NATURAL BRIDGE — WOLFE WINS LATE MODEL AT NATURAL BRIDGE (Virginia) SPEEDWAY
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An afternoon shower helped set up a quick, tacky track, and threatening overcast skies turned to bright sunshine as pleasant temperatures and competitive racing greeted fans at the Natural Bridge Speedway on Father’s Day Eve.
Each of Saturday night’s six winners dedicated his victory to his father, citing his Dad’s important contributions to his racing career.
Two features saw the pole sitters reign victorious. Sons of two veteran area dirt track pilots each picked up their first NBS wins of the campaign in their respective divisions. Drivers familiar with Victory Lane led the sprint to the checkers in the remaining two classes.
Buena Vista’s Chris Barger of Buena Vista, who started 10th in the Sportsman starting grid, worked his way through the field and made a stirring pass low in turn 2 on lap 23 to wrest the lead from Buchanan’s Danny Hylton. Terry Dame of Natural Bridge followed Barger past Hylton and came home second. Hylton finished third followed by Tim Stalnaker of natural Bridge and Shipman’s Mike Bryant, respectively.
Stalnaker pushed his points lead from two over Shad Cooper to nine over Cooper and Terry Dame. Cooper scrambled to get his car on the track for a few laps as he suffered major transmission troubles prior to the green flag.
Close, side-by-side racing marked a wild 20-lap Mini Stock feature. Barney Gunter, who started fourth in the 15-car field, moved to the lead by lap 4. Though he continued to lead for several laps, the machines of Mike Cromer, Stephen Campbell and 17-year-old Sam Brown were in hot pursuit, lap after lap. At times, all four were in the same turn simultaneously. Brown, who had picked up his first win at Eastside Speedway the previous week, had moved from the rear of the field to front pack. Trying to move to the front in the low groove in turn 1, he made contact with Gunter. Gunter’s car bumped up the track and set off a chain reaction involving Cromer and Campbell. Brown was able to survive the contact and motored to his first NBS victory.
Attrition, contact and spin-outs marked Saturday night’s 35-lap Late Model feature, but that was all behind feature winner Gerald Wolfe, Jr. of Covington who led flag-to-flag to grab his fourth checkers of the season. Covington veteran and 2004 Late Model champion David Bennett blew an engine during hot laps and was unable to make the green. Larry Ramsey had mechanical issues, and Bobby Thompson took a wild spin off the track between turns 1 and 2.
At times Wolfe must have felt like the ball in an old-fashioned pinball machine as he was buffeted about on a couple of restarts and as he picked his way through slower traffic. Shawsville’s Damien Wilson continued his fine season with a second-place run. Waynesboro’s Lewis Hudson took third place followed by Lexington’s David Sibold and R.E. Cubbage of Waynesboro, respectively.
Street Stock pole sitter Clifton Mays of Madison Heights powered to the lead of the 30-lap feature before spinning out on lap 8, yielding the point to Lexington’s Troy Fitzgerald, who had started fifth. Keith Nelson, who had started eighth, powered into second behind Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald led a four-car train to the checkers with Fincastle’s David Brogan and Lynchburg’s Ray McIntosh coming to the green third and fourth, respectively. Clifton Forger’s Ricky Higgins completed the top 5. Fitzgerald made his third trip to Victory Lane this season and his 10th in the past two seasons.
To characterize the 25-lap Pure Stock feature as a wildly entertaining affair would be an understatement. Buchanan’s Mike Bryant joined Wolfe as a "flag-to-flag" winner; he just went about it a little differently.
Bryant started on the pole and immediately assumed the lead of the 19-car field. For the first 11 laps, leader Bryant was pressured by Hunter Hostetter. By lap 8, Buena Vista’s Ronnie Martin, Jr. had wheeled his way from his 10th starting position to third behind Hostetter with Seth Whorley running fourth and Lexington’s Coray Brown rolling fifth. After 12 laps, Bryant and Hostetter continued 1-2 while Worley, Brown and Martin ran 3-4-5. On a lap 13 restart Hostetter, Martin and Whorley got three-wide, yet cleared the turn cleanly. As the front four raced close enough to be covered by a blanket, points leader Rick Mayberry of Spout Spring, who had started last on the field, quietly joined the top 5.
On lap 18, Martin passed Bryant to assume the lead. On the following lap, Brown motored past Bryant into second. On lap 24, Brown’s machine tapped the rear deck of Martin’s ride in turn 4, and Martin’s car wobbled as Brown took the lead. Brown took the checkers, followed by Bryant, Mayberry, Toby Stalnaker and Michael Bryant of Amherst. Post-race inspection disqualified Brown, however, and Danny Bryant was awarded a belated checkered flag.
Fred Clark nipped Scottie Hostetter in a drag race back to the flagstand at the end of lap 5 of the 20-lap Any Car feature and then led the rest of the way to take his third feature win of the season. Roy Reaves ran hard on Clark’s bumper and finished second. Jason Bryant, Steve Brown and division points leader Jamie Wright finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
A 50-lap Sportsman feature will highlight the June 25 show at the speedway. The Natural Bridge Speedway Auxiliary will be conducting a clothes drive for the residents of The Manor, an adult special care faculty located near the track. Donated items for adult men or women may be left at the front gate or the front side tower.