POINTS BATTLES TIGHT AS NATURAL BRIDGE (Va.) SPEEDWAY HEADS TO FINAL WEEK OF 2005 DIRT TRACK RACING SEASON
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And so the chase for the 2005 points championship hardware all comes down to one more starting grid and one more drop of the green flag for the drivers in each of the six divisions at Natural Bridge Speedway.
Last Saturday night’s highly competitive racing in all six divisions tightened the points battle in three of the six divisions and gave points leaders a little breathing room in the other three, but nothing is certain heading into Saturday night’s season finale, which is scheduled to commence at 7:30 p.m.
No one left anything in the trailer in the Late Model or Sportsman divisions. Shawsville’s Damien Wilson picked up his second consecutive win in the former while Tim Stalnaker made it back-to-back treks to Victory Lane in the latter.
Entering the final Late Model feature of the campaign, Wilson trails points leader David Bennett of Covington by a single point. Lexington’s David Sibold stands third, just four points behind Bennett.
The Lee’s Auto Repair Sportsman division is just as tight entering its final race. Buena Vista’s Chris Barger leads second-place Danny Hylton by one point. Stalnaker and Shad Cooper are tied for third, four points behind Barger.
Stephen Campbell extended his Mini Stock points edge to five with his second-place run Saturday night. Fincastle’s David Brogan rolled to his ninth Street Stock victory of the year and has established what would appear to be an insurmountable 10-point lead over second-place Troy Fitzgerald of Lexington, who suffered heartbreaking mechanical failure Saturday night.
Fred Clark made a daring pass late in the race to surge to the lead on his way to his eighth Any Car win of the year and expanded his points lead to 11. With the large number of cars in that division, however, anything could still happen in the points battle.
Rick Mayberry was collected in a multi-car wreck in the Pure Stock race and finished 16th, but none of the other points leader were able to capitalize, and the Spout Spring veteran will take a seemingly safe 18-point lead to the green next Saturday night.
Sissy Hostetter made it back-to-back wins in the Wooly Bully Powder Puff feature with a strong run in her brother’s Pure Stock machine. Nancy Pollard finished second, and Beth Jenkins ran third.
The Late Model pilots put on a display of championship racing for the large throng in attendance last Saturday night as a series of spectacular passes caused a near constant change in the running order. After starting second, Sibold jumped to the lead on the first lap and led a tight five-cart train of himself, Wilson, defending division champion Gerald Wolfe, Jr., 2004 Sportsman titlist Neil Murray of Buchanan and Bennett through the first five laps. Wolfe surged past Wilson into second on lap 7, and Waynesboro’s Lewis Hudson passed Murray for fifth on the same circuit.
On lap 20, Wolfe made a daring attempt to pass Sibold on the inside in turn one, but spun out, allowing Wilson to move to second behind Sibold. Wilson took the lead by a nose over Sibold at the flag stand at the end of lap 22 and managed to hold off the best efforts of the wily Sibold to make a pass. Bennett passed a slowing Hudson on lap 33 to lock in the third finishing slot. Timmy Simmons and Reed Vess, both from Millboro, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Though there was not a large amount of passing in the Sportsman feature, there was tremendous excitement as it seemed as though there was a driver always about to make a pass before being closed off. As he did in securing last week’s 50-lap Sportsman feature win, Stalnaker did an outstanding job on the start, grabbing the lead from pole sitter Terry Dame, who stayed right in Stalnaker’s tire tracks for 11 laps before hard-charging Barger slipped past Dame into second – a pass that would eventually catapult the young Buena Vista driver into the division points lead. Dame was able to hold off the constant challenge of Hylton, who finished fourth. Shipman’s Mike Bryant completed the top 5.
Brogan bided his time in the Street Stock event, showing great patience, running in fifth place as late as lap 12 of the 25-lap feature. The Fincastle veteran, looking for his third consecutive Street Stock title, moved to fourth on lap 16 and to third behind Fitzgerald on lap 18. On lap 19, Fitzgerald’s car slowed on the backstretch and was forced to retire for the evening. Following Brogan to the stripe were Tom Guthrie, Steve Poe, Skye Reynolds and Clifton Mays, respectively.
The Pure Stock event featured a wild wreck that black-flagged the race on lap 11 and claimed the cars of Toby Stalnaker, who was leading the race at the time, and Mike Bryant and Mayberry, both of whom were running in the top 5 at the time of the accident. After the track was cleared, Buena Vista’s Ronnie Martin, Jr. assumed the point and led the rest of the way to claim his first victory since opening night. Fincastle’s Mike Brogan finished second with Sandy Sale, Danny Bryant and Seth Whorley completing the top 5.
Gibson grabbed the lead on lap 3 of the 20-lap Mini Stock feature and led the rest of the way, claiming his fifth feature win of the season. Points leader Campbell finished second. Crozet’s Timmy Gibson ran third followed by Barney Gunter and Mike Cromer.
Clark made a strong pass of Lexington’s Jamie Wright coming out of turn four on lap 18 of the 20-lap Any car feature. Amherst’s Jason Bryant stayed in Clark’s tire tracks and followed him past Wright to finish second. Finishing fourth and fifth behind Wright were Allen Fitzgerald and Roy Reaves, respectively.
The green flag will drop for the final time on the 2005 Natural Bridge Speedway season Saturday at 7:30 p.m. All gates will open at 4 p.m