October 22, 2011 – Connor rolls to Volunteer Speedway victory; Pegher celebrates as Fastrak Racing Series ‘Grand Nationals’ champion
Connor rolls to Volunteer Speedway victory; Pegher celebrates as Fastrak Racing Series ‘Grand Nationals’ champion
By Robert Walden
Volunteer Speedway Media/Public Relations
BULLS GAP, Tenn. (Oct. 22) — Following Friday night’s opener of the 2011 Fastrak Racing Series Pro Late Model $250,000 Grand Nationals at Volunteer Speedway, Brian Connor of Martinez, Ga., was a man on a mission Saturday night at “The Gap” because he felt like he had let one slip away. Connor led Friday’s event until just past the halfway point before allowing Lee Cooper to get around him on a restart, and once out front Cooper cruised to victory.
Connor decided to do a little house-cleaning Saturday, bringing out the broom to pull off the “clean-sweep.” For the second straight night, Connor paced the field during Shell Racing Solutions Top Gun Time Trials. He then proceeded to win the first heat and, more impressively led flag-to-flag to record the 50-lap main event Pro Late Model feature victory.
But without a doubt the driver with the biggest smile on his face at the conclusion of the race was Mike Pegher Jr. of Cranberry Township, Pa., as he captured the 2011 Fastrak Racing Series Pro Late Model Grand Nationals championship worth $30,000 from the $250,000 point fund.
Besides Connor winning a heat race, others were Greer, S.C.’s Cooper, Jensen Ford of Piney Flats, Tenn., and Pegher. David Smith of Inman, S.C., and Dan Angelicchio of New Stanton, Pa., won the B-mains.
Pegher stood atop the Grand Nationals point leaderboard entering the final night, and following his victory in the fourth heat race he stood primed-and-ready to capture the $30,000 for winning the Fastrak Racing Series Pro Late Model national championship.
Connor and Cooper brought the 24-car field to the green flag, and the duo raced side-by-side down the front straightaway into the first turn. But Connor assumed the point racing off turn two down the backstretch, followed by Cooper, Ford, Pegher and David Watts.
Rob Blair quickly moved up from his eighth-place starting position to pass Watts for the fifth spot racing off the fourth turn on lap 5. With the race running clean-and-green and Connor setting sail out front, he caught the tail of the field to begin lapping cars on the 15th circuit.
With Connor methodically picking off the slower cars, Cooper narrowed the distance between himself and Connor to four car lengths. Ford lost a couple of positions when both Pegher and Blair got around him, dropping Ford back into the fifth spot.
Just outside the top-five in the running order Watts, Blake Bentley, Daniel Baggerly, Brandon Umberger, Kenny Peeples Jr., Bobby Mays and Ryan Atkins were battling for position around the East Tennessee high-banked oval. The caution waved on lap 23 when Dan Angelicchio looped his car in turn two.
Connor chose the inside on the double-file restart which put Cooper on the outside of row one. Directly behind them were Pegher and Blair in the second row. Back up to speed Connor was still riding out front on the point followed by Cooper, Blair, Pegher and Watts, who had gotten past Ford for fifth. Ford lost the sixth spot to Baggerly racing off turn two on lap 27.
By lap 35, Connor had strolled out to a 10 car-length advantage over Cooper when he closed to cars running at rear of the field. Even though Connor was riding a strong mount, overtaking cars that were racing for position among themselves directly ahead of him proved difficult, with two- and even three-wide action through the corners.
Cooper momentarily closed the gap to within a couple of car lengths on Connor, but the leader finally got past Trent Ivey and Joel Prosser on lap 38 to put them between himself and Cooper. While Connor was in command out front, the last thing he wanted to see was a late race caution because that would allow Cooper to pull up to his rear bumper for the restart. But that’s what happened – on two occasions, with the yellow first appearing for a spin on lap 46 to set up a four-lap dash to the finish.
However, only two laps back green and the caution waved on lap 48 when Steven Hendren and Jake Eaton spun between turns three and four, this setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
But the 32-year-old Connor, driving the Lazar’s Trailers/C.W. Hayes Mechanical/Cushman Paint & Body/Envy Suspension/Connor Enterprises/Hendren Racing Engines/FK Rod Ends/Hoosier Racing Tire/Simpson/VP Racing Fuels/Barry Wright Race Cars/No. 77 Chevrolet Impala SS, would not be denied a trip to victory lane as he won over Cooper, Rob Blair, Pegher and a strong fifth-place run for Bentley.
Finishing sixth through tenth were Baggerly, Umberger, Ford, Peeples and Mays.
”It feels good to seal the deal and get the win tonight, because we definitely let that one (race) last night slip through our grasp” said Connor while standing around watching his car go through post-race technical inspection. “To be able run as well as we did on back-to-back nights and contend for the win, that’s just awesome, especially when you consider the overall caliber of competition assembled here for these ‘Grand Nationals’ events. There’s no doubt about it, you’ve got to get comfortable racing here at Volunteer Speedway with the banking this place has and the speeds you’re running. I’ve raced here now four or five times, and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I really like this track.
“We had a really good car for both nights, and I guess it showed with us having quick time in qualifying and winning our heat races each night. I believe some things we learned back in the spring when we ran the ‘Late Model Showdown at The Gap’ Fastrak Racing Series Southeast regional touring event and finished sixth really helped us this weekend. But still yet, after having a good strong run tonight and winning – it’s kind of tough knowing that if we just hadn’t let Lee (Cooper) get by us on that restart last night we could’ve won both races. Hey, with Lee and I both winning in Barry Wright Race Cars, that’s a cool deal for Barry and Lance and the guys who build these awesome cars. Plus, Lee and I each have Kirk Loudy at Envy Suspension helping us out on our shocks. So when you look at what he and I both did this weekend, I believe what we accomplished speaks for itself.”
Jamie Whitt rode out front for the first 14 circuits of the “Gunslingers of Kingsport” Hobby Stock feature before Duke Bare of Meadowview, Va., passed him for the lead between turns one and two. Once out front, Bare, driving the Real Tree Specialist of Abingdon, Va./Dowell Paint & Body Inc. of Marion, Va./Carter’s Pharmacy of Saltville, Va./420 Emporium/Benny’s Pipe & Muffler/Friends of Coal/Smitty Smith/TNT Graphics/No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro, never looked back en route to victory over Whitt, Mike Keith, Dale Reed and Jesse Wilder. Whitt had the highest average finishing position for both nights of racing to capture the coveted Hobby Stock Grand Nationals Cup title.
A close three-car battle racing off the fourth turn to the checkered flag saw Bart Baxter of Dandridge win the Classic feature over Phillip Sands, Joe Keck, Phillip Shockley and Matt Shockley. Baxter had the highest average finishing position over the two nights to claim the Classic Grand Nationals Cup title.
FASTRAK RACING SERIES PRO LATE MODEL $250,000 “GRAND NATIONALS” – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 – VOLUNTEER SPEEDWAY – BULLS GAP, TN
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car #, Hometown
1. (1) Brian Connor #77-Martinez, GA
2. (2) Lee Cooper #57-Greer, SC
3. (8) Rob Blair #WON11-Centerville, PA
4. (4) Mike Pegher Jr. #1c-Cranberry Township, PA
5. (5) Blake Bentley #27-Duncan, SC
6. (7) Daniel Baggerly #16-Rural Retreat, VA
7. (9) Brandon Umberger #54b-Rural Retreat, VA
8. (3) Jensen Ford #83-Piney Flats, TN
9. (11) Kenny Peeples Jr. #k22-Rural Retreat, VA
10. (10) Bobby Mays #19m-Jonesborough, TN
11. (12) Ryan Atkins #9-Mount Airy, NC
12. (16) Ryan Montgomery #12-Fairmont, WV
13. (14) Max Blair #111-Centerville, PA
14. (21) Steve Hendren #29-Rutherfordton, NC
15. (20) Tim Byrd #24-Jonesborough, TN
16. (18) Dan Angelicchio #14-New Stanton, PA
17. (17) David Smith #11-Inman, SC
18. (15) Dale Ball #2-Johnson City, TN
19. (13) Matt Long #25-Concord, NC
20. (6) David Watts #04-Buchanan, VA
21. (19) Bobby Whitling #7w-Franklin, PA
22. (22) Trent Ivey #88-Union, SC
23. (24) Joel Prosser #77-New Martinsville, WV
24. (23) Jake Eaton #29e-Bland, VA
HEAT #1 (Top 4 Finishers Transfer – 10 Laps): 1) Brian Connor, 2) Blake Bentley, 3) Brandon Umberger, 4) Matt Long, 5) David Smith, 6) Jake Eaton, 7) Chris Steele, 8 ) Shawn Jett, 9) Josh Holtgraver – Did Not Start: Mike Smith
HEAT #2 (Top 4 Finishers Transfer – 10 Laps): 1) Lee Cooper, 2) David Watts, 3) Bobby Mays, 4) Max Blair, 5) Tim Byrd, 6) Trent Ivey, 7) Teddy Tate, 8 ) Joel Prosser, 9) Bobby Rohrer
HEAT #3 (Top 4 Finishers Transfer – 10 Laps): 1) Jensen Ford, 2) Daniel Baggerly, 3) Kenny Peeples Jr., 4) Dale Ball, 5) Bobby Whitling, 6) Steve Hendren, 7) Bill Cunningham, 8 ) Ashley Brewster, 9) David Fieber
HEAT #4 (Top 4 Finishers Transfer – 10 Laps): 1) Mike Pegher Jr., 2) Rob Blair, 3) Ryan Atkins, 4) Ryan Montgomery, 5) Dan Angelicchio, 6) Jerry Broyles, 7) Travis Blackwell, 8 ) Joel Bennett, 9) Jordan Dill
B-MAIN #1 (Top 4 Finishers Transfer – 10 Laps): 1) David Smith, 2) Bobby Whitling, 3) Steve Hendren, 4) Jake Eaton, 5) Chris Steele, 6) Shawn Jett, 7) Bill Cunningham, 8 ) David Fieber, 9) Josh Holtgraver, 10) Ashley Brewster – Did Not Start: Mike Smith
B-MAIN #2 (Top 4 Finishers Transfer – 10 Laps): 1) Dan Angelicchio, 2) Tim Byrd, 3) Trent Ivey, 4) Joel Prosser, 5) Jordan Dill, 6) Travis Blackwell, 7) Joel Bennett, 8 ) Bobby Rohrer, 9) Jerry Broyles, 10) Teddy Tate
“GUNSLINGERS OF KINGSPORT” HOBBY STOCK (20 laps)
1) Duke Bare #63; 2) Jamie Whitt #1; 3) Mike Keith #80; 4) Dale Reed #52; 5) Jesse Wilder # 79; 6) Brian Mock #18; 7) Blake Kelley #K5; 8 ) Scotty Johnson #87; 9) Mike Kilian #94 – Did Not Start: Chuck Kilian #96, Shannon Davidson #4
CLASSIC (20 laps)
1) Bart Baxter #7; 2) Phillip Sands #5; 3) Joe Keck #7k; 4) Phillip Shockley #34; 5) Matt Shockley #6; 6) Jim Yeary #8; 7) Logan Dukes #20