s bumper and challenging for the lead.
Wells was making an outside pass coming into turn two on lap 31 and Fennewald appeared to drift up and make, sending them spinning to a halt with significant damage to both cars. Fennewald’s vehicle had to be towed to the pits and Wells was able to slowly drive his there, but was done for the day.
Third-running Parmley inherited the lead with Cordray second and Cox in third. Cox advanced to second on lap 31, but the race took another big turn on lap 34 as Parmley’s car suddenly slowed and he pulled to the infield.
A caution flew for debris from Parmley’s car littered turn four. That left Cox in front with six laps remaining, with Cordray second and Bryon Allison third. Just one lap was completed when a two-car incident in turn one brought out another caution.
Cordray took over the lead on lap 37 going around Cox on the outside of turn two. Cox battled back on the inside to regain the front the next time around, coming off turn four. Cox drove to the win from there, holding off Larry Jones by .877 seconds as fireworks exploded overhead. Cordray faded to third with Allison fourth and JC Morton fifth.
“I’ve grew up watching (Cordray) here and he won a lot of races,” Cox said. “It’s pretty damn cool. I just want to thank all my sponsors, my mom and dad and everybody else that helps me.”
Feature Results (40 Laps)
1. 1T-Tucker Cox; 2. 99-Larry Jones; 3. 5-Tommy Cordray; 4. 1A-Bryon Allison; 5. 72-JC Morton; 6. 7J-Jake Morris; 7. 81-Jimmy Dowell; 8. 73-Francisco Escamila; 9. 13-Shawn Whitman; 10. 6-Bob Cummings; 11. (DNF) 82-Jace Parmley; 12. (DNF) 14-Kyle Graves; 13. (DNF) 21-Johnny Fennewald; 14. (DNF) 98-Justin Wells; 15. (DNF) 15-Bobby Ruff II; 16. (DNF) 40-Josh Newman; 17. (DNF) 90-Joe Walkenhorst; 18. (DNF) 21P-Darren Phillips; 19. (DNF) 28-Jim Greenway