||Brandon Umberger Wins Drama Filled FASTRAK Grand Nationals Regional Event at Cleveland County Speedway
Lawndale, North Carolina - The FASTRAK GRAND NATIONALS got kicked-off on Saturday night with a bang and a bump and a flip and plenty of drama. At the end of the night Brandon Umberger, the 2011 FASTRAK Southeast / Mid-East Champion raised his arms in Victory Lane yet again. Umberger took the lead from Lee Cooper on a lap 38 restart and held off a late charge by Kenny Peeples to secure the $1500 winner's check and more importantly takes maximum available points into the GRAND NATIONALS Finals at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. "This win is big. It gets us started off in the best way possible to go and try to get the $30,000 at Bulls Gap. I tried to save my tires through the middle part of the race and it paid off in the end. I saw Cooper blow that tire and I got a little worried but we had enough left to go another 20 laps." Umberger said after his win.
The night began with 36 of the 37 entrants taking their timed laps in Shell Racing Solutions Top Gun Time Trials. David Watts, the most recent winner on the FASTRAK Southeast / Mid-East Touring Series, drew first blood of the evening when he laid down a 18.303-second lap around the 4/10ths of a mile oval. Umberger's 18.338-second trip was good enough for second quick. Cleveland County Speedway FASTRAK Weekly Champion Steve Hendren timed in third with Chester, South Carolina's Chris Cantrell and Dale Ball of Jonesville, Tennessee rounded out the top 5 in qualifying. In the GRAND NATIONALS event format all drivers went to 1 of 4 heat races to set the first 8 rows of the 50-lap feature.
Ball picked up a flag-to-flag win in VP Race Fuels Heat 1 ahead of Watts, Trent Ivey and Travis Blackwell. Umberger scored NOS Energy Drinks Heat 2 over Frankie Beard, Daniel Baggerly and Dan Yarborough. Chad Hale provided the crowd with a scary moment in heat 2 when he launched his machine over the turn 3 wall and out of the track. Hale was uninjured in the incident but his racecar was destroyed. Hendren was the winner of City Chevrolet Heat 3. Lee Cooper, Michael Smith and Chris Steele followed him to the line. Hoosier Race Tires Heat 4 saw Kenny Peeples, Jr. grab the win over David Smith, Chris Cantrell and Jason Pack. Consolation race wins went to Matt Long and Jensen Ford.
At the drop of the green flag it was an all-out drag race to turn one. Front row starters Umberger and Ball entered turn one door-to-door and the two made slight contact in turn 2. Umberger was able to recover but Ball spun in front of the full field. Several drivers sustained at least some damage in the incident however all continued with the exception of Ball. Ball's misfortune allowed FASTRAK Bill Hendren Memorial winner Steve Hendren to take over the inside front row starting position. Hendren made the most of it grabbing the lead from Umberger on the ensuing start.
Through the field it was two and, at times, three wide racing for position. One driver who was making noise was Travis Blackwell. Blackwell quickly cracked the top 10 from his 13th starting spot and continued to move forward as the race progressed. Jonesville, Tennessee's Bobby Mays made his presence known as well. The 19th starting Mays was up to 7th by the race's 25 lap halfway point. But up front Hendren was in his own zip code, opening up a full straightaway ahead of the now 2nd running Lee Cooper. Cooper picked off Umberger for second a few laps earlier and was on the charge.
Cooper was able to close the gap between himself and Hendren. What was once close to a full second was suddenly down to less than 2 tenths of a second. As Cooper caught up to Hendren they both began to encounter backmarker traffic. Over the next few laps Hendren held Cooper at bay by keeping a lapped car between them. However, the field was slowed when Jason Pack hand-grenaded an engine in turn 3 ending his run. The resulting yellow placed Hendren and Cooper side-by-side for the lap 26 restart.
Hendren was able to get a good jump on Cooper as he was forced to fight off the challenges of Kenny Peeples, Jr. and Umberger. However the complexion of the race changed again on the next circuit when Hendren's machine dramatically slowed on the front straightaway. Cooper ducked low and swept to the lead while Hendren limped off the speedway. Umberger slipped past Bobby Mays and Peeples to take over the second position. Cooper was steadily opening up the distance between himself and Umberger when disaster struck again among the front runners.
7th running Chris Steele lost an engine in turn 4 and brought out another yellow flag with 37 laps on the board. Cooper chose the inside for the restart placing Umberger to his outside. With the green back in the air Cooper set sail off into turn one. However Umberger kept his Barry Wright machine wound up on the highside and nosed ahead of Cooper down the back straightaway. Cooper tried to retaliate entering turn three but Umberger squirted out ahead as he exited turn four. Cooper then began to slip back and Peeples moved in to challenge for the spot.
With only 5 laps remaining Peeples was able to move by Cooper into 2nd. Cooper appeared to be struggling with his machine and with only 2 laps remaining the reason for those struggles became evident when he exploded a right rear tire through turns 3 and 4. The shredded tire on Cooper's machine wrapped around his rear-end and broke the drive shaft ending the former FASTRAK SE/ ME Champion's night.
With only 2 laps remaining the field restarted single-file per FASTRAK Racing Series rule. Peeples tried to make the most of his run and looked low entering turn one on the restart. But Umberger would not be denied. He slammed the door shut and powered away by 2 car lengths by the time the checkers flew. Peeples settled for second while Travis Blackwell rallied from 13th to finish 3rd ahead of 19th starter Bobby Mays and 2010 FASTRAK SE/ME Touring Champion David Smith.
"I can't say it enough; I am just the guy who gets to drive this thing. All the credit goes to these guys the work on it and get us to the track every week. This makes me feel real good about going to Bulls Gap. We won up there this year so we feel like we got a real good shot at running well and taking that $30,000. Our plan is to go up there and just be wide the hell open like always and try to win both races or at least get the best finishes we can and we should be in good shape." Umberger said.
The Southeast / Mid-East drivers will keep an eye to the North on Sunday awaiting the outcome of the FASTRAK Northeast / Mid-Ohio Valley GRAND NATIONALS Regional so they will have an idea of who they will be facing at Volunteer come October 20th. The FASTRAK GRAND NATIONAL Finals are slated for October 20th through 22nd at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. Sunday morning one driver will walk away from the FASTRAK Champions Brunch Banquet at the Best Western Plus in Morristown, Tennessee $30,000 richer and tagged as the 2011 FASTRAK GRAND NATIONAL Champion.
For directions and other information on the Volunteer Speedway visit the track website at www.volunteerspeedway.com For information on the FASTRAK Racing Series or the $250,000 FASTRAK GRAND NATIONALS visit www.fastrakracing.com or call the FASTRAK Corporate Office at (678) 935-7304 or Series Director Kelley Carlton at (864) 871-1442.
Partners of the FASTRAK Racing Series include: Hoosier Racing Tires, GM Performance Parts, City Chevrolet, VP Racing Fuels, NOS Energy Drink, Shell Racing Solutions, Old Man's Garage, Vicci Apparel, TNT Race Cars, Rocket Chassis, RockAuto, FK Rod Ends, Longhorn Chassis, Velocita, and Beyea Headers. If you or your company are interested in becoming a partner with the FASTRAK Racing Series for the GRAND NATIONALS or for the 2012 season please call the FASTRAK Corporate Office (678) 935-7304.
The FASTRAK Racing Series is currently filling the 2012 Southeast / Mid-East Touring Schedule. Any track interested in a 2012 date or becoming FASTRAK City Chevrolet Weekly Racing Division sanctioned should also call the FASTRAK Corporate Office. Dates are filling fast so contact us soon to book your date.
1 - 54B Brandon Umberger
2 - 3 Kenny Peeples, Jr. 3 - 999 Travis Blackwell 4 - 19m Bobby Mays 5 - 11 David Smith 6 - 04 David Watts 7 - 25 Matt Long 8 - 9 Ryan Atkins 9 - 2 Frankie Beard 10 - 88 Trent Ivey 11 - 22 Jordan Dill 12 - 27 Blake Bentley 13 - 57 Lee Cooper 14 - 83 Jensen Ford 15 - 77 Brian Connor 16 - 24 Tim Byrd 17 - 2 Chris Steele 18 - 29 Steve Hendren 19 - 57 Dan Yarbrough 20 - 17 Jason Pack 21 - 4 Michael Smith 22 - 16 Daniel Baggerly 23 - 114 Chris Cantrell
24 - 2 Dale Ball
Anthony Sanders, Doug Sanders, Adam Yarbrough, Jonathan Duvall, Chad Hale, Vic Chandler, Brian Ligon, Jerry Broyles, Teddy Tate, Tate Hughes, Owen Osteen, Jake Eaton, Ashley Brewster.
Shell Racing Solutions Fast Qualifier: David Watts - 18.303 seconds (78.685 MPH Average)
Yellow Flags: 6 Red Flags: 1 (3 minutes 18 seconds)
Time of Race:
48 minutes 24 seconds