CAPRON, Va. (June 20) - After scoring his first two Southampton Motor Speedway victories in Twin 50s on June 6, Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., predicted that he and his team were ready to go on a roll. Apparently, that confidence was ...
CAPRON, Va. (June 20) - After scoring his first two Southampton Motor Speedway victories in Twin 50s on June 6, Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., predicted that he and his team were ready to go on a roll.
Apparently, that confidence was well-founded as McFarland posted his second straight doubleheader sweep in the 3M Twin 50s for the RaceWorld.com Late Model Stock Cars, the featured events of Friday's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at SMS.
In qualifying, each driver made two laps. The first one set the field for the first race and the second one determined the starting grid for the nightcap. Duplicating his effort from June 6, McFarland was quickest on both circuits (94.880 mph and 95.484 mph) and earned the pole for both 50-lappers.
Race #1: In the opener, McFarland grabbed the upper hand as the field rumbled out of Turn 2 on the first lap. Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., who shared the front row with McFarland, settled into second, followed by Chesapeake, Va., drivers John Staton and Jimmy Adkins with David Blankenship of Moseley, Va., in fifth.
While McFarland pulled out to a three-length lead, the scuffling back in the pack began on lap 8 when Terry Allison of Chesapeake poked a fender under Blankenship. The two tangled briefly in Turn 2 and opened the bottom lane for Chris Perry of Elizabeth City, N.C., who tried to scoot past.
Before Perry could make it through, however, he and Allison bumped and Perry ended up in the pits with a cut right-rear tire. Tony Culley of Richmond, Va., emerged from the scramble with the fifth spot.
Culley's stay in the top five was short-lived. On lap 26, Steve Owens of Barco, N.C., had problems in Turns 3 and 4 and collected Culley. The yellow flag waved as one of Owens' wheels bounced through the corner and onto the frontstretch. After repairs, Owens was able to rejoin the field. Culley, on the other hand, was done for the night.
On the ensuing restart, Adkins, running fourth, snapped sideways at the end of the backstretch, clogging Turn 3 as drivers began to check up. Bubba Johnston of Chesapeake, who also suffered a tough lick on June 6, went airborne and nearly rolled over before coming to rest across the hood of Macclesfield, N.C., driver Shanta Rhodes, the first African-American to compete in a Late Model feature at SMS.
The field was halted and tow vehicles arrived to clear the scene. Neither Rhodes nor Johnston were able to continue and were shown 12th and 13th, respectively, in the final rundown. In all, nearly half the field was forced to the pits with some degree of damage.
Eleven of the 15 starters were able to answer the bell when the green flag reappeared with McFarland, Warren and Staton heading the field.
Back under way, McFarland fashioned a slim margin over Warren and began to ease away. By the finish, his margin of victory had grown to 1.509 seconds - about half a straightaway. Warren was the runner-up, followed by Staton and Allison. Brian Carter of Poquoson, Va., was fifth, his first top-five outing at the track.
In Victory Lane after the race, McFarland credited a useful test session for his recent success: "We came down and practiced a lot a couple weeks ago and I got it pretty close and we haven't changed much since we got here today. The car's been good all day."
For his part, second-place Warren was happy to be near the front: "Looked like, from about fourth on back, a lot of stuff was happening and I'm glad I wasn't back there. The Hardee's/Mayberry America Ford ran pretty good. We're still working on that Dodge. We'll keep working on it. Maybe we can come up with something to beat him. We're gonna make a couple real small changes. It's really not all that bad. Just got to get it a little bit freer."
Staton was pleased with his first podium finish of the season: "I tell ya', man, we're getting better and better each week. I can't say but so much to this crew, all of `em. We call it the `Carolina Heat' team and special thanks to Randy Armstrong. He has set this thing up and made it fast. It needs a few small adjustments and me and Randy talked on the radio before the race was over and, hopefully, we can make it enough to catch Phil."
Race #2: As the second race got going, McFarland again leaped into the lead, pulling ahead of Warren in Turn 1 on the opening circuit. In Turn 2, though, the leader bobbled and skittered up the track. Spotting an opportunity, Warren turned under McFarland and drove alongside. He couldn't pull off the pass, though, as McFarland quickly regained command.
Behind the lead duo, Staton and Blankenship were door-to-door for the third spot. Staton grabbed the position on lap 4, but the exchange allowed McFarland and Warren to drive off by half a straightaway.
On lap 16, Blankenship poked a fender alongside Staton for third, while Tommy Cherry of South Mills, N.C., drove under Allison for fifth. Both Staton and Allison were able to defend their positions.
Cherry cracked the top five on lap 21. He motored under Allison in Turns 1 and 2 and completed the move off Turn 4, immediately setting off after Staton and Blankenship.
At the halfway mark, McFarland enjoyed a five-length advantage over Warren. The top two were a straightaway ahead of third-place Staton.
With Cherry looming in his mirror, Blankenship decided it was time to go on lap 32, bypassing Staton to take over third place. Seven laps later, Cherry also moved around Staton for fourth.
Over the final 10 circuits, McFarland began to encounter slower cars and Warren was able to close the gap. It wasn't enough, though, as McFarland held on to win by 0.785-second - about three lengths. Blankenship tailed McFarland and Warren to the checkers, followed by Cherry and Staton, who held off a late charge by Perry to secure fifth.
Following the event, McFarland commented on his four-race winning streak: "Hopefully, we're just getting started. The car's working great. Makes my job a lot easier. Jim Dean and this crew, they work so hard to get it right for me. The track was really getting slick there at the end. Somebody was putting down some oil and it was making it kinda hard to get through the turns, but we hung in there."
His second runner-up finish of the night only deepened Warren's determination to get to the winner's circle: "That Dodge is awful strong and Mark's doing a heckuva job. Two seconds is better than two thirds, but we're looking for two wins. We'll keep working on it and we'll get us one before it's over."
Third-place Blankenship spoke of his duel with Staton and the ongoing effort to return to SMS's Victory Lane: "I was trying my best to drive him (Staton) clean. He was running a good line and he was holding his own and I didn't want to push him up, but, man, I need to get better than third. We're working on this Townsend car and Rick Townsend and all the guys, they've just done a heckuva job for Steve James and all the crew here. It's been a long road here `cause this is only the second time we've raced this car and we're battling. We've got a lot of work to do to get it like I want it. I just want to get better than third, man. This sucks."
Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., second to McFarland in the standings coming into the night, was on hand with his team. After suffering a leg injury while playing basketball three weeks ago and sporting a new cast, however, Butler reportedly felt uneasy maneuvering in traffic during practice rounds and withdrew his entry. He dropped to sixth in the points rundown, while Warren moved up to second.
In the evening's other feature races:
Steve Zuskin of Disputanta, Va., led from pole (90.458 mph) to checkers for his second win in a 50-lapper for the Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Models. Anthony Warren of Norfolk, Va., shared the front row with Zuskin, but slipped to third on the opening circuit. His night came to a premature end on lap 8 when he apparently lost an engine in Turn 4, prompting the only caution flag. After moving ahead of Warren on the first lap, Michael Perkins of Petersburg held the runner-up spot until lap 25 when Ray Ashworth of Mechanicsville, Va., slipped by. Running three car-lengths behind Zuskin, Ashworth began to show smoke as the race headed toward its conclusion. While Zuskin sailed to the win, Ashworth held on for the second-place finish. Perkins was a distant third, followed by Gary Weeks of Newport News, Va., and David Wheeler of Prince George, Va. With Warren's misfortune, Zuskin moved back atop the standings. Through the season's first seven races, five different drivers have scored wins and only 18 points separate the top six drivers in the title chase.
Preston Wheeler of Prince George scored his third straight win and fourth overall in the 25-lap Rick's Rock Cafe Pure Stock feature. He started on the outside of the front row and cleared pole-sitter David Allison of Chesapeake on lap 6 after a race-opening door-to-door battle. Once out front, Wheeler cruised away from the pack, winning by six car-lengths. Rodney Taylor of Matoaca, Va., was second to the line, having gotten past Allison on lap 17. Allison was third, followed by Robbie Parker of Chesapeake and Ray Paul of Virginia Beach, Va.
Aided by a drafting boost from his son, Stanley Holmes of Chesterfield, Va., notched the win in a 20-lap event for the Ukrop's Mid-Atlantic Champ Karts. Mason Temple of Emporia, Va., gunning for this third straight Capron victory, moved out front on lap 3 with Holmes in tow. Holmes tailed Temple until lap 6 when a second draft, led by his son, Stan, also of Chesterfield, caught up to the top twosome. Joined by Danny Wyatt of Langley, Va., the Holmeses bypassed Temple and dropped him to fourth. Temple regained the third spot in the closing laps, but couldn't mount a charge at the father-and-son duo, who finished 1-2. Wyatt was fourth to the line, but was bumped to 15th in the official rundown because his kart didn't have a tailpiece - a necessary part in the MACKA series. Steven Helms of Mechanicsville and Jim Grady Jr. of Richmond, Va., were fourth and fifth in the final finishing order.
Jerry Perdue of Wirtz, Va., wired the field in a 25-lapper for the Virginia Mini-Cup Racing Association, leading all the way from the pole. Kevin Berkstresser of Vesuvius, Va., started alongside Perdue on the front row and held the runner-up spot until spinning in Turn 4 with the white flag in sight. On the final restart, Perdue bolted from the pack and won handily. Wayne Corprew of Roanoke, Va., who started last in the 25-car field, was second, followed by Willie Wines Sr. of Roanoke, Randy Sample of Hampton, Va., and Jason Watkins of Ridgeway, Va. Berkstresser ended up eighth.
Ross Clements of Moyock, N.C., took the lead for good on lap 22 and rolled to his second straight SMS win in the 25-lap Mid-Atlantic Toys For Tots Pro Cup Challenge for the Scale Racing League Arena-Cup cars. Qualifying results from the division's rained-out June 13 event were used to set the starting lineup, putting John Davis of Virginia Beach on the pole at 78.363 mph - a new division record. Davis led the first three laps before tangling with Chris Florian of Chesapeake in Turn 2 on lap 4. The incident handed the top spot to Clements. Clements showed the way until lap 16 when Ray Kantowski of Virginia Beach grabbed the lead, bringing Charles Russell of Chesapeake along with him. Clements regained the runner-up spot from Russell on lap 19, then shot by Kantowski for the lead on the backstretch on lap 22 and pulled away to secure the victory. Kantowski was second, holding off Matt Midgett of Kitty Hawk, N.C., at the line. Russell was fourth to the stripe, followed by Ben Philbrick of Chesapeake.