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REED VESS, RICK MAYBERRY TAKE FIRST WINS OF SEASON AT NATURAL BRIDGE(VIRGINIA) SPEEDWAY

Side-by-side racing was the rule of the night at Natural Bridge Speedway last Saturday, and the large group of fans in attendance roared its appreciation.

Natural Bridge driver Tim Stalnaker extended his Sportsman points lead by rolling to victory in the special 50-lap Lee’s Auto Repair Sportsman feature. Two popular veteran wheelmen made their first trips to Victory Lane this season. Two other pilots earned their fourth checkers of the campaign. An upcoming young driver grabbed his third winner’s trophy of the year by winning a thrilling Any Car feature.

Stalnaker dominated the field in rolling to his second win in the past three Sportsman features. The Natural Bridge veteran seized the lead on lap 2 and remained the lead dog for the event’s final 48 circuits. Terry Dame and Chris Barger had a great battle for second and third with Dame finishing second behind Stalnaker. Danny Hylton and Mike Bryant also raced for position for the last several laps, and Hylton finished fourth and Bryant rolled home fifth.

Fifteen Late Model rockets rolled to the starting grid Saturday night for the 35-lap feature. Lexington’s David Sibold ripped off the fastest qualifying lap and started on the pole. Millboro’s Reed Vess started on the outside of the front row beside Sibold. For the first nine laps, Sibold’s powerful machine had the field covered before disaster struck "The Flying Hippie" on lap 10.

As Sibold rolled into turn 2, he was suddenly confronted by the rear end of Eddie Gibson’s rapidly slowing machine. With nowhere to go, Sibold’s ride plowed hard into the rear of Gibson’s car, sending Gibson and Sibold to the showers for the evening. Sibold’s misfortune allowed Vess to move to the point with Damien Wilson running second and points leader Gerald Wolfe, Jr. rolling in the third position. Wolfe suffered some suspension difficulties on lap 28, knocking Wolfe out of contention. Following Vess and Wilson to the checkers were Rustburg’s Mike Lawhorn, Covington’s David Bennett and Rustburg’s Dudley Lawhorn, respectively. Vess is no stranger to Victory Lane at NBS, but made his first trip to familiar territory this season Saturday night.

Mini Stock points leader Mike Cromer of Durbin W. Va. executed a clever pass of Glasgow’s David Austin on the backstretch of lap 4 and never looked back, cruising to his fourth Mini Stock victory of the season. It did not take long for Cromer to move his No. 2 machine from his sixth starting position to the front of the pack. Austin finished second in his season debut. Robert Falls of Rockbridge Baths finished fourth. Distaff driver Crystal Taylor of Piney River finished fifth in her first appearance of the season at NBS.

The Any Car feature offered spectacular side-by-side racing involving several different cars. Pole sitter Derrick Ayers led the first 14 laps, though Ayers was forced to go door-to-door with Lexington’s Steve Brown on laps 13 and 14 before Brown seized the point on lap 15. On lap 17, Jason Bryant passed Ayers to take second and then moved door-to-door with leader Brown. With the two running hard side-by-side into turn 2 on lap 17, Brown’s machine slid high into turn 2, and Bryant took the lead. Brown saved his car after the skid and moved back into a second-place finish, but could not reel Bryant in. Glasgow’s Roy Reaves finished third. Ayers placed fourth, and points leader Jamie Wright earned a fifth-place finish.

With his fourth win of the season, Lexington’s Troy Fitzgerald moved into a tie with defending champion David Brogan in the current Street Stock points standings. After starting seventh, Fitzgerald moved into second behind leader Ricky Higgins of Clifton Forge on lap 7. Higgins, who drove an extremely strong race, held the lead until lap 15 when Fitzgerald took the lead for good. Brogan finished second, marking the eighth time in eight starts this season that the Fincastle veteran has finished in the Street Stock top 3. Higgins finished third, and Tom Guthrie and Ray McIntosh, both of Lynchburg, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Pure Stock nightcap had the fans on their feet from start to finish. Spout Spring’s Rick Mayberry entered the 25-lap feature holding a commanding lead in the points race, though he had yet to grab the checkers this season despite finishing in the top 3 in the first seven races of the season. After starting 10th in the 19-car field, Mayberry had worked his way into fifth position by lap 5. Pole sitter Coray Brown of Lexington ran at the front of the crows, as he would for the first 18 laps. On lap 19, Mayberry passed Brown down the backstretch to take a lead he would not relinquish despite the game efforts of Brown for the remainder of the race. Amherst’s Seth Whorley finished third; Toby Stalnaker of Natural Bridge Station passed the flag stand fourth, and Evergreen’s Todd Garrett was fifth.

July’s first show at the speedway will feature a 50-lap Late Model feature and regular racing in all other classes. The gates will open at 4 p.m. with the first green flag scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.

NATURAL BRIDGE SPEEDWAY POINTS STANDINGS

(through June, 25, 2005 races)

LATE MODEL – 1. Gerald Wolfe, Jr., Covington, 273 points; 2. Damien Wilson, Shawsville, 264; 3. David Sibold, Lexington, 248; 4. Lewis Hudson, Waynesboro, 236; 5. David Bennett, Covington, 228.

Lee’s Auto Repair SPORTSMAN – 1. Tim Stalnaker, Natural Bridge, 221; 2. Terry Dame, Natural Bridge, 210; 3. Earl Brooks, Jr., Madison Heights, 205; 4. Shad Cooper, Buena Vista, 203; 5. Danny Hylton, Buchanan, 200.

STREET STOCK – 1 (tie). Troy Fitzgerald, Lexington and David Brogan, Fincastle, 196; 3. Clifton Mays, Lynchburg, 178; 4. Ricky Higgins, Clifton Forge, 169; 5. Tom Guthrie, Lynchburg, 168.

PURE STOCK – 1. Rick Mayberry, Spout Spring, 193; 2. Toby Stalnaker, Natural Bridge Station, 168; 3. Seth Whorley, Amherst, 159; 4. Todd Garrett, Evergreen, 149; 5. Ronnie Martin, Jr., Buena Vista, 148.

4-CYLINDER – 1. Mike Cromer, Durbin, W.Va., 177; 2. Stephen Campbell, Amherst, 165; 3. Michael Cromer, Durbin, W.Va., 163; 4. Robert Falls, Rockbridge Baths, 149; 5. Kenny Clark, Lyndhurst, 80.

ANY CAR – 1. Jamie Wright, Lexington, 199; 2. Jason Bryant, Amherst, 179; 3. Fred Clark, Lexington, 159; 4. Derrick Ayers, Lexington, 154; 5. Scott Hostetter, Lexington, 141.