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Casey Roberts wins wild Southern Nationals race at Bulls Gap

By admin | July 28, 2012

By Richard Allen


The Southern Nationals Series made its penultimate stop of the 2012 season at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee on Friday night and saw a race with more plot changes than the best soap operas could ever produce. In the end it was Georgia’s Casey Roberts who outran the field on this night of twists and turns.

Roberts proved to be the fastest in time-trials when he laid down a lap of 12.601 seconds around the high banked clay oval. He was joined in the top-8 by series points leader Chris Madden, Mike Marlar, Kenny Compton, Jr, Mark Douglas, Vic Hill, Chad Ogle and Jeff Maupin.

Hill suffered a broken rear end in qualifying but his crew hastily handled the situation and got the #1 car repaired in time to make the feature race starting grid and maintain his qualifying position.

With only 21 cars on hand and the clock already showing 10:30, track and series officials made the decision not to run the consolation races normally contested by the Ray Cook promoted series. With a track surface that had proven bumpy and difficult to get a hold on during hot laps and qualifying, the decision to shorten the program met with very little opposition in the pit area. So the field was lined up based on strictly on time-trials.

At the start of the 53 lap feature race it appeared as though this event would serve as a continuation of the previous night’s action at the Cleveland Speedway. Just as he had 24 hours earlier, Madden bolted from his outside front row starting spot to grab the lead as the cars roared through turns one and two. However, a bobble by the series points leader in turn four gave Roberts the opportunity to assume control, and that he did.

Once out front, Roberts set a torrid pace in the early laps, building a lead of over a straightaway until a lap 12 caution was called when Dillan White came to a stop in turn four.

On the ensuing restart, Marlar began to challenge Madden for the runner-up spot as Roberts again slipped away from his pursuers. But on lap 17 the rough track surface took its toll when Marlar hit a bump in turn two and had his car jerk sideways and almost roll over as a result.

It looked as if Marlar, who was second to Madden in the series standings coming into the night, had seen his race come to a premature end as a wrecker lifted the rear of his car off the track and began to tow it away. However, the crew of the 5B machine sprang into action while the car was hoisted in the air and made repairs. Just before the field was set to take the green flag Marlar returned to the track.

After that restart, Roberts appeared as if he may have given the race away when he bobbled in turn four and lost the lead to Madden.

On lap 24, another caution for Marlar came out as again the 5B car looked to be done for the night. But again, the hustle of the Bryson Motorsports crew returned their driver to the track without losing a lap.

Ironically, after a caution for his closest competitor in the standings, Madden suffered a mechanical problem on the following restart. His car simply failed to go when the green flag waved. The yellow flag immediately came back out. With his car stopped in turn two, it looked as if Madden was finished for this race. He even got out of the car and began to give an earful to a Southern Nationals official who was in the area.

With Marlar still on track it looked as if Madden might surrender some of his 36 point lead which he had built up over the past two weeks. But just as had been the case with Marlar, Madden’s crew frantically went to work on the #44m and got their driver back on track just before the green flag waved.

Meanwhile, Roberts reassumed the lead after Madden’s troubles. From that point, he would lead the rest of the way but not without some tough going in traffic over the final five laps that allowed Chad Ogle and Mark Douglas to close to within striking distance.

At the finish, it was Roberts ahead of Douglas, who just nipped Chad Ogle at the finish line, then Billy Ogle, Jr., Jeff Maupin, Vic Hill, Madden, Marlar and Kenny Compton, Jr.

Roberts collected $5,300 for the victory.

In other action, Jensen Ford dominated an attrition filled Fastrak Pro Late Model Series event to win over Tim Byrd, Tim Maupin, Mike Smith and Ricky Moore.

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