IMCA history made with Neal’s Clash on the Coast Stock Car win

Gage Neal made history as winner of the first IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature held in Florida on Monday, opening night of Clash on the Coast at Northwest Florida Speedway. (Photo by Byron Fichter)

BAKER, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2024) – After getting caught up in a first-lap caution, Gage Neal was wondering if he’d be able to stay in the race.

After winning the first-ever IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature in Florida, he was thinking about leaving his car just the way it was.

Neal topped Monday’s Clash on the Coast main event for The Class Too Tough to Tame at Northwest Florida Speedway, earning $1,000 and a chapter in the IMCA history book. After starting 17th and restarting 23rd following that early fracas, his checkers came ahead of heavyweights John Oliver Jr. and Dallon Murty.

“It means the world to me. I never thought in a million years I’d be racing out of the Midwest,” the Anamosa, Iowa, driver said. “Obviously I’ve never been here (Baker) before or raced in the South at all.”

“It’s pretty amazing to come here and win.”

Nearly 100 Friesen Performance IMCA Modifieds – Jeff Larson of Freeport, Ill., won that feature – and 49 Stock Cars competed on night one at Baker, representing 23 states and two Canadian provinces.

Lee Kinsella led past midway of the Stock Car feature, finally yielding to the dogged Oliver just after midway of their 25-lapper.

Neal was already in the top four when second-running Shelby Williams exited during a lap 16 caution, then rocketed from third to the lead on the ensuing restart.

He’d check out from that point, beating Oliver across the stripe by three seconds. Murty’s late charge saw him finish just ahead of Presley Harrington and Kinsella completed the top five.

“As hard as that early hit was, I didn’t think it would be drivable,” admitted Neal, newly eligible for B & B Racing Chassis All-Star Invitational qualifying. “It may have helped me. I might leave it alone all week.”

Neal later deflected inquiries about how his history-making win might give him a leg up on the Clash on the Coast title and champion’s share of the point fund.

“Sometimes I’m just lucky,” he said with a laugh. “Let’s hold off on that one.”

Larson, a former national champion and defending champion in IMCA’s Razor Chassis North Central Region, led start to finish in the 25-lap Modified main.

Jeff Taylor, Dylan Thornton, Joel Rust and Brian Mullen were next across the line as the second half of the nightcap can caution-free.

“I felt like a sitting duck out there but the cautions helped,” Larson said, following career win number 102 in the class. “The track definitely had character but that’s my style. I’m grateful for this win, for sure.”

The win also made him eligible for Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational qualifying.

Both IMCA divisions are in action again Tuesday night at Baker. Race teams have two days to enjoy sun and sand before Clash on the Coast moves to Southern Raceway in Milton for March 1 and 2 events.

Each night of the second annual Clash on the Coast is broadcast by IMCA.TV.

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