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Starnes Steals Southern Texas Late Model Show for First Win
By J.M. Hallas

Pleasanton, Texas (05/05/18) - The 25-lap STLMS Main event was a tale of two races on Saturday night at I-37 Speedway. At the beginning it looked like Steven Whiteaker jr. would run away and hide from the field. Just past halfway Whiteaker clipped the front stretch wall ending his night. This handed the point over to the 2015 STLMS champ, Brandon Brzozowski on the restart.

Brzozowski was chased by young gun Cody Leonard making his Late Model debut in the series. Leonard used his track experience, changing his line to close on Brzozowski. As that duo ran up on slower traffic, another young gun, Robbie Starnes jr. was able run down both. On the final lap Starnes found some bite on the low side and snuck past Brzozowski at the line for his first ever win.

On the initial start Brzozowski, Whiteaker and Starnes were three wide battling for the lead, but separate spins by Tracy Denby jr. and Jarred Stepanski brought saw out the yellow. On the second start Brzozowski was first off turn 2 in the lead trailed by Starnes, Whiteaker, Beau Begnaud and Leonard. It didn't take long for Whiteaker, who hadn't been in a Late Model for a while, to challenge Brzozowski for the lead.

Defending series champ, GW Egbert IV made an early charge going three wide with Leonard and B. Begnaud. Whiteaker, using the high side momentum, sailed by Brzozowski for the lead on lap 4. A quick caution for a Stepanski spin saw Whiteaker jump ahead while Leonard and Starnes ran door to door for third.

As the two young guns swapped the spot, Whiteaker checked out from Brzozowski. At the halfway mark it was Whiteaker, with a huge lead, Brzozowski, Starnes, Leonard and Egbert. Lap 13 was unlucky for Whiteaker as he found the wall ending his night. This handed the top spot back to Brzozowski for the restart.

Brzozowski got a good jump on green while Leonard and Starnes continued their battle, now for second. Brzozowski built a lead as they slugged it out while Kody Hardage took fourth from Egbert. Once Leonard secured second he began changing his line and slowly reeled in Brzozowski. Traffic allowed Leonard to get on Brzozowski's bumper, and Starnes to catch both.

Leonard got along side Brzozowski for the lead as they diced through slower cars. Along comes Starnes closing on both with two to go. As the white flag waved, Starnes got second from Leonard in turns 1-2. Going into turn 3 Starnes ducked under Brzozowski and it was drag race off turn 4 to the line with Starnes, in the Erb Racing, First Class Septic, Seventy Seven Inc., Hendren crate powered, Capitol Chassis first to the checkers.

“Ya, that was pretty dramatic,” said the young Starnes whose father was a long time Houston area Late Model driver. “For me, it was more battling myself. I was all over the place, almost spun myself out one time. Luckily I had really fast car. My dad, my cousin Keith and my brother have helped me with this and set it up. The car was good, I was messing up.”

“I finally found a groove on the bottom. They were on the top and I caught them so quick, I thought I might have a shot at this thing. I went into three deeper than I had, it felt good and it stuck. I got a run and passed him on the straight away off the last corner. Man, that was crazy.”

“I saw when they got into lapped cars. I finally found my groove and I thought the bottom was pretty good. So the lapped cars helped out too. Once I found that groove, it was really, really good. Of all that happened I feel bad for (Steve) Whiteaker. He had a fast car and probably had that race won. Fortunately it worked out for me. This was my first win. I've only raced a few races in a Late Model.”

“Once we got here it was fast right away. The track was great. It did kind of rut up a little after a while. But you could race anywhere on the track. It was an awesome track. We didn't change from the heat to the feature much. I just adjusted my driving style. I was running in way too hard and finally slowed(my entry) up a bit.”

“I can't thank my dad enough. He owns the car. He got out so I could drive. That means the world to me. My cousin Keith has been with me from day one. Last but not least, God, Jesus Christ my savior.”

Southern Texas Late Model Series
25 Robbie Starnes jr., 10-4 Brandon Brzozowski, 2 Cody Leonard, 12 Kody Hardage, 15 Tracy Denby jr., 717 GW Egbert, 9 Talon Minten, 32 Beau Begnaud, 22 Ricky Begnaud, 33jr Jose Moran jr., 78 Eddy Hardage, 82 Jarred Stepanski, 89c Steve Whiteaker jr., 45 Brian Machicek, 118 Mike Fenton, 42 Ron Sprayue

STLMS heats
Heat 1; 10-4 Brandon Brzozowski, 33jr Jose Moran, 32 Beau Begnaud, 82 Jarred Stepanski, 118 Mike Fenton, 45 Brian Machicek, 78 Eddy Hardage, 9 Talon Minten---dns

Heat 2; 25 Robbie Starnes, 89c Steve Whiteaker jr., 717 GW Egbert IV, 2 Cody Leonard, 12 Kody Hardage, 15 Tracy Denby jr, 22 Ricky Begnaud, 42 Ron Sprayue