Chris “Showstopper” Fleming hadn’t visited Victory Lane at Bowman Gray Stadium for a year and a half leading into Saturday night, but he left little doubt that he deserved to be back as he led wire-to-wire in winning the Crazy Kevin Powell Motorsports Modified 100 at the famed bullring.
Fleming, driving Crab Smith’s #16 as opposed to his typical #13, started up front thanks to a full-field random draw that erased his mid-pack qualifying effort and vaulted him to pole position. It still seemed his work might be cut out for him as six-time Bowman Gray champ Burt Myers would start on outside pole.
Fleming got away on the start though and left Myers to battle Brandon Ward for the majority of the race. Ward, who had initially been flagged the winner in last week’s season opening Hayes Jewelers 200 before a scoring review showed he had wrongly been given a lap back, showed no ill effects from the controversy as he was graceful in pre-race ceremonies and ran an excellent race Saturday.
Myers and Ward would swap seconds a few times in a race that was very clean, seeing just a pair of cautions for single car spins and then a yellow for debris on the track. Their battle let Fleming get away, though Myers would make one valiant run in the closing laps. He cut the deficit to Fleming down to a single carlength with ten laps to go, but simply seemed to use up too much of his equipment to catch back up as Fleming built a three carlength margin back by the checkered.
It was Fleming’s first victory at “The Madhouse” since August 2014, resulting in a very jubilant Victory Lane celebration. It was his 8th career victory in the Modifieds.
“I have to thank Crab Smith. Crab has been like a brother to us and I appreciated the opportunity to come drive his car”, said Fleming after receiving a roar of approval from the crowd. “His car is flawless. I hope to run it in all the one hundred lappers. I loved that Rahmoc engine. I’ve never seen anything pull like that in a race.”
There was a tinge of sadness though amidst the joy as Fleming dedicated the win to his family pastor, Rusty Reed, who endured a family tragedy over the week.
“I was thinking about him during this race. I wanted to win so bad for him. He’s lost two sons in the last five months now and this race is for him.”
Behind Myers and Ward at the finish were Bo Bo and Jonathan Brown. Tim Brown set fast time earlier in the evening in qualifying, but drew a mid-pack spot and was never really able to burst from the pack to contend. He did share a bit of good news with the crowd before the race though as he announced he and his wife after expecting their first child.
“I can’t believe it, I’m turning 50 soon,” said a smiling Brown. “Never thought this would happen to me, but I’m excited to see what will happen.”
The most popular win of the night when to Taylor Robbins. The female driver captured her first career Street Stock victory with a convincing triumph in the 20-lapper. Next Saturday the Stadium will roar back to life with the Street Stocks going fifty laps and the Modifieds racing their first twin 25 lappers of the season.
— Story & Photos by Tim Quievryn // 51’s Third Turn // @thethirdturn