TOPEKA, KAN. (April 28, 2002) -- Clint Bowyer won his first-ever A feature in the O'Reilly/NCRA Modified Series presented by Dirt Works at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Motor Speedway at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan. Sixty-one drivers showed up for the...
TOPEKA, KAN. (April 28, 2002) -- Clint Bowyer won his first-ever A feature in the O'Reilly/NCRA Modified Series presented by Dirt Works at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Motor Speedway at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan. Sixty-one drivers showed up for the series first-ever visited to the Heartland Park track.
Bowyer, a crowd favorite from Emporia, Kan., just 50 miles down the turnpike from Topeka, started ninth on the grid. Thanks to three caution flags Bowyer was able to move into the top five after nine laps and caught the leader, David Lahey, after 14 laps of the 20-lap race.
Lahey kept Bowyer at bay for the next five laps, but it wasn't easy as they diced for the lead. Bowyer pulled in front as the white flag came out but each driver had another pass in their machines.
On the backstretch of the last lap, Lahey retook the lead only to see Bowyer roar pass him as they went into turn three. Bowyer held on for the win.
"I got around Lahey and thought I had him," Bowyer said, "but sure enough, he came back underneath of me."
Lahey started the feature on the pole and took off with the drop of the green. Scott Drake moved down low, from outside of the first row, into line behind Lahey. Michael Johnson followed in third.
Lahey put a little distance between himself and Johnson, who had moved around Drake for second. Also moving quickly to the front was John Allen, the three-time defending series champ. Allen moved up to challenge Johnson for second and took the position on the third lap, but the pass was disallowed because of a caution flag.
On the restart Lahey again jumped into a big lead and two laps later, Allen took second from Johnson. Justin Boney was third and fourth was Marc Robe, Saturday's season-opening winner at 81 Speedway, as Johnson slipped to fifth.
Lahey held off Allen and the others until a caution for Robe came out on lap seven. Robe, who won the B feature - as he had Saturday - ended his race early with a broken driveshaft.
This time Allen stayed with Lahey on the restart as they pulled away from the pack, fighting for the win that would have broken their tie for the most career A feature wins in the O'Reilly/NCRA Modified Series.
On lap nine, Allen went high in turn four and bounced on the rough track. Chad Wheeler didn't make it through turn four and another caution came out for him. Allen came around with the pack under yellow and stopped briefly between turns three and four. He then went into the pits with a flat tire, but rejoined the pack at the tail end just as they took the green on the restart.
Lahey again pulled away on the restart with Boney, Johnson, Todd Myers and Bowyer fighting for position behind him. But the yellow came out for the final time on the next lap as Allen and Brook Phillips got together on the backstretch. The yellow turned to a red as the two cars were interlocked and couldn't be easily pulled apart.
When the race was restarted to begin lap 10, Boney slide underneath Lahey on the back for the lead. Justin held the point for two laps before Lahey returned the favor, also on the back straight.
By lap 14, Bowyer had moved up to second followed by Johnson, Boney and Myers. Lahey and Bowyer distanced themselves away from the rest of the field on the next lap, setting the stage for their wild finish.
"I've watched Lahey a few times and he's fast, Bowyer said. "He's a smart racer."
Rounding out the top five were Boney, Myers and Johnson.
Although not a regular on the O'Reilly/NCRA Modified series, Bowyer has turned a lap or two with this group.
"It's good to run with them again," he said. "They're fun, clean drivers. C. Ray Hall puts on a good series."
The three-eighths mile track at Heartland Park wasn't in the best of shape, with lots of big, deep ruts thanks to rain Friday night and Saturday.
"The track was real rough, unfortunately, but it's the same for everybody." Bowyer said. "You just gotta make sure you're patient, keep the car intact and be there at the end.
The NCRA (National Championship Racing Association) sanctions modifieds, outlaws sprints, 360 sprints and late models. For more information about the series, go to www.ncraracing.org.