CAPRON, Va. (April 9) - Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., took the lead for good on the 49th circuit and sped on to the victory in the 75-lap Budweiser Late Model Stock Car portion of Friday evening's season-opening NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series ...
CAPRON, Va. (April 9) - Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., took the lead for good on the 49th circuit and sped on to the victory in the 75-lap Budweiser Late Model Stock Car portion of Friday evening's season-opening NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at Southampton Motor Speedway. Hamlin, a four-time winner at SMS in 2003, earned the pole for Friday's race with a time trial effort of 96.709 mph. Timothy Peters of Providence, N.C., clocked in at 96.373 mph and shared the front row with Hamlin. Veteran drivers Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., and Tommy Cherry of South Mills, N.C., made up the second row. As the race got under way, Hamlin and Peters remained side-by-side. Hamlin nosed ahead to lead the opening lap by half a car-length, then cleared Peters' machine in Turn 2 of the second circuit. Peters settled into second, followed by Warren, Cherry and Emporia, Va.'s Mike Shearin, who started seventh. The first caution flag flew on lap 3 as Chesapeake, Va.'s Bob Shreeves spun off Turn 2. On the ensuing restart, Peters took a quick peek to the inside of Hamlin, entering Turn 1. Hamlin fended off the advance and opened a two-length advantage as the leaders rumbled onto the backstretch. By lap 10, his margin had grown to four car-lengths over Peters. Behind the lead duo, Warren pulled a five-car train, which also included Cherry, Shearin, Mike Conner of Gloucester, Va., and C.E. Falk of Virginia Beach, Va., making his Late Model debut. On lap 24, Conner and Falk tangled in close quarters in Turn 4. Conner spun, prompting the second yellow flag. Lining up for the restart, Hamlin, Peters, Warren, Cherry and Shearin made up the top five. Back under green, Peters again poked a fender to the inside of Hamlin. This time, though, he made the move pay off. He pulled even on the backstretch, edged ahead at the line and gained the clear-cut advantage out of Turn 4 on lap 25. Gathering himself, Hamlin made hard charges at Peters on laps 29 and 36, only to be rebuffed. Deeper in the field, Shearin slipped alongside Cherry for the fourth spot on lap 35. The two raced door-to-door for a couple laps with Shearin taking the position on the backstretch on the 37th circuit. At the front, Warren went after Hamlin for the runner-up spot on lap 42, dipping low off the fourth corner. Warren fell back in line after a lap. The brief duel, however, allowed Shearin to close up on the top three runners. On lap 48, Hamlin launched another bid to regain the top spot, driving under Peters on the backstretch. He powered out front off Turn 2 on lap 49 to move back atop the leaderboard. Taking advantage of the opening, Warren drove alongside Peters. The duo battled until lap 52 when Warren settled back into third. With Peters and Warren dueling in his mirror, Hamlin fashioned a three-length gap. The last of the race's three caution flags waved on lap 69 when Conner, in sixth, spun on the frontstretch. Bunching for the final restart, Hamlin, Peters, Warren and Shearin made up the top four, separated from fifth-place Cherry by a pair of lapped machines. Perhaps mindful of how Peters slipped past him earlier in the event, Hamlin carefully guarded the low groove into Turn 1 as the field went under the green flag for the sprint to the finish. Holding Peters at bay on the restart, Hamlin quickly opened a two-length margin. Peters tried to rally in the closing circuits, but came up short at the finish by 0.255-second - a little more than a car-length. Warren was third to the stripe. Shearin, powered by a GM crate engine for the first time, was fourth, while Cherry completed the top five. Falk was sixth, followed by fellow Late Model rookie Travis Miller of Chesapeake. Conner and Shreeves were eighth and ninth, the final drivers to complete the entire distance. Junior Hargrave of Pendleton, N.C., was 10th, a lap down to the leaders.
In the evening's other feature events:
Ken Rountree of Gates, N.C., wired the field to win a 40-lapper for the Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Models. On the pole after qualifying at 92.154 mph, Rountree leaped into the lead on the start. Within five laps, he had fashioned a five-length advantage over second-place Todd VanGuilder of Hampton, Va. Behind the lead duo, Anthony Warren of Norfolk and Shawn Balluzzo of Hampton tussled for the third spot. VanGuilder held down the runner-up position until lap 21 when he suddenly spun at the entrance to Turn 1, flames briefly shooting from beneath his car as the race's only yellow flag appeared. With VanGuilder's premature exit from the event, Warren moved up to second place. Back under green, Rountree forged a two-length margin as Warren and Balluzzo resumed their battle. With 10 laps to go, Warren closed to within a car-length of Rountree's rear bumper. Rountree was up to the challenge, though, rebuilding his lead in the closing circuits. Dodging around slower cars on the final lap, Rountree held on to win by two car-lengths. Warren was second, followed by Balluzzo, Gary Weeks of Newport News, Va., and Jeff Sampson of Hampton.
Jason Miller of Berryville, Va., notched his first SMS victory in a 40-lapper for the INEX Little Race Cars Legends. He started on the pole, gave up the lead for three laps in the early going, then seized command of the event on the ninth circuit. Kerry Gilbert of Suffolk, Va., was second to the line, three lengths behind Miller. He started ninth, cracked the top five on lap 4 and made his way into third by lap 9. He gained the runner-up spot on lap19 when Cliff Daniels of Smithfield, Va., who led laps 6-8, spun in Turn 2. Don McLaughlin of Chesapeake finished third, followed by Max Smith of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and C.E. Falk, who pulled double duty in the Late Model and Legends classes. Twenty-three of the 27 starters completed the entire distance.
John Boord of Newport News was the winner of a 25-lap feature for the Racecom of Virginia Super Streets. Boord started from the pole and paced the first two circuits before giving way to Hampton's Ritchie German for laps 3-10. On lap 11, Boord ducked under German off Turn 2, clearing German's machine in Turns 3 and 4. German tried to return the favor on the following circuit, but Boord fought him off, then began to pull away. By the end of the caution-free race, Boord's winning margin had swelled to better than half a straightaway over German. Dale Parro of Virginia Beach was third and Robert Lovell of Hampton was fourth.
Bill Mullis of Gloucester, Va., turned in a dominating performance on the way to victory in a 15-lapper for the Gontarek Family Eye Care U-Cars. Starting on the pole, Mullis edged ahead of his front-row colleague, George VanGuilder of Yorktown, Va., as the race got under way. By lap 5, Mullis' advantage had grown to half a straightaway as Robert Rusiyan moved up to challenge VanGuilder for second. At the finish, Mullis was the winner by nearly half a lap. VanGuilder was second, followed by Rusiyan, Eric Bell and Harry VanGuilder of Apex, N.C.
Matt Midgett of Kitty Hawk, N.C., scored his first Capron win in a 25-lap feature for the Scale Racing League Arena Cup cars. Midgett started fourth and quickly moved to the head of the field, taking the lead from Moyock, N.C.'s Ross Clements on lap 2. Within a handful of laps, he had pulled away by nearly half a straightaway. While Midgett cruised at the front, Clements, Jason Stewart and Jason Styron scuffled behind him for position. Styron finally came out on top of that battle, moving past Stewart for second on lap 16. At the checkers, Midgett was the winner by a full straightaway over Styron. Stewart was third, followed by Clements and Chesapeake's Rob Wells.