Ray Cook Kicks Off New Year with 32nd Annual Ice Bowl Victory at Talladega Short Track
By Michael Despain
The Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Southern Series presented the first race of the Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Winter Series with the 32nd Annual Ice Bowl presented by Racecar Engineering and Ray Cook of Brasstown, NC would survive an early race tangle and work his way back through the field and also survive a rash of late race cautions for flat tires to claim his third Ice Bowl victory (previous wins came in 2009 and 2012) and the $7,500 payday.
The win for Cook would be his first career Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Series victory and would come aboard a Capital Race Car powered by a Cornett Race Engine and the car was sporting the Youngblood Concrete Special throwback scheme that carries sponsorship from Vinson Sims Construction, Circuit World, Schaeffer’s Oil, American Racer South, Sunoco Race Fuels, FK Rod Ends, Delph Communications, and Steering Buddy.
Pearson Lee Williams and Sam Seawright would bring the field to the green flag, but the caution would wave in turn one before a lap would be completed for a multi-car incident that eliminate Jordy Nipper from action. The second attempted start would be a go, with Sam Seawright taking the lead, followed by J.T. Seawright, Dallas Cooper, Pearson Lee Williams, and Dalton Cook. Jason Hiett and Will Roland would tangle in turn one on lap two to draw the next caution and Mark Bangs and Will Harris would tangle in turn four on the restart.
The next restart would see sixth-place running Chase Oliver clip an infield uke tire entering turn three, collecting Ray Cook in the process and drawing the caution. Sam Seawright would control the lead again on the restart, followed by J.T. Seawright, Cooper, and Williams, while Dalton Cook and Booger Brooks would trade the fifth position until Brooks won the battle for the spot on lap six. The front five would remain the same until caution waved again on lap twelve for Mark Bangs after he made contact with the end of the frontstretch wall entering turn one.
The restart would also be a no-go when Dalton Cook would slow in turn two with a flat right-front tire. The restart would see Sam Seawright, J.T. Seawright, Cooper, Williams, and Brooks hold down the top five spots, while Ray Cook and Will Roland began to march their way back toward the front of the field. David Seibers would draw the next caution on lap twenty when he would slow in turn three. The front five would again remain the same until Roland would slow in turn two with a flat right rear tire and under this caution, second place running J.T. Seawright would stop on the track and be pushed off the track with mechanical issues.
This restart would not see a lap completed as Randy Holder went over the back in turn one to keep the field under caution. Sam Seawright would maintain the lead on the restart, with Brooks climbing to second, trailed by Cooper, Williams, and Chris Jones. The next caution waved on lap thirty-five when Cooper would slow in turn two and see his night finished at this point. Seawright would be challenged by Brooks on the restart, with Williams now third, and Ray Cook would work past Jones for the fourth position. Lap thirty-seven would see Todd Morrow slow in turn four and when action resumed, disaster would strike for Williams as he would tangle in turn four on the restart and his night would be done. Seawright again held off Brooks on the restart, while Ray Cook would now be third, followed by Jones and Roland. Dalton Cook would draw the next caution on lap thirty-eight.
The top five remained the same on the restart until the caution waved again on lap forty for sixth place running Scott Crigler, who slowed in turn one with a flat right rear tire. Seawright maintained the lead once again, while Ray Cook would drive past Brooks for the second position, followed by Jones and Roland. Disaster would strike Seawright on lap forty-three when his mount would slow down the backchute with a flat right rear tire.
This turn of events would hand the lead to Ray Cook on the restart, who would be trailed by Brooks, Jones, Roland, and Morrow. The final caution of the race waved on lap forty-four for second place running Brooks, who would suffer a flat right rear tire.
Cook would lead the way the remainder of the way and score the victory, followed by Jones, Roland, Morrow, and Crigler. The remainder of the top ten finishers would be Seawright, Brooks, Will Harris, Dalton Cook, and Williams.