Southampton race report 2003-10-26

CAPRON, Va. (Oct. 26) - Shut out of Victory Lane all year, veteran driver Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., finally put one in the "W" column in the 200-lap Late Model Stock Car portion of Sunday's Oktober-FAST 2003, the season-ending program at ...

CAPRON, Va. (Oct. 26) - Shut out of Victory Lane all year, veteran driver Phil Warren of Norfolk, Va., finally put one in the "W" column in the 200-lap Late Model Stock Car portion of Sunday's Oktober-FAST 2003, the season-ending program at Southampton Motor Speedway. Originally slated for Saturday, the race was pushed back a day by inclement weather.

Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Va., looking to run his Dodge Power Super Series record to a perfect 5-for-5 and claim the $25,000 "RaceRap.com Run for the Riches" bonus, earned the pole position in time trials on Saturday afternoon with a 96.192-mph tour of the 4/10-mile tri-oval.

Jamey Caudill of Four Oaks, N.C., winner of the recent Taco Bell 300 at Martinsville Speedway, shared the front row with Hamlin, while Warren and Eric Sartin of Kermit, W.Va., made up Row 2. John Staton of Chesapeake, Va., lined up fifth on the starting grid.

As the race got under way, Hamlin leaped out front, pulling ahead of Caudill as the field exited Turn 2 for the first time. Caudill settled into the runner-up slot, followed by Warren, Sartin and Staton.

Staton slipped by Sartin to gain fourth place on lap 6. In the meantime, Hamlin and Caudill had driven away from the pack by nearly half a straightaway.

As Caudill filled Hamlin's mirror, searching for an opening, Sartin passed Staton on lap 19 and brought Tommy Cherry of South Mills, N.C., and Terry Allison of Chesapeake along with him, dropping Staton to seventh place. Two laps later, Cherry grabbed fourth from Sartin.

At the head of the field, Caudill launched a bid for the lead and nosed ahead of Hamlin just before the race's first caution flag waved. Lining up for the restart, Caudill and Hamlin were separated from third-place Warren by a pair of lapped cars.

Back under green, Caudill and Hamlin dashed away as their pursuers struggled to clear the slower cars. By lap 50, Caudill enjoyed a four-length advantage over Hamlin. Behind them, Cherry passed Warren on lap 55 to advance to third.

The second yellow flag appeared on lap 66 as raindrops began to pelt the track. Hamlin used the opportunity to head to the pits, employing the same strategy that carried him to wins in the third and fourth Dodge Power Super Series events.

Trying to avoid "losing the track," officials kept the cars circulating under caution through lap 90. Caudill, Cherry, Warren, Sartin and Allison made up the top five as the field gathered for the restart.

When the race resumed, Caudill motored away as Warren challenged Cherry for second. That bid didn't pay off for Warren and he ended up losing third place to Sartin on lap 92. Deeper in the field, Bob Shreeves of Chesapeake cracked the top five, scooting by Allison.

On lap 96, the third caution flag flew as sprinkles returned. Allison and Warren immediately headed to the pits for their service, while the rest of the field cruised toward the halfway break.

After receiving the crossed flags, Caudill made the turn to the pit lane. Taking a weather-inspired gamble, Cherry remained on the track and moved into the lead for the start of the second segment. He was joined by Mike Conner of Gloucester, Va., Hamlin, Allison and Warren. Returning from the pits, Caudill lined up in sixth place.

Back under green for the beginning of the second segment, Cherry opened a three-length lead, while Conner battled door-to-door with the lapped machine of Williamsburg, Va.'s Terry Carroll. Conner cleared Carroll on lap 103, then gave up the second spot to Hamlin on lap 104. By that time, Cherry's lead had grown to half a straightaway.

The fourth caution flag was unfurled on lap 110 when Bubba Johnston of Chesapeake spun out of a pack off Turn 2 and smacked the inside wall. As track workers came to Johnston's aid, rain began to fall once more. Officials kept the cars moving until the completion of lap 125 when the event was put under the red flag.

After a lengthy delay, during which officials and drivers from all divisions joined forces to bring the track back to a "raceable" condition, the signal was given to restart the contest.

Back under way, Cherry managed to hold Hamlin at bay until lap 137 when Hamlin got a run on the backstretch and took the lead out of Turn 4.

On a restart at lap 142, third-place Allison slipped under Cherry in a bid for second. The two made contact in Turns 3 and 4. Spotting an opportunity, Caudill pounced and snagged third place from Allison.

A couple laps later, Caudill swept past Cherry for second. Almost immediately, Cherry slowed and headed for the pit lane, having suffered damage in the joust with Allison. The shuffle of positions allowed Hamlin to stretch his lead to five car-lengths.

Working quickly, Caudill chopped into Hamlin's advantage. By lap 162, he was on the leader's rear bumper. On lap 164, he pulled alongside Hamlin in traffic, but was forced back in line by a slower car.

Caudill continued to tail Hamlin until lap 176 when he drew even on the backstretch, edging ahead at the line to lead the lap.

Caudill cleared Hamlin in Turn 1 on lap 177. Looking to reverse the move, Hamlin drove low and poked a fender under the new leader.

Heading back into Turn 1 on the next circuit, the lead duo tangled and Caudill spun, prompting the eighth yellow flag. For his part in the incident, Hamlin was directed to the rear of the field, turning the lead over to Warren.

The caution period extended to lap 180 when, by the event rules, the field was due to receive a caution flag to place the lead-lap cars to the head of the procession. Officials accomplished this task, setting the stage for 20 green-flag laps to complete the race.

On the ensuing restart, Hamlin, in ninth, drifted wide off Turn 2 and slapped the outside wall, bringing out the ninth caution flag. He was unable to continue and wound up 16th in the final rundown.

Back under green, Warren pulled away as Shreeves challenged Sartin for the runner-up spot. The battle was cut short as the final yellow flag waved on lap 185.

On the final restart, Warren opened a three-length advantage over Sartin. Meanwhile, Staton passed Shreeves for third on lap 187, bringing Allison and Caudill along with him. Shreeves regained the fifth spot from Caudill on lap 197.

At the front, Warren was enjoying a smooth ride to the winner's circle. When the checkers flew, his margin of victory was 1.775 seconds - almost half a straightaway - over Sartin. Staton, Allison and Shreeves completed the top five. Caudill, Mike Shearin of Emporia, Va., Conner and Jimmy Adkins of Chesapeake were sixth through ninth, respectively. Carroll was 10th, a lap down to the leaders.

Following the race, Warren seemed astonished to find himself in Victory Lane: "We really didn't have that good a car. We had a third- or fourth-place car. Y'know, I've lost plenty of races I should've won, so I'm gonna take this one and enjoy it for the ones that I should've won. We were running at the end and that's what we had to do. After we got the front end messed up there, I think it helped the car a little bit. (It was due to) the misfortune of a few other people that we won, but still we'll take it. I'm just glad to win a race before the year was over. I didn't think it was gonna happen, but we're standing here. I can't believe it."

Runner-up Sartin was satisfied with his outing: "We're pretty happy with the car. Finished third last weekend at Hickory. Come here and finished second. We didn't have the fastest car, but we stayed up front all night and things work out for you when you run up front."

After spinning on lap 132, Staton was pleased to come away with a third-place finish: "The crate motor was doing a heckuva job. I did come from the back about two or three times. If we were dialed in just a tick better, I tell ya', we would've had something for Phil and that car in front of us (Sartin)."

While he fell short of a series sweep and the $25,000 bonus, Hamlin still reaped a handsome bounty from the Dodge Power Super Series. His total haul from the five races was $23,975 - $12,175 in race winnings, a $10,000 RaceRap.com bonus for taking four of the five events and $1,800 from the Super Series point fund. He edged Warren, 220-216, to win the Super Series title.

Final Dodge Power Super Series standings: 1. Denny Hamlin, (4 wins) 220; 2. Phil Warren, (1 win) 216; 3. Mark McFarland, 180; 4. Jamey Caudill, 168; 5. Terry Allison, 166.

In the evening's other feature events:

Bobby Spivey of Norfolk scored a dominating victory in the 150-lap Limited Late Model feature. He moved out front on lap 52 and showed the way to the checkered flag.

Anthony Warren of Norfolk was the pole-sitter for the event, qualifying at 91.469 mph on Sunday afternoon. Gary Weeks of Newport News, Va., was second-quickest and started alongside Warren on the front row. Doug Warren of Norfolk and Michael Perkins of Petersburg, Va., occupied the second row.

The event got off to a rocky start with two caution flags before the first lap was completed. Doug Warren was among the early accident victims and was forced to the back of the field.

Finally under way, Warren and Weeks battled door-to-door for the opening circuit. On lap 2, Anthony Warren pulled ahead to take the top spot out of Turn 2. Weeks dropped in line in second, while Todd VanGuilder of Newport News and Perkins dueled for third. Behind them, Chris Hopkins of Petersburg and John Eversole Jr. of Richmond went door-to-door for fifth.

On lap 6, VanGuilder cleared Perkins and opened the door for Hopkins and Spivey to move into fourth and fifth. Eversole slipped past Perkins on lap 8 for sixth place.

Spivey, who started eighth, grabbed fourth place from Hopkins on lap 11. Eversole tagged along with Spivey, kicking Hopkins from the top five. Three laps later, Spivey picked off VanGuilder for third. Again, Eversole followed, moving to fourth.

After the race's third caution period, Weeks went after Warren for the lead, making the pass on the 22nd circuit. With Warren caught on the outside, Spivey, Eversole, VanGuilder and Hopkins also steamed past.

While Weeks continued to hold sway at the front, Spivey and Eversole battled for the runner-up spot. Eversole finally claimed the position on lap 44 and set off after the leader.

On lap 52, Eversole made a bid for the lead in Turn 1. He and Weeks tangled and spun, however, collecting VanGuilder as the sixth caution flag waved. The incident handed the top spot to Spivey, who dodged the unfolding melee in front of him. Eversole was placed to back of the pack, while Weeks retired to the pits.

Spivey led the way to the halfway break. At lap 75, he was ahead of Hopkins by five lengths. Warren, Perkins and Butch High of Moyock, N.C., rounded out the top five as the field turned toward the pit lane.

As the closing segment got going, Spivey pulled out to a comfortable advantage. Back in the pack, meanwhile, Eversole was on the charge. He returned to the top five on lap 76 and regained the runner-up spot on lap 101. A caution flag on lap 103 tightened the field, leaving only a single lapped machine between the top two cars.

Spivey's journey to Victory Lane was interrupted by three more caution flags, at laps 115, 134 and 138. On each restart, he had a mirror-full of Eversole, one of the division's winningest drivers at SMS.

Spivey easily survived the late-race restarts and pulled away in the waning laps to win by half a straightaway. Eversole was second, followed by Hopkins, Shawn Balluzzo of Hampton, Va., and Anthony Warren.

Tommy Peregoy of Red Oak, Va., was sixth to the line, while Herbie Williams of Chesterfield, and Sonny Allen of Richmond also completed the entire distance. VanGuilder and Russ Ellis of Richmond were ninth and 10th, respectively, both a lap back at the end.

Mark Wertz of Virginia Beach, Va., NASCAR's 2003 Southeastern Coastal Region champ, was among the drivers caught up in the early-race jousting. After dropping three laps down, he returned to run among the leaders the rest of the way and was credited with a 14th-place finish.

Ryan Nester of Hampton was the winner of the 50-lap Super Street race. He took the lead on lap 13 and led the parade to the checkers.

Steve Dill of Newport News led the first 12 laps from the pole. As the laps clicked off, though, his car began drifting wide off the corners, presenting an opening for Nester.

After giving up the lead to Nester on the 13th circuit, Dill tried to rally from the outside groove. Instead, he popped the backstretch wall off Turn 2. He managed to hold the second spot until lap 34 before slipping back to a seventh-place finish.

Nester's biggest challenge in the closing laps came in the form of Newport News' John Boord, who was running two laps down. On the final circuit, the two made contact in Turn 2. Nester managed to hold on and sped to the checkers.

Mike Leech of Battery Park, Va., was the runner-up, followed by Kenny Wood of Newport News, Dale Parro of Virginia Beach and Larry Venable of Yorktown.

After a spin on the opening lap, Geremy Wood of Newport News rallied to win the 30-lap U-Car feature. He took the lead for good on lap 27.

Bill Mullis of Gloucester started on the pole and led laps 1-26. Nearing the finish, though, his hold on the top spot began to grow tenuous as Wood closed in. On lap 24, in fact, Wood nosed ahead of Mullis, but found his path blocked by a slower car.

Gathering himself, Wood took another run at Mullis in Turn 1 on lap 27, completing the winning pass off Turn 2. He drove away in the closing circuits and won by five car-lengths.

Mullis was second to the line, while Bill Wallace of Newport News, Glenn Healey and Randy Prillaman completed the top five.

-sms-

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Mark McFarland , Denny Hamlin
Teams Williams