Augusta Free Press

Arthur covers large late model field at Natural Bridge Speedway

A full moon foreshadowed a gorgeous night of competitive racing at Natural Bridge Speedway last Saturday night. Regional late model stalwart Walker Arthur of Forest emerged victorious from a stellar 14-car late model starting grid. The remainder of the night proved to be a celebratory one for drivers from Rockbridge County as the other four features were won by local wheelmen.

Phillip Woods was the quick qualifier in the late model division, rolling off a quick lap of 16.777 seconds just nipping Arthur’s qualifying run of 16.852. Woods drew pill number four, which moved Ryan Adams and Justin Williams to the front row with Arthur and Woods Starting on the second row.

The stop five starters maintained that order for the first five laps before J.R. Overstreet passed Tim Stalnaker to take over the fifth slot on lap 5. Adams, Woods and Arthur battled all over the track for several laps trying to gain the advantage before all three approached several cars running at the rear of lap 13. All the front runners were successful in putting those cars behind them. On lap 17, Adams spun out while running third and was sent to the rear of the field, leaving Williams and Arthur running 1-2. The attrition at the front of the pack continued when Woods and Overstreet got together on lap 18, sending both cars to the rear, setting up another drag race between Williams and Arthur on the lap 19 restart.

This time Arthur got the advantage on the restart and surged to the front, a place he maintained, despite a close call with a back marker high in turn four on lap 23. Following Arthur to the checkers were Justin Williams, Tim Stalnaker and Michael Alderman.

Phillips Woods started on the late model pole in the 30-lap feature with Ryan Williams on the outside of the front row in the 14-car starting grid. Woods and Williams ran 1-2 for the first 14 laps before Adams surged to the point on lap 15. After a lap 18 restart, Arthur made a slick move to get past Williams and then picked his way through slower traffic on his way to the checkers.  Williams ran a strong second with Michael Alderman, Rockbridge County’s Tim Stalnaker and Corey Almond rounding out the top five.

The checkers in the other four divisions were all claimed by Rockbridge County drivers.

Fairfield’s Samuel Bryant was the fastest qualifier in the sportsman division. After drawing the pill, he started fourth in the five-car field. Keith Nelson, Aaron Bryant and Ronnie Martin Jr. ran a tight 1-2-3 at the lead after nine laps with Samuel Bryant staying in striking distance. On lap 14 of the 25-lap, $500-to-win feature, Samuel Bryant made a powerful move on the backstretch and surged to the lead, a position he would not relinquish for the remainder of the race. Martin and Keith Nelson finished second and third, respectively.

Lexington’s Troy Fitzgerald started on the outside of the front row in the 25-lap street stock feature.  Fitzgerald roared seized the lead coming out of turn two on the race’s first lap. Fitzgerald steadily extended his lead throughout the event, as Scottie Hostetter and Ben Hamilton waged a spirited battle for the runner-up spot. A pair of late cautions brought Fitzgerald’s machine back to the field, but just as quickly as it was brought back, it ran away again with the dropping of the green. Hamilton and Gary Argenbright finished second and third, respectively, behind Fitzgerald.

Fairfield’s Matt Whitten took the lead from pole-sitter Joey Hall on the first lap of the 20-lap pure stock feature and was never challenged as he rolled to the checkers. Hall finished second.

The Rockbridge County driver domination continued, as Lexington’s Michael Demers came from off the pace to roll home victorious in the caution-filled 20-lap All-American feature. Mac Ayers started on the outside of the front row and led the first 15 laps, though he was never able to open a huge lead over pursuers David Parrish and Demers. The eventual victor took the lead for good on lap 16 and held off his challengers to claim victory. Michael Thomas made a late rush to roll home second, and Ayers finished third.

The Virginia Sprint Racing Series featuring open wheel modifieds returns to The Bridge along with the usual five divisions of points racing on Saturdays night. There will also be a kids coloring contest, and general admission will be $15. The gates open at 5 p.m.