Score one – actually, score a lot – for the local guys over the big NASCAR stars, as Matt Bowling, of Ridgeway, Va., won Denny Hamlin’s Short Track Challenge Thursday night at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
In fact, local drivers who are weekend racers around Virginia dominated the seventh annual event, which is held to raise funds for Hamlin’s Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Bowling rallied to grab the lead five laps from the finish on the .20-mile track and held on to defeat Whelen All-American Series and Virginia driver Matt Waltz, who finished second, followed by another Virginia racer, Nick Smith, in third.
Waltz had led all of the first 195 laps, according to Adam Hainsfurther of the Danville (Va.) Register & Bee, until Bowling slid in front of him and held on for the remainder of the race.
That local drivers did so well in the late-model race wasn’t surprising, according to Camping World Trucks Series Timothy Peters, who finished 27th after a late wreck with fellow truck driver Jeb Burton, who finished 25th.
“It’s hard for the guys in the upper three (NASCAR) series to come back and run one of these cars and be competitive,” Peters told the Danville (Va.) Register & Bee. “It’s just that much more difficult to drive than a truck or a Nationwide [Series] car or a Cup car.
“You’ve got the best of the best here in my opinion. To come in here and mix it up with these guys — you’ve done something. Any of these guys’ credentials could put them in the top three series. It’s just all about that big break.”
The highest-finishing NASCAR driver was Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, who wound up fourth, falling short of defending his win in the event last year.
Busch has won four of the first seven races in the event’s history, which was held for the first time at South Boston on Thursday.
Matt Kenseth was fifth, Hamlin finished eighth and David Ragan was 20th.
“We’ve had more presale tickets this year — about triple what we’ve ever had — so South Boston’s really done a great job of hosting this event,” Hamlin told the Register & Bee. “It’s a venue that we’re looking to stay at for at least a few years and continue to grow it.
“Every year we’re able to give more and more money to these children’s charities that benefit from it. … It’s definitely been really good to get this program running and every year to just keep growing it.”
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