Matt Bowling Doubles Down in South Boston Opener

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#83 Matt Bowling during final practice. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer)

South Boston, VA – Not sure what more you can ask for with the exception of a steak dinner and a cold beer served to you after the first of two 100-lap features in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Over thirty drivers taking the green flag for the first time in 2016 at South Boston. A field stacked with some of the best drivers in the business along with some hitting the track for the first time in a full blown Late Model Stock Car.

With the sheer size of the field and the schedule that South Boston officials like to stay on, the field of 30 go fast machines hit the track in the early afternoon for their Euro Style – or for those who watch NASCAR – group qualifying. Groups of five drivers at a time hit the speedway for five laps, all looking for that one perfect circuit to grab the pole. Was nice to see a few drivers fighting for that ever elusive pole award, but at the end of the day only one can win. Today that driver was South Boston’s very own Austin Thaxton. Posting a quick lap of 15.542 seconds, beating out defending NWAAS champ Lee Pulliam by five hundredths of a second.

From the drop of the green flag to when the checkered flag waved, there was excitement all over the track, no matter where you looked. With the quantity, and lets be honest, the quality of drivers we saw during practice there was without a doubt we were in for a treat. However, no matter what division is running, with quantity comes wrecks and we sure did see our fair share of them as well. Only took us seven laps to fall under the yellow. This was after Thaxton had built a halfway decent lead over Pulliam, whom he had left to deal with the likes of Sellers. I am going to be honest because the wreck happened in the middle of the field I did not get to see what happened but it was big enough to take a few cars out including Brenden Queen, who honestly has had an incredible start to the 2016 season, as well as Alex Brock, another young driver running his first full season under the NASCAR banner.

One hell of a battle, between Thaxton & Pulliam, on the ensuing restart was put on hold after Phillip Morris looked like he was at the Super Cross race back in Atlanta and literally ramps up and over the right rear of Peyton Sellers – causing heavy damage to Sellers quarter panel and almost ripping the back Lexan out of the car. Morris would make multiple trips down pit road while Sellers held his postion on the track.

Once back green the action immediately picked up where it was left off! Top four drivers locked in a dead heap all fighting for that top spot as we inched closer and closer to half way. Thaxton, Pulliam and Falk all right within pretty much feet of each fighting for position. I tell you what; I am not a huge, huge fan of cautions, but anyone who was in doubt of a caution clock on the big stage needed to watch the race I watched tonight. Every restart had me on the edge of my seat because I knew that some pretty wild and amazing things were going to take place.

You know, and I do want to apologize for this really quick, but a lot of media outlets tend to really just focus on the leaders but, if you only focused your attention on the front two or four cars you were missing out big time! Chalk it up to an afternoon race, new season, or the new bump stop rules, but cars were truly racing all over the place. One driver I want to give some credit to is Chesapeake native, Mark Wertz. Had a stout car all day and proved that during, well both races to be honest.

Given just a few more yellow flags in between, set us up for a finish for the record books. Falk, who is a multi time Langley Speedway champion battling with multi time national champion and hometown hero Austin Thaxton, all while defending track champion Matt Bowling hung out in the shadows so to speak waiting to make his move. With just fifteen laps left on the board Falk started to make his move down in turn three. Using the old eight tires are better than four approach. Leaning hard on Pulliams left side door for two solid laps, the two would sail it off into turn one, Falk pushing up the hill once more this time the contact was to much and sent Pulliam around. Pulliam was able to keep it off the wall and return to the tail end of the field but his race was over as he did lose a couple laps.

Thought we were done there? Nope! Falk would become the new control car and restart down low. Austin Thaxton electing to use the cone and restart on the outside with defending track champion Matt Bowling just behind them in the third spot. With the Green flag back in the air Falk takes the field into one and again makes his car extra wide, Thaxton having to chase his ride up the hill. Bowling seeing a chance to grab a win he dives under the Thaxton to take the second position. Bowling immediately sets his eyes on Falk for the lead. With just four laps to go, all three fighting for the same piece of real estate go into turn one three wide! All three cars in a four wheel slide through two! Falk with the worst end of the stick because he slowed up in three and four on the high side looking for a caution but did not get one. The following circuit, Thaxton trying to hang onto the lead would get loose and hand the lead over to the eventual race winner Matt Bowling.

The top six cars would invert for race number two – handing the lead over to Josh Oakley who by the way had a fast car all day long as well. He took plenty advantage of the invert and the time to work on the car between races. I don’t want to say I was surprised with Oakley’s performance because I honestly wasn’t specially after seeing him run at East Carolina last December. Driver of the #8 machine was able to hold his own at the front of the pack for quite some time.

The race would be slowed just twenty-eight laps in after the #64 of Charles Barnes goes around, collecting Phillip Morris – who by the way just could not catch a break all afternoon – along with him. Not really what current leader Josh Oakley wanted to see but I can almost assure guys like Lee Pulliam, Mark Wertz and certainly Brenden Queen, who bounced back very well after what happened in race one, wanted to see.

It was the restart that would hurt Oakley. Not sure if he spun the tires or if Thaxton just got that much better of a start but he and Bowling powered around Oakley to take the lead and P2 respectfully.

Throw in some yellow flags and some close calls for a couple different drivers the final 40-50 laps were high-speed duals between drivers all the way from the front of the field to the rear of the field! Seriously, it didn’t matter where you looked on the speedway there was quality racing going down. It was the caution with just about twenty laps to go that really set up yet another thrilling finish. Yup I said it, for once I feel a caution actually helped create an epic finish.

Thaxton would do one hell of a job in holding of Bowling as much as he can for those twenty laps but just came a little short. Now, I will have to say Bowling has some lap traffic to thank as they ended up being the “pick” that helped him take the lead with just seven laps to go. Pretty sure Thaxton had used up all of his equipment holding off Bowling for the win because he would eventually loose the second spot to Lee Pulliam and would be forced to settle with back-to-back third place finishes.

“It was an awesome night,” Bowling said after the race. “It definitely wasn’t easy but its pretty sweet to come out and sweep, any time you can sweep here, or anywhere is a pretty sweet feeling. It’s a great way to start the season and looking forward to see the momentum we can take from this.”

Bowling also told us during the break they made some pretty big changes to the car because they were not completely happy with her in the first race. “I still think we got some room to grow,” Bowling said. “We will get there. We can be better andwe will get there. My guys worked really hard all day and got me a really good car and we are really just looking forward to this momentum going forward.”

 

 

LMSC Race 1 Results:

1) #83 Matt Bowling
2) #6 Bobby McCarty
3) #12 Austin Thaxton
4) #23 Danny Willis
5) #26 Peyton Sellers
6) #8 Josh Oakley
7) #55 Mark Wertz
8) #91 Justin Carroll
9) #01 Philip Morris
10) #2 Dennis Holdren
11) #77 Blake Stallings
12) #9 Trey Crews
13) #14 Justin Ellington
14) #22 Eric Winslow
15) #64 Charles Barnes
16) #28 Jason Barnes
17) #00 A Wayne Groome
18) #10 Maddy Ryan Mulligan
19) #40 C.E. Falk
20) #5 Lee Pulliam
21) #2B Brandon Pierce
22) #3 Nathan Crews
23) #90 Terry Carroll
24) #15 Kyle Barnes
25) #44 Justin Johnson
26) #50 Raymond Pittman
27) #00 Brian Pembelton
28) #03 Brenden Queen
29) #8A Thomas Scott
30) #9A Alex Brock
31) #8B Chris Denny
32) #42 Chuck Lawson

 

LMSC Race #2 Results:

1) #83 Matt Bowling
2) #5 Lee Pulliam
3) #12 Austin Thaxton
4) #8 Josh Oakley
5) #26 Peyton Sellers
6) #91 Justin Carroll
7) #44 Justin Johnson
8) #2 Dennis Holdren
9) #55 Mark Wertz
10) #03 Brenden Queen
11) #22 Eric Winslow
12) #3 Nathan Crews
13) #14 Justin Ellington
14) #50 Raymond Pittman
15) #00 Brian Pembelton
16) #6 Bobby McCarty
17) #28 Jason Barnes
18) #2B Brandon Pierce
19) #64 Charles Barnes
20) #10 Maddy Ryan Mulligan
21) #9A Alex Brock
22) #9 Trey Crews
23) #77 Blake Stallings
24) #01 Philip Morris
25) #40 C.E. Falk
26) #8A Thomas Scott
27) #23 Danny Willis
28) #90 Terry Carroll

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