Southampton race report 2003-03-28

CAPRON, Va. (Mar. 28) - Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., grabbed the lead on lap 10 and drove on to his first victory of the new season in the WVBT Fox 43 100 for the Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Friday evening's...

CAPRON, Va. (Mar. 28) - Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., grabbed the lead on lap 10 and drove on to his first victory of the new season in the WVBT Fox 43 100 for the Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Friday evening's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at Southampton Motor Speedway.

Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., claimed the pole position, turning in a 95.535-mph qualifying effort. Butler was second-quickest in time trials and shared the front row with McFarland. Tommy Cherry of South Mills, N.C., and Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., made up Row 2. It was a real display of manufacturer parity as the top four on the starting grid consisted of a Dodge, a Chevy, a Pontiac and a Ford.

As the event got under way, McFarland edged into the lead, nosing ahead of Butler at the end of the backstretch on the opening circuit.

The yellow flag made an early appearance when Tony Culley of Richmond, Va., spun off Turn 4 on lap 2. Lining up for the restart, McFarland, Butler, Cherry, Warren and David Blankenship of Moseley, Va., occupied the top five positions.

Back under green, Blankenship bolted to the outside of Warren in a battle for fifth. As Blankenship cleared, Warren dropped off the pace and began to fall back through the field. Meanwhile, at the head of the field, McFarland had fashioned a one-length advantage over Butler as Cherry enjoyed a front-row seat, two lengths behind Butler.

By lap 9, Butler had erased McFarland's narrow margin. As the two crossed the start/finish line to begin the 10th circuit, Butler drove to the inside. He pulled even in Turns 1 and 2, taking the lead off the second corner. Within five laps, Butler had opened a three-car-length gap.

The second caution flag waved on lap 29 when Mike Conner of Gloucester, Va., and Bubba Johnston of Chesapeake, Va., tangled in Turn 2. Just prior to the caution, Butler had been preparing to wade into a group of seven slower cars.

Back under green, and with plenty of clear track ahead of him, Butler quickly forged a one-car-length lead, then methodically began to drive away. At the halfway mark, his advantage stood at four car-lengths.

Behind the lead duo, Blankenship had closed in on third-place Cherry. On lap 55, he ducked under Cherry on the backstretch and the two went door-to-door until lap 57 when Blankenship powered ahead, leaving the lane open for Terry Allison of Chesapeake, who slipped by Cherry on lap 60.

The third and final caution flag was unfurled on lap 69 when John Staton of Chesapeake and Mike Shearin made contact in Turn 4. As the field regrouped for a restart, Butler and McFarland were separated from third-place Blankenship by a pair of lapped cars including Warren, who had returned to the track after an extended stay in the pits.

On the restart, while Butler leaped out to a two-length lead, Allison took a quick peek around Blankenship before falling back in line. Allison wasn't through, however, as he slipped under Blankenship on lap 73, taking over third place by a nose at the line. Holding firm on the outside, Blankenship fought off the bid and cleared Allison on lap 75.

In the meantime, Warren, many laps down, was having some fun with the leaders. He bypassed McFarland on lap 73, then swept around Butler on lap 85 before returning to the pits on lap 90.

Over the closing circuits, Butler just kept adding to his lead. At the finish, he was the winner by 1.375 seconds - nearly half a straightaway - over McFarland. Blankenship, Allison and Cherry completed the top five.

In Victory Lane after the event, Butler talked about his run and commended his crew: "These guys have worked mighty hard. We had a brand-new race car last week and struggled a little bit. We had a good car, just had a lot of little problems go wrong. Knew, if we come back this week and got to tweak on it a little bit, we had a good race car."

Continuing, Butler couldn't resist getting in a playful jab at McFarland: "Knew Mark and that whole team of his would be great, but this Bailey's Chevrolet was just awesome. I told the guys before the race I was gonna go eat me some chicken (McFarland is sponsored by Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits), so it turned out that way. I know Mark's gonna get us some, too. He might get us next week, but that Popeye's tasted good tonight."

Runner-up McFarland offered a tip of the cap to Butler, saying, "He was pretty strong tonight. I thought we might be able to give him something on that long run, but the car just got real tight the longer we ran. We'll adjust on it and come back next week."

Third-place Blankenship, a 14-time SMS Late Model winner, was generally pleased with his run: "It's been a while since we've been here and I'm really glad that we came back and got a chance to run a few races. We've been having a hard time with the car, trying to get it to work, but it worked pretty good here at the WVBT Fox 43 race. We're really proud that (car owner) Steve James gave us an opportunity to run a little bit here again. I always liked running here at Southampton. Glad to be back."

In the evening's other feature races:

Steve Zuskin of Disputanta, Va., snagged the lead from pole-sitter Anthony Warren of Norfolk, Va., on the opening circuit and led all 50 laps for his first win in the Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Model feature race.

Throughout the event, Warren never dropped more than a few car-lengths behind Zuskin. On several occasions, he was able to close right up on the leader's rear bumper. Zuskin held a solid grip on the top spot, however, refusing to allow Warren an opening.

Zuskin all but sealed the win on lap 47 when he went three-wide on the backstretch to clear a couple slower cars. With the move, he stretched his margin over Warren to three lengths, an advantage he would hold to the checkers.

Michael Perkins of Petersburg qualified third, but had to start at the rear of the 17-car field because of a pre-race infraction in the pits. After time trials, his tires were taken inside the team's hauler, which isn't allowed. He rebounded nicely from the setback, though, coming home in third.

Bobby Spivey of Norfolk was fourth to the line, followed by four-time champ Bubba Hubbard of Richmond, who bounced back from a subpar showing in the March 22 opener.

Robbie Parker of Chesapeake led the final three laps and scored his first Capron victory in the 25-lap season opener for the Rick's Rock Cafe Pure Stocks.

Chesapeake's David Allison started on the pole and led the first two laps before giving way to Rodney Taylor of Matoaca, Va., on the third circuit. Preston Wheeler of Prince George, Va., tagged along with Taylor, moving into second.

Taylor and Wheeler staged a physical duel for the lead, which lasted until lap 23 when the two finally locked horns and spun in Turns 1 and 2 to bring out the race's only caution flag. Parker was the chief beneficiary of the incident, assuming the lead for the restart.

Back under green, Parker grabbed a two-car-length advantage over Hampton, Va.'s Rob Hughes, then held on to win by a car-length.

Ray Paul of Virginia Beach, Va., was third to the line, while Wheeler salvaged a fourth-place finish. Tommy Pittman of Ivor, Va., was fifth, while Taylor, who led most of the race, ended up sixth.

Craig Goess Jr. of Greenville, N.C., was the winner of the 25-lap INEX Little Race Cars Legends feature, the season opener for the division. He took the lead from pole winner Ryan Crites of Newport News, Va., on lap 5 and set the pace to the finish, winning by five car-lengths.

Crites was second to the stripe, followed by Kyle Hendershott of Fairfax, Va., Kerry Gilbert of Chesapeake and Ben Stancill of Ayden, N.C.

Virginia Beach drivers Rickie Waters and R.J. Davis shared the honors in the 25-lapper for the Super Fours - a combination of Mini Stocks and Mini Trucks.

In the Mini Stock portion of the event, Waters regained the lead from Chesapeake's Bruce Kimmel on a restart at lap 22 and sped on to the win. Kimmel was the runner-up, followed by Brian Bradley of Hopewell, Va., J.R. Smith of Portsmouth, Va., and Chris Hoffman.

On the Mini Truck side, Davis pulled ahead of Aaron Adams on lap 7 and cruised to the victory. Adams was second in the truck rundown, followed by Scott Roser of Portsmouth and Greg Burgess and John Hollis, both of Virginia Beach.


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About this article
Series NASCAR , Sprint , Stock car
Drivers Mark McFarland , Ben Stancill , Craig Goess , Steve J