Three Times A Charm For Robbie Babb As He Sweeps TNCC Night At Langley

Babb

Robbie Babb during his pole lap qualifying. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)

HAMPTON, Va. – Robbie Babb rolled to his third and fourth wins of the season with a clean sweep of the 4CDL.com Twin 30s presented by Thomas Nelson Community College for the Larry King Law Modifieds, the featured events of Saturday evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program at Langley Speedway.

The lineup for the first half of the doubleheader was determined in afternoon time trials and Babb snagged the pole position, clocking in at 87.594 mph. Shawn Balluzzo was second-fastest, more than a quarter-second off Babb’s pace. Jon Largena, Evan Horne and Danny Harrell were third, fourth and fifth, in that order, on the 17-car grid.

As the opener got under way, Babb leaped out front, hauling the field into Turn 1. Balluzzo settled into second, followed by Horne and Largena. Behind them, Harrell went door-to-door with Chris Humblet for fifth. Humblet eventually won that battle, gaining the clear-cut edge on lap 3.

By lap 4, Babb had already stretched his advantage to nearly half a straightaway as the top four pulled away. Deeper in the pack, Humblet held onto fifth, but he had a mirror-full of Harrell, Mike Rudy, Mark Slye and Bobby Gery. Slye dropped out of that tussle on lap 8 when he slowed and headed to the pits. A lap later, Rudy slipped past Harrell to take over sixth.

Babb was up by better than half a straightaway when the caution flag flew, on lap 12, for Jack Sharkey’s spin in Turn 4. It was only the first in a string of seven yellow flags that would punctuate laps 12 through 23. Gathering for a restart, Balluzzo opted for the outside lane. He was joined by Largena, Rudy and Eric McPherson.

Back under green, Balluzzo stayed alongside Babb until they reached Turn 2. Exiting the corner, Babb powered ahead, relegating Balluzzo to second. Horne, Largena and Humblet emerged in the next three spots, followed by Rudy, in sixth.

The second yellow flag appeared on lap 14 when Rudy and Humblet tangled in Turn 1 and Humblet spun. A handful of other drivers stopped, spun or took evasive action to avoid Humblet. The third caution flag waved soon after the ensuing restart when Sharkey smacked the outside wall along the front stretch. Preparing to return to green, Balluzzo again went to the outside, followed by Gery, McPherson, Humblet and Rudy.

On the restart, Babb cleared Balluzzo as they reached Turn 1, while Gery scooted in front of Harrell to grab the fifth spot. Passing the halfway mark, Babb had begun to ease away, widening his margin to three lengths.

The fourth caution flag was displayed on lap 18 when Sunny Hobbs-Voelker spun in Turn 2. For the next restart, Balluzzo remained committed to the outside lane. He had company on the high side in the form of Gery, Humblet and Rudy.

As the race resumed, Babb bolted ahead of Balluzzo at the flagstand, while Gery slipped by Largena to grab fourth. Farther back, Humblet and Rudy scuffled for seventh. Rudy swiped the spot on lap 20 when Humblet skittered up the minimal banking in Turn 4.

The fifth caution flag was unfurled on lap 23 when Hobbs-Voelker spun in Turn 3. The sixth and seventh yellow flags waved on the next two tries at a restart. Caution #6 came out when Gery ran up underneath Largena in Turn 4, lifting the rear of Largena’s machine off the track. They were both able to continue after visits to the pits. What would turn out to be the final yellow flag flew when McPherson nosed into the outside wall in Turn 1.

Lining up for the last restart, Balluzzo headed for the outside lane. Rudy, now up to fourth, followed in Balluzzo’s tire tracks, along with Wayne Hartley, Hobbs-Voelker, Harrell, Largena and Gery.
Under green for the sprint to the finish, Babb pulled ahead of Balluzzo in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. Rudy snagged third from Horne, only to see Horne battle back on the following circuit. Meanwhile, Babb was in the wind, racing out to a five-length advantage.

At the checkers, Babb was the winner by 1.502 seconds — about half a straightaway — over Balluzzo. Horne was third, followed by Rudy. Humblet bypassed Hartley on lap 29 and came home in the fifth position. Hartley headed the second five, in sixth, while Gery, Donnie Holston, Andrew Fortin and Largena rounded out the top 10. Tony Steele, Hobbs-Voelker, Harrell and Curtis Hughes were 11th through 14th, respectively, also on the lead lap at the end.

In Victory Lane after the race, Babb noted the mechanical rigors of so many caution laps on a hot, muggy day: “As hot and humid as it is today, we really had some overheating problems with the motor during the pace laps. We weren’t really running fast enough to keep the motor halfway cool. Other than that, it wasn’t bad. We’ve hit on a little something. These guys are getting closer, so we’ve gotta go back and do our homework.”

Race #2

The starting order for the second race mirrored the finishing order of the first, putting Babb and Balluzzo back on the front row, followed by Horne, Rudy and Humblet.
As the nightcap got going, Babb and Balluzzo dueled side-by-side until they got to Turn 2. Motoring onto the backstretch, Babb surged ahead.

The first caution flag came out on lap 2 when Hobbs-Voelker spun in Turn 2. Bunching for a restart, Balluzzo continued to stick with the outside lane, joined by Rudy, Gery, Largena and Harrell. Back under green, Babb dispensed with Balluzzo, who settled into second. Rudy snuck ahead of Horne and took over third, while Gery grabbed fifth from Humblet. Two laps later, Gery charged past Horne in Turns 1 and 2 to take fourth. Soon, he was hounding Rudy for third.

By lap 11, Babb had opened a half-straightaway lead over Balluzzo. Another half-straightaway separated Balluzzo and the Rudy/Gery skirmish. Seeing the lead duo slipping away, Gery pulled the trigger on lap 14 and swiped third from Rudy. The second caution flag appeared on lap 17 when McPherson spun in Turn 2. For the restart, Balluzzo, Rudy, Humblet, Steele and Holston chose the outside lane.

Back under way, Babb shot ahead of Balluzzo at the flagstand and brought Gery along with him, to second. Balluzzo and Horne were deployed in third and fourth, while Rudy and Humblet battled for fifth. Humblet grabbed the position on lap 18, then moved past Horne for fourth on lap 21.

The third yellow flag was displayed on lap 24 when McPherson spun at the start/finish line. The next restart resulted in a multi-car mess in Turns 1 and 2 with drivers spinning, ducking and dodging through the accident scene. Babb, Gery and Balluzzo maintained the top three positions, while Rudy and Hartley moved up to fourth and fifth for what would be the final restart. Getting ready for a green flag, Balluzzo, Rudy, Humblet, Holston and McPherson occupied the outside lane.

On the restart, Balluzzo posed a stern challenge to Babb, but eventually gave way as Babb pulled ahead along the backstretch. Balluzzo did, however, manage to retake second from Gery. By the finish, Babb’s margin of victory had grown to 1.059 seconds — about four lengths — over Balluzzo. Gery was third, while Rudy and Hartley completed the top five.

Humblet was sixth to the stripe, followed by Horne, Holston, Hughes and Largena. Hobbs-Voelker and Harrell were 11th and 12th, the final drivers to finish the entire distance.

Returning to Victory Lane, Babb showed no indication of being ready to rest on his laurels: “We’ve really got it working good. The racetrack did tighten up as it got cooled down. The other guys adjusted on their stuff, so they got a little closer. We’re not quite there. I think we can still pick up a little bit. Like I said, every week, when these guys go home, they’re working on their stuff, so we’re gonna work on our stuff, too.”

Asked about Gery’s strong showing, Babb noted, “Yeah, I knew Gery was back there. He tagged me in the bumper a couple times. He let me know he was there. We’re good friends and I think we can race together. So far, so good.”

In the division standings, Largena’s pair of 10th-place outings was costly. Up by two points over Balluzzo at the beginning of the night, he is now in third place, 14 behind Balluzzo and one behind Babb, who moved up to second. Horne is fourth, only three behind Largena.

The Modifieds will be back in action at Langley next Saturday, Aug. 8, with a 50-lap feature.

Race Results

Race #1
1. #44 Robbie Babb; 30
2. #48 Shawn Balluzzo; 30
3. #6 Evan Horne; 30
4. #8 Mike Rudy; 30
5. #20 Chris Humblet; 30
6. #37 Wayne Hartley; 30
7. #60 Bobby Gery; 30
8. #1 Donnie Holston; 30
9. #5 Andrew Fortin; 30
10. #4 Jon Largena; 30
11. #51 Tony Steele; 30
12. #14 Sunny Hobbs-Voelker; 30
13. #95 Danny Harrell; 30
14. #70 Curtis Hughes; 30
15. #16 Eric McPherson; 25
16. #33 Mark Slye; 21
17. #88 Jack Sharkey; 14
Pole: Babb – 16.234 [87.594 mph.]

Race #2:
1. #44 Robbie Babb; 30
2. #48 Shawn Balluzzo; 30
3. #60 Bobby Gery; 30
4. #8 Mike Rudy; 30
5. #37 Wayne Hartley; 30
6. #20 Chris Humblet; 30
7. #6 Evan Horne; 30
8. #1 Donnie Holston; 30
9. #70 Curtis Hughes; 30
10. #4 Jon Largena; 30
11. #14 Sunny Hobbs-Voelker; 30
12. #95 Danny Harrell; 30
13. #16 Eric McPherson; 29
14. #88 Jack Sharkey; 29
15. #5 Andrew Fortin; 26
16. #51 Tony Steele; 23
17. #33 Mark Slye; 1

Article courtesy of Gary Daughtrey – Langley Speedway Media

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