HAMPTON, Va. — Greg Edwards picked up his second and third victories of the season with a sweep of the Courtyard by Marriott Twin 65s for the ComServe/Verizon Wireless Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining events of Saturday evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program at Langley Speedway.
The lineup for the first 65-lapper was determined in afternoon time trials. Edwards claimed the pole position, qualifying at 89.428 mph. Two-time national champion Lee Pulliam was second-fastest, just 76-thousandths of a second off Edwards’ pace. Tyler Hughes, Nick Smith and Connor Hall rounded out the top five on the 16-car grid.
As the opener got rolling, Edwards leaped out front to take the early lead. Hughes scrambled to fill the void left by Edwards and came away with the runner-up spot. Pulliam dropped back into third, followed by Smith and Hall. The exchange allowed Edwards to build a four-car-length advantage.
On lap 6, Hall ducked to the inside of Smith along the frontstretch and snagged the fourth position as they entered Turn 3. Meanwhile, Edwards, Hughes and Pulliam had driven away by half straightaway.
Smith slipped back around Hall on lap 14 to retake fourth. On the next lap, Pulliam went after Hughes in a bid to regain second.
The race’s only yellow flag appeared on lap 16 when Hughes and Pulliam got together in Turn 2, sending Hughes for a hard ride into the outside wall, bringing his race to an abrupt end. The incident prompted a red-flag delay for cleanup.
Gathering for a restart, Edwards, Pulliam, Smith, Hall and Brenden “Butterbean” Queen held the top five spots. Pulliam and Queen, though, broke ranks and pulled to the outside lane, joined up top by Mark Wertz, Justin Carroll and Terry Carroll.
Back under green, Edwards and Pulliam battled door-to-door with Edwards gaining the clear-cut edge as they returned to the flagstand. Pulliam settled back into second, followed by Smith, Queen and Wertz. On lap 22, Wertz scooted past Queen on the backstretch to take fourth.
Passing the halfway mark, Edwards had fashioned a three-length gap at the head of the field, while half a straightaway separated second-place Pulliam from Smith, who saw Wertz growing larger in his mirror.
On lap 46, Wertz ducked underneath Smith off Turn 4. He pulled into the second position on the next circuit as he and Smith motored onto the back straightaway. As Wertz drove away, Queen moved up to challenge for fourth. He tailed Smith until lap 52 when he rooted him up the track in Turn 4 and slipped by. Smith tried to return the favor on lap 53, but couldn’t overtake Queen.
Back at the front, Edwards’ lead over Pulliam had swelled to better than half a straightaway. With the yellow flag remaining under wraps, he was well on his way to the win.
At the checkers, Edwards was the winner by 3.057 seconds over Pulliam. Wertz was third to the line, followed by Queen and Hall, who overtook Smith for fifth on lap 61. Smith was sixth, while Danny Edwards Jr., Terry Carroll, Michael Hardin and Casey Wyatt completed the top 10. Justin Carroll was 11th, the final driver on the lead lap.
In Victory Lane after the race, Edwards recounted his effort: “The car was pretty good. We were still fighting a little problem with the car, but I think everyone else is struggling worse with it. We’re gonna make a little adjustment. It’s not bad. I hit something early, about three laps into it. I don’t know if it was a piece of lead or something down in Turns 1 and 2. It had me concerned ‘cause it was making some weird noise underneath the car. I was kinda concerned about it, but this car just ends up in Victory Lane. This car is fast.”
The starting order for the second feature mirrored the finishing order of the first, putting Edwards and Pulliam back on the front row.
As the nightcap got under way, Edwards and Pulliam dueled side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 with Edwards pulling ahead down the backstretch. Behind them, Wertz and Queen were door-to-door for third. Queen nosed in front of Wertz on lap 2 and cleared him into Turn 3 on lap 3. The battle allowed Edwards and Pulliam to get away by nearly half a straightaway.
The first caution flag waved on lap 6 when Duane Shreeves, Cameron Bowen and Macy Causey piled up in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. The field was brought to a halt on the frontstretch as the red flag was displayed. The accident spelled the end of the night for all three drivers.
Pulliam opted for the outside lane on the ensuing restart and kept pace with Edwards until they reached Turn 2. Edwards gained the upper hand off the corner, leaving Pulliam to tussle with Queen for second. Pulliam took the spot at the flagstand, while Danny Edwards Jr. moved up to challenge Queen for third.
Edwards Jr. inched ahead of Queen at the end of lap 7. In Turns 1 and 2 on lap 8, though, the two made contact, sending Edwards Jr. into the outside wall and bringing a sudden halt to a promising outing.
On the restart, Greg Edwards quickly dispensed with Pulliam, who again chose the outside lane. Wertz drove underneath Pulliam, initiating a joust for second place. The two went side-by-side until lap 10 when Pulliam pulled ahead. Edwards took advantage of the scuffle and stretched his lead to five car-lengths.
Free from his battle with Wertz, Pulliam looked to close in on the leader. He enjoyed little success, though, as Edwards maintained a consistent four-length margin. At the midway point, Edwards and Pulliam were nearly a full straightaway up on third-place Wertz.
The leaders began their first serious foray into slower traffic on lap 43. Edwards emerged three laps later, his advantage having grown to half a straightaway over Pulliam.
That healthy margin was wiped out, however, when the last of the race’s three caution flags flew on lap 50 as Terry Carroll ground to a stop in Turn 2.
Lining up for what would turn out to be the final restart, Pulliam chose to remain on Edwards’ rear bumper. Wertz, who had given way to Hall on lap 47, went to the high side, along with Hardin. Queen, meanwhile, “lucky-dogged” his way back onto the lead lap.
Returning to green, Wertz scooted ahead of Pulliam to take over second, then made a hard charge at Edwards through Turns 3 and 4. Edwards and Wertz went at it until lap 52 when Edwards regained command. As he drove away, Pulliam set his sights on Wertz.
Pulliam reclaimed the runner-up position on lap 57. While he and Wertz fought for second, though, Edwards had his machine in the wind, extending his lead to half a straightaway.
Back in the pack, positions continued to change hands in the closing circuits. Hall slipped Wertz for third on lap 59 and Queen got the better of Hardin to return to the top five on lap 63.
At the finish, Edwards was the winner by 2.726 seconds over Pulliam. Hall was third, followed by Wertz and Queen. Hardin came home in sixth, while Justin Carroll and Wyatt were seventh and eighth, respectively, the final drivers to complete the entire distance. Smith was ninth, a lap down, while Terry Carroll was credited with 10th.
After crashing out of the first race, Hughes borrowed Dean Shiflett’s ride for the nightcap and ended up with an 11th-place finish.
Rolling back into the winner’s circle, Edwards noted the challenge he received on the last restart: “Mark (Wertz) got on the inside of me that one run. He made a heckuva run. I thought he had us ‘cause I didn’t know what kinda car he had and he got underneath of me and I just got on the top and tried to stay smooth and we were able to get back by him. The adjustments we made between the two races, it did help the car, so at least we know the right direction to go. So, the car was better in the second race than it was in the first. I gotta put my hat off to Lee Pulliam for coming down here and running as well as he did. I was running as hard as I could that whole race and he just kept hanging in there. They kept calling me, ‘Two car-lengths. Two car-lengths.’ I just couldn’t get away from him. Finally, at the very end, I think maybe his car gave up a little bit and ours just kept on digging.”
Asked about the importance of tire management during the event, Edwards said, “Yeah, that’s definitely some of it. I didn’t have to race quite as hard. I mean, I was running hard, but I was trying not to spin the tires, trying not to drive in the corner too hard, so I think that was part of it and just keep hitting my lines. I mean, as many times as I’ve been around here, you’d think I could do that.”
-Langley Speedway Press Release & Photo