Tyler Hughes leads the most laps and escapes a wild finish to win the Dominion Raceway NWAAS season opener for the second year in a row. (Justin Kern/TheWeeklyRacer.com)
– Dominion Raceway, for the second year in a row, opened its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in a thrilling fashion that witnessed some of the closest racing in the track’s history. Sixteen Late Model Stock Cars were in attendance for the season opening 75-lap feature. Some returning veterans, as well as some new faces to the high-banked 4/10-mile, put on one heck of a show for the fans here in the northern part of Virginia.
Michael Hardin was fastest early in the afternoon as the sun was setting over turn three during the tracks modified group qualifying. We say modified group qualifying because cars were sent on the track in pairs to put down their fastest time that would set the field for the invert. Hardin recorded a lap of 15.319 or an average of 94.001 mph. Jeff Oakley, who has seen his fair share of the spotlight as of yet, qualified to his outside just eight-thousandths of a second behind Hardin. Tyler Hughes, Doug Barnes, Jr., and Nick Leitz would round out the starting five positions.
Due to the invert that Dominion Raceway uses, Hardin was forced to invert the field with a random pill draw. The magic number was four, handing the lead and the front row to Doug Barnes, Jr. and Tyler Hughes. The green flag was displayed to the field and Hughes immediately went to work on the outside line powering around Barnes to lead the first of many laps. Barnes, Oakley and even Hardin were not about to let Hughes get too far away and fell in line clicking off laps.
The top four drivers would spend the next handful of laps peaking inside and outside of each other. Forcing each other into or off the corners in a different manner than they wanted, just trying to get a feel of who might be better where. Tyler Hughes did a fantastic job holding off the charging three cars. Another great battle to pay attention to on the speedway was that of Nick Leitz, the young man from Chesapeake, Virginia who was doing a fantastic job at keeping Logan Jones at bay and out of the top five. Macy Causey, who kind of struggled in qualifying, also started to come back up through the front of the field.
The field was slowed for the first time on lap 40 when Tyler Daniels, piloting the #13 machine from Bobby Creech’s shop, went for a spin off turn two. Reports to the tower, as Daniels ended up stopped behind the massive screen in the infield that he was working on trying to pass the 83 of Burke and lost it. We did not see it from the start so cannot confirm that. Daniels did a great job keeping it off the wall and other cars both times he spun – he would spin off turn four just twelve laps later all by himself.
The lead would finally change hands on the first restart when Doug Barnes elected to take the cone and used the high side to his advantage just like Hughes did on the initial start. Barnes would be in control for a little over ten laps and even a restart that ended in mayhem down in turn one collecting Owen Smith, Nick Leitz, Logan Jones. Reports coming into the tower stated the 82 of Burke was at fault for jumping the start and essentially causing the pileup – he would be sent to the rear for his infraction.
Things started to get pretty physical as the laps dwindled down. Barnes continuing to use the high line on the restart lost the lead back to Hughes on lap 54 after plenty of contact was exchanged between the two – nothing out of the ordinary for some Saturday night short track racing if you ask us. Oakley was also able to work his way around Barnes and immediately set his sights on the #8 of Hughes.Things started to really heat up with five laps to go after Oakley tracked down Hughes and tried to make the pass. Oakley, taking shots down low on Hughes, sometimes even making contact with the leaders, nothing but good hard racing though. This, of course, allowed for Barnes to catch back up. It even allowed Macy Causey, who had driven up to fourth from her tenth place starting position.
Things started to really heat up with five laps to go after Oakley tracked down Hughes and tried to make the pass. Oakley, taking shots down low on Hughes, sometimes even making contact with the leaders, nothing but good hard racing though. This, of course, allowed for Barnes to catch back up. It even allowed Macy Causey, who had driven up to fourth from her tenth place starting position.
All hell broke loose when the top three entered turn three on the white flag lap three wide that would eventually cause a pretty large pileup and hard contact with Causey. Hughes, who was leading the race made it through unharmed after Oakley was sent for a ride after contact from Barnes. Oakley had made it to the left rear tire of Hughes when Barnes dove, to what looked like right at or bellow the white line in three. The contact sent both Oakley and Barnes around. Causey running fourth went into a slow spin to try to avoid contact and got hit hard by in incoming Michael Hardin.
She let officials know quickly that she was okay by dropping her window net but the car would need assistance back to her pit. Hardin, who also received quite a bit of damage from the contact was able to drive away and into the tech shed after coming across the line fourth. Barnes would be scored seventh, Oakley ninth, and Causey in tenth, the first car one lap down. Crazy enough the car that brought out two of the three cautions would finish second on the evening. Timmy Phipps would finish third while Logan Jones rounded out the top five.
“This feels pretty great that we finally get to celebrate one,” Hughes said after the race and referring to last year’s victory when the speedway had issues with the lights. “It felt good to be back but man that was some hard racing. I had to give Oakley the bottom because I knew he was going to get to my bumper.”
Hughes actually took the lead using the high line at the start of the race and knew he had that going for him as the laps ticked off.
“I knew I was good up top,” Hughes said. “I knew we could go up there and defend it and it paid off for us. I just kept focused on running the high side and beating Oakley off the corner. He was getting just awesome runs off the corner and I was pretty hard on the chip running the outside like that. At the last minute there my spotter called three wide and I scooted up the track just a little bit so he wouldn’t hit me. I am really glad he slid by us and didn’t tap me. I just dirt tracked it a little bit through the marbles and get to the start-finish line.”
Dominion Raceway will be back in action next weekend, April 15th for twin 50 lap Late Model features along with the Modifieds, UCAR, Legends and Mini Mods.
UNOFFICIAL Late Model Results
1.#8 Tyler Hughes; 75
2. #13 Tyler Daniels; 75
3. #4 Timmy Phipps; 75
4. #7 Michael Hardin; 75
5. #77 Logan Jones; 75
6. #82B Cameron Burke; 75
7. #88 Doug Barnes, Jr.; 75
8. #99 Dickie Boswell
9. #11 Jeff Oakley; 75
10. #33 Macy Causey; 74
11. #07 Richard Storm; 74
12. #14 Nick Leitz; 52
13. #36 Owne Smith; 52
14. #29 Robert Bruce; 47
15. #82 Mike Ganoe; 20
16. #55 Jimmy Duncan; 16