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Slye Bags 1st Mod Win; Balluzzo Claims 7th Title

September 29, 2014 • Archives, Other Cars

HAMPTON, Va. — Matt Slye took the lead for good on lap 51 and survived a slew of restarts near the finish to nab his first victory in the Sherwin-Williams 75 for the Larry King Law Modifieds, the featured event of Saturday evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program at Langley Speedway.

Slye claimed the pole position in late afternoon qualifying, lapping the venerable .395-mile oval at 87.459 mph. Taylor Sarkees was second-fastest and shared the front row with Slye. Robbie Babb, Late Model regular Mark Wertz and Danny Harrell rounded out the top five on the 22-car grid.

Shawn Balluzzo entered the race with an 18-point lead over Harrell in the title chase. Engine problems during a mid-week practice session forced him into a borrowed ride, however. He lined up in the seventh spot.

As the race got under way, Slye grabbed the early lead, hauling the field into Turn 1. Sarkees slid back to second, followed by Babb, Wertz and Harrell.

The first caution flag appeared on lap 4 for a five-car tangle in Turn 2. Darrell Vance and Curtis Hughes got the worst of the exchange and were both sidelined for the night.

Lining up for the ensuing restart, Babb and Harrell broke ranks and pulled to the outside lane. They were joined up top by Mason Bailey, Mike Rudy, Jimmy Humblet and Rick Gdovic.

Back under green, Slye and Babb dueled side-by-side with Babb eking out a half-length advantage at the end of lap 4. He cleared Slye in Turn 2 on lap 5. Behind them, Harrell’s title hopes began to sour as smoke began to puff from his machine.

Slye stayed within half a car-length of Babb until lap 12 when the lead stretched his margin to three lengths along the back straightaway.

Before Babb could slip away, though, the second yellow flag flew on lap 15 for another multi-car incident in Turn 3, involving Jon Largena, Rudy, Humblet and Bailey. With the track pretty well blocked, the red flag was displayed as the cleanup crew went to work. The wreck chased Bailey, Humblet and Largena to the pits for the evening.

When the red flag was withdrawn, the field bunched for a restart with Wertz, Gdovic, Joe Scarbrough and Scott Lawrence picking the outside lane.

As the race resumed, Wertz held his ground against Babb and nosed ahead as they returned to the stripe, leading lap 15. He also managed a slim lead on lap 16, but gave way to Babb in Turn 2 on lap 17.
By lap 22, Babb had opened a four-length advantage over Wertz, who was feeling pressure from Slye. On lap 24, Slye regained the runner-up spot with an outside pass down the backstretch. The position swap allowed Babb to add to his lead. Soon, though, he ran up on slower traffic and Slye closed in.

Just past the halfway mark, at lap 39, the third caution flag waved as fourth-place Sarkees spun in Turn 2. Gathering for a restart, Wertz, Gdovic, Rudy and Matt Carter opted for the outside lane.
Back under way, Babb and Wertz went door-to-door until they reached Turn 4. Exiting the corner, Babb gained the clear-cut edge. Slye tagged along and took over second, while Wertz settled into third, followed by Scarbrough and Gdovic.

Within three circuits, Babb had pulled away from Slye by three lengths. That margin quickly vanished, though, and Slye began hunting the point.

Slye launched a bid for the lead on lap 50, ducking underneath Babb in Turn 2. They raced wheel-to-wheel for a lap with Slye pulling ahead on the next lap. Back in the lead, Slye rocketed away from the pack. In only one lap, he had already opened a half-straightaway gap over Babb, who was suddenly struggling to keep pace.

By lap 62, Slye’s advantage had swelled to almost a full straightaway. Ten laps later, he bypassed Balluzzo, lapping the points leader, who was in 10th place.

The fourth yellow flag was unfurled on lap 73 when Sarkees ground to a halt in Turn 2. Balluzzo got the “lucky dog” pass and was waved past the leader, returning to the lead lap. Preparing for a restart, Babb, Carter and Gdovic went to the high side.

Before another lap could be completed, the fifth caution flag flew as Lawrence spun on the backstretch. Again, Babb, Carter and Gdovic occupied the outside lane for the next restart.

Coming to the green flag, seventh-place Rudy slowed in Turns 3 and 4. Meanwhile, at the front, Slye and Babb tussled briefly as they launched off Turn 4 and Babb spun, collecting Eric McPherson in the process and prompting the last of the event’s six yellow flags.

Setting the running order for the final dash to the checkers, Slye was the leader, followed by Wertz, Scarbrough, Carter and Gdovic. Balluzzo was up to sixth. Wertz and Gdovic picked the outside lane for the restart, joined up top by Donnie Holston.

Under green for the last time, Wertz inched ahead of Slye off Turn 2. Slye rallied in Turns 3 and 4, though, regaining control of the event off the fourth corner.

At the finish, Slye was the winner by 0.732-second — about four lengths — over Wertz. Scarbrough was third to the line, while Gdovic and Holston completed the top five. Balluzzo was sixth, followed by Babb, Carter, Rudy and Jack Sharkey. The top 10 finishers were all on the lead lap.

As Slye was beginning his post-race remarks in Victory Lane, he was momentarily distracted as a pushing-and-shoving match broke out between one of his crew members and Babb, who was upset at losing a chance for the win.

When order had been restored, Slye returned to the microphone: “The car was pretty good. I was just biding my time for a while, trying to make sure I didn’t burn the tires off of it. Then, we decided to go ahead and make a move and got out in the lead and put a pretty big lead on those guys. I didn’t want to see those restarts. I don’t know what happened with Robbie, to be honest with you. I wasn’t getting real good restarts and I was just trying to drive the wheels off of it. I think I broke the wheels loose and I think we touched. I really don’t know. I’m sorry that that happened to him, but I’m glad to finally get a win out here.”

While Slye enjoyed his win, Balluzzo was getting his championship celebration under way and in a reflective mood after a trying few days: “The crew did an awesome job. We broke a motor Thursday night and worked our butts off to get this one ready… Just so many emotions. Seven championships is more than I could have ever thought of when I first started doing this. It’s been 29 years now. It’s been a long week. Trust me, it’s been a long week. We blew a motor Thursday night. We borrowed a car (from Wayne Hartley). We fixed this up. We just needed a ride and, then, the car was really good at the end, but I didn’t want to tear it up, so we just finished where we were.”

In the final points tally, pending official verification, Balluzzo ended up with 315 points, 29 more than Harrell.

In the evening’s other feature events:

Rodney Boyd took the lead on lap 35 and sailed to his second straight victory in a 40-lapper for the Pepsi Grand Stocks.

Brandon Hinson was the pole-sitter for the event, clocking in at 79.149 mph. Points leader Mark Frye lined up on the outside of Row 1. Tommy Sweeney and Bubba Johnston made up Row 2, while Michael Waters rounded out the top five on the 10-car grid. Several division regulars were missing in action after last week’s slugfest.

On the start, Hinson leaped into the lead, bringing Sweeney along with him. Frye, who entered the race with a narrow seven-point edge over Sweeney, slipped back to third, followed by Waters and Johnston. Boyd held onto his starting position — sixth — out of the opening shuffle.

The yellow flag made an early appearance, flying on lap 2 when Billy Newman slapped the Turn 4 wall. Bunching for a restart, Boyd and seventh-place Paul Lubno chose the outside lane.

Back under green, Hinson quickly disposed of Boyd, who also gave way to Sweeney before settling into third. Deeper in the pack, Waters and Johnston jousted for fifth with Johnston grabbing the position on lap 8.
Working lap 13, Hinson clung to a one-length advantage over Sweeney. Soon, though, he was afforded some breathing room as Boyd moved up to challenge for second place.
The second caution flag waved on lap 20 when Lubno lost an engine at the end of the backstretch. With the field whittled down to seven survivors, no one opted for the outside lane on the next restart.
As the race resumed, Johnston slipped past Frye for fourth. Immediately, it was evident that Frye was off the pace. Meanwhile, Hinson enjoyed a two-length advantage over Sweeney and Boyd, who had renewed their runner-up battle.
The third caution flag came out on lap 28 when Frye spun in Turn 3, just ahead of Hinson. He was relegated to the rear of the field, but stayed on the lead lap.
Two laps after the next restart, the complexion of the event took a big swing as Hinson suddenly slowed off Turn 2 and Sweeney flashed by, snagging the lead for the first time. Moving into second, Boyd turned up the heat on the new leader.
Boyd tried to root his way underneath Sweeney on lap 34, but was rebuffed. He found success a lap later, though, and moved out front, leaving Sweeney to battle Johnston for second.
The final caution flag was displayed on lap 36 when Sweeney and Johnston tangled in Turn 2. Setting the running order for what would turn out to be the final restart, Boyd was the leader, followed by Jeff Driskill, Frye and Newman. Johnston and Sweeney brought up the rear.

Back under way, Boyd bolted from the pack, while Johnston and Sweeney blasted past Newman and Frye to take over third and fourth. It took them another lap to get around Driskill. By then, Boyd was up by half a straightaway and in the wind.

At the finish, Boyd was the winner by 2.290 seconds over Sweeney, who swiped second on lap 39. Johnston was third, followed by Driskill and Frye.

For Frye, the fifth-place outing was enough to give him the 2014 Grand Stock by four points over Sweeney, 333-329.

Randy Akers started on the pole, at 75.735 mph, and wired the field for his fourth victory of the year in the 50-lap Butterfoss & Barton Orthodontics Super Street race.

Akers grabbed the lead in Turn 1 on the opening lap. Renno Marchetti IV, who started third, tagged along with Akers and moved into second, followed by John Pereira. Landon Abbott and Bill Eaker advanced to fourth and fifth on lap 2, while outside pole starter Sammy Gaita, the points leader, slid back to sixth.

Gaita, who entered the race with a seven-point lead over Marchetti, returned to the top five on lap 4 when Eaker skittered up the track in Turns 1 and 2.

The only caution flag waved on lap 5 when Kevin Morgan ground to a halt in Turn 3. For the ensuing restart, Abbott, Eaker and ninth-place Sean Calway headed to the outside lane.

Returning to green, Akers, Marchetti and Pereira quickly cleared Abbott, who fought off Eaker for fourth. Two laps later, Gaita slipped by Eaker for fifth.

On lap 9, Abbott overtook Pereira for the third spot. Gaita grabbed fourth on lap 12 and left the door open for Calway, who moved into fifth.

At the front, Akers enjoyed a slim edge over Marchetti. Nearing the midway point, though, the margin began to grow as Abbott zeroed in on the runner-up. Meanwhile, Gaita was closing in on the lead trio.
Abbott went after Marchetti for second on lap 28, ducking low off Turn 4. He completed the pass in Turns 3 and 4 on lap 29. The exchange allowed Akers to pad his lead to nearly half a straightaway.

With the laps clicking by, Abbott began to close in on the leader, who was carefully sorting his way through slower traffic. By lap 48, the two were nose-to-tail.

Akers held on over the last two circuits and won by 0.348-second — little more than a car-length — over Abbott. Marchetti was third, followed by Gaita and Calway.

In the final points rundown, Gaita’s fourth-place result was good enough to give him the 2014 Super Street title by six over Marchetti, 320-314.

Landon Florian started on the pole, at 83.338 mph, and led all the way to post his fourth win in a 30-lapper for the KeesVacations.com Pro Sixes.

Trying to rally from a nine-point deficit for his third straight Pro Six title, Florian pulled into the lead through Turns 1 and 2 on the first circuit, motoring ahead of outside pole starter Nelson Moody. By lap 7, Florian was up by six lengths, while Moody, Travis Wall, Steve Williams and points leader Bobby Hall were bumper-to-bumper in his wake.

The first yellow flag flew on lap 14. Back under green, he was challenged on the outside by Wall, who eventually took over second from Moody. Meanwhile, 12th-place starter Cody Carlton had raced his way into the top five.

On lap 17, Hall scooted around Moody for third, leaving the door open for Carlton, Casey Sipe and Williams. A lap later, though, Sipe spun in Turn 2 to bring out the second yellow flag. As the field was slowing, Wall smacked the outside wall, coming to rest in Turn 3 and ending his night.

For the restart, Florian was flanked by Carlton. Back under way, Carlton was no match for Florian, but he did slip in front of Hall to take over second.

Moody’s evening came to an abrupt end on lap 20 when he ended up in the Turn 1 wall, prompting the third caution flag. Bunching for a restart, Hall gave up the third spot and pulled alongside the leader.
When the green flag waved, Florian jumped ahead of Hall, who also gave way to Carlton and Williams, tumbling to fourth.

The fourth, and final, caution flag flew on lap 22 when Debbie Biesecker and Dashe McLaughlin tangled in Turn 4. Again, Hall chose the outside lane for the restart.

Back under green, Florian and Carlton made short work of Hall, who battled off Williams for third. Within three laps, Florian had extended his lead over Carlton to four lengths and was on his way to the win.
At the checkers, Florian was the winner by 1.323 seconds — about six lengths. Carlton was the runner-up, followed by Hall, Williams and Sipe.

In the final Pro Six standings, Hall claimed the 2014 championship by seven over Florian, 222-215.

In the caution-free, 25-lap finale for the KeesVacations.com Super Trucks, Michael Waters started on the pole, at 74.779 mph, and led wire-to-wire for his fourth win.
Waters powered ahead as the field rolled into Turn 1 for the first time. Exiting Turn 2, he immediately stretched his advantage to five lengths over second-place Chase McAdams. By lap 7, the margin had grown to nearly half a straightaway.

Closing in on the halfway mark, McAdams, the division leader, nibbled away at Waters’ lead. He was never able to mount a serious charge, though, as the gap stabilized at 4-5 lengths.

At the end, Waters was the winner by 1.190 seconds over McAdams. Tommy Nixon was third to the line, while rookie standout Trevor Battoia and veteran campaigner Bill Wallace rounded out the top five.
In the final standings, McAdams wrapped up the ‘14 Super Truck title by six points, 192-186, over Jacob Carr, who leapfrogged Colby Vance for second.

Eric Schaffer took the lead for good on lap 16 and led the rest of the way for his second win of the season in the 25-lap Carroll’s Automotive UCAR feature.

Eight-time race winner Justin Fuller qualified on the pole, at 74.513 mph. Already assured of the 2014 UCAR title, he set up another challenge for himself when he pitted during the pace laps, returning at the tail of the 13-car field.

Fuller’s retreat handed the prime starting spot to Courtney Shiflett and she took advantage, edging ahead of Schaffer to take the lead on lap 1. On lap 2, though, she came under attack as Schaffer drove to her outside, while Jesse Jones IV ducked low.

Jones emerged from the scrum with the lead on lap 3, while Schaffer slipped up the track and fell to fifth. He quickly righted the ship, however, regaining third on lap 5.
After caution flags on laps 7 and 8, the field bunched for a restart with Jones in the lead and Schaffer lined up to his outside.

Back under green, Schaffer got the drop on Jones and led into Turn 1. His first stay at the front lasted just two laps as Jones retook the top spot on lap 10. Meanwhile, Fuller was making steady progress toward the front and snagged second from Schaffer on lap 14.

The third caution flag appeared on lap 16. For the first time, Fuller chose the outside lane. The bid didn’t pay off, though, as Schaffer, restarting behind Jones, made a banzai run into the first corner to regain the lead. Amidst the commotion, Fuller slid to fifth before beginning his final rally.

Nearing the finish, Schaffer was out front, followed by Jones, Shiflett and Fuller. Their cruise to the checkers was interrupted, however, by the fourth, and final, caution flag, which appeared on lap 23.
For the last restart, Fuller pulled to the outside of Schaffer. Back under way, Schaffer gained the upper hand into Turn 1 as the top two bolted from the pack.

Fuller seemed to be setting up Schaffer for a last-lap pass and, sure enough, he pulled the trigger as they roared into Turn 3 for the final time, ducking to the inside of the leader.

A bobble in Turn 4 proved to be Fuller’s undoing, though, as Schaffer held on to win by a car-length — 0.228-second, to be exact. Jones tailed Schaffer and Fuller to the line, in third, followed by Shiflett and Thomas Marks.

In the final points tally, Fuller won the title by 34 over Jones, 357-323.

With a drafting boost from Ryan Hudgins, Matthew Leach took the lead off the final corner and scored his second win in a 20-lap contest for the Rhonnda Claiborne, Realtor HRKC Pro Winged Champ Karts.
Shawn Gervais started on the pole, at 62.804 mph, and set the pace for the first eight circuits with Charlie-Ray Lorah and Harry Leach in tow.

Beginning lap 9, however, Gervais suddenly slowed into Turn 1 and pulled to the high side of the track, waving everyone else on by. Lorah took over the top spot, followed by Harry Leach and Tyler Stallings.
Passing the halfway mark, a second draft emerged. Matthew Leach headed that pack with Hudgins and Josh Ayer pushing him along. They were nearly half a straightaway down to the lead trio.

The Leach/Hudgins/Ayer combination was a strong one and they quickly closed in on the leaders. By lap 16, the gap had been erased.

On lap 17, Matthew Leach bypassed Stallings and Harry Leach to move into second, while Hudgins tagged along and advanced to third.

With the white flag in the air, Matthew Leach and Hudgins abandoned Lorah in Turn 3, swinging to the outside and surging ahead off Turn 4.

At the stripe, Matthew Leach was the winner by 74-thousandths of a second over Hudgins. Lorah was third and clinched the 2014 Champ Kart crown. Stallings and Ayer completed the top five.

In the evening’s final race, a 30-lap joust for the Bojangles’ Enduros, Derrick Boggess muscled out front on the last circuit and came away with his third victory of the season.
Boggess drew the pole and paced the first 23 laps. Meanwhile, points leader Dave Wedding, who started seventh, moved into second on lap 8 and set off after the leader.

Helped by slower traffic, which hindered Boggess’ progress, Wedding took the lead on lap 24. Coming into the event, Wedding held a slim, one-point lead over Boggess in the series standings.
The last of the race’s two red flag stoppages occurred on lap 29 with Wedding up by two car-lengths in the middle of Turns 3 and 4. Officials decided that, on the ensuing restart, the leaders would simultaneously take the green and white flags, meaning a one-lap shootout was in the offing.

Under green for the final time, Boggess made a hard charge to the inside of Wedding as they reached Turn 1. The two made heavy contact and Boggess motored ahead.
At the finish, Boggess was the winner, followed by Wedding, Richard Quinn, Jesse Jones IV and Dustin Cisco.

In the final points tally, Boggess and Wedding both ended up with 202 points. The championship nod went to Wedding, though, based on his 4-3 edge in race wins.

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