By Chris Belcher
After two weeks of Mother Nature dampening dirt track racing action, clear skies prevailed Saturday night with a field of over 60 drivers filling the pits in front of good crowd.
A sad moment preceded the night’s races as drivers, fans and family in attendance took a moment to remember Charles Hutchinson, a long time car owner and supporter of racing at 201.
Hutchinson passed away the previous week. As one of Charles’s old cars, the #85 which won several races at 201, rounded the track during the National Anthem everyone stood in silence as the car now driven by Justin Tackett paid tribute to Hutchinson.
In Late Model qualifying, after rolling onto the track as the sixth qualifier, Shannon Thornsberry turned the fastest circuit of the 17 to turn laps, besting the field with a lap of 14.04. Points leader Terry Hicks drove his #9 to the second quickest time of 14.14 with the #13 of Jamie Ferguson third fastest at 14.16.
After defending Late Model champion D.J. Wells used a last lap pass on Rod Evans to post his heat race win, and wins by the #9 of current points leader Terry Hicks and Jamie Ferguson’s #13 won their heats, the starting grid was set for the 25 lap feature with Wells starting to the inside of outside pole sitter Terry Hicks,
Hicks opened up the race by driving his car to the high side of the first set of turns carrying enough speed to distance himself from an early battle for second between the #R1 of Rod Evans, who faced the charge to the inside from Wells in the middle of turns three and four.
With Hicks out front and Evans second, the only car to test the tall side of the turns was Wells, who gave Evans a full view of his charge each time in the middle of the corners.
A solid run off the fourth turn on lap six propelled Wells ahead of Harris and Evans to nail down the second spot and Evans falling behind the rear bumper of Harris for fourth.
As they went under the half way flags, the front two raced entirely different lines with Hicks holding to inside just a few feet off the inside rail and Wells looking as if he was going to drive up the hill in the center of turns one and two searching for the same speed he had found earlier in his heat.
On lap 14, Harris went to the inside of turn four and drove a lane to the inside of D.J., taking over the second position behind the lead of Hicks. With Wells and Harris continuing their close race, Hicks extended his lead to nearly a half a straight a way.
With five to go, Hicks displayed a good piece of defensive driving when he came up on a slower lapped machine and rather than make contact Hicks all but stood his #9 on it’s nose to avoid what would have been a hard collision and still retained the lead with four to go.
As they came to the white flag Hicks would face one last charge from Harris with the #10 setting up high in the final two left handers to the checkers. As Hicks drove under the payoff checkers, Harris collected the outside wall off of turn four, and despite hard contact with the metal all the way down the front stretch, Harris would hold on for a runner up finish.
Hicks scoring his fourth feature win of the season while holding on to the points lead. Harris’s high finish broke what had been a tie for second in the points with Michael P. Howard.
Preliminary Open Wheel Modified heat races saw Dennis Deboard, John Fitzpatrick, and Kevin Hall take the checkers, setting the field for the 20 lap feature.
Fitzpatrick started from the outside of the 17 car field with fast qualifier, Deboard starting from the inside.
After the completion of five laps, Deboard and Hall had separated by nearly a half a straight a way from the rest of the field. With the front four lining out single file, the most heated battle early would be for the fifth spot between the #0 of Jimmy Collins and the #62K of Joel Jenson as the two remained side by side and got together while battling for position on the ninth lap.
As the half way flags were displayed, Hall mounted his charge at Dennis off of the second corner and managed to pull slightly ahead of the leader. However, a debris caution slowed the field with 10 to go and put Deboard back at the head of the field. Lap 12 saw Hall dive to the bottom of the second turn and clip the inside rail, yet even with the pressure from behind for his spot, Kevin gathered his ride back in and held on to the second spot.
With Deboard remaining at the point, Hall now felt the charge of Jenson who tried to cut a lane to the inside of Kevin’s spot yet Hall was able to keep it on the floor and turn back the charge.
Dennis Debaord, racing in his 16th season, won his first race of the year at 201. The win for Deboard put him on top of the division points chase as Courtney Conley, who entered the race as the points leader, posted an eighth place finish.
Hall finished as the runner up followed in third by a good run by Joel Jenson. Jim Barnett was fourth with the #35 of Jeremy “Donkey” Hayes completing the top five.
Two of the most competitive drivers in the bomber ranks would share the front row of Saturday night’s feature with the #3 of points leader Scott Lemaster, of Salyersville, and Mudcreek’s Ervin Vance bringing the 14 car field to the start of the race.
After they completed the first trip by the flag stand, both got together entering the first corner, with the caution being charged to Lemaster, forcing the points leader to re-start the race from the back.
On the re-start, Vance was the leader with the #24 of Jimmy Johnson as the challenger in second and Albie Howell in third. By the ninth lap, Lemaster had powered his way from the back of the field to be a contender in the third position. As the checkers hit the air just before 11:30 it would be all Ervin Vance from sponsored Camaro with his 1st feature win of the season. After crossing the finish line as the runner up, it was revealed that Howell was not the registered driver of the second place car and had not signed a driver’s release, therefore was disqualified, putting the #P12 of Flat Gap driver Dean Pennington as the second place finisher. Scott Lemaster would see a four race winning streak come to an end with a third place finish. On August 1, 201 will host many of the best bombers in the area with a $1000 to win Double Purse Bomber classis curing the annual Pops Late Model Race.
Saturday night’s final feature had two of the “Outlaw Motersports members starting from the front row with former champion Shawn Ousley rolling off from the outside row with DI Henson flanking him to the outside.
The start had Henson shoot to the front as points leader Alan Osborne carving a lane to the inside of Ousley through three and four to run in the second spot early on.
Osborne’s opportunity came on the third circuit when he raced a line to the inside of Henson to clear him for the lead then protected the outside line that had proved effective for Henson in the early stages.
At the half way point of the 12 lap feature, Henson pulled to the inside of Osborne off of turn two and overtook him to regain the lead but Alan used a line to the inside in the middle of turn three to over take Henson for the second time in the race.
On the final lap, Henson made one final bid at the leader with a strong run off the second turn, building up a good run on the backstretch, dropping to the inside of three and four yet coming up about a car length short as Alan Osborne brought the Leckrone Drywall, M.B.F Studio’s sponsored #37 to the payoff flag with Henson second followed in third by the #9 of Ethan Conley.
The 201 Speedway will take July 25off and return to action Aug 1 with one of the most anticipated races in the tri state area, the “Walker Prater Pop’s Memorial with a $5,000 payoff awaiting the winner of the Late Model Feature.