Mark Wertz Wins Innagural Shawn Balluzzo Memorial 100; Becomes Just the Fourth Different Modified Champion in fourteen Year
Hampton, VA – The final race of the 2020 season at Langley Speedway was finally here and it was a little bittersweet. Champions would be crowned in eight divisions along with the running of the inaugural Shawn Balluzzo Memorial 100 for the Modified division.
Mark Wertz – who stepped down from a full-time racing schedule at the end of 2019 – actually entered the evening with a 19 point lead over Matt Carter in the championship standings. This meant Wertz would have to finish no less than 20 positions behind Carter to win the championship. With 24 cars entered into the Carter still had a mathematical chance to steal the title but certainly would need some help from the full moon that shined over turn one. Chris Johnson, Michael Johnson, and Rick Gdovic also were battling for a top-five finish in points.
26 Modifieds showed up to honor Shawn Balluzzo and put on a great show for the fans. Balluzzo’s son in-law, T.J. Largena planned to bring his car out for the first time this season and honnor his late father in-law by running large Mighty Mouse graphics on the door panels but a broken rear end during practice sidelined him from doing so. Matt Ashworth was the second car in practice that was unable to answer the bell. Matt Carter continued his season long speed and grabbed the pole with a time of 16.085 (88.405 MPH). Chris Johnson, Mark Wertz, Brad Adams, and Adam Medek rounded out the Fast Five.
Due to the longer race length for this event, race control would split the feature into 3 segments with cautions coming on lap 35 and lap 75. Minor adjustments and adding fuel was the only thing allowed. Tire changes were not permitted unless flat, and if that be the case, the car would have to change the tire the lap after the break was over. Additionally, before the start of the race, at the request of the Balluzzo family, Shawn’s ashes rode with long-time friend, Mark Wertz, for a final three laps around the track, the fans gave a standing ovation as they went around the track.
On the initial start pole sitter, Matt Carter, jumped the start according to race control which prompted a complete and total restart. Take two was a clean one and Chris Johnson took the lead out of turn two. Going into turn three, Wertz, Carter, and Adams went three-wide resulting in Carter making contact with Adams and spinning around. This would bring out the caution and amazingly, everyone was able to avoid Carter who was facing the wrong way. Onto the next restart and it was Wertz this time going to the lead down the backstretch. Cautions came early and often as drivers fought for prime real estate on the racing surface with more than $2,000 and a three-foot trophy on the line, caution number three would be displayed on lap 7 after Jordan Wood – making his Modified debut after competing in the Champ Kart feature earlier in the evening – spun in turn three. Wertz would go back to the lead on the restart, as Adams had a rough one and fell from third to fifth.
Paul Debolt, after starting eighth, made his way up to third and challenged Chris Johnson for second. By lap 11, Debolt took the lead from Wertz and put a sizable lead over the field. After spinning early, Carter had worked his way up to 13th position in just 16 laps. A four car battle heated up for third between Adams, Chris J, Rick Gdovic, and Jamie Sample. Only for that battle to come to a vault as a caution came out for Billy Grimes facing the wrong way in turn two. This also caused Gdovic to make contact with Sample sending him around and cutting his own tire. Both would go to pit road and fix their damages.
Chris Humblet worked his way into the top five as well after starting ninth. Humblet began applying pressure on Chris Johnson for third that they both got caught up and almost passed by Mike Rudy on the outside. A caution came out on lap 31 for Adams going for a spin in turn three. Gdovic, Sample and Eric McPherson all were involved as well. This caution would end up being the first break allowing teams to work on their cars for five minutes. The top five at the break was Debolt, Wertz, Chris J, Rudy, and Chris H.
Back to green and Debolt picked right back up from before the break and shot to the lead. Carter had worked his way up to seventh now. Caution would come out on lap 39 for Whitesell and Gdovic making contact forcing Gdovic around. Grimes would also get collected. Back to green and Wertz took the lead from Debolt on lap 40. Problems occurred for Debolt as he came to a stop on the track to bring the caution out on lap 44. Would later find out issues with the rear end would end his hopes at a victory. Chris Humblet would work his way to the lead by lap 53 after getting around Wertz. Another caution would come out on lap 72 for Grimes going around once again. Race control would also use this caution as the second race break. The top five at this break was Chris Humblet, Mark Wertz, Mike Rudy, Chris Johnson, and Danny Harrell. As the break was coming to an end crews noticed Humblet’s left rear tire going down. He would end up giving up the lead to Wertz to change the tire.
Back to green and things got physical quick with less than 30-laps to go. Mike Rudy and Mark Wertz made contact going through one and two which sent Rudy into the outside wall ending his hunt for the victory. Jeff “Stickman” Bowen handed out plenty of caution flags during the final segment as drivers were fighting for every inch one the racing surface they could get. Wertz would go on the lead the final 10 laps and win the inaugural Shawn Balluzzo Memorial 100 race and also win the 2020 Larry King Law Modified championship. Chris Johnson, Jimmy Humblet, Chase Burrow, and Adam Medek rounded out the top five finishers.
Shawn Balluzzo Memorial 100 Results
- #19 Mark Wertz; 100
- #36 Chris Johnson; 100
- #11 Jimmy Humblet; 100
- #0 Chase Burrow; 100
- #29 Adam Medek; 100
- #47 Brenden Queen; 100
- #02 Jordan Wood; 100
- #20 Chris Humblet; 100
- #78 Matt Carter; 100
- #28 Jamie Sample; 100
- #5 Kyle Fowler; 100
- #38 Michael Johnson; 100
- #44 Shawn Adkins; 100
- #70 Curtis Hughes; 100
- #95 Danny Harrell; 100
- #64 Rick Gdovic; 99
- #3 Brad Adams; 99
- #23 Peyton Ferree; 83
- #70 Jeremy Gerstner; 83
- #49 Todd Whitesell; 76
- #50 Billy Grimes; 72
- #8 Mike Rudy; 72
- #16 Eric McPherson; 72
- #78 Paul Debolt; 43
Featured Image: Bill Carnes/ Given to Fly