Knight, Cooper, Barbour, Link Pick up First Victories of 2012
For the first time in nearly five weeks Natural Bridge Speedway was able to complete the racing program without any interruptions from Mother Nature. Saturday night’s feature events were the only races completed during the entire month of July. The violent storms that swept across the Mid-Atlantic States at the end of June forced speedway officials to cancel events scheduled for the first two weeks of July. Race fans and competitors gathered for action on July 14th only to have persistent rain showers postpone the night’s activities. Last Saturday night the speedway was closed during the Rockbridge Regional Fair.
This past Saturday night was a picture perfect night for racing and fans were treated to five action filled feature events. At the end of the night Ricky Knight, Shad Cooper, Daniel Barbour, and Brandon Link all picked up their first wins of the 2012 season. Two drivers who appeared to pick up feature wins were disqualified after post race inspections. The night was filled with dramatic twists and turns leaving fans eager for more.
The street stock drivers took to the speedway for the first feature of the night. It was a feature event filled with cautions and only three of the ten starters finished the event. The hardest crash involved Tom Guthrie, Skye Reynolds, and Keith Nelson. Reynolds and Guthrie made contact and Guthrie went spinning. He collected Nelson before hitting the inside guardrail head-on. Nelson and Guthrie were finished for the night. Ted Miller jumped to the early lead from the pole. Though Miller led every lap, it did not come without incident. Miller went for a spin during the feature but race control did not like the restart and the caution waved to reset the field. Miller was placed back at the front of the field for the final restart. David Brogan moved passed Earl Brooks, Jr. on lap eighteen and crossed the stripe just behind Miller. However, Brogan was awarded the win when Miller failed a post race weigh-in at the scales. Brooks Jr. was moved up to second following the disqualification. Reynolds, Nelson, and Guthrie rounded out the top five, though none of three drivers were running at the conclusion of the event.
Shad Cooper finally shook the monkey from his back and picked up his first win of the season in the sportsman division. Cooper jumped to the lead from the pole position and led all twenty-five laps of the event. Eric Groah, who was the fastest qualifier, moved into second in the opening laps and chased Cooper the entire distance. A caution flag on lap fifteen for Ronnie Martin, Jr. set up a ten lap dash. Cooper had a great restart and again put two car lengths on Groah. Groah had his hands full with Michael Taylor. Groah made one last attempt to pass Cooper in turn number three and opened the door for Taylor to take the runner-up spot coming to the checkered flag. Cooper celebrated his first win, with Taylor coming home second and Groah third. Current point leader Todd Campbell was fourth and Steve Landrum completed the top five.
The late model feature will have fans talking for weeks to come. Buena Vista’s Chris Barger started on the pole and led lap one. The second lap for Barger was and eventful lap. In turns one and two, Barger slipped high and Justin Williams took advantage of the slip and took the lead from Barger. In turns three and four Barger spun his machine and brought out the caution flag. Barger went to the rear of the field but he was by no means content with riding around in the back of the pack. Meanwhile, Justin Williams set a blistering pace and had nearly a six second lead when runner-up Gerald Wolfe made contact with Michael Alderman and the two drivers went spinning to bring out the caution flag. Ricky Knight moved up to second as Chris Barger had roared back to life as he worked his way back towards the front of the field. Williams nailed the restart and sailed away with an apparent victory. However, Williams chose not to undergo a post race inspection and therefore was disqualified from the event. Knight was declared the race winner. Barger was given credit for a second place finish after rallying back from the early spin. JR Overstreet drove a consistent race and finished third. Philip Woods and Ricky Wells rounded out the top five.
Daniel Barbour has won feature events in the All-American division but had never graced victory lane in the pure stock division. All that changed Saturday night when Barbour grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag and never looked back. The top four in points all had trouble at some point during the night. Ben Hamilton started on the outside front row but made contact with Lee Brooks and Howard Hall in the early laps. All three suffered damage but continued on. Troy Fitzgerald, making a rare start, was a factor early on but faded to third at the end of the feature. Barbour avoided all the trouble and kept his nose clean out front and picked up his first victory of the season. Brooks recovered to finish second. Fitzgerald held on for a solid third place finish. Todd Garrett, driving Daniel Shuey’s car finished fourth and Mike Brogan came home fifth.
Brandon Link started third in the All-American feature but was the leader coming out of turn number two. Once out in front Link drove a smooth and steady race and led wire to wire to pick up his first win of the season. Link became the fourth driver on this night to pick up their first victory of the season. Mike Lawhorne entered the night just one point behind Link and drove an excellent race after starting deep in the field. Lawhorne finished a solid second to keep Link in check in the point standings. Current point leader, Corey Almond, had an early race spin but recovered to finish third. Ryan Kassab and James Newton rounded out the top five.
Natural Bridge Speedway returns to action this coming Saturday night, August 4 with a 30-lap pure stock special event. Gates will open at 4:00, driver’s meeting at 6:00, and hot laps get underway at 6:15. Visit www.nbspeedway.com for more information.