Bennett Picks Up First Victory of Season
Memorial Day weekend officially kicks off the summer season. As the temperatures start to sizzle so does the racing action at Natural Bridge Speedway. The holiday weekend saw six divisions of racing in action, with the open wheel modified cars making their first appearance of the season.
In the late model division, Justin Williams went out in group number one and blistered the field to once again earn the top qualifying spot. Williams drew a number four inversion pill which put Buena Vista’s Chris Barger and Covington’s David Bennett on the front row for the late model feature. At the drop of the green flag Barger and Bennett battled door to door into turns one and two. Bennett used a strong run off the top of turn two to take the lead down the back stretch. Barger dropped into second and seemed content to ride behind Bennett in the early laps. Bennett settled into his groove and clicked off consistent laps at the front of the field.
Meanwhile, Williams began to pressure Barger for the runner-up spot. The two racers entered lapped traffic midway through the event and Williams used a slow car to set a pick and move past Barger. Williams then set his sights on Bennett who was well out in front. Bennett, running a part-time schedule in 2012, has been strong each time he competed but has had string of bad luck that has kept him out of victory lane this season. Bennett finally was able to shake the monkey off his back and cruised to his first victory of the season. Williams never seriously challenged Bennett but the current point leader scored another solid second place finish. Barger settled for third and took over the second spot in the point standings. Two Ricky’s rounded out the top five, with Wells fourth and Knight fifth.
The outside front row appeared to be the premium starting position Saturday night. In the sportsman division Todd Campbell used his outside front row starting position to take the lead at the drop of the green flag. An early caution on lap three slowed the field. Back underway Michael Taylor and Eric Groah engaged in a battle for second. Taylor powered by on the inside and went to work chasing down Campbell. The two machines seemed to be equally prepared but Campbell had the preferred spot. Taylor hounded Campbell the entire distance and with two to go the two drivers entered heavy lapped traffic. Taylor closed right to the back bumper but Campbell maneuvered the back markers successfully and picked up the victory by a car length over Taylor. Groah settled for third. Shad Cooper, who at times pressured Groah for third, crossed the stripe fourth. Ronnie Martin, Jr, still waiting on a fresh power plant, recorded yet another top five finish.
The initial start of the street stock feature saw the field enter turn one but contact between David Brogan and Gerald Hostetter sent Hostetter into the outside guardrail. Brogan suffered heavy right front damage and headed for the pits. Hostetter’s bumper was lodged in the guardrail and the field had to be red flagged in order to give track officials time to remove the bumper and check the retaining wall for damage. The red flag gave Brogan time to repair his machine and he returned to action. Lexington’s Scottie Hostetter jumped out to the early lead and looked stout at the front of the field. Hostetter held the lead until lap five when Brogan made a move for the lead. Once in front there was no looking back and Brogan went on to win the event by nearly a lap on the field. Hostetter scored the runner-up finish. Ted Miller, Tom Guthrie, and Gerald Hostetter rounded out the top five.
Todd Garrett led laps one and two of the pure stock feature until Ben Hamilton took the lead on lap three. Hamilton held the lead until lap nine when Howard Hall, Daniel Barbour, and Hamilton went three wide into turn one. The three made contact and Hall and Hamilton went spinning. The three drivers were sent to the rear of the field. Hall then retired from the event. Current point’s leader Lee Brooks also struggled with mechanical problems and finished several laps down. Garrett inherited the lead once again on lap nine and held off Barbour at the checkers. Garrett’s win tightened up the point’s battle in the pure stock division. Garrett, Barbour, Hamilton, Brandon Ramsey, and RL Tyree were the top five finishers.
Nick Magliochetti picked up his first win of the season in the All-American division. Magliochetti lead flag to flag but the win didn’t come easy. Glen Almond closed to the back bumper of Magliochetti with just four laps to go but Almond could not find the muscle to move past Magliochetti for the win. Brandon Link, Corey Almond, Brian Newton rounded out the top five.
Natural Bridge Speedway will host five divisions of racing this coming up this Saturday night. The sportsman division will take center stage and compete in a 50 lap special event. Gates are scheduled to open at 4:00 p.m. with the driver’s meeting beginning at 6:00 p.m.