Southampton race report 2004-04-16

CAPRON, Va. (April 16) - Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., posted his first win of the new season in a 150-lap feature for the Budweiser Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Friday evening's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at Southampton...

CAPRON, Va. (April 16) - Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., posted his first win of the new season in a 150-lap feature for the Budweiser Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Friday evening's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at Southampton Motor Speedway.

Timothy Peters of Providence, N.C., set the fast time in qualifying for the race, clocking in at 96.244 mph. In the inversion draw, though, he picked the "3" card, bumping him back to the inside of Row 2. Emporia, Va.'s Mike Shearin moved to the pole with Warren alongside. Peters and Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., made up the second row.

As the event got under way, Warren got the jump on Shearin and led the field into Turn 1. Hamlin tagged along with Warren, taking over second place, while Peters switched to the outside line and bypassed Shearin for third.

On the second lap, Hamlin drove to Warren's high side and nosed ahead to take the lead at the start/finish line. By the 20th circuit, Hamlin had pulled away by four car-lengths.

Under the rules for the event, each driver had to make a green-flag stop between laps 25 and 125. Most of the frontrunners opted to take care of that requirement as soon as possible. Warren and Shearin headed to the pits on lap 26, while Hamlin and Peters made the turn onto the pit lane a lap later. Brian Carter of Poquoson, Va., led lap 27 before making his stop on lap 28.

Following the shuffle, Bob Shreeves of Chesapeake, Va., who chose to remain on the track, took over the top spot. Warren was in second, tops among the drivers who had already pitted.

The race's only caution flag flew on lap 75 when Junior Hargrave of Pendleton, N.C., spun past the flagstand. Shreeves was the leader, separated from Warren, Hamlin, Shearin and Peters by a pair of lapped machines.

The green flag reappeared at the beginning of lap 81. As the field rolled onto the backstretch, Shreeves slowed and pulled to the inside of the track, preparing for his mandatory stop. With Shreeves turning toward the pits, the lead passed to Warren.

Warren managed to fashion a four-length lead as Hamlin worked past slower cars. In the meantime, Peters snagged the third spot from Shearin.

As Warren cruised at the head of the field, Peters closed in on Hamlin and began to search for an opening. He found it on lap 106, ducking under Hamlin at the entrance to Turn 3. After a lap of door-to-door jousting, Peters cleared Hamlin off Turn 4 on the 107th circuit.

With Peters and Hamlin dueling in his mirror, Warren added a couple car-lengths to his margin, which stood at six lengths as the event entered its closing stages.

Over the final laps, Warren was able to keep Peters at arm's length, winning by 1.524 seconds - about five car-lengths. After giving way to Peters, Hamlin fell into the clutches of Shearin and had to battle down the stretch to hang on for third. Shearin and Shreeves were fourth and fifth, respectively.

In Victory Lane after the race, Warren explained his team's strategy: "Really, we were looking to try to get the lead when we pitted and it worked out in our favor. When it all cycled out, we ended up with the lead. Didn't know if we were good enough to stay in the front or not, but it all worked out."

Concluding, Warren offered a tip of the cap to his fellow competitors and his car owners: "I tell ya', when you're racing with Timothy and Denny and Mike Shearin and all these guys, they're tough to beat and I've just gotta thank the Millers for letting me drive this car."

Commenting on his second straight runner-up finish, Peters offered, "We had a good car tonight, just a little too tight, but congratulate Philip on his win tonight. We're getting there with this Bailey's Monte Carlo. I tell ya', we've ran awful strong here last week and this week. We've made some improvements, so we'll just go home and capitalize on it and make sure that everything comes back out right and, hopefully, we can come back next week and get us a win. But, it's fun racing. We've had two good Friday nights."

While Peters' car was tight, Hamlin reported the opposite situation: "The car was really just way too loose. I knew, when we were really strong at the start, we were in trouble on the long run. Just tried to save the tires the best I could. Early on, nothing seemed to work. It just kept getting looser and looser and didn't have the grip we needed."

Following Friday's race, Hamlin, Warren and Peters sit atop the Late Model standings with 96 points apiece. By rule, Hamlin and Warren are tied for the lead. Both drivers have one win and one third-place finish. Peters ranks third with his pair of second-place runs.

In the evening's other feature events:

Thanks to an inversion of the top three qualifiers, Todd VanGuilder of Hampton, Va., lined up on the pole for the 50-lap Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Model feature. He parlayed that good fortune into his first Capron win, leading 48 of the 50 circuits.

The event began with a door-to-door battle between VanGuilder and Anthony Warren of Norfolk, who started on the outside of the front row. VanGuilder led lap 1, while Warren edged out front at the end of laps 2 and 3. VanGuilder pushed his machine back to the lead on lap 4. The two continued side-by-side until lap 7 when VanGuilder gained the upper hand out of Turn 2.

Warren held the runner-up spot until lap 18 when he popped the wall off Turn 4, hugging the concrete until grinding to a halt in Turn 1. With Warren on the sidelines, fast qualifier Gary Weeks of Newport News, Va., moved up to second, followed by Ken Rountree of Gates, N.C.

Back under green, VanGuilder fashioned a slim margin, while Rountree worked on Weeks for the runner-up position. Rountree made the move on lap 20, bringing Shawn Balluzzo of Hampton, Va., along with him. The shuffle allowed VanGuilder to open a three-length advantage.

Passing the halfway mark, Rountree had erased VanGuilder's lead. Balluzzo, however, was parked on Rountree's rear bumper. Balluzzo grabbed second from Rountree on lap 34 and set off after VanGuilder.

By lap 42, Balluzzo had tracked down VanGuilder and started to hound him for the top spot. VanGuilder was up to the test, though, hanging on to win by a car-length. Rountree, Weeks and Jeff Sampson of Hampton tailed VanGuilder and Balluzzo to the line.

Bill Mullis of Gloucester, Va., notched his second straight victory in a 25-lapper for the Gontarek Family Eye Car U-Cars, taking the lead for good on lap 7.

Evan VanLeeuwen of Norfolk started from the pole after an inversion of the top five qualifiers and led laps 1-3. Robert Rusinyak of Virginia Beach, Va., paced laps 4-6 before Mullis took command.

Bill Wallace of Newport News, the fast qualifier, followed Mullis to the front and filled his mirror until lap 20 when his car skittered wide in Turns 1 and 2. The bobble allowed Mullis to pull away by four car-lengths.

Wallace tried to rally in the closing laps, but came up a little more than a car-length short at the stripe as Mullis took the checkers. Craig Firman of Yorktown, Va., was third to the line, followed by Rusinyak and Jon Moore of Portsmouth, Va.

Adam Murray of Bailey, N.C., and Craig Brown of Virginia Beach shared Victory Lane as the Hillco Building Maintenance Super Fours - a combination of Mini Stocks and Mini Trucks - opened their season with a 25-lap contest.

Murray started from the pole position and led all the way to collect Mini Stock honors. He was a straightaway ahead of runner-up Bruce Kimmel of Chesapeake at the finish. Brian Bradley of Hopewell, Va., was third, followed by Rickie Waters of Virginia Beach and J.R. Smith of Portsmouth.

On the Mini Truck side, Brown took the lead for good on lap 15 and sped on to the win. John Hollis of Virginia Beach was best-in-class when his truck began to show heavy smoke on lap 14. He gave way to Brown on the following circuit, but still nursed his ailing machine home in second. Greg Burgess of Virginia Beach was third.

Michael Fisher of Richmond, Va., was the winner of a 20-lapper for the Woodfin Mid-Atlantic Champ Karts, moving out for the second and final time on lap 4.

Locked in a tight draft with Richmond's Pete Fones throughout the event, Fisher was the winner by a single kart-length as he and Fones fended off challenges from Stanley and Stan Holmes of Richmond, a potent father-and-son duo. Danny Wyatt of Norfolk was fifth at the end.

-sms-

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