Leavell Levels Late Model Field at
On a cool, crisp fall-like night seventy competitors signed into the Natural Bridge Speedway pit area to do battle on the 3/8th mile dirt oval. Thirty-two steel block late models were on hand to compete in a special steel block late model invitational event. Drivers from all over Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland made the long haul to Natural Bridge Speedway to compete for the $1500.00 winner’s check.
Four preliminary heat races took place to set the starting line-up for the feature event. The top five drivers from each heat race would qualify for the A-main. Waynesboro’s Joey Leavell ripped off a lap of 16.605 seconds with an average speed of 82.385 to top the speed charts in hot lap qualifying. Leavell’s lap earned him the pole position for the first heat race. Leavell lead all eight laps to pick up the win in heat race number one. Larry Ramsey, making a rare appearance in his own number 90 machine, scored the victory in heat race number two. Regional standout Greg Roberson won heat race number three. Defending track champion Justin Williams won the fourth and final heat race. Josh Roberson was declared the winner of the last chance race when apparent winner Mike Ayers was disqualified for being too light at the scales.
After setting fast time and winning his heat race, Joey Leavell entered the feature event looking to make it a perfect night. Leavell wrestled the lead away from Ramsey at the drop of the green flag and started to distance himself from the rest of the field. Leavell set a blistering pace and entered lapped traffic on lap seven of the feature. The only time Ramsey could get within striking distance was when Leavell encountered lapped traffic. However, Leavell worked the back markers masterfully and kept all competitors at bay. A late race caution on lap 27 gave Ramsey and Roberson one final opportunity to make something happen. Leavell fired off on the restart and sailed away with the victory. Leavell crossed the stripe nearly two and a half seconds ahead of Ramsey. Roberson, Walker Arthur, and Justin Williams rounded out the top five.
Defending sportsman track champion, Eric Groah, entered the night’s racing action looking to redeem himself. Groah was the apparent winner on opening night two weeks ago but was disqualified for being too light at the scales. Groah started third on the grid but was able to power to lead by the end of lap one. Fourth starting Todd Campbell moved into the runner-up spot on lap four and set his sights on Groah. Groah and Campbell traded fastest lap times throughout the event. Campbell’s car seemed to come to life late in the feature. Campbell pulled to the back bumper of Groah with just four laps to go. Campbell stalked Groah until he made a run for the lead entering turn one on the final lap. Campbell’s machine pushed high and Groah pulled away. Groah held on to pick up his first victory of the season. Ricky Fox, Michael Taylor, and Ronnie Martin rounded out the top five. The event ran caution free and took just under six minutes to complete.
Bobby Thompson, making his first appearance of the season, blasted to the lead of the street stock feature from his outside front row starting position. Once out in front Thompson was smooth and steady, hitting his marks lap after lap. Ted Miller held the number two position until R.W. Armstrong slipped by on lap eighteen. It was too little too late for Armstrong as the laps clicked off and he was unable to chase down Thompson. For the second week in a row Armstrong had to settle for second. Miller held on for third. Jason Thompson was fourth and David Brogan, debuting his new street stock ride, settled for the fifth spot. This event also ran caution free and took just over six minutes to complete 20 laps.
Lee Brooks, Howard Hall, and Todd Garrett have been among the front runners in the pure stock division in recent years. This year the three have once again positioned themselves at the front of the field in the first two events. Lee Brooks was the runner-up to Howard Hall on opening night. This past Saturday night the two swapped positions, with Lee Brooks picking up his first win of the season. Brooks lead every lap but it was not an easy win. Hall and Garrett ran nose to tail with Brooks most of the feature. Hall made one last attempt to take the lead on the final lap but bounced his machine off the backstretch guardrail giving Brooks all the breathing room he needed to take the win. Garrett repeated his opening night finish crossing the line in third. Jonathan Burks and Ben Hamilton rounded out the top five.
The start of the All-American feature was as exciting as it gets. Jeff Mays started third but was leading by the end of lap one. Nearly every competitor made contact with one or more drivers in the opening laps but all drivers maintained control of their vehicles and the field stayed under green. Mays and Mike Lawhorne were involved in a battle for the lead when the caution was displayed on lap nine. With just six laps to go, Mays nailed the restart and was able to keep Lawhorne from making a run at the lead. Mays crossed the stripe 0.362 seconds ahead of Lawhorne to pick up his first win of the season. Week one winner Corey Almond was closing on the two leaders when the checkers fell but had to settle for third. James Newton and Brandon Link were the fourth and fifth place finishers.
Natural Bridge Speedway will host a regular show for all divisions this coming Saturday night, May 5. Also on tap this coming weekend will be the first bike races for kids 12 and under. Gates will open at 5:00 p.m. with the driver’s meeting at 6:00 p.m., and on-track activities beginning at 6:30 p.m.