HAMPTON, Va. — Championship contenders Greg Edwards and Matt Waltz each picked up a win on Saturday night as they split the Shriners/Max Media Twin 75s for the ComServe/Verizon Wireless Late Model Stock Cars, the featured events of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program at Langley Speedway.
The starting lineup for the first race was determined in afternoon time trials. Nick Smith grabbed the pole position, clocking in at 89.355 mph. Waltz was second-fastest, followed by Edwards, Brandon Gdovic and Brenden “Butterbean” Queen. Fifteen drivers posted times and less than half a second separated the top 14.
As the field circled the track before the first race, Edwards suddenly ducked onto pit road, giving up his third starting spot. He later attributed his unplanned stop to ignition troubles. With the problem solved, he rejoined the tail of the pack for the green flag.
The first try at a start went awry when Bruce Livingston spun in Turn 1, bringing out the yellow flag. The field slowed and bunched for another attempt at getting the race under way.
On the restart, Smith and Waltz battled side-by-side until they reached Turn 2. Motoring off the second corner, Smith surged ahead, while Waltz settled into the runner-up spot.
Only one lap was in the books before the second caution flag appeared as Duane Shreeves and Gdovic tangled at the entrance to Turn 1, collecting Terry Carroll in the process. Gdovic was able to continue, but Shreeves and Carroll saw their nights come to an abrupt end.
Gathering for a restart, Queen broke out of line and pulled alongside Smith. He was joined in the outside lane by Casey Wyatt, Danny Edwards Jr. and Greg Edwards.
Back under green, Smith cleared Queen on the back straightaway. Queen slipped into the second spot, just ahead of Waltz, followed by Wyatt and Connor Hall. Queen’s stay in the runner-up position was short-lived, however, as Waltz scooted past on lap 4. Smith took advantage of the exchange and opened a two-length lead. Soon, though, he had a mirror-full of Waltz.
After stalking Smith for several circuits, Waltz launched a bid for the top spot on lap 9, ducking underneath the leader in Turn 2. Returning to the flagstand, Waltz inched ahead to take the point. Not willing to let the lead go without a fight, Smith poked a fender back under Waltz in Turn 2 on lap 10. Waltz held him him off, gaining the clear-cut edge on lap 11.
Deeper in the field, Greg Edwards was making his way toward the front. After using the outside lane on the restart to move from 13th to seventh, he cracked the top five on lap 7. He snagged fourth from Wyatt on lap 12, then ran down Queen for third on lap 17. By lap 30, he was parked on Smith’s rear bumper.
Edwards nosed ahead of Smith on lap 31 to pick up the second position, clearing him on lap 32. Ahead of them, Waltz padded his margin to five car-lengths, but Edwards was clearly on the move. By lap 47, he had erased the deficit and was hunting for an opening.
Edwards went after the lead on lap 48, powering underneath Waltz in Turns 1 and 2. The two tangled briefly as they prepared to exit Turn 2, though, and Edwards looped his machine, bringing out the third caution flag and relegating him to the rear of the field.
For the ensuing restart, Queen, Gdovic and Danny Edwards Jr. opted for the outside lane.
Back under way, Waltz and Queen tussled through Turns 1 and 2. Spotting an opportunity, Smith charged to the inside of Waltz, creating a momentary logjam at the head of the field. Gdovic got the worst of the exchange as he spun to prompt the fourth yellow flag.
Greg Edwards was eligible to take the outside lane on the next restart and he did just that, lining up third on the high side behind Queen and Edwards Jr.
As the race resumed, Waltz dispensed with Queen off Turn 2 and left the door open for Smith, who moved up to second on lap 49. Queen settled into third, while Edwards emerged from the shuffle in fourth.
On lap 55, Edwards overtook Queen for the third spot. He faced a steep climb, however, as Waltz and Smith had opened a half-straightaway gap on the rest of the field.
Edwards got some assistance in the form of a “friendly” caution flag on lap 60 as Spencer Saunders, making his Late Model debut, spun in Turn 1.
For the next restart, Edwards was first in the outside lane, joined up top by Queen, Mark Wertz and Gdovic.
Back under green, Edwards remained on Waltz’s flank through Turns 1 and 2 and began to ease ahead along the backstretch. He gained firm command of the top spot off Turn 4 and pulled away as Smith stepped up challenge Waltz for second.
The sixth caution flag flew on lap 63 when Wertz spun in Turn 4. Eager to recapture the lead, Waltz chose the outside lane for the restart. Queen, Edwards Jr. and Clayton Parrish also headed to the high side.
Much to the officials’ chagrin, the ensuing restart was a disjointed affair and the last of the race’s seven yellow flags waved to bring the field back under control.
Returning to green, Edwards bolted ahead of Waltz, who also lost positions to Smith and Queen, dropping into a fourth-place scuffle with Wyatt. Waltz quickly regained his footing and pulled in front of Wyatt, then took aim at Queen, moving into third on lap 67.
Meanwhile, at the front, Edwards was cruising toward the checkers. By the finish, his winning margin had grown to nearly a full second over Smith. Waltz was third to the stripe, followed by Queen and Gdovic. Wyatt, Edwards Jr., Wertz, Justin Carroll and Hall rounded out the top 10, while Parrish was 11th, the final driver on the lead lap.
In Victory Lane after his fifth win of the season, Edwards commented on the journey that saw him go back-to-front twice: “Man, that was one long race for a 75-lapper. There at the beginning, I was warming up and I shifted to third and — I don’t know if we’ve got the main kill switch too close to the shifter, but it cut the main kill switch off. I realized what it was and got it fired up and I don’t know if it messed up something in the ignition box. It just wouldn’t run. I came down pit road and played with all the switches and, all of a sudden, it fired back up and went back out there. I didn’t really know how the rules went. I was hoping I could get back where I was, but… The second time, me and Matt were racing hard and he was trying to crowd me down and I needed a little more room and we just bumped tires.”
The lineup for the second race mirrored the finishing order of the first one, putting Edwards and Smith on the front row. Waltz and Queen made up Row 2, while Gdovic occupied the fifth slot.
On the start, Edwards snagged the early lead as he and Smith navigated Turns 1 and 2 on the opening lap. Waltz rushed to fill the void to the inside of Smith, while Gdovic and Queen dueled for fourth.
After giving way to Smith on lap 1, Waltz nosed ahead for second on lap 2. Smith tried to rally on lap 3, but Waltz fended him off. Behind them, Gdovic got the better of Queen and took over fourth.
By lap 10, Edwards had stretched his lead to almost half a straightaway over Waltz, who couldn’t shake Smith. On lap 18, Smith drove underneath Waltz in Turn 4 and grabbed second as they headed down the backstretch on lap 19. Gdovic tried to tag along with Smith, but Waltz maintained the third position.
The only caution flag in the second race appeared on lap 21 when Justin Carroll spun in Turn 2. Preparing for the restart, Waltz, Gdovic and Wertz headed for the outside lane.
After struggling in the early going, Waltz suddenly came to life as the race resumed. He battled door-to-door with Edwards until they reached Turn 4. Edwards pulled ahead and Smith drove underneath Waltz. Rather than accept third place, however, Waltz charged forward, not only dispensing with Smith, but drawing to the outside of Edwards.
Coming around to complete lap 22, Waltz edged ahead of Edwards to take the lead. He cleared Edwards #97 machine off Turn 2 on lap 23.
Edwards tried to rally back to the front on lap 25, dipping beneath Waltz in Turn 1. He couldn’t complete the pass, though, as Waltz’s car was particularly strong about half a groove up from the bottom of the track.
For the next 20 laps or so, Waltz was content to give Edwards an opening down low, knowing that he could generate plenty of momentum off the corner from the higher groove. That cat-and-mouse game lasted until about lap 43 when Waltz began to stretch his advantage.
At the finish, Waltz’s lead had swelled to half a straightaway over Edwards, who came in second. Gdovic was third, followed by Smith. In an entertaining battle, Queen took fifth place, beating back challenges from Wertz and Wyatt. Hall was eighth to the line, while Saunders was ninth, the last driver on the lead lap. Edwards Jr. completed the top 10, a lap down.
Pulling into Victory Lane for the sixth time in 2014, Waltz noted the effectiveness of the high lane: “At that first part, I didn’t know if we’d have anything for ‘em. But, just got up on the outside and could really get good bite off the corner. The car was pretty loose from the first race and I felt like the right-rear tire might’ve been worn out a little bit, but I just got up on the wheel.”
Saturday’s results represented the continuation of a trend. So far, the Late Models have run four doubleheaders with Edwards and Waltz splitting the wins in three of them.
In the evening’s other feature events:
Shawn Balluzzo led all 60 laps to post his third and fourth victories in a pair of 30-lappers for the Larry King Law Modifieds.
Balluzzo started the first race from the pole, at 87.389 mph, and survived six restarts, including four in the last 11 laps, on the way to the checkers.
Jimmy Humblet shared the front row with Balluzzo and held down the runner-up spot for much of the contest. On each of the restarts, he opted for the outside lane, but never could find the bite he needed to overtake the leader.
At the finish, Balluzzo was the winner by 1.314 seconds. Matt Slye was second, followed by Danny Harrell, Brandon Gdovic and Humblet, who slid from second to fifth after the last restart.
The second race was slowed by only two caution flags. After the first one, at lap 3, Balluzzo scampered away from the field, eventually building a full-straightaway advantage. His margin vanished, however, when the other yellow flag flew four laps shy of the finish.
On the final restart, Humblet snagged the second spot from Gdovic and set off after the leader. He was unable to muster a challenge, though, as Balluzzo won by 0.521-second. Gdovic was third, while Harrell and Slye rounded out the top five.
Renno Marchetti IV bagged his first win of the year in a 40-lapper for the Butterfoss & Barton Orthodontics Super Streets, taking the lead from pole starter Sammy Gaita on lap 18.
The event got off to a rough start as outside pole-sitter Randy Akers spun in Turn 3 on lap 1, triggering a multi-car melee. After the rocky beginning, though, the rest of the race was “clean and green.”
Gaita, who qualified at 75.998 mph to claim the pole, set the pace for the first 17 circuits with Marchetti in tow. Nearing the halfway mark, they had pulled away from third-place Sean Calway by half a straightaway.
Exiting Turn 4 on lap 17, Gaita drifted wide and Marchetti pounced on the opportunity, ducking underneath the leader as they began lap 18. The two went side-by-side for almost a full lap with Marchetti nosing ahead in Turn 4.
Over the second half of the event, Gaita never fell more than a couple car-lengths behind Marchetti. Heading for the conclusion, though, it appeared that Marchetti had things well in hand.
With two laps left, slower traffic became a factor and Gaita zeroed in on the leader’s rear bumper. At the white flag, they were separated by only a single car-length.
Off Turn 2 for the final time, Marchetti found a little extra “oomph” and went on to win by 0.454-second — about two lengths. Gaita was second, followed by Bill Eaker, Landon Abbott and John Pereira.
Michael Waters started on the pole, at 75.402 mph, and smoked the field for his second straight win in the 25-lap KeesVacations.com Super Truck race, which ran caution-free.
By the end of the event, Waters’ margin of victory had ballooned to 3.087 seconds — nearly a full straightaway — over Colby Vance, who held the runner-up spot for the duration. Rookie Trevor Battoia was third to the line, followed by Bill Wallace and Jacob Carr.
Chase McAdams, a three-time race winner and the points leader coming into the event, fell off the pace and retired three laps shy of the finish. He ended up sixth and slipped to second in the standings, one point behind Vance.
Eric Schaffer posted his first win in the 25-lap Carroll’s Automotive UCAR feature. He took the lead on lap 2 and held off fast qualifier Justin Fuller (73.675 mph), who couldn’t quite overcome an inversion of the top six.
Richard Ellis started on the pole, but gave way to Kevin Morgan on lap 1 after a brief three-wide joust that also included Schaffer. On lap 2, Schaffer slipped past Morgan for the lead, just ahead of the first caution flag.
After starting sixth, Fuller gained three positions in the first two laps. He continued his charge toward the front on lap 6, swiping second place from Morgan. He closed quickly on Schaffer and spent the rest of the race in the leader’s mirror. At the white flag, Schaffer held a one-length advantage as Fuller sized him up.
In Turn 4 for the final time, Fuller delivered a rap to Schaffer’s rear bumper, hoping to force a mistake. Instead, Schaffer was rock-solid, holding on to win by 0.264-second. Morgan and Ellis tailed the lead duo to the checkers, in third and fourth, respectively, while Nick Gundacker was fifth.
Team PR – The Weekly Racer Photo