LEAVELL TAKES THE CHECKERS - FRIES TAKES THE SBB CHAMPIONSHIP
The nostalgia of racing on Sunday afternoon at Natural Bridge Speedway may have brought back old memories for many race fans, but it was the day’s results that provided a new record and a new champion for the Steel Block Bandits Late Model Series.
Andy Fries, of Mercersburg, Pa., finished third in the Bandits 30-lap race, and it was enough to secure the 2012 championship. Fries entered the final Bandits race of the season leading Forest’s Walker Arthur by a mere eight points. Arthur, who was the defending Bandits champion, trimmed Fries’s lead to two points following Arthur’s win in his heat race, and this set the stage for a two-man shootout entering the feature event.
Goode’s Phillip Woods led the 24-car field to the green, but it was Winchester’s Tanner Kerr who had the race’s lead at the end of lap one. Lap two, however, proved to be the turning point of the race, if not the entire season. Arthur, who was running in the top four, went high in turn one and struck the guardrail. The contact ruptured his fuel cell, and he was forced to take his car to the pit area. Arthur’s bid for a third-straight championship was done, and this set the stage for Fries to bask in the Sunday afternoon sun.
As Fries battled his way toward the front from his 12th-place starting position, things heated up for the lead, as well. Waynesboro’s Joey Leavell moved to the inside of Kerr to grab the lead on lap five. Leavell maintained the lead for the remainder of the race to claim his fifth Bandits victory of the season. Leavell, who scored a Bandits victory in Beckley, W.V., two years ago, moved atop the all-time Bandits win list at six.
Kerr held off a hard-charging Fries to take the runner-up position. Fries claimed third. Gladstone’s Ricky Wells finished fourth and Sykesville, Md.’s Glen Elliott rounded out the top five. Six through tenth were Mike Ayers, Josh Roberson, NBS points leader Chris Barger, Billy Beachler and Tim Stalnaker. Waynesboro’s Greg Roberson, who ran as high as second, cut a tire late in the race and finished 12th. Roberson has four Bandits victories in his career while Arthur has five. Arthur scored enough points in the race to maintain second in the final standings.
Leavell, Roberson and Arthur were victorious in the Bandits heat races, earlier in the day.
Last-lap excitement netted Lexington’s Shad Cooper the win in the 20-lap sportsman event. Cooper jumped to the lead from his second-starting position and led flag-to-flag to claim his second win of the season. His victory did not come easily, however, as Cooper was forced to contend with points leader Todd Campbell, late in the event.
Garrett had drifted back into second, several car lengths behind Cooper, but he began to mount a challenge for the lead at the halfway mark. For the second half of the race, Garrett stayed within a car length of Cooper. Coming off turn two on the race’s final circuit, Garrett moved to the inside of Cooper and grabbed the lead down the back straightaway. As the two entered turn three, Cooper battled his way to the inside of Garret and reassumed the lead off turn four. Cooper led Garrett to the checkers to claim the victory. Garrett was second. Shaun Wetzel finished third and Michael Taylor was fourth. Eric Groah finished fifth.
It took three attempts to start the street stock race as multiple spins and incidents on lap one caused delays in the early going. Skye Reynolds led lap one, but he retreated to the pit area during an ensuing caution to have his car surveyed by his pit crew after contact with another competitor.
David Brogan inherited the lead on the restart, and he led the final 19 laps to claim his ninth win of the season and maintain his points lead. As Brogan checked out from the field, a hard-fought battle ensued for second. Danny Bryant, Scottie Hostetter, Earl Brooks and Reynolds battled for much of the event. Brogan cruised to victory while Reynolds spun in turn four on the final lap. Bryant finished second and Hostetter crossed the stripe in third. Brooks was fourth and Chip Glass rounded out the top five.
Howard Hall led all 20 laps to claim his fourth win of the season in the pure stock event. Ben Hamilton and Jennings Vest did not make it easy for Hall as both drivers challenged Hall for the top spot throughout the event. Hamilton and Vest engaged in a battle for second with two laps remaining, and this allowed Hall to scoot away to grab the victory. Vest took second while points leader Lee Brooks moved up to take third. Glen Floyd finished fourth. Hamilton made hard contact with the turn one guardrail on the last lap, and his car suffered extensive damage. Hamilton was uninjured, and he was credited with fifth.
Ryan Kassab began the all-American race from the pole and led the first 12 laps. Following a caution on lap 13, Brandon Link and Mike Lawhorne challenged Kassab on the restart to go three wide down the front straightaway. Link grabbed the lead on lap 14, and he was forced to contend with Lawhorne for the next five laps. On the final circuit, Link pulled away from Lawhorne to claim his third 2012 victory. Lawhorne took second and Kassab finished third. Corey Almond, who entered the event as the points leader, finished fourth and Rich Zowaski claimed fifth.
Fans were treated by a visit from u-car divisional drivers from Eastside, Potomac and Winchester Speedways for the day’s final event. Rachel Hicks, a three-time winner at Eastside this season, took the early lead and held off a hard-charging Blayne Brown for the first 12 laps. Brown, who has four wins at Eastside, passed Hicks in turn four on lap 13. Brown held off Hicks to claim the win as Hicks was forced to settle for second. William Brown finished third. Josh Wilkins was fourth and Kevin Pollard took fifth.
Racing will resume for all five regular divisions at Natural Bridge, Saturday. Gates open at 4 p.m. The driver’s meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. with hot laps scheduled at 6:15 p.m. This will be a double points race for all divisions.