Gilbertson Suvives Engine Issues to Win at Punta Gorda

Johnny Gilbertson. (David Sink Photo)

From David Sink

PUNTA GORDA, FL (December 7, 2019) – Johnny Gilbertson survived an ailing engine and late race challenge by Troy DeCaire to win the BG Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series (SSSS) season final Saturday night at 417 Speedway. It was Gilbertson’s first SSSS victory of the season.

Gilbertson took command of the race from the start when he beat polesitter LJ Grim int o the first corner to assume the initial lead. Gilbertson began to build up a sizeable lead by the halfway point. In typical Troy DeCaire fashion, he slowly began to close on Gilbertson as the race was winding down with Joey Aguilar following DeCaire patiently.

With 5 laps remaining, DeCaire made his move, diving under Gilbertson as the duo exited turn two, making contact with each other. A caution flag was immediately thrown for the stalled car of 2019 SSSS Rookie of the Year Daniel Miller. At this point the cars lined up side-by-side for the restart. When the race resumed Gilbertson took command of the event once again going the final 5 laps uncontested. In victory lane Gilbertson revealed he had an ailing engine late in the race. DeCaire damaged the front-end suspension of his car in the late-race incident with GIlbertson and could not challenge Gilbertson on the restart.

“The motor was going south on me that last restart and I kinda thought it was over” explained Gilbertson.” I drove it into turn one and two without touching the break and kinda pretended I was at East Bay Raceway Park. I kept enough momentum I guess and held on for five (laps).”

The win was the second consecutive season final for Gilbertson at 417 Speedway where clinched the 2018 series title one year ago. He was asked about his success at the track in victory lane. “I think we have a pretty good package here. We’ve been pretty good every time we’ve come here. I think we’ve found something I can be consistent with. I just love coming here. It’s a good Florida track” concluded Gilbertson.

Following Gilbertson were DeCaire, Aguilar, Clayton Donaldson, and LJ Grimm rounding out the top five.

With his second-place finish, DeCaire secured his first SSSS championship and collected 10 total feature wins in 2019, which made him the nations winningest pavement sprint car driver in 2019. Ken and Theressa Statham claimed the 2019 SSSS car owner’s championship.

Saturday’s event at 417 Speedway was also the final sprint car race anywhere in the nation in 2019.

BG Products Southern Sprint Cars Shootout Series
417 Speedway
Punta Gorda, FL
Saturday December 8, 2019

1. 22 – Johnny Gilbertson
2. 36 – Troy DeCaire
3. 11 – Joey Aguilar
4. 1 – Clayton Donaldson
5. 88 – LJ Grimm
6. 8 – Garrett Green
7. 55 – Tommy Nichols
8. 3 – Travis Bliemeister
9. 44 – Gary Wiggins
10. 41 – Ty DeCaire
11. 67 – Scotty Adema
12. 6 – Ryan Adema
13. 00 – Daniel Miller
14. 52 – Willie Henson
15. 42 – Phil Haddad
16. 13 – Chaz Hambling