Arthur Awesome in Fall Classic
The 2012 season at Natural Bridge Speedway is officially in the record books. The Sunoco Fall Classic brought the curtain down on the 2012 season this past weekend. Mother Nature provided race teams and fans with a picture perfect weekend in the Shenandoah Valley for the 2012 Fall Classic weekend. When the checkered flag flew on the seventh annual Sunoco Fall Classic it was Forest, Virginia’s Walker Arthur going to victory lane in both the steel block and super late model divisions. Arthur became the first driver in the history of the Fall Classic to sweep the weekend by winning both divisions. Arthur picked up over $12,500 for his victories.
The Steel Block late models were the first feature to hit the speedway Saturday night. Walker Arthur kicked off his historic weekend by setting fast time among the steel block competitors. Arthur would start on the pole of his heat race but had to settle for second when Greg Roberson topped Arthur in heat race number one. Arthur’s second place finish would mean he would start the forty-lap feature event in the fifth starting position. Roberson would earn the right to start on the pole by winning the first heat race.
Roberson and Gerald Wolfe led the steel block field to the green flag. Roberson quickly took command of the event and maintained a comfortable lead in the opening laps. Two early cautions kept the field bunched together. Though Arthur started fifth, he had moved into the runner-up spot by lap five. The middle of the event saw a long green flag period where Roberson was busy working his way through lapped traffic and Arthur was searching for a groove where he could gain ground on Roberson. Roberson, who is always a threat to win, held the lead until lap twenty-eight when lapped traffic came into play. Arthur had closed to the back bumper of Roberson and as the two entered turns three and four, the leaders encountered the car of Petie Coffey. Roberson chose the high line and so did Coffey. Roberson was pinned behind Coffey as Arthur slipped by on the bottom of the racetrack. Once out in front Arthur stretched out his lead over Roberson. Arthur led the final twelve laps to score the win in the steel block portion of the Fall Classic. Roberson held on for second. JR Overstreet started eighth and was the fastest car on the track at times. Overstreet advanced five positions to finish third. David Watts started tenth and finished fourth while Wolfe slipped back in the running order to finish fifth.
Drivers from all over the mid-Atlantic were on hand to battle for the $10,000 super late model winner’s check. Preliminary events were held on Friday night. Booper Bare, Joey Leavell, Dale McDowell, and Walker Arthur were heat race winners. David Watts was victorious in the last chance race. Joey Leavell won the Dash for Cash and picked up an extra $1,000 for winning the dash. By virtue of winning the Dash for Cash, Leavell earned the right to start on the pole for the fifty-lap main event. Leavell and Arthur, both local drivers, started on the front row and brought the field to green. At the drop of the green flag Arthur got the advantage and took control of the race. Chickamauga, Georgia’s Dale McDowell made a move on Leavell early in the event. McDowell took over the runner-up spot on lap fourteen and started to track down Arthur. Night two of the Fall Classic presented driver’s with a tricky racing surface. Catching a driver was one thing but finding an opportunity to make a pass was another. Arthur and McDowell seemed to be the class of the field and the two drivers distanced themselves from the field to battle for the win.
Though positions throughout the field stayed relatively unchanged, all eyes turned to the front of the field. McDowell stayed within striking distance of Arthur. Each time McDowell seemed poised to make a move Arthur would fine a burst of speed and pull ahead. McDowell had one last shot in the closing laps but on this night Arthur would not be denied. Arthur was flawless and crossed the stripe 0.252 seconds ahead of McDowell. Arthur backed up his steel block win by claiming his first career super late model victory in the prestigious Fall Classic. McDowell settled for second after his race long battle for the win. Joey Leavell, who won the Dash for Cash and has three wins at Natural Bridge this season, finished in the third position. Salt Rock, West Virginia’s Eddie Carrier, Jr. finished fourth. Jimmy Bernhisel brought his Lazer Chassis home fifth to round out the top five.
Former sportsman track champion, Eric Groah, started on the pole and led flag to flag to pick up the victory in the sportsman feature event. The win was Groah’s fourth win of the season. Although Groah led every lap the win did not come easy. Chad Click stalked Groah from the drop of the green flag and at times closed to the back bumper of Groah. Groah maintained a three car length lead most of the race but as the laps clicked off Click appeared to have the faster car. Click tried lap after lap to make a move on Groah but Groah held his line and was able to hold Click off at the stripe. Groah was scored the winner, followed by Click, Todd Campbell, Derrick Rankin, and Mike Bryant.
Natural Bridge Speedway will honor its track champions at their annual awards banquet tentatively scheduled for Saturday night January 12, 2012. Fans may visit www.nbspeedway.com for banquet information in the coming weeks.