Pepsi- Courtyard by Marriott Night At The Races April 12th 2014
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
& NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
at Langley Speedway - Hampton, VA
Saturday, April 12, 2014
HAMPTON, Va. (Apr. 12) — Defending series champion George Brunnhoelzl III of West Babylon, N.Y., moved out front for good on lap 142, then held on at the end to win the Courtyard by Marriott/Pepsi 150 for NASCAR’s Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the featured event of Saturday evening’s racing program at Langley Speedway.
Making his Langley debut, Ryan Preece scorched the track in qualifying, circling the venerable speedplant at 97.145 mph to set a new record. He shared the front row with current points leader Andy Seuss. Danny Bohn and Brunnhoelzl made up Row 2, while J.R. Bertuccio launched from the fifth spot.
As the race got under way, Preece and Seuss battled wheel-to-wheel into Turn 1. Preece was unable to gain the clear-cut edge and Seuss carried enough momentum off the high side to take the lead as they sped down the backstretch. Preece settled into second, followed by Bohn, Brunnhoelzl and Bertuccio.
On the second circuit, Bertuccio slipped ahead of Brunnhoelzl for fourth, while, a lap later, Preece overtook Seuss to return to the point.
The first yellow flag waved on lap 4 when Bobby Measmer Jr. spun in Turn 2.
On the double-file restart, Preece quickly dispensed with Seuss, surging out front before they reached Turn 1. Deeper in the field, fan favorite Burt Myers was in the outside groove and threatening to crack the top five. A slip in Turn 2 on lap 12, though, dropped Myers back to 10th.
The second caution flag appeared on lap 19 when Gary Putnam spun up to the outside wall in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. During the caution period, Myers twice came to the attention of his crew and rejoined the rear of the field.
Back under green, Preece and Seuss maintained the top two spots, while Bertuccio and Brunnhoelzl bypassed Bohn to take over third and fourth. On lap 30, Brunnhoelzl nosed ahead of Bertuccio to snag third.
At the head of the field, Preece’s advantage waxed and waned. At times, Seuss would pull right up on his rear deck. Unable to take the lead, though, he would fall back two or three car-lengths and prepare for another charge. Meanwhile, Brunnhoelzl enjoyed a front-row seat for the lead battle.
The third caution flag flew on lap 53 when Jason Myers spun in the middle of Turns 1 and 2.
When the race resumed, Seuss was a bit more assertive, remaining on Preece’s outside flank for more than a lap. Preece led the 58th circuit by half a length, finally clearing Seuss through Turns 1 and 2 on lap 59.
Seuss was far from done, however. On lap 61, he ducked under Preece off Turn 4 and returned to the top of the leaderboard on lap 62. Spotting an opportunity, Brunnhoelzl seized on the opening to the inside of Preece and picked up second place.
Working in nose-to-tail formation, Seuss and Brunnhoelzl soon began to distance themselves from Preece, setting up what would become the lead battle all the way to the finish.
As lap 75 went in the books, the field received the crossed flags, signifying the halfway mark. After everyone had passed beneath the flagstand, the fourth yellow flag was unfurled and the field was directed down the pit lane for a short intermission.
Lining up for the start of the second half, Seuss and Brunnhoelzl made up the front row, while Preece and Bertuccio were in Row 2. Bohn ran fifth, followed by Joe Ryan Osborne, David Calabrese and Luke Fleming. Former Langley Mod standout Thomas Stinson was ninth and Burt Myers was 10th.
Back under way, Seuss and Brunnhoelzl jousted side-by-side until they reached the end of the backstretch. Heading into Turn 3, Seuss pulled ahead. Meanwhile, Preece held on to third and rode a couple car-lengths behind the lead duo.
Brunnhoelzl followed in Seuss’ tire tracks until lap 85 when he dropped low along the backstretch and swept into the lead for the first time. Behind them, Bohn overtook Bertuccio for fourth. On the next circuit, Bertuccio gave up another spot, this time to Fleming.
Once out front, Brunnhoelzl seemed ready to check out on the field. By lap 90, he had driven away by five car-lengths, the largest lead anyone had enjoyed all night. A similar gap separated Seuss and third-place Preece. Deeper in the pack, Fleming had closed in on Bohn and was on the hunt for fourth.
Passing lap 100, Seuss began to come to life again. With Brunnhoelzl having to deal with the occasional lapped machine, Seuss was able to cut into his margin. By lap 110, the two were nose-to-tail, while Preece had fallen a straightaway back.
With the green-flag laps continuing to click by, the field became more strung out around the track, meaning the leaders were almost constantly having to deal with traffic. Seuss remained firmly planted on Brunnhoelzl’s bumper as they navigated around the speedway.
The green-flag run came to an end on lap 135 when Jason Myers spun in Turn 3, prompting the fifth caution flag.
On the restart, Seuss jumped the green flag and shot ahead of Brunnhoelzl as they reached the flagman. Brunnhoelzl showed his displeasure by delivering a sharp rap to Seuss’ rear bumper in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. Perhaps sensing that a black flag might be in his near future, Seuss backed off on lap 142 and Brunnhoelzl returned to the lead. In its post-race summary, NASCAR did not credit Seuss with leading laps 140 and 141.
The last of the race’s six caution flags fluttered on lap 144 when Putnam spun in Turn 4. Lining up for the final restart, Brunnhoelzl and Seuss ran 1-2, followed by Calabrese and Fleming, who had both come on strong in the closing stages, while Preece had slipped to fifth.
Circulating under the yellow flag, the field reached the 150-lap mark as the flagman signaled “one to go,” meaning that a “green-white-checkered” sprint was in the offing.
Coming to the final green flag, Brunnhoelzl was in no mood to play around with Seuss and he bolted ahead of the pack, pulling away by two or three lengths before they reached Turn 1. Seuss rallied, though, and the two leaders were nose-to-tail as the white flag went in the air.
For Seuss, however, that’s where the charge fizzled out as Brunnhoelzl eked out a slim advantage over the final circuit and won by just over two-tenths of a second — about a car-length. Calabrese, Fleming and Preece rounded out the top five.
Burt Myers headed up the second five, in sixth, while Measmer and Osborne were seventh and eighth, the final drivers to complete the entire distance. Jason Myers and Putnam rounded out the top 10, both a lap in arrears.
Among the early front-runners, Bertuccio faded to a 12th-place finish, two laps down, while Bohn retired with mechanical problems after 125 circuits, winding up 15th.
Arriving in Langley’s Victory Lane for the first time in his fourth try, Brunnhoelzl noted the accomplishment: “This was one of the tracks we hadn’t won at, so it’s great to finally end up in Victory Lane. We’ve struggled for a few years here. Last year, had a good car and, this year, had a great car.”
Asked about the battle with Seuss, which occupied most of his evening, Brunnhoelzl said, “It was fun. I mean, that’s what racing’s supposed to be. One guy runs away with the show, it’s not a great show for the fans and it’s not fun for the drivers, so it’s fun when you’re mixing it up. Hopefully, we put on a good show for the fans.”
Questioned about adjustments his team may have made at the halfway break, the race winner commented, “We really didn’t make any drastic changes. The car was feeling real good. I was really just riding and saving what I had, so that after the break, we could really use what we had.”
When the topic of a potential fifth series title was raised, Brunnhoelzl demurred, saying, “That’s way far away. I just want to win some more races.”
While Brunnhoelzl celebrated his series-best 21st career win, second-place Seuss was stewing over the last couple of restarts: “NASCAR said what I did was wrong, but I seen it again and it was OK. They gotta get their act together. We got something pulled on us in South Boston last week, but we were able to overcome. It’s frustrating. They need to get this restart rule together, but Georgie had an awesome car and he got the lead early and wanted to set the pace, so those guys earned it. We were right there. We were real close. At the end, I think it came down to track position. Y’know, we were equally as good.”
Commenting on the his battles with Brunnhoelzl and, earlier, Preece, Seuss offered, “I think we were all just kinda sizing each other up the first half and me and Georgie had a heckuva race. It’s a lot of fun racing a clean driver like him. We got to beat and bang, but we were all pointed in the right direction, so it’s a good race. It’s bittersweet to come home second, but we’ll work on it and we’ll get it back at Caraway.”
Coming into Saturday’s Courtyard by Marriott/Pepsi 150 at Langley, Calabrese’s best finish in 13 career starts had been a pair of 11ths, so to say he was excited with his third-place outing would be an understatement: “Coming from not finishing races last year to coming to the first three races this year and having problems and whatnot, to come out here and save our stuff and we were at the end. I just waited and waited and waited for everybody to burn their stuff up and I just drove on past everybody and ended up third.”
In the series standings, Seuss, the only two-time winner this year, remained in first place with 179 points. Brunnhoelzl leapfrogged Bertuccio and took over second, just five points behind Seuss. Bertuccio slid to third, followed by Burt Myers and Fleming.
As Seuss noted, the series will be heading to Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C., for next Saturday’s Bunny Hop 150. The Southern Mods will return to Langley on Saturday, Aug. 30, for what has become their traditional Labor Day weekend event.
In the evening’s other feature events:
Sidelined by health issues for a good chunk of the 2013 campaign, six-time champ Shawn Balluzzo opened the 2014 Larry King Law Modified season with a vengeance, wiring the field to post the win.
Balluzzo was quickest in time trials, at 90.006 mph, to nab the pole position. Jimmy Humblet lined up on Balluzzo’s outside flank, while Robbie Babb and Jon Largena made up Row 2. Late Model regular Mark Wertz and Mike Rudy occupied Row 3.
After a misfire on the first try at a start, the event got rolling and Balluzzo leaped into the lead. Humblet settled into second, followed by Babb, Rudy and Danny Harrell.
The race was interrupted by five more yellow flags, at laps 3, 10, 11, 26 and 44, prompting officials to begin scoring the caution laps to help the event along to the conclusion.
On the restarts following the second, third and fourth caution flags, Rudy opted to break out of line and pull alongside Balluzzo. He was unable to make any headway, though, as Balluzzo and Humblet quickly motored ahead of him.
After the fifth yellow flag, Rudy again headed for the outside lane. This time, he was rewarded as he slipped in line on Balluzzo’s bumper, taking over the runner-up spot.
With caution laps counting, the final yellow flag pushed the event past the scheduled 50-lap distance and set up a “green-white-checkered” dash.
As the field bunched for the last restart, Humblet turned the tables on Rudy and motored up alongside Balluzzo. The gamble paid off as he retook second place when the green flag waved.
At the finish, Balluzzo was the winner by 0.276-second — about a car-length — over Humblet. Rudy was third, while Harrell and Scott Lawrence completed the top five.
For Babb, the 2013 champ, the new campaign got off to an inauspicious start as he tangled with a lapped machine on lap 10, collecting Wertz in the process. While Wertz was sidelined, Babb tried to continue, but he completed only one more lap before calling it a night, ending up 13th.
In the Pepsi Grand Stock feature, Mark Frye started on the pole, at 79.879 mph, and led 39 of the 40 laps to take the victory.
After qualifying eighth in the 13-car lineup, Mark Claar moved up to fifth in the first two laps, then inserted himself into the lead battle by choosing the outside lane on a restart at lap 3.
Returning to green, Claar bolted ahead of Frye and led lap 3 by half a car-length. Frye rallied on lap 4, though, and regained the top spot, bringing Tommy Sweeney along with him, to second.
While Frye showed the way, Claar continued to spar with Sweeney until lap 22 when he grabbed the spot for good. The exchange allowed Frye to pad his lead to four lengths.
The final 11 laps were interrupted by a pair of caution flags, at laps 29 and 33. On both restarts, Frye, Claar and Sweeney were able to fight off challengers in the outside lane to retain the top three positions.
Nearing the finish, Claar remained within striking distance until lap 38 when Frye suddenly opened a three-length lead along the backstretch. Claar battled back, though, cutting the gap to just a car-length at the white flag.
As Claar mounted his charge, Frye dug in his heels and pulled away. At the checkers, Frye was the winner by 0.449-second — nearly three lengths. Claar was second, while Sweeney, Rodney Boyd and Ritchie German rounded out the top 10.
Landon Florian began his quest for a third straight KeesVacations.com Pro Six title in fine style, leading the final 26 laps of a 30-lapper to bag the victory.
Nelson Moody was the pole-sitter, at 84.987 mph, and set the pace for the first four circuits, leading up to the first caution flag. On the restart, Florian gave up his fourth spot in line and pulled alongside Moody.
Back under green, Moody cleared Florian as they passed the flagstand. Florian changed lanes on the backstretch, though, and dipped underneath Moody at the entrance to Turn 3, taking over the top spot at the line. Bobby Hall and Travis Wall tagged along with Florian and claimed the second and third positions.
After a caution flag on lap 8, Steve Williams, who had started on the outside pole, moved up from fifth place to challenge Florian, joined by seventh-place Jordan Wood. Williams emerged from the ensuing shuffle in second, while Wood grabbed fourth.
On lap 13, Hall overhauled Williams to regain second and left the door open for Wood, Wall and Moody, who also bypassed Williams.
Working lap 19, Florian was dealing with slower traffic and Hall was able to close in, narrowing Florian’s advantage to just a couple car-lengths.
Before a battle for the lead could develop, however, the caution flag was flying as Wood broke loose off Turn 4 and collected Moody and Wall. Wood and Moody took the brunt of the dustup and both were relegated to the sidelines.
The break in the action seemed to play in Florian’s favor. Back under green, he easily pulled away from Hall and won by 0.908-second — almost half a straightaway. Williams was third to the line, followed by Wall. Pro Six rookie Dashe McLaughlin was fifth in his series debut, a lap off the pace.
Brandon Lorah qualified on the pole, at 61.404 mph, and led all the way to win the Rhonnda Claiborne, Realtor HRKC Pro Winged Champ Kart race. With three caution periods raising fuel mileage concerns, the event was trimmed from 20 to 15 laps.
For most of the race, Lorah headed a stout drafting trio, which also included his brother, Charlie-Ray Lorah, and Ryan Hudgins. In the opening laps, the three were able to open a half-straightaway bulge over the rest of the pack.
A pair of caution flags on lap 10, though, bunched the field as the decision was made to end the race at lap 15.
Back under green, the Lorahs and Hudgins were joined in the lead pack by Tommy Jackson Jr. and Josh Ayer. Soon, the top five runners had driven well away from the field. On the white-flag lap, Jackson and Ayer made their move, advancing to second and third.
At the finish, Brandon Lorah was the winner by 61-thousandths of a second over Jackson. Ayer was third to the line, but failed to clear the post-race inspection. Charlie-Ray Lorah was third in the amended rundown, followed by Hudgins and Shawn Gervais.
Along with Ayer, three other top-10 finishers ran afoul of HRKC rules during the inspection process — Angela-Marie Steele (originally seventh), Bill Dailey (eighth) and Cullen Roberts (10th).
In the evening’s final race, a 30-lapper for the Bojangles’ Enduros, Richard Quinn moved out front on lap 25 and survived an anxious moment at the finish to secure the win.
Quinn drew the pole for the start, but gave way to Scotty Buchanan as the event got under way. On lap 2, he lost second place to Derrick Boggess and slipped to fourth as Larry Drommerhausen motored past.
On lap 3, Boggess grabbed the lead from Buchanan and set sail. Behind him, Quinn retook third from Drommerhausen, then slipped by Buchanan for second on lap 4. As Quinn moved back toward the point, Boggess opened a half-straightaway lead.
Little by little, Quinn closed in on Boggess. By lap 19, the two were deployed in nose-to-tail formation. Quinn took a run at the leader on lap 21, but came up dry. He tried again on lap 23 and, after dueling for two laps, he nosed ahead on lap 25. The only red flag stoppage came at lap 26.
Back under green, Quinn bolted to a three-length lead. Nearing the conclusion, though, that margin began to dwindle.
With the checkers waving, Quinn headed for the flagstand, but collided with a lapped machine just short of the line. Following right behind Quinn, Boggess whacked the leader’s rear bumper, then went for the winning pass.
At the line, Quinn was the winner by half a car-length over Boggess. Dave Wedding was third, the final driver on the lead lap. Buchanan was fourth and Ronald Klein completed the top five.
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