LUCAMA, NC – Chris Chapman snapped a near two-year winless drought at Southern National Motorsports Park on Saturday afternoon, holding off Andrew Grady in a thriller in the Easter Bunny 100.
Rusty Daniels won the first segment of the race while Chapman was biding his time. In the second segment, Chapman made the move, taking the lead on the 41st overall lap of the race and holding off numerous challenges from Daniels and Grady. The win was Chapman’s first since April 2016.
“It’s been about a year since we won one out here,” Chapman said in victory lane. “We had a couple seconds out here last year. These guys dug deep over the winter. Wendell Davis gives me the best cars. Sometimes, I don’t know if it’s driver or what. This thing was on a rail today.”
In the final 40 lap segment, Chapman held off a hard charging Andrew Grady. Grady closed in to within a half car-length, but Chapman was able to hold him off on the restarts and drive away in the final laps.
“Sometimes, you don’t want to wear [tires] down because you don’t know when you’re going to have a caution,” Chapman explained. “You try to go hard and save all you can too. So that’s pretty much what it was.”
Grady wanted to win the race and the race played out like he had hoped, but he had to settle for second. Grady took his second-place finish in stride as something to build on throughout the season.
“We had a plan and we played it perfectly,” Grady said. “We saved the right-rear really well. Chapman man, love racing him with. He’s real fun to race with. We just got a little snug towards the end. That’s where he beat us at. We’re going to be running for the championship here this year. It’s going to come down to me and him. They know we were here, that’s what matters.”
Grady was within striking distance in the final laps but was not close enough to make a clean pass for the win. While he could have divebombed the corner or taken Chapman out, Grady said that’s not how he races with a competitor he has respect for like Chapman.
“If I would have dove in there two car-lengths deeper, I could have rooted him,” Grady remarked. “I’m not going to do that to Chris. I don’t race like that. Some other people, I would have raced like that but with Chris, I love racing with him. He’s a great guy, always races me clean. We always race hard together. We’ll come back in a week or two and hopefully we’ll be up there one more.”
Paul Williamson quietly snuck into the third position in the final handful of laps for one of his best career finishes.
“We didn’t win but I call it a win because we came from the back and fought all the way back up,” Williamson said. “Our car was tight but we were able to work with it during the race.”
Rusty Daniels won the race’s first stage and ended up finishing fourth while Wayne Goss methodically raced his way to a fifth-place finish. The race was slowed by a number of cautions late as paint was traded in the middle of the pack.
Sibling Showdown in Legends
Caleb Day scored the win in a barnburner for the Legends division. Much of the race was a battle between Caleb and his younger sister Emily Day. Emily passed Caleb after a mid-race restart and appeared to be on her way to her first Legend Car win in only her second start, but Caleb got back around her in the final laps and went on to win.
“I don’t know if it was as fun as it was stressful,” Caleb Day said in victory lane. “I thought I had a pretty good car until that caution came out and we didn’t hit on much after that caution. I wasn’t going to push the topic with her. Me and her, I don’t know, third or fourth Legends race, I just let her go on. You could tell she’s got a little work to do, same as me. I hate her and Stancil got together and sent her to the rear. She had a second-place car before the caution and just as good a car after the caution. It was a good day and at least we didn’t tear anything up.”
Emily Day was running second on the last lap but was involved in an incident with Chris Stancil which sent the race into overtime. Caleb Day held off Eric Courtney and Kade Lambert for the win.
“It’s a good way to start the year off,” Caleb remarked. “We started running dirt Legends and been messing around with that and we decided to come back and try it since we were going to be down here anyway. We had fun, it was good.”
Emily Day ended up finishing fourth while Aaron Crumpler finished fifth.
AJ Sanders Goes 2-0 in Mini-Stocks
AJ Sanders was once again victorious in the Mini-Stock feature, racing his way from worst to first and besting Ronnie “Buckshot” Jones and Brandon Clements to score the win.
“I had a lot of determination,” Sanders said. “A lot of fans don’t know what went on but we put two new rights on after qualifying because everybody else had put them on before qualifying. We had a little bit of a gentlemen’s agreement that we were all going to run used tires, then when they put new ones on, it kind of pissed me off. I went and put two new ones on and they said someone was complaining, so I said okay and we’ll go to the rear and make a show for the fans.”
It was a show indeed. With 13 laps to go, Sanders battled side-by-side with Clements for the lead, but Clements would prevail in the battle which also allowed Jones to get around to take the second spot. Jones then took the lead from Clements with 11 laps remaining. Just three laps later, Sanders would get around Jones and hold on for the win – his second of the season at Southern National.
“I knew I had a little fast car than [Jones] did and had to calm back down and hit my marks,” Sanders explained. “That’s what we did, hit our marks. I’ve got to thank the good Lord above for a safe race. About lost it down there underneath Brandon. It felt like I hit oil or something. Maybe I just drove in too hard.”
Jones finished in the runner-up spot while Clements, James Stroud and Joseph Pittman rounded out the top-five.
Jake Garcia led wire-to-wire in the 35 lap USAC Eastern Midgets race, scoring the win over Neil Allison and Nolan Allison, Parker Frazier scored the win in the 25 lap Bandolero race over Cameron Murray and Ethan Johnson, and Mike Parrish picked up the win over Chris Hales and Dakota Tomlinson in the 15 lap Any Car feature.
Southern National Motorsports Park will be back in action on Saturday, April 14th for the Whelen Engineering Spring Fling. The Spring Fling will be headlined by twin 75 lap races for the Late Model Stock Car division and also features the Chargers for 40 laps, Mini-Stocks for 35 laps, Legends for 20 laps, Bandoleros for 20 laps and Any Cars for 15 laps.
For more information about Southern National Motorsports Park, check out SNMP’s website at www.snmpark.com, “like” Southern National Motorsports Park on Facebook or “follow” @SNM_Park on Twitter.
-Southern National Motorsports Park Press Release
-Photo credit: Southern National Motorsports Park