Samuel Ramsey snares fourth 2016 Sportsman win at Natural Bridge

natural bridge speedwayAfter having two of its previous three Saturday night shows fall victim to the summer rains, the Natural Bridge Speedway was smiled upon by the racing gods and returned to action on its 3/8-mile banked clay oval Saturday night.

There are nights of racing that end with the flagman rubbing his shoulders after waving the yellow flag dozens of times, as competitors battling for position or mechanical malfunction force the green flag racing to be slowed until the cause for the caution can be addressed.

Last Saturday was not one of those nights. The flagman really did not find himself with a whole lot to do. There was just one solitary caution in four of the five features, allowing long spans of green flag racing. But those single caution flags brought runaway leaders back to the pack for a restart, dreaded by the wheelman who was running away with the race and adored by those who were chasing him.

Pole-sitter Joey Leavell led a field of 14 late model cars to the green flag. He got off to a tremendous start and opened up a lead on Carder Miller, who started second. Leavell confronted slower traffic as early as lap 8 and masterfully cut through the lapped traffic. Debris in turn two brought out the race’s lone yellow on lap 20.

Quick qualifier David Watts, who started eighth in the 12-car field as the previous winner, quietly threaded his way through traffic and was running fourth for the lap 20 restart. Leavell’s start was clean and he was able to open a three=car length lead over Miller, as Watts passed Tim Stalnaker for third. And that’s the order they were greeted by the checkers. Stalnaker and Eric Groah finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The sportsman, street stock and pure stock features mirrored the late model race. Each had a lone caution, and each saw its winner dominate most, if not all, of each 25-lap race.

The 2016 sportsman competition has created an interesting rivalry between brothers Samuel and Aaron Ramsey of Fairfield. Each took the green Saturday night with three wins each this season. Saturday proved to be younger brother Samuel’s night, as he passed Bud Stinson on lap. Samuel, who was also the sportsman quick qualifier, continued to extend his lead until the lone caution came out on lap 19. He roared away on the restart and raced to the checkers his fourth win of the season. Ronnie Martin Jr. and Shad Cooper finished second and third, respectively. Aaron Bryant and Bud Stinson rounded out the sportsman top 5.

The only flag that came out in the pure stock feature was the red one that flew stopping the field before lap 1 was complete, as a car smacked the wall and lost a tire in turn 4. Matt Whitten quickly moved from his third-place starting slot to the lead on lap 1 and never looked back, winning going away. Brandon Link finished second, and Glen Floyd, Bill Ramsey and James Newton, respectively, rounded out the top 5.

The All-American feature quickly turned into a match race between Michael Thomas and Michael Demers, who pulled away from the rest of the field and opened a wide gap by the mid-point of the 20-lap feature. Demers had his nose on Thomas’ back bumper for most of the final two laps, but Thomas was able to withstand Demers’ pressure and win the hardware.

Racing continues Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Natural Bridge Speedway as the season winds down towards its conclusion.

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