By Kyle Brandt
IRVINGTON, Ala. (Sept. 5, 2014) – Being the teammate of this season’s dominant driver in the Bomber division at Mobile International Speedway (MIS), Gene Denmark has spent most of his racing career out of the spotlight. On Aug. 30, however; the Dauphin Island (Ala.) native stepped out of the shadows in a big way – scoring his first career win at MIS in the track’s biggest race: the Lee Fields Memorial.
Starting from the pole position, Denmark’s familiar orange and white No. 88 was a steady threat at the front of the field for the entire 25-lap feature – but a rash of caution flags, however; would keep him honest.
Holding off the snarling pack of hungry drivers behind him over and over again, Denmark appeared to have the car to beat as him teammate, B.J. Leytham, spent most of the race recovering from a spin on the opening lap of the race. With the help of the aforementioned cautions, the pack was not able to spread out – and with five laps to go, Leytham would restart right behind Denmark during the race’s final restart.
Doing the same as he had done all race long, Denmark executed another perfect restart – clearing the second-place driver and taking control of the top spot once again. Leytham, however; wouldn’t allow him much time to rest as he would let Denmark know that he was right behind him by tapping his rear bumper on the penultimate lap.
Denmark’s No. 88 wouldn’t waver, though, as he would hold off Leytham during the final two circuits around the speedway to score his first career win and capture the Lee Fields Memorial championship belt trophy.
“To learn from (Leytham) and eventually outrun him was special,” Denmark told Mobile International Speedway earlier this week. “He ran me down pretty good. He was still faster than me, but he got tangled up in some bad deals and I fortunately didn’t.”
“We have a little more work to do, but he had some bad luck and we didn’t.”
Stemming from the breakthrough win was a bit of irony for Denmark. Having made his first start at the very same race two years prior, the win served as validation for career that didn’t start as expected.
“The Lee Fields Memorial is basically the biggest race they (MIS) have,” explained Denmark earlier this week. “It’s just like the Snowball Derby – it’s still the Snowball Derby even though it’s the Bomber class. And its still the Lee Fields Memorial even though it’s the Bomber class.”
“It being my first race two years ago, to show just how much I have improved over the last two years is just crazy because I had a bad year last year. To finally get my first win was pretty cool.”
Following multiple runner-up finishes this season behind Leytham, Denmark has effectively stepped out the shadows and into the spotlight – firmly placing him in the conversation each race weekend as a threat for the win. Despite the victory, though, he still thinks Leytham has control of the division.
“As you could see the other night, (Leytham) was still faster than us,” Denmark explained. “He’s going to be tough to beat. I think the only reason why I got to outrun him was because he got tangled up in some mess.”
As a result of his breakthrough win, Denmark moved to third in the Bomber championship standings, and trails Derek Long for second by 15 points. Now, with just two races left before the 2014 season comes to a close, he looks to surpass Long and create a one-two finish in the standings for his team – which appears to be a realistic goal considering his 2014 season as a whole.
In what has been a season of emergence, the sky appears to be the limit for Denmark as a result of his first career win. As the curtain call for the 2014 campaign rapidly approaches for all of the drivers who call MIS home, he looks to build momentum that he can carry into a potential championship run during the 2015 season at Alabama’s fastest half-mile.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County. It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then. As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success. Kids five and under are always admitted free to the grandstands. Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2014.