Southampton race report 2002-06-27

CAPRON, Va. (June 27) - Starting from the pole, Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., rolled to his fifth straight victory in the 100-lap Late Model Stock Car feature, the headlining event of Friday's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program,...

CAPRON, Va. (June 27) - Starting from the pole, Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., rolled to his fifth straight victory in the 100-lap Late Model Stock Car feature, the headlining event of Friday's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program, presented by Sadler Auto Centers, Slip-In Food Marts and Budweiser, at Southampton Motor Speedway.

McFarland earned the pole position with a 96.180-mph qualifying effort. Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., lined up to McFarland's outside, while David Blankenship of Moseley, Va., and John Staton of Chesapeake, Va., made up Row 2.

As the race got under way, McFarland pulled ahead of Warren out of Turn 2 to take the lead. Warren settled into second, followed by Blankenship, Staton and Chris Perry of Elizabeth City, N.C.

Meanwhile, behind the leaders, Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., who qualified 10th, dropped to the rear of the field, then began to climb toward the front. Butler was making his first SMS start since June 6, having skipped the June 20 Twin 50s due to a basketball-related leg injury.

By lap 20, McFarland had stretched his advantage to five car-lengths over Warren, who was beginning to feel pressure from Blankenship. Nearly half a straightaway separated third-place Blankenship and fourth-place Staton, who was battling Perry and Tommy Cherry of South Mills, N.C.

The first caution flag appeared on lap 27 when Bob Shreeves of Chesapeake spun between Turns 3 and 4 while running seventh. Lining up for the restart, McFarland, Warren, Blankenship, Staton and Perry held the top five spots. Cherry was sixth and Butler was up to seventh.

Back under green, McFarland jumped out to a three-length lead, while Warren and Blankenship resumed their duel. Butler grabbed sixth from Cherry on lap 36 and quickly zeroed in on Perry.

Heading for the crossed flags, Butler ducked under Perry in Turn 2 and completed the pass for fifth through Turns 3 and 4. Continuing his run toward the point, he snagged fourth place from Staton on lap 57.

Up by five car-lengths, McFarland saw his lead erased when the second yellow flag flew on lap 67 for Perry's encounter with the wall off Turn 4. Bunching for the restart, McFarland, Warren, Blankenship, Butler and Staton made up the top five.

When the green flag reappeared, McFarland fashioned a slim margin over Warren and began to ease away as the battle raged in his mirror.

Butler tailed Blankenship until lap 69 when he pulled alongside the third-place runner in Turn 4. The two went door-to-door until lap 75 when they bumped wheels in Turn 4. While Butler took over the third spot, Blankenship had to back off to gather his car and fell to seventh. The exchange allowed McFarland and Warren to put a full straightaway between themselves and the rest of the pack.

Cherry, who cracked the top five when Blankenship dropped back, bypassed Staton for fourth place on lap 76.

Over the final 15 circuits, McFarland maintained a half-straightaway advantage and cruised to the checkers. His final margin of victory over Warren was 2.211 seconds. Butler was third, followed by Cherry. Recovering from his early-race spin, Shreeves was fifth to the stripe, edging Staton by 0.005-second.

In Victory Lane after the race, McFarland passed the credit for his recent success along to his team: "It's pretty awesome. Y'know, I'm just along for the ride here. This is a great team. We've got Townsend Racing Products and Popeye's and Dodge and everybody helping us out. Jim Dean gives us the best stuff to work with. Just gotta thank everybody. This is a spectacular year we're having."

Warren, four times a runner-up to McFarland, was left scratching his head: "I think it's four seconds for us, but I'd like to get, at least, a little closer to him. We'll keep working on it and see what we can get going. It's just little things. We make little changes every week, trying to get a little closer to Mark. Gotta give it to him. They've got it hooked up. We'll be back next week, see if we can't get a little closer."

Asked about his physical condition after the event, third-place Butler offered, "I'm OK, just a little tired, a little upset. Me and Blankenship got together and, I mean, it certainly wasn't... Man, we run side-by-side, was putting on a good race for everybody and we just touched wheels. I hate that we got together. It certainly wasn't intentional on my part or his part. I mean, we were just racing hard. I think the world of his guys and him."

Of his own effort, Butler continued, "We had a good car. These guys worked hard. They've worked hard all week. Unfortunately, I haven't been much help. (Thanks to) Mack Bailey and his whole organization for standing behind us while I'm hurt. We're gonna be back and get in Victory Lane. We had a good car tonight. We just started so far back. Just burned it up, coming up through there."

Butler was asked about the decision to withdraw from the June 20 events and responded, "Hated to give up that many points. I mean, we're certainly out of the points battle, but my safety and everybody else's safety on that racetrack is more important to me. Our car's in one piece and everybody else's is, too. I just felt like, if I raced last week, it wouldn't give us a fair shake on how good this car is and certainly didn't want to mess up any of these other race teams either."

McFarland will put his five-race SMS winning streak on the line on Thursday, July 3, in the third round of the Dodge Power Super Series. His Jim Dean Motorsports teammate, Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., has captured the first two 200-lappers in the five-race mini-series and remains eligible for the $25,000 "RaceRap Run for the Riches" bonus, posted by

In the evening's other feature events:

Ken Rountree of Gates, N.C., took the lead on lap 17 and blazed to his first victory of the season in a 50-lapper for the Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Models.

Steve Zuskin of Disputanta, Va., started on the pole, at 90.209 mph, but found himself locked in a tight duel with Michael Perkins of Petersburg as the race got under way. Perkins, who started alongside Zuskin on the front row, gained the clear-cut edge in Turn 2 on the fourth circuit.

Rountree, who qualified third, came to life on lap 13, ducking to the inside of Zuskin in Turn 2 in a bid for second. The two made contact in Turns 3 and 4 and Rountree completed the pass at the end of the backstretch on lap 14.

Within a lap, Rountree was on Perkins' bumper. On the 17th circuit, Rountree drove under Perkins in Turn 2 and pulled ahead out of Turn 4.

While Rountree began to drive away, Perkins started to slip back, reportedly victimized by a malfunctioning shock absorber. By lap 24, he had fallen to sixth place - a spot he would maintain to the end.

By the finish of the caution-free event, Rountree had lengthened his winning margin to better than a full straightaway. Zuskin was the runner-up,while Ray Ashworth of Mechanicsville, Va., Gary Weeks of Newport News, Va., and Joey Cohen of Chesapeake completed the top five.

Preston Wheeler of Prince George, Va., continued his dominance of the Rick's Rock Cafe Pure Stock class, leading all 25 laps for his fourth straight win and fifth overall.

Robbie Parker of Chesapeake shared the front row with pole winner Wheeler and stayed to the outside of the leader for a lap before Wheeler grabbed the upper hand. Rodney Taylor of Matoaca, Va., tagged along on Wheeler's bumper, taking over second.

Seeking his first win of the season, Taylor filled Wheeler's mirror until lap 6 when he slipped in Turn 2, allowing Wheeler to open a three-length advantage.

Wheeler was able to keep Taylor at arm's length the rest of the way and won by three car-lengths. Taylor was second, followed by Parker, David Allison of Chesapeake and Ray Paul of Virginia Beach, Va.

Don McLaughlin of Chesapeake wired the field for his first victory of the season in a 25-lapper for the INEX Little Race Cars Legends.

David Powell of Yorktown, Va., started on the outside of the front row and held down the runner-up spot from flag-to-flag. At the end, he was a little more than a car-length behind the winner.

After qualifying fifth, points leader Ryan Crites of Newport News moved up to third in the opening laps and looked to be ready to challenge for his second victory. Near the finish, though, he dropped well off the leaders' pace and had to settle for third.

Cliff Daniels of Smithfield, Va., and Kerry Gilbert of Chesapeake were fourth and fifth, respectively, at the finish.


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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Mark McFarland , Denny Hamlin