Local drivers put NASCAR racers in their place in Denny Hamlin’s Short Track Challenge

Leave a comment

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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

HUSTLING HELIO: Castroneves hunting for 2021 rides in IMSA, IndyCar

Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.