CAPRON, Va. (Aug. 29) - Taking the lead at the halfway break, Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., rolled to the victory in the Whelen Emergency Services 200 for the RaceWorld.com Late Model Stock Cars, the fourth race in the Dodge Power Super...
CAPRON, Va. (Aug. 29) - Taking the lead at the halfway break, Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., rolled to the victory in the Whelen Emergency Services 200 for the RaceWorld.com Late Model Stock Cars, the fourth race in the Dodge Power Super Series and the headlining event of Friday evening's NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program at Southampton Motor Speedway.
With the win, Hamlin ran his Dodge Power Super Series record to a perfect 4-for-4, assured himself of a $10,000 bonus in the "RaceRap.com Run for the Riches" program and positioned himself for a chance at a $25,000 bonus payout in the series finale on Sept. 19.
Mark McFarland of Winchester, Va., the SMS Late Model points leader and the leading contender for the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national championship, earned the pole position for Friday's race, qualifying at 95.859 mph.
John Staton of Chesapeake, Va., powered by a newly-installed "crate motor," grabbed the outside pole with a lap time that was only five-thousandths of a second off McFarland's pace.
Crate motors are a sturdy, ready-to-run, lower-cost alternative to the custom-built powerplants that are predominant on the region's Late Model Stock Car scene. To achieve parity in horsepower with their high-dollar counterparts, crate engines are equipped with 4-barrel (vs. 2-barrel) carburetors.
Hamlin and Woody Howard of Chesapeake occupied Row 2 for the start, while Jamey Caudill of Four Oaks, N.C., and David Blankenship of Moseley, Va., made up the third row.
As the race got under way, McFarland jumped into the lead. Staton settled into second, followed by Hamlin. Howard grabbed fourth, emerging from a brief, race-opening battle with Caudill.
With Staton parked on his rear bumper, McFarland paced the first dozen circuits.
On lap 13, Staton ducked low and nosed ahead at the start/finish line. He completed the pass for the lead in Turn 2 on the following lap and quickly began to motor away from McFarland, whose mirror was filled by Hamlin, his Jim Dean Motorsports teammate.
Hamlin took the runner-up spot from McFarland on lap 18. He poked a fender alongside McFarland in Turn 1 and gained the clear-cut advantage in Turns 3 and 4. The exchange allowed Staton to open a four-car-length lead.
Hamlin erased Staton's edge when the leader began to encounter traffic at lap 35. Working carefully past the slower cars, Staton and Hamlin circled the track in nose-to-tail formation until lap 53 when the first caution flag waved.
Back under green, Staton fashioned a one-length margin over Hamlin. In turn, the lead duo enjoyed a two-length advantage over third-place McFarland. McFarland narrowed the gap, though, and, soon, the top seven - Staton, Hamlin, McFarland, Caudill, Howard, Blankenship and Brandon Butler of Petersburg, Va., were bumper-to-bumper.
The second caution period began on lap 70. On the 71st circuit, Staton, Hamlin and Butler headed for the pits, returning McFarland to the top spot.
Hamlin and Butler received their service and rejoined the field. Staton's stop, however, seemed to catch his crew by surprise. He ended up making a total of three stops during the caution period and the last one proved costly as he dropped a lap down to the leader.
As the race resumed, McFarland opened a 1-1/2 car-length lead over Caudill. Meanwhile, back in the field, Hamlin made his way around Butler. With fewer than 10 laps to the halfway break, Hamlin passed Warren, who had stopped at the first caution flag.
At the crossed flags, McFarland, Caudill, Howard, Blankenship and Bob Shreeves of Chesapeake made up the top five. None of those drivers had made pit stops, though, and, when they made the turn toward the pit lane, the lead passed to sixth-place Hamlin. Warren and Butler also stayed on the track, moving up to second and third for the start of the second segment.
Lining up for the second half of the event, Staton was positioned to the outside of Hamlin. When the green flag flew, Hamlin motored ahead, denying Staton's bid to regain his lost lap. Staton did, however, manage to find an opening between Hamlin and Warren.
On lap 115, Butler went after Warren for second place. As he powered past, he left the door open for McFarland and Caudill, dropping Warren from the leaderboard.
McFarland ducked under Butler for the runner-up spot on lap 118, clearing in Turn 4 on lap 120. Two laps later, Caudill also moved around Butler to take over third. The shuffle allowed Hamlin to stretch his lead to a full straightaway.
For a time, Staton, still trying to get his lap back, looked to be closing ground on Hamlin. As the laps clicked off, though, Hamlin began to distance himself from Staton.
The first yellow flag of the second segment appeared on lap 161 when Butler's engine expired along the frontstretch. Gathering for the restart, Hamlin was separated from McFarland by the lapped machines of Poquoson, Va.'s Brian Carter and Staton.
Hamlin took full advantage of the obstacles in McFarland's path, running away by more than half a straightaway when the race resumed.
As prescribed in the event procedures, a caution flag was thrown at lap 180 and the lead-lap cars were moved to the head of the field, putting McFarland on his teammate's bumper and effectively ending Staton's struggle to regain his lost lap.
Twenty more green-flag laps would complete the race and, back under way, Hamlin pulled away by a little more than a car-length. Within a couple laps, he had extended his lead to three lengths as Caudill closed in on McFarland.
The final yellow flag flew on lap 186 when Carter and Bud Kenny of Virginia Beach, Va., tangled in Turns 1 and 2, sending Kenny on a ride into the outside wall.
On the last restart, McFarland tried to latch onto Hamlin's rear bumper. As the field exited Turn 2, though, Hamlin bolted from the pack by two car-lengths. He steadily pulled away over the closing laps and won by 1.501 seconds - about half a straightaway.
McFarland was second to the line, holding off Caudill. Howard and Blankenship completed the top five. Shreeves was sixth, followed by Chesapeake drivers Terry Allison and Bubba Johnston. Emporia, Va.'s Mike Shearin was ninth and Warren was 10th, the final driver to complete the entire distance. After playing a starring role for much of the event, Staton ended up with an 11th-place finish.
In Victory Lane after the race, Hamlin expressed astonishment at his fourth Dodge Power Super Series win: "There's nothing I could've done to have made the car any better. It was just great. I never thought we'd be able to win two in a row, much less three or four. To come here and beat some of the best - Jamey Caudill, Phil Warren, Brandon Butler and Mark McFarland - it feels real good."
Of his crew and his association with Jim Dean Motorsports, Hamlin offered, "The crew did an excellent job on the pit stop. We ran real good here last year with the money we had. Then, when we got hooked up with Jim Dean...the resources that he gives you, you have no choice but to win. He puts me in great equipment."
Runner-up McFarland, quizzed about the prospects of a late-race joust with his teammate, could only say, "He wouldn't let me get close enough. His car was pretty good tonight. Man, congratulations to them. Winning four of `em...that's unheard of, but they did a great job. We were just a little bit off and, y'know, it doesn't take much."
McFarland's second-place outing, coupled with Warren's 10th-place run, gives McFarland a 68-point lead in the Late Model standings with two races to go. He could possibly clinch the `03 track title in the next-to-last event, slated for Sept. 12. The final Dodge Power Super Series 200-lapper is scheduled for Sept. 19.
Of his efforts to wrest the runner-up spot from McFarland, third-place Caudill said, "I was doing all I could do, there at the end. I could get up on Mark, but couldn't get a run. Just could get up under him enough to stay there to the end of the straightaway. He raced me clean and I want to race him clean. Just a good race and I really enjoyed it."
In the evening's other feature events:
Steve Zuskin of Disputanta, Va., scored his division-leading fifth victory in a 50-lap affair for the Mike Duman Auto Sales Limited Late Models, taking the lead for good on lap 21.
Zuskin started on the pole and led the first 13 circuits before giving way to his front-row colleague, Ken Rountree of Gates, N.C.
Rountree, gunning for his second win of the year, showed the way until lap 21 when he made contact with a slower car in Turn 1. The incident prompted the race's second caution flag and chased Rountree to the pits for repairs. He rejoined the field for the ensuing restart.
As the race resumed, Zuskin, back in the lead, opened a two-length margin over the new second-place runner, Joey Cohen of Chesapeake.
Things remained stable at the head of the field until lap 44 when Anthony Warren of Norfolk drove under Cohen in Turn 4. The two went side-by-side until the 46th circuit when Warren pulled ahead out of Turn 2. With the second- and third-place drivers tussling in his mirror, Zuskin widened his lead to five lengths.
Nearing the finish, slower cars loomed ahead of Zuskin. Rather than risk an entanglement, he surrendered a bit of his advantage and just tailed them to the stripe.
At the finish, Zuskin was the winner by three lengths over Warren. Cohen was third, his best outing of the season. Rountree salvaged a fourth-place finish, while Herbie Williams of Chesterfield edged Ray Ashworth of Mechanicsville, Va., by inches to take fifth.
Stanley Holmes of Chesterfield moved from 13th to first in the opening circuits, then held on for the win in a 20-lap contest for the Ukrop's Mid-Atlantic Champ Karts.
Holmes took the lead when his son, Stan, also of Chesterfield, slipped high in Turn 2 on lap 4. Shay Stamper of Chesterfield moved into the second spot and stayed locked in a tight draft with the elder Holmes all the way to the finish.
Mason Temple of Emporia and Steven Dehner of Glen Allen, Va., made a late run at the leaders, but couldn't overcome the Holmes/Stamper combo. Temple was third and Dehner was fourth at the end, while Stan Holmes was fifth.
Brian Bradley of Hopewell, Va., and Scott Roser of Portsmouth, Va., shared Victory Lane as the Hillco Building Maintenance Super Fours (a combination of Mini Stock cars and Mini Trucks) completed their three-race schedule with a 25-lapper.
In the Mini Stock portion of the event, Bradley grabbed the lead when Rickie Waters of Virginia Beach skittered sideways in Turn 1 on a restart at lap 14.
For the remainder of the race, Bradley guarded the low groove, forcing Waters to look the high side for a winning pass. He couldn't pull it off and Bradley held on to win by a car-length.
Joe Adams of Virginia Beach tailed the lead duo to the line, finishing third. Early retiree J.R. Smith of Portsmouth was credited with fourth place.
On the Mini Truck side, after a wreck sidelined the top three contenders, Roser took the lead on lap 15 and cruised to the win.
R.J. Davis of Virginia Beach led the first 13 laps from the pole. On lap 14, though, K.C. Cunningham of Grafton, Va., made a bid for the top spot in Turn 4 and he and Davis locked horns. Third-place Aaron Adams of Chesapeake was collected in the melee. None of the three was able to continue.
John Hollis of Virginia Beach assumed the lead for the restart, but couldn't hold back Roser, who moved out front after another green-flag lap.
At the end, Roser was the winner, followed by Hollis. Davis, Cunningham and Adams completed the rundown.
Chris Florian of Chesapeake was the winner of the 25-lap Mid-Atlantic Toys For Tots Pro Cup Challenge for the Scale Racing League's Arena-Cup division.
Starting on the outside of Row 1, Florian grabbed the lead from pole-sitter Ross Clements of Moyock, N.C., on lap 4 and pulled away for a convincing victory.
Behind Florian, Clements and Ray Kantowski of Virginia Beach traded the runner-up spot six times between lap 8 and lap 19. Kantowski took the position for good on lap 19, bringing Matt Midgett of Kitty Hawk, N.C., and Ben Philbrick of Chesapeake along with him and dropping Clements to fifth.
At the finish, Florian was the winner by half a straightaway. Kantowski and Midgett were second and third, respectively, while Clements regained fourth place from Philbrick on the last lap of the caution-free event.
NOTE: Southampton Motor Speedway will be CLOSED on Friday, Sept. 5, in deference to NASCAR activities at Richmond International Raceway. The track will re-open on Friday, Sept.12, with Champion Chevy/Buick/Pontiac/GMC Night presented by Dean Mechanical.