Joey Leavell takes the CHECKERS in the $1500
If one is a dirt late model racing fan, then Natural Bridge Speedway was the place to be, Friday, as the Steel Block Bandits Late Model Series made its first appearance of 2012 at Larry and Karey Ramsey’s historic facility.
Friday’s visit by the Bandits marked the fourth year the series has competed at the Virginia race track. Twenty-six of the Mid-Atlantic’s finest steel block late model competitors arrived at the speedway hoping to claim the $1,500 top prize, but it was Virginian, Joey Leavell of Waynesboro, who would take home top honors as he claimed victory in the 30-lap event.
Leavell was fastest in qualifying as he trekked the 3/8 mile oval in 15.509 seconds, but he was forced to start from outside of the third row after a No. 6 inversion pill draw. Mercersburg, Pa’s Andy Fries began the race from the pole and led the early laps. On lap 11, Lynchburg’s J.R. Overstreet lost control of his No. 88 machine and destroyed the left side of his car when he slammed the outside guardrail in turn No. 1. Overstreet was uninjured, but his race was finished. This caution allowed the cars to bunch up, which prompted a hotly-contested battle for the lead. Leavell, who started sixth and battled his way through the field, used the high and low racing grooves and found himself in second with his sights set on Fries. On lap 22, Leavell passed Fries for the lead and pulled away by 2.897 seconds to claim his second Steel Block Bandits victory.
Waynesboro’s Greg Roberson raced Fries in the waning laps to score the runner-up position. Fries crossed the stripe in third. Hagerstown, Md’s Denny Bonebrake finished fourth and defending Steel Block Bandits champion, Walker Arthur of Forest, finished fifth.
The Bandits conducted heat races, earlier in the evening, to determine the line-up for the feature event. Winners of the preliminary races were Leavell, Roberson and Winchester’s J.T. Spence.
Waynesboro’s Ricky Fox, who normally competes at the Eastside Speedway, led flag-to-flag to claim his first-ever sportsman victory at Natural Bridge. The victory did not come easily for him, however, as he fought off a hard-charging Mike Bryant in the closing laps. Bryant finished a slim .363 second behind Fox to claim the runner-up spot. Michael Taylor, who was fastest in qualifying with a lap of 17.189 seconds, finished third. Eric Groah took fourth and Shad Cooper rounded out the top five.
The street stock race may have been limited on entries, but it was filled with excitement. Ted Miller started second but grabbed the lead at the end of the first lap. He held the lead until he came under duress on lap eight from David Brogan. The two battled, ferociously, for the next four laps until Brogan grabbed the lead on lap 12. Brogan then lengthened his lead for the remaining eight circuits and cruised to victory with a commanding 4.207 seconds advantage over Miller at the checkered flag. Miller finished second. Charles Wyant finished third and Tom Guthrie, who was the last competitor running at race’s end, finished fourth.
The pure stock event may have been one of the more interesting affairs of the evening. This race had three different leaders, and its apparent winner was disqualified. Seth Whorley led the first eight laps before being overtaken by Lee Brooks. As Brooks led the next three laps, a hard-fought battle ensued between Whorley and Eddie Moran for second. After dispensing of Whorley, Moran then battled side-by-side with Brooks on lap 13 before moving to the front of the pack. Moran led the final seven circuits and crossed the finish line first to claim the apparent victory; however, his car failed post-race inspection, and he was disqualified. This gave the victory to Brooks. Whorley finished second and Todd Garrett claimed third. Howard Hall and Robert Tyree finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Corey Almond won the 20-lap All-American race in the night’s final feature. Brandon Link led the majority of the race until Almond moved to his inside on lap 18 to claim the lead. Link would settle for second and Donnie Fisher finished third. Mike Lawhorne finished fourth and Nick Magliochetti took fifth-place honors.
Racing resumes at Natural Bridge, Saturday, with action in all five of its regularly scheduled divisions. Additionally, the open wheel modified competitors will visit the speedway. Gates will open at 4 p.m. and the drivers meeting will be conducted at 6 p.m. with hot laps following at 6:15.