Southampton race report 2003-06-06

CAPRON, Va. (June 6) - Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., posted his first career Southampton Motor Speedway victory in the first of the Twin 50s for the Late Model Stock Cars, then backed it up by also winning the nightcap. The...

CAPRON, Va. (June 6) - Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., posted his first career Southampton Motor Speedway victory in the first of the Twin 50s for the Late Model Stock Cars, then backed it up by also winning the nightcap. The races were the featured events of Friday's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at the track. McFarland's wins were the first for a Dodge product in SMS's top division and, appropriately, came on Dodge Night.

In time trials for the Twins, each driver posted two qualifying laps. The first lap set the grid for the first race and the second lap determined the starting order for the second race. McFarland was fastest on both laps (95.598 mph and 96.027 mph) for a pole sweep.

Race #1: In the opening event, McFarland jumped into the lead on the first lap, clearing his front-row partner, Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., in Turn 4. Terry Allison of Chesapeake, Va., tagged along with McFarland and grabbed the runner-up spot, while Butler settled into third.

The running order among the top three remained unchanged until lap 16 when Butler ducked under Allison in Turn 1. The two went door-to-door for a lap, then tangled in Turn 2 on the 17th circuit as the rear of Butler's car vaulted over Allison's hood.

The incident prompted the race's only caution flag. Both drivers were able to drive away from the scene, but their hopes of victory were dashed. Allison ended up 13th and Butler was shown last in the 15-car rundown.

Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., moved up to second for the ensuing restart, followed by David Blankenship of Moseley, Va., Tommy Cherry of South Mills, N.C., and John Staton of Chesapeake.

Back under green, McFarland bolted to a two-length lead. By the halfway mark, he had stretched the advantage to five car-lengths over Warren.

While McFarland's lead remained steady at five lengths, Cherry moved up to challenge Blankenship for the third spot. Cherry made his move on lap 39, pulling under Blankenship off Turn 4 and taking the position on the next circuit.

At the finish, McFarland was the winner by 1.372 seconds. Warren was the runner-up, while Cherry Blankenship and Staton completed the top five.

In Victory Lane after the race, McFarland was understandably pleased with his effort: "Feels real good. We've been working a lot of Thursdays and Friday mornings, down here practicing, just trying to beat Brandon and Phil and everybody here. It's tough competition here. Feels good to be here on Dodge Night. I hate that Brandon had bad luck, but that comes with this racing deal. We'll try to do good in this next 50 and try to get a big point lead."

Warren, who employed pit strategy to finish second in the May 30 200-lapper, noted the difference between that race and Friday's first 50: "Strategy worked a little different tonight. They wrecked. I tell ya', Mark's got the Dodge really running good and we're getting this Ford there. We'll see if we can't get `em in the next one."

Third-place Cherry enjoyed his first podium finish of the season: "It feels good to be back. We've had a lot of problems with the car. We're just trying to work some bugs out of it and we're getting closer and closer every week. And these wrecks we've been getting into ain't helped matters none. We've had to make a lot of adjustments on it and missing a lot of racing last year didn't help matters none, so we're coming back."

Race #2: For the second race, McFarland again lined up on the pole. Butler, whose crew had worked feverishly between events, shared the front row with McFarland. Allison and Staton made up Row 2, while Blankenship and Warren occupied Row 3.

As the race got under way, McFarland pulled ahead in Turn 2 on the opening circuit. Butler latched onto his bumper and took a couple looks to the inside. McFarland held him off, however, and was the leader when the first caution flag waved on lap 6.

As the field gathered for the restart, McFarland and Butler held the top two spots with Staton, Warren and Bubba Johnston of Chesapeake rounding out the front five.

Back under green, Blankenship worked around Johnston for fifth. McFarland was nursing a one-car-length advantage when the second caution flag flew on lap 11.

When the race resumed, McFarland and Butled motored away from the pack. By lap 17, they had opened a half-straightaway margin over Staton. Warren grabbed third from Staton on the following circuit, bringing Blankenship with him and dropping Staton to fifth.

The last of the race's three caution flags appeared on lap 20 when Mike Shearin of Emporia, Va., pounded the frontstretch wall, collecting Chris Perry of Elizabeth City, N.C., and Johnston in the process.

Initially, all three drivers seemed to be in good shape. Johnston, however, became disoriented upon returning to his hauler and was transported to the hospital as a precaution. He was treated for a mild concussion and released.

Back under way, Blankenship scooted past Warren to gain the third spot. The exchange allowed McFarland and Butler to pull away by five lengths.

Over the second half of the event, Butler never dropped more than a couple car-lengths behind the leader. Nearing the finish, he tried to rally, driving up on McFarland's bumper. Butler's charge was blunted, however, when he and McFarland ran up on a slower car in Turn 4 on the final lap.

At the stripe, McFarland was the winner by 0.175-second - about a car-length - over Butler. Blankenship and Warren were third and fourth, respectively, while Staton collected his second fifth-place finish of the night.

Following the event, McFarland was brimming with confidence: "I knew it would be hard to get that first one (SMS victory) over with, but we'll get on a roll now and try to get us some more, but this Dodge was strong tonight. Got to thank Jim Dean and his whole crew, Townsend Racing Products and all the guys that volunteer for this team and put their time into it."

Speaking of his duel with Butler, McFarland continued, "I knew he would be strong. He had a little less laps on his tires than we did. But, this is a great car. He's got a great car. It's gonna be a good season."

Rebounding from a 15th-place finish in the night's opening race, Butler had nothing but plaudits for his team: "We had a great race car. Man, what can you say about this team? They really worked their butts off in between races. Hated me and Terry got together. I mean, we're great friends. Just a racing deal. We got tangled up and it was unfortunate for both of us, but it's a testament to this whole team. We had a great race car. We're gonna win some more of these things. Hats off to Mark. Congratulations on winning both of `em, but we're gonna get some more of `em ourselves."

Third-place Blankenship was also encouraged by his run: "This car is working real good. Rick Townsend and his team there at Townsend Racing Products did a real good job on putting the frame together and Steve (James, car owner) and the crew here with the car, they did an excellent job of putting it together and the car's working a lot better. This is the first race out for this car, so we've got a little dialing in to do. I'm hoping we've got good things ahead of us."

In the evening's other feature races:

Anthony Warren of Norfolk, Va., took the lead for good on lap 48 and rolled to his first win in the 50-lap Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Model feature.

Warren started on the pole, at 90.634 mph, and dominated the first 30 laps. He was ahead by more than a full straightaway on lap 31 when he got caught up in a tangle of slower cars in Turn 4.

Relegated to the rear of the field, Warren quickly charged back toward the front. Aided by a couple caution flags, which helped to keep the field bunched, Warren moved up to second on lap 46 and regained the lead on lap 48, bypassing Ken Rountree of Gates, N.C.

At the checkers, Warren was the winner by three lengths. Rountree was second, followed by David Wheeler of Prince George, Va., Ray Ashworth of Mechanicsville, Va., and Michael Perkins of Petersburg.

Preston Wheeler of Prince George scored his second straight win and third overall in a 25-lapper for the Rick's Rock Cafe Pure Stocks. He started on the pole and led from flag-to-flag.

Rodney Taylor of Matoaca, Va., was second in the caution-free event, finishing four car-lengths back. Robbie Parker of Chesapeake was third, while Ray Paul of Virginia Beach, Va., and David Seed of Chesapeake completed the top five.

Mason Temple of Emporia notched his second straight SMS win in a 20-lap race for the Ukrop's Mid-Atlantic Champ Karts. He moved into the top spot at the end of the fourth circuit.

Jim Grady Jr. of Richmond, Va., rode Temple's bumper for most of the event. In Turn 4 on the final lap, he tried to turn to the inside of the leader. Instead of advancing, though, he lost a kart-length to Temple and had to settle for second.

The father-and-son duo of Stanley and Stan Holmes, both of Chesterfield, Va., were third and fourth. Steven Helms of Mechanicsville was fifth.

Steve Mendenhall of Clayton, N.C., led from pole to checkers and won a 15-lapper for the Baby Grands. Johnny Simons of Richmond was the runner-up, half a straightaway back. Nick Proffitt of Powhatan, Va., recovered from a spin on lap 13 to take third. Lin O'Neill of Chesterfield was fourth, followed by Dan Wilkins Jr. of Richmond.


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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Mark McFarland , David Wheeler