Southampton race report 2003-05-30

CAPRON, Va. (May 30) - Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., overcame some slick pit strategy by Phil Warren, took the lead for good on lap 185 and rolled to his second win of the season in the Mike Duman Auto Sales 200 for the Late...

CAPRON, Va. (May 30) - Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., overcame some slick pit strategy by Phil Warren, took the lead for good on lap 185 and rolled to his second win of the season in the Mike Duman Auto Sales 200 for the Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Friday's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at Southampton Motor Speedway.

The race was the second in the newly-christened "Dodge Power Super Series" - a mini-series of five 200-lap features within the track's regular Late Model schedule. Hamlin's other SMS victory this year came in the first Dodge Power Super Series race on March 22.

Hamlin earned the pole for the event, qualifying at 95.866 mph. Woody Howard of Chesapeake, Va., started alongside Hamlin. Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., and Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., made up Row 2, while Warren, of Norfolk, Va., and Jamey Caudill of Four Oaks, N.C., occupied Row 3.

As the race got under way, Hamlin jumped into the lead, pulling ahead of Howard as the field rumbled into Turn 1 for the first time. Howard settled into second. McFarland grabbed third after a brief tussle with Butler, bringing Warren along with him.

By lap 20, Hamlin and Howard had broken away from McFarland by nearly half a straightaway. Warren moved up to challenge McFarland for third with Butler and Nick Woodward of High Point, N.C., close behind. The first caution flag appeared on lap 35.

Back under green at lap 47, Hamlin forged a two-length advantage over Howard. Within a handful of laps, he had stretched his edge to five lengths as McFarland zeroed in on Howard. The second yellow flag waved on lap 55.

When the race resumed on lap 58, Hamlin opened a slim margin over Howard and began to ease away. Within a few circuits, McFarland was on Howard's bumper, while Butler was beginning to hound Warren for fourth. The third yellow flag was unfurled on lap 69.

Back under way at lap 75, McFarland continued to apply pressure to Howard, finally pulling to his inside on lap 76. McFarland cleared Howard on lap 78 to take over the runner-up spot. The exchange allowed Hamlin to drive away by five car-lengths.

The fourth caution period began on lap 82. As the yellow flag fluttered, fourth-place Warren made the turn onto the pit lane. With a 10-minute break coming up at the halfway mark, and mindful that actually going to the pits during that break was optional, Warren and his crew chose to pit early to gain track position later. He made two stops during the caution - the first for two tires and fuel and the second to top off the fuel - and remained on the lead lap. Mike Buffkin of Yorktown, Va., also stopped early, working a similar strategy. The green flag reappeared on lap 90.

Hamlin led the charge to halfway. McFarland was second, while Butler slipped by Howard for third. Woodward was fifth at the crossed flags.

Warren and Buffkin were 11th and 12th, respectively, at the close of the first segment. As the rest of the field headed to the pits, though, they parked their cars at the start/finish line, moving up to first and second place for the start of the second half. Returning from the pits, Hamlin lined up third followed by McFarland and Butler.

Back under green, Hamlin shadowed Buffkin for a couple laps, then launched a bid for second. He grabbed the spot on lap 106 and quickly set off after Warren. Warren was strong, though, holding Hamlin at bay.

Warren had an anxious moment on lap 147 when he ran up behind two slower cars who were battling for position. Hamlin closed in and pulled alongside Warren. The pack sorted out, however, and Warren darted away by three car-lengths.

Approaching a mandatory yellow flag on lap 180, to place the lead-lap cars to the head of the field, Warren enjoyed a lead of better than half a straightaway.

As prescribed, the caution flag, the first one of the event's second half, flew at the completion of lap 180 and the field was aligned for 20 green-flag circuits to finish the race. Warren, Hamlin, Butler, McFarland and Woodward made up the top five.

Back under green, Warren bolted to a three-length lead as Butler moved up to challenge Hamlin. The run was a brief one, though, as a caution flag was thrown on lap 183.

On the ensuing restart, Warren slipped a bit in Turn 4 and Hamlin latched onto his rear bumper. On lap 185, Hamlin muscled Warren aside in Turn 2 and regained the top spot on the backstretch. Reversing positions, Warren forced a fender alongside Hamlin on lap 186, but couldn't complete the pass. Meanwhile, McFarland had grabbed third from Butler.

The eighth and final caution flag appeared on lap 192.

On the last restart, Hamlin and Warren broke in nose-to-tail formation. Warren remained on the leader's bumper until lap 194 when he bobbled in Turn 4, allowing Hamlin to pull off by three lengths. Hamlin held that three-length edge to the finish. His official margin of victory was 0.592-second.

Butler strong-armed McFarland on lap 196 and was third to the line. Woodward was fourth and Buffkin completed the top five. After running among the leaders throughout the event, McFarland ended up seventh as Bud Kenny of Virginia Beach, Va., edged him at the checkers.

In Victory Lane after the race, Hamlin commented on his evolving strategy during the second half of the event: "I thought we'd be able to just march back up to the front and we were fast there right at the beginning. We were able to come right up on him (Warren), but, the longer the race went, he got a little bit better. I knew if we had a restart there late, I'd be able to run with him and I just started saving my tires right after about lap 150 when I saw we weren't gonna have a caution `til 180. I just kinda paced myself, saved the tires the best we could and just tried to make that last dash."

Of the winning pass, Hamlin said, "I tell ya', I got in the back of him. I mean, that is short track racing. He got back into me. It was great. This is the hardest win I've ever had to work for. He drove me just as well as I drove him and I gotta thank him for that. I hope the rest of `em ain't this hard."

While he was disappointed not to win, Warren was philosophical about his runner-up outing: "We gambled and it really worked out better for us `cause we were running fourth and we finished second. It was easier to keep track position than it was to get it. Then, on that last restart, I spun the tires and it kinda messed me up. Denny bumped me and got under me and it was just a little racing there. I bumped him and got back under him, but I just couldn't pull the pass back off."

Third-place Butler was sporting a pair of crutches as he climbed from his car. Explaining, he said, "I had a little basketball accident yesterday. Sprained my ankle real bad, tore some ligaments up. Gonna be on `em (crutches) for awhile."

Of Friday's event, he commented, "Great race. Congratulations to Denny and his guys and to Phil Warren. Mark McFarland, I know they're mad at us, but he kinda knocked me up the race track to get by me, so I just repaid the favor. I didn't wreck him."

Coupled with McFarland's seventh-place finish, Butler's third-place run moved him atop the division standings. Both drivers have accumulated 230 points. Butler gets the nod, though, with three race wins to none for McFarland.

By taking his second Dodge Power Super Series win, Hamlin remains on track for the "RaceRap Run for the Riches" bonus. If he can win one the three 200-lappers left on the schedule, he'll pocket an extra $5,000. Two more wins and he'll get an additional $10,000. For a clean sweep of all five races, he'll bag the grand prize of $25,000. The next Dodge Power Super Series race is slated for Thursday, July 3.

In the evening's other feature races:

Gary Weeks of Newport News, Va., posted his second win of the season in a 50-lapper for the Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Models. He started on the pole and led from flag-to-flag.

Anthony Warren of Norfolk held down the second spot throughout the event. He finished five car-lengths behind Weeks.

After problems in qualifying, Michael Perkins of Petersburg started last in the field. He rebounded, though, to take third place. Steve Zuskin of Disputanta, Va., and Ray Ashworth of Mechanicsville, Va., were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Preston Wheeler of Prince George, Va., scored his second win in the 25-lap Rick's Rock Cafe Pure Stock feature. He took the lead when Rodney Taylor of Matoaca, Va., and David Allison of Chesapeake tangled while battling for the top spot in Turn 2 on lap 14.

At the finish, Wheeler's margin of victory was six lengths over Allison. Taylor was third followed by Robbie Parker of Chesapeake and Ray Paul of Virginia Beach.

Ryan Crites of Newport News picked up his first win in the 25-lap INEX Little Race Cars Legends feature, leading the final five circuits.

David Powell of Yorktown, the Hillco Pavement Markings Pole Award winner, was second, two lengths back. It was his best-ever outing at SMS. Jason Miller of Berryville, Va., was third, while Don McLaughlin of Chesapeake and Pete Fowler of Newsoms, Va., completed the top five.

Ross Clements of Moyock, N.C., was the winner of the 25-lap Mid-Atlantic Toys For Tots Pro Cup Challenge for Scale Racing League Arena-Cup cars. He started on the pole and took the lead for good on lap 15.

Chris Floraine of Chesapeake was the runner-up. Danny Christmas of Windsor, Va., was third followed by Ray Kantowski of Virginia Beach and Charles Russell of Chesapeake.


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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Nick Woodward , Jason Miller , Mark McFarland , Denny Hamlin