HAMPTON, Va. — Matt Waltz eased away from the field in the closing laps and posted his fifth victory of the season in the Aviation Institute of Maintenance 125 for the ComServe/Verizon Wireless Late Model Stock Cars, the headlining event of Saturday evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program at Langley Speedway.
Series points leader Greg Edwards claimed the pole in afternoon qualifying, lapping the .395-mile oval at 89.316 mph. Waltz shared the front row with Edwards, while Nick Smith and Brenden “Butterbean” Queen made up Row 2. Woody Howard lined up in the fifth spot for his first start of the year.
As the race got under way, Edwards bolted ahead of Waltz at the flagstand and took the lead as the field roared into Turn 1 for the first time. Smith moved to the inside of Waltz in a bid for second, but came up just short at the end of lap 1.
Not satisfied with merely hanging onto the runner-up spot, Waltz poked a fender to the outside of Edwards on lap 2. For the first couple of circuits, a decent-sized blanket would’ve covered the top three. They finally sorted out into single file on lap 3 with Edwards out front, followed by Waltz and Smith. Howard emerged in fourth and Mark Wertz overtook Queen to crack the top five.
The first caution flag flew on lap 6 when J.T. Jackson spun in Turn 3. Bunching for the restart, Waltz headed to the outside lane, joined by Queen, Casey Wyatt, Michael Hardin, Danny Edwards Jr. and Brandon Atkinson.
Back under green, to start lap 9, Edwards quickly dispensed with Waltz, who again faced a challenge from Smith. Smith nosed ahead to take second at the end of the lap, but Waltz rallied on lap 10 and reclaimed the position. A lap later, Howard scooted by Smith for third. Caught to the outside, Smith tumbled all the way back to eighth by lap 15.
At the head of the field, Edwards enjoyed a five-length lead over Waltz. Nearly half a straightaway separated the lead duo from third-place Howard.
The second caution flag waved on lap 26 when Clayton Parrish spun in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. Once more, there were several takers for the outside lane as the field prepared for a restart. Heading to the top side were Queen, Smith, Edwards Jr., Harden and Robert Bruce.
The green flag reappeared at the beginning of lap 29. Looking for the lead, Queen put up a good tussle before Edwards pulled ahead on the backstretch. Queen did, however, manage to slip into line in front of Waltz.
The green-flag run came to an abrupt end after just one lap when a multi-car fracas broke out in the middle of the pack. Among those involved were Terry and Justin Carroll, Atkinson and Edwards Jr.
Gathering for what would turn out to be a critical restart, Waltz broke out of line and motored alongside Edwards. Smith, Wyatt, Hardin and Bruce also went to the outside lane.
As the race resumed, on lap 34, Waltz remained door-to-door with Edwards through Turns 1 and 2 and inched out front on the backstretch. He cleared Edwards off Turn 4 and led the procession back to the stripe.
Edwards, though, wasn’t willing to surrender the top spot quite so easily. He poked a fender underneath Waltz in Turn 4 on lap 36. The two continued to joust until they reached the end of the backstretch on lap 37. Entering Turn 3, they briefly scuffled and Edwards looped his machine to bring out the fourth yellow flag.
Setting the running order, Waltz retained the lead, followed by Queen, Howard, Wertz and Wyatt. Getting ready for the restart, to begin lap 45, Howard, Edwards Jr. and Justin Carroll picked the outside lane.
Back under way, Waltz cleared Howard off Turn 2. Howard slipped into line behind the leader, while Queen, Edwards Jr. and Wertz rounded out the top five.
By lap 50, Waltz had eked out a three-length margin over Howard as the top two began to separate themselves from the pack. Behind them, Wertz worked on Edwards Jr. for fourth, snagging the spot on lap 51 and bringing Wyatt along with him. Seven laps later, Wyatt grabbed fourth from Wertz At the halfway mark, Waltz had extended his lead to five lengths over Howard. Enjoying a long green-flag stretch, he continued to add to his advantage as slower machines lurked ahead. Waltz headed into heavy traffic for the first time on lap 80. He broke free on lap 89 with his commanding lead intact.
The next driver in Waltz’s sights was Greg Edwards, who was mired back in the pack after his earlier spin. Waltz overtook Edwards on lap 93, but Edwards’ place on the lead lap was saved when the fifth, and final, caution flag waved for debris on the backstretch.
As the field prepared for what would turn out to be the last restart, third-place Queen, sixth-place Justin Carroll and eighth-place Hardin headed for the outside lane.
Back under green, at lap 102, Waltz and Queen battled until they reached Turn 2. Rolling onto the backstretch, Waltz pulled ahead of Queen, then fought off Howard, who took a quick peek to the leader’s inside.
On lap 103, Queen slipped underneath Howard in Turn 1 and grabbed second off Turn 2. Two laps later, Howard returned the favor, regaining the runner-up spot from Queen, who soon had his hands full with Wyatt.
While his potential challengers tussled among themselves in his mirror, Waltz stretched his lead to five car-lengths and was well on his way to the victory.
At the checkers, Waltz was the winner by nearly half a straightaway — 1.502 seconds, officially — over Howard. Queen was third, holding off Wyatt down the stretch, and Wertz completed the top five.
Terry Carroll headed the second five, in sixth, followed by Greg Edwards, Justin Carroll, Hardin and Danny Edwards Jr. The top 10 finishers were all on the lead lap at the end.
After contending in the early going, Smith made a series of pit stops during the fourth caution period and dropped off the lead lap. He wound up 14th in the final rundown, four laps in arrears.
In Victory Lane after the race, Waltz described his outing and noted Howard’s strong effort: “The car’s just great on long runs and just a balanced, well-handling race car. Gotta give it up to Woody and them guys. They were coming, but I’ve got faith in this 2 car. Definitely a special thanks to my dad, for sure, and all the fathers out there for Father’s Day tomorrow.”
The Late Models will be off next Saturday, June 21, making way for the Visit Hampton VA 175 for NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East. They will return to action in Twin 75s on Saturday, June 28.
In the evening’s other feature events:
Randy Akers and John Pereira picked up a win apiece, splitting Twin 20s for the Butterfoss & Barton Orthodontics Super Streets.
In the opener, Akers started on the pole, at 75.893 mph, and led all the way for his third victory of the season. Meanwhile, Renno Marchetti IV started third and moved up to second when outside pole-sitter Landon Abbott faltered on the initial green flag.
After falling behind by as much as four car-lengths, over the first 10 laps, Marchetti began to chip away at Akers’ advantage. Late in the race, slower traffic became a factor, allowing him to close to within a single car-length. Akers broke into the clear on lap 18, though, and immediately stretched his margin to more than two lengths.
At the end of the caution-free run, Akers was the winner by 0.376-second over Marchetti. Pereira was third, followed by Sammy Gaita and Bill Eaker. In fifth at the white flag, Abbott spun in Turn 3 on the last lap and wound up 11th.
In the nightcap, another caution-free affair, Pereira moved out front on lap 12 and showed the way to his first win of 2014.
By virtue of his win in the first race, Akers started the second race from the pole and led the first 11 circuits. Pereira lined up third on the grid and moved to second on lap 1.
Akers manufactured a three-length edge in the opening laps, but saw that lead shrink as he dealt with slower traffic near the midway point. By lap 11, Pereira had erased Akers’ margin completely.
On lap 12, Pereira ducked underneath Akers at the end of the backstretch and took the lead off Turn 4. Marchetti tagged along and took over second place.
Over the remaining circuits, Pereira and Marchetti thrilled the crowd, going three-wide on a couple occasions to get past slower cars. Coming to the white flag, they were nose-to-tail.
On the final lap, Pereira rocketed away from Marchetti and won by 0.609-second — about three lengths. Marchetti notched his second runner-up finish of the night. Gaita passed Akers on the last circuit to take third. Akers was fourth and Sean Calway came home in fifth.
In the 25-lap Cycle City Corp. INEX Legends race, Chris Hildebrand started from the pole, at 79.180 mph, and stormed to the checkers. It was his third straight win on the track. His May 31 victory has been disallowed by INEX, however, and his June 7 win is currently under review.
After jumping out front on the start, Hildebrand fashioned a large lead in the early going, while Tommy Jackson Jr., Brandon Gdovic and Matt Dail battled for position behind him. By lap 6, he had already driven away by almost half a straightaway.
Jackson held down the runner-up spot for the first 16 laps. On lap 17, Gdovic drove underneath him off Turn 2 and the two headed down the backstretch side-by-side. In Turn 4, Jackson bobbled slightly and Gdovic seized the upper hand.
To have a shot at Hildebrand in the closing laps, Gdovic needed a caution flag. The race stayed “clean and green,” though, and Hildebrand sailed to a whopping 6.364-second win. Gdovic was second, followed by Jackson, Dail and Brian May, who grabbed fifth from Matt Morgan on lap 24.
Justin Fuller overcame an inversion to bag his fourth victory in a 25-lapper for the Carroll’s Automotive UCARs, taking the lead for good on lap 12.
Fuller was the fast qualifier, at 74.132 mph, but spun a “4” on the inversion wheel, dropping him to the outside of Row 2. Courtney Shiflett assumed the pole position, sharing the front row with Kevin Morgan.
On the start, Morgan motored ahead of Shiflett to take the early lead. Jesse Jones IV advanced to second on lap 2. Fuller, meanwhile, slipped to fifth, then began to make his way forward, retaking fourth from Richard Ellis on lap 3.
The first caution flag flew on lap 8. For the ensuing restart, Fuller, Ellis, Nick Gundacker and Ryan Oates picked the outside lane.
Back under green, Morgan and Fuller took off, followed by Jones and Ellis, while Shiflett faltered and dropped to the rear of the field.
The second yellow flag waved on lap 12. During the caution period, Morgan was summoned to the pits for jumping the green flag on the preceding restart, then failing to heed the race director’s orders to surrender the ill-gotten track position, as well as a subsequent black flag. Morgan’s miscue cost him a lap and handed the lead to Fuller.
On the ensuing restart, Fuller quickly dispensed with Ellis, who was on his outside flank, and began to ease away from the pack, joined by Jones.
The last caution flag appeared on lap 14. This time, Ellis, Shiflett, John Matthews, Mike Perkins and Oates chose the outside lane.
As the race resumed, Fuller cleared Ellis in Turn 1. Jones was a bit sluggish as the green flag dropped, but regained his footing and swiped second from Ellis. On lap 16, Ellis slipped in Turns 1 and 2 and gave way to Matthews and Shiflett. Eric Schaffer followed a lap later, knocking Ellis from the top five.
At the head of the field, Fuller was on cruise control, steadily widening his lead over Jones. By the finish, his winning margin had swelled to 1.272 seconds — nearly half a straightaway. Jones was second, followed by Shiflett, Matthews and Schaffer.
Devon Courtney scored his second win in the 15-lap East Coast Synthetics INEX Bandolero feature, taking the lead for good on lap 10.
Trevor Wells started on the pole, at 66.008 mph, but gave way to Courtney on lap 1. Looking for his second straight victory, Zach Lightfoot moved up to second on lap 3, but his effort started to unravel as smoke began trailing from behind his machine.
Smoke and all, Lightfoot bypassed Courtney for the lead on lap 6 as officials kept a close watch. Two laps later, the black flag was displayed for Lightfoot.
Lightfoot remained on the track until lap 10 when the only caution flag waved for Cole Bruce’s spin in Turn 4. As the field slowed, Lightfoot came to the pit lane for repairs, rejoining the tail of the field.
Lightfoot’s misfortune turned the lead back over to Courtney, who led the rest of the way and won by 0.644-second — about four lengths — over Wells. Bradley Wilson was third, followed by D.J. Elzey. Henry Broadbent Jr. was fifth to the stripe, but failed to clear the post-race inspection. Elysia Potter was fifth in the official rundown.
In the evening’s final contest, a 30-lap race for the Bojangles’ Enduros, Dave Wedding drew the pole position and never looked back, rolling to his second straight victory.
Derrick Boggess, who started 13th on the 14-car grid, moved into second place on lap 11. By then, however, Wedding was long gone, winning by better than a full straightaway.
Scotty Buchanan tailed Wedding and Boggess to the stripe, in third, the only other driver to complete the entire distance. Ronald Klein and Robert Perry were fourth and fifth, in that order, both a lap down to the leaders.