Bristol, TN (August 22, 2001) - Brandon Ward, from Winston-Salem, N.C. passed Cam Strader with seven laps remaining to win the Pabst Blue Ribbon "150" Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring event at Bristol Motor Speedway. Justin Hobgood won the Bud...
Bristol, TN (August 22, 2001) - Brandon Ward, from Winston-Salem, N.C. passed Cam Strader with seven laps remaining to win the Pabst Blue Ribbon "150" Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring event at Bristol Motor Speedway. Justin Hobgood won the Bud Pole Award with a time of 16.264 seconds (117.978 mph). This tied the record set by B. J. Mackey in 2000.
So who is Brandon Ward? In answering that, first to make a point. Causing the fans and media to ask "who" is one of the pleasures of participating in NASCAR Touring. This is the breeding ground for the stars of the future. Brandon cut his teeth racing go karts, as have many other stars of our sport. Stepping up to NASCAR Touring offers a unique combination of ingredients. We have folks involved in NASCAR Touring who have "been around the block" and know what it takes to win offering guidance to the newcomers. Such is the case with Brandon Ward's Rayco Safety/Ram Fabrication Race Team. The best way to achieve success is to learn from those who have already. When Brandon came to the Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring he sought the guidance of the Series all-time winner, Dean Combs. Combs has 60 victories and five championships to his credit. Add that experience to Combs' four Bristol victories and you have a winning combination. Ward commented on Combs, "Having him here was great. He made all the big decisions. He is real good with the cars and me too. He has won several races here and I knew he could help me"
Bristol is a tough place to compete. Cam Strader said prior to the race, "Bristol is my favorite track. I love the constant intensity. But you have to stay on your toes. You never just settle in here. You are always on edge." Series veteran, Ned Combs commented, "I have a love/hate relationship with this place. I love it when I am running alone. I hate it when I am in a pack of cars." Defending Series Champion Robert Huffman said, "It is tough with the Dash cars here. We are flat out and you can't use your brakes the same as you would on other short-tracks. Here it is about survival." Jake Hobgood adds, "You have to work all night to keep the fenders on car."
So there you have it. The fun is the challenge the track presents. And the Bristol Motor Speedway kept its end of the bargain. Many drivers faced extra challenges before the green flag even dropped. A few drivers missed the mandatory Driver's Meeting and had to start from the rear. Most notably was Robert Huffman. Eric Van Cleef suffered a blown engine and missed qualifying. He also had to start near the back. Scott Weaver was suffering from a sore back. He had J. R. Robbs qualify his car. But since Scott started the car, he had to drop to the tail end during the parade laps. So thus the stage is set.
The green flagged dropped and pole sitter Justin Hobgood jumped out to an early lead. The first caution came on lap 21 when Tim Nichols and Angie Wilson spun. On the restart (lap 26) Cam Strader dove under Hobgood and held the lead for the next 20 laps. Then Mag-Klip Rookie of the Year Contender Shane Hmiel muscled by him on lap 47.
Later in the event Zach Brewer looped his car on the front stretch and amazingly straightened it up and continued without making contact with the wall. This brought out a caution and several drivers made their pit stops. Strader had pitted under an earlier caution and thus inherited the lead on lap 86 after the rest of the leaders pitted.
On lap 92 Huffman's day came to an end when his engine let go. On lap 100 Joey Miller popped the wall in turn two. On lap 122 Tim Nichols lost his engine, bringing out the sixth caution of the night, and evaporating the fifteen car length lead that Strader had over Hmiel. On the restart Strader once again pulled away. Hmiel started losing positions and then pitted on lap 130 to replace a flat tire. One by one Strader was seeing his closest challengers in the points race encounter the gremlins of Bristol. On lap 133 Justin Hobgood, Jake Hobgood, Roger Sawyer, David Hutto, and Eric Van Cleef were gobbled up in a melee just past the start/finish line. Van Cleef had come from his 28th starting spot to 9th place only to be collected in the crash.
The final restart came on lap 141 and Ward wasted little time in going after Strader. While working lap 142, Ward dove under Strader exiting turn four to grab the lead. A flirtation with the wall caused Strader's car to shoot down on to the apron, but Strader never broke stride and returned to the racing surface undaunted. But the incident allowed Ward to pull away and collect his first Goody's Dash Series, NASCAR Touring win.
During post race interviews Strader showed little disappointment in finishing second. "I am glad to finish a race here a Bristol. With so many having trouble it allowed us to regain some valuable points that we have lost over the last few races, said Strader. "I think we were better than Brandon on long runs. I nearly lost it a couple of times But there is a lot of room here and I tried to stay calm and collect the car. So, I will be content with second place."
Finishing third was veteran driver Mickey York. "We were junk all day," commented York. "We changed everything before the race. These are the results of acquiring the support of a quality sponsor. I have to thank John McKenzie and the folks at MDC Graphics. They are not only our sponsor but also our pit crew. Their support allowed me to get the pieces I needed to make this car race like it did tonight."
Fourth place finisher Johnny Chapman echoed York's comments, "Luckily we stayed out of trouble all night and the hard work of my crew took a bad car and made it run well enough for me to stay near the front."
Rounding out the top five was Angie Wilson. "I want to dedicate this top five finish to my grandfather who passed away last week," said Wilson.
Other notes of interest: The Gatorade Front Runner was Cam Strader who led 78 of 150 laps. Shane Hmiel was the MAG-KLIP Rookie of the Race. Strader stretches his lead to 109 points over Robert Huffman. Tim Nichols holds a one point lead over Shane Hmiel in the MAG-KLIP Rookie of the Year standings. Jason Boyd, of Orlando FL., made his first career start and finished in 7th place. Greg Goodell and Brian Loftin collected their first top ten finishes of the year. Car owner Gary Moore provided a replacement car after Jimmy Britts lost an engine in practice. Britts was faced with missing the race but instead finished in 13th place and held on to his ground in the points battle.
Next Race: Ace Speedway, Altamahaw, N.C. on Saturday, September 22, 2001.