Story by Bruce C. Walls MARGARETTSVILLE, N.C.-Sometimes referred to as the Talladega of national dirt karting, Margarettsville Speedway in Margarettsville, N. C. was the perfect stop for round two of the American Kart Racing Association's...
Story by Bruce C. Walls
MARGARETTSVILLE, N.C.-Sometimes referred to as the Talladega of national dirt karting, Margarettsville Speedway in Margarettsville, N. C. was the perfect stop for round two of the American Kart Racing Association's (AKRA) American Speedway Championship Series powered by Heat Racing. More than 250 regional dirt racers made their way to Margarettsville Speedway to competed for cash, trophies and leather jackets March 31-April 1.
Young gun Garrett (G-Baby) Bunch had a perfect weekend. The 12-year-old Front Royal, VA racer scored four wins from their poles on the wide 3/8ths mile high-banked oval. His Tod Miller Racing Engines powered Phantom kart rounded the track in 16.111-seconds for Saturday's JDI/Foodcraft Junior 2's pole. Matt Bowling started next to him all four races.
Bunch blasted into the early lead with Bowling banging on his back door. Bowling was still battling with him at the halfway mark. Then Gus Dean came up and began challenging Bowling for second. As they squabbled over second Bunch stretched out the lead. By the time Dean took second Bunch had amassed a huge three-second lead. J.D. Eversole drafted with Dean settled into third. Bowling fell to fourth fighting off hard challenges from Brandon Brown. They held their positions across the stripe with Bunch 1.560-seconds ahead of Bowling,
"It was a close race all the way around. He raced me clean and didn't send anybody or me out." Bunch described. "He got me sideways once, but I came back and it came down to the last lap."
Later that day, starting from a pole he earned with a 16.111-seconds run that was 0.530-second faster then Bowing's best effort, Bunch worked quickly opening a small cushion over Bowling. Shaping up to be a replay of Junior 2, Bowling and Dean began scrapping over Ghost Racing Junior Sportsman Champ's second position.
Suddenly, Amanda Frye's #9 machine spun in turns three and four. She was a sitting duck stalled in the middle of turn two. Bunch swerved to miss her ending up in the hay bales. Others did the same and weren't as lucky. Once the track was cleaned racing resumed with Bunch back in the front. With just a few laps remaining Bunch hit the throttle Dean tried to stay with him, but Bunch prevailed taking the final flag with a 3.308-seonds cushion. Behind Dean in the top five of eight were J.D. Eversole, Bowling and Brandon Brown.
"I stayed out front about the first 10-laps and then a lapped kart spun in front of me and got me off the track. Thanks to Tony Barton and the other officials they put me back up front for the restart. I just held onto the lead down to the finish," Bunch said after his second win.
With two wins in his pocket Bunch returned Sunday to back up those wins with two more. He secured the poles with times of 15.337 and 15.893-seconds. Bowling turned in runs of 15.567 and 16.221-seconds for the outside poles.
Bunch and Bowling headed Junior 2's 15-racer filed out of turn three, around turn four and down the front straight where the green flag was waving for them. Bunch and Bowling battled side-by-side the first time around. They were still door-to-door when karts behind them tangled bringing out the race's only caution.
When they lined back up Austin Banker was behind Bunch poised and ready to take the lead from him. Racers got the green flag again and this time it was a hard charging Banker riding nose-to-tail behind Bunch. The two battled through the field. When they were back into clean air Banker, saw an opening, knew he had the power to do it and went for it.
Two laps later Bunch blasted back by Banker recapturing the lead. Next time around Banker did the same and was now leading with four laps to go. With just two laps left Bunch rocketed back into the lead. Eversole captured second closed in, but was 0.712-second late at the end.
"It was about 8 or10-to go something like that one dropped underneath me and then the other two drafted by me. I got back to them and got by them and held them off for the last few laps. It feels really good to win four here this weekend. We raced here the past two weekends and were pretty good. It's been a prep war for two weekends. This weekend it's been a dry racetrack. Now I just hope we can do the same thing in Johnson County."
Also reaching the podium were Dean, Gilson Fearnow and Bowling.
Powhatan, VA racer Brandon McGee swept Sunday's Stock classes, Lite, Medium and Heavy. Two from their poles. Stephen Adams captured stock Lite's pole with a 14.551-seconds rounding. Jared Jackson was second fastest at 14.597-seconds. Behind them in row two were Bobby McCarty and Bryan Fallen. Further back Brett Miller and Brandon McGee shared row three.
Adams led the first lap with lots of pressure from Jackson and McCarty. Coming down the front straight the leaders went three wide across the stripe. As they entered turn one for the second time they were still three wide. Adams went high and spun off the track, Jackson dove low into the corner and came out the race leader. Shortly after Jackson assumed the lead McGee popped up behind him anxiously looking for a way to the front. Suddenly the caution flag waved for an accident under the flag stand.
Jackson led the restart, but the momentum was behind him breathing down his neck. McGee wasted little time recapturing the lead. He quickly opened up the lead, helped by the scrapping over second between Adams and Joseph Studier. Once Adams secured second he went after McGee. Adams reeled in McGee for some late race action. They battled side-by-side down the front straight for the checkered flag waving ahead of them. At the stripe only 0.063-second separated them.
"I felt the guy at the end," McGee recalled. " I was trying to take it easy. He bumped me with about five to go. So I made sure I hit my lines right. Then he pulled back away."
Later that day McGee and Adams were on Stock Medium's front row. This time McGee hustled into a huge early lead. Behind him Adams and Joey Collins were battling over second. Adams held the position and again set his sites on McGee. After reeling him in Adams began to challenge McGee for the lead. McGee prevailed with a 0.160-second finish line advantage.
A 14.584-seconds lap was fast enough capture Stock Heavy's outside pole. McGee grabbed the early lead and continued building on it with every lap. When it was over McGee had stretched out a 5.287-seconds advantage. Bryan Bradford, of Salisbury, MD, was third, Walt Barnes fourth and David Meade fifth.
Josh Haire, of Erwin, N.C. was also a triple winner. Along with sweeping the Senior Champ classes the 20-year-old Mishue Racing Engines powered Charger kart pilot also posted a win in Saturday's Wyman's Acoustics Super Heavy.
Troy Bunch topped Super Heavy's qualifying with a lap time of 14.967-seconds. Haire's 14.992 earned him the outside starting position. From there Haire hustled into the initial lead as the field spread out evenly behind him. Haire continued building on that lead lap after lap. With eight laps in the book it seemed nothing would stop him, nothing except a caution flag that flew that lap. "That caution changed everything," Haire said. "The kart never got going like it was at the beginning of the race."
Haire led the restart followed by Wes Morgan and Brandon Watson. Haire quickly jumped back to building a larger lead. This time the field behind him was scrambling for positions. Bunch and Morgan scrapped over second. Bunch pulled along side of Haire forcing him to fight wheel-to-wheel. Haire fought off final lap challenges by Bunch. When it was over Haire nipped Bunch by just 0.047-seconds. Morgan crossed third followed by Drew Wentworth in fourth and Dwight Futrell fifth.
Anthony Jenkins was fastest qualifier in both Senior Champ classes. He earned their poles with times of 16.238 and 16.060-seconds. Haire messed up Saturday's qualifying and was forced to start dead last.
Back at the front of the pack, Jenkins held a slim lead over Ayers. Haire headed for the front. Soon he and Jenkins were battling for the lead down the back straight. Haire took the lead, but only held it for a lap. Next time around Haire retook it down the front straight.
Haire barely led a lap before Ayers and Jenkins drafted by him. Haire hit the throttle and recaptured it again. In the final laps Jenkins looked high and low for a way around Haire. The chance never presented itself and Haire crossed the stripe with a 0.316-second edge over Jenkins.
Jenkins and Haire led Sunday's field to the green flag. Jenkins jumped into the early lead leaving Ayers to deal with Haire. And deal with him Ayers did, swooping under him for the lead on lap three. Moments later Ayers spun himself out.
Haire cranked up the pressure. Jenkins was there for the mid-race signal and he was there to take the five laps to go signal. Time was running out on Haire. Suddenly the opportunity he was looking for opened up. Jenkins bobbled a little and Haire quickly drove past him for the lead. Now Haire was in the catbird seat, but time was against him as Haire took the white flag followed by the checkered. Jenkins was 0.748-seconds late.
"It was a good race," Haire said of his final victory. "I think second was leaking a little fuel at the end. I don't know what happened to him on the last lap, but he was there from the get-go. I fell back a little bit early on and had to work my way back up and came away with the victory. I want to thank my mom and dad, David, Andy Murray, Steven Adams, Charger Racing Chassis and Eddie Mishue."
Two others were double winners that weekend. Brett Miller won Saturday's WMS Tru Roll Wheels Stock Medium and Shadow Racing Chassis Stock Heavy. Miller was second fastest of 11-Medium qualifiers. His best lap time of 14.613--seconds was 0.03-second slower then Adams time of 14.585-seconds.
With fans from both camps on their feet waving and screaming Adams and Miller slowly headed Stock Medium's field double wide to the green flag waving in front of them as they exited turn four. Working up to full speed Adams and Miller battled to be the first nose into turn one. When they reached turn one Adams dug in and took the early lead. Through turns three and four Miller was threatening to retake it. Next time around Miller drafted by him in the same spot bringing Joey Collins with him. Collins was nice to draft with, but when it's a run at the front it's every driver for themselves.
Collins didn't have time to settle in and get comfortable in his new position before it was gone. Next time around Miller recaptured the lead. Adams quickly zipped by him. Down but not done Miller mounted another successful charge to the front, this time bringing Tripp Massengill with him.
With just a few laps remaining Massengill dove low opening the door for Collins who takes the lead. Three laps remained. Miller muscles by Collins for the lead. Massengill comes with him. Nose-to-tail they whipped around the track three more times before the checkered flag flew. Miller hunkered down for the fight. Behind him Massengill rolled his kart high and low looking for an opening that wouldn't be there. With a 0.429-second advantage Miller went under the checkered flag.
Miller captured Shadow Racing Chassis Stock Heavy's pole with a 14.691-seconds ride. Haire started next to him. This time Miller quickly took charge of the 10-racer field. Behind him Mike Cathey and Harie were trying to settle second. Once that was done Cathey chased down Miller who had been enjoying a comfortable lead. That was about to change.
Cathey began reeling Miller's machine in. With just a few laps left Cathey continued hammering on Miller to no avail. Miller crossed first. Cathey was 0.591-seconds late for second, Ryland Meade was third, Danny Meeks fourth and Bradford fifth.
"In the first race I kind of bided my time a little too long and got passed," Miller said after his first win. "This race I got a little more aggressive and got in there to lead a few laps. It worked out at the end somehow and we came out first. I want to thank J.T. Stillwagon, Hi Tech Racing, my mom and dad and everybody else that helps us here at the races."
Joey Collins and Stephen Adams put down pole winning lap times of 14.859 and 13.827-seconds for Kolors by Keisler Limited Modified Lite's poles. But Adam Belville prevailed at the end of each.
Collins shot out early, but Beville was along side of him in an instant. After challenging him in the first two turns, Beville went by him in turn three. Adams was glued to his back bumper trying to retake the lead. Hunter Slayton takes second and set his sites on Adams. Suddenly the race's only caution flag flew.
Belville led the restart with Slayton and Collins putting on the pressure "Everyone challenges the leader," said Beville. Slayton looked low, then high. He tries to get beside Belville, but ended up spinning out leaving the race to Belville who finished 0.842-second ahead of Collins.
"They were all on me the whole race," described the Stony Creek, VA based TKS powered Illusion kart pilot. "They drove crazy and I was just out front riding slow. My tires gave way the last half of the race. But I was still out there riding. There wasn't much I could do but just hold on and hope they messed up. I was riding low so if they wanted to pass me they had to go high."
When the green flag flew for Sunday's feature Adams quickly jumped into the early lead. Slayton followed glued to Adams tailpipe. Slayton began offering challenges low then high. He was almost side-by-side on the outside and then he got too high spinning off in turn one's marbles. Belville took second and closed in on the leader. Adams came with him when he made his move. From there it was clean air and checkered flags as Belville roared across the finish line with a 2.709-seconds advantage over Adams.
Shallotte, N.C. competitor Canon Ward won Saturday's Mike Holcombe's Tire & Auto Junior 1 Purple with perfection. After spinning the fastest qualifying lap at 16.511-seconds he led the 12-racer field to the checkered flag with Ryan Heavner chasing him across the stripe.
"He sure was behind me the whole race," said the 10-year-old winner. "He didn't bump me too hard. I was a little worried on the restart. Putting that lapped kart between use made me feel a little more comfortable."
Ward won Sunday's pole, but 10-year-old Boomer Racing Engines powered Charger Kart pilot Ryan Heavner, of Lincoln, N.C. beat him to the stripe with a 0.615-seconds advantage.
"I thought he (Canon Ward) was going to get me there at the end with three laps to go. I held him off and got the win," Heavner beamed in Victory Lane.
Bobby McCarty won both Millennium Racing Chassis Junior 3 Gold poles. Saturday he beat Joey Mahanes to the stripe by 0.245-second.
"Actually it was pretty fun because I had a clean race," said the 13-year-old Summerfield, N.C, based Tod Miller Racing Engines powered Charger kart pilot. "I didn't have to worry about the guys behind me so it was a lot of fun. The kart handled great. Ever since we changed to the Charger kart we've been up in front every week. It's a great feeling to tell you the truth. The motor was so powerful I was pulling guys on the outside and down the straight-aways I had no problem with the motor at all."
Sunday Mahanes turned the tables on McCarty. McCarty spun a 14.710-seconds pole-winning lap and rocketed away from the field at the start. From a distant second Mahanes began his campaign. He quickly closed the distance between himself and Adams. Colton Burnette tucked in behind him and together they worked by McCarty for the top two positions. Then caution flags were flying in every corner. Mahanes took the restart green flag with the field behind him jockeying for positions.
With some drafting help from Colton Cox, Mahanes was on his the way to the front. McCarty closed in on Mahanes and wheel hopped him in turn three. Mahanes reached around and disconnected them without missing a beat. McCarty dropped back into the field while Kyle Appel moved up to second. Appel was 0.313-second late at the stripe.
"I just held on and went straight to the bottom and, it just stuck, "Mahanes said. "The kart handled good and the motor was awesome."
Darek McCauley dominated Dean's Custom Air Jr Champ's qualifying with a 15.273-seconds run. Joey Mahanes started next to him and when the green flag flew the action started. McCauley dove low and took the early lead forcing Mahane to tuck in behind him. Mahanes set McCauley up for the next time around. Mahanes charged McCauley in turns one and two, but he wouldn't budge. Aman picks up on it and charged ahead for the lead. Mahanes offered several challenges. They get side-by-side in turn three and tangle coming out of the turn. At first it was a local corner caution. Karts continued banging together in that corner and others. Then it was a full course caution.
McCauley's kart was damaged in the accident forcing him from the track. That put Aman in charge of the restart. Aman blasted off from the restart and never looked back. After building a 0.386-second lead over Alicia Piland who worked her way from a fourth place start.
"I got a big break," said the 13-year-old Ruther Glenn, VA based I thought I'd lag behind the top karts the whole race. The Rage kart drove a little tight, but other than that it was perfect. I wasn't really nervous on the restart. I knew the girl behind me wouldn't hit me intentionally because she's a good racer. It was a fun race."
Derek McCauley was flawless in Sunday's race. He spun a 15.765-seconds pole-winning lap and then left Aman in the dust 6.164-seconds behind.
John Martin soloed Saturday's Digatron Unlimited All--Stars race. Sunday there were three competitors. Ryan Martin spun a 13.650-second lap for the pole. From there he was flawless finishing the ride 0.580-second over Hunter Slayton who was followed across the stripe by Neil Culley.
"The kart handled good. We struggled a little early on. The track's real good and everything ran good and I'm happy to be here," Martin said.
After securing Wyman's Acoustics Super Heavy's pole Steve Brightwell led the field flawlessly to the finish where he was a comfortable 3.818-seconds ahead of Jim Ackerman.
"We were just fortunate enough to get out ahead of them and do our own thing and kind of set the pace in front of them," said the Mechanicsville, VA based winner. " I want to thank Bajer Kart Shop, Scotty Bajer Buddy Reassure, Brandon McGee, My brother Michael, Tod Miller Racing Engines and Harrill Wiggins of Phantom Racing Chassis."
Walt Barnes, of Monroe, N.C. spun a 14.927-seconds for Walt Barnes Vinyl Siding Senior Stock's pole. Barnes blasted off from the pole and had racers battling 3 wide behind him for second. Kevin Elliott emerged as the victor of that fight. He then set his sites on Barnes who'd built a comfortable lead that was about to evaporate. In two laps Ellitott cut the distance and then passed Barnes. Barnes tucked in behind the new leader and began challenging him. Everywhere Barnes tried to pass him Ellitott closed the door on him. They were nose-to-tail at the end with Elliott just 0.469-second ahead.
"We messed up in qualifying. We had a 17 drive on and should have been on 18 after coming up here last week for the VDKA race in the rain," said the South Boston, VA based winner. "We changed the clutch for that race and dummy (referring to himself) never changed it back. It was tough a little tough in qualifying, but it turned out pretty good."
AKRA Speedway dirt series drivers meet again June 9th at Johnson County Speedway in Garner, N.C. for round three of the five race series.
-Bruce C. Walls