NEWPORT, TENNESSEE -- Billy Barton, a limited-schedule racer from Corbin, Kentucky, captured his first career American Racing Association (ARA) victory at Newport Speedway on Saturday night, October 6. Barton started on the outside of the front...
NEWPORT, TENNESSEE -- Billy Barton, a limited-schedule racer from Corbin, Kentucky, captured his first career American Racing Association (ARA) victory at Newport Speedway on Saturday night, October 6. Barton started on the outside of the front row and survived nine caution flags to win the Newport 125 ARA Southern Thunder Late Model feature.
"I'm stunned," Barton said following the race. "But, we deserved this. Thank the Good Lord and Good Luck. This was my third start at Newport this year. We were leading the other two when we got taken out. We didn't have anything for the 99 (Stephen Leicht) but nobody else could touch us."
Fourteen year-old Stephen Leicht, from Asheville, NC, set the fastest time in qualifying and won the Olympic Power Pole Award with a blistering 12.772-second lap on the 4/10th-mile high banks. He started on the point and dominated the race until lap 106 when he tangled with the lapped car of Gary Helton, from Sevierville, TN.
"I was taking it easy, trying to be careful," Leicht said. "Helton was a lap down, but coming fast. So, we were going to let him go by - get his lap back."
The two cars bumped and spun. Although wrinkled, both returned. Leicht restarted ninth, the last car on the lead lap. Helton was the last car one lap down.
With Leicht charging through the field in the closing laps, leader Barton was working hard to hold off Jeff Gore, of Powder Springs, GA. Gore looked inside on each corner but never got beside Barton in the closing laps.
"My spotter, Sonny McDuffie, coached me throughout the race and helped me save my tires," Gore said after the race. "We've smelled victory a lot - been close this year. Maybe we'll get that win, soon."
The first five under the checkered flag were Barton, Gore, Leicht, Michael Lance of Dacula, GA, and Pat Brewer of Seymour, TN. Paul Kelley from Snellville, GA, the ARA Southern Thunder points leader coming into the Newport 125, was involved in a turn two, lap one accident.
"We went down into the first turn and cars went everywhere," Kelley, the second-fastest qualifier said. "They just kept hitting me. It bent the front clip about an inch."
Although Kelley returned to the track, his 19th place finish was costly in the championship points race. Leicht gain some ground. Michael Lance gained more after avoiding serious contact in the first caution.
"That first lap, they all stacked up. I got shoved into Kelley, but managed to get on through," Lance said. "I used most of the race to save my tires for the last 25 laps. But, we needed longer runs to get going and all of these cautions didn't help. My car tightened up on the last caution and I didn't have enough laps left to get back up to speed."
Unofficially, Kelley still leads the ARA Southern Thunder Late Model Series points over Leicht and Lance. The top three are now separated by less than 16 points as the series heads into the World Crown 200 at Peach State Speedway on October 28, 2001.
The ARA Kool seal Challenge Series makes their first stop at Newport Speedway with the $5000 to-win Thunder in the Mountains 250 on Saturday night, October 13.