Clifton fends off his rivals
By Tommy Bowman/JOURNAL REPORTER
Published: May 23, 2009
Michael Clifton kept a tight grip on the weighty three-foot trophy he was awarded for victory in last night's Whelen 100 at Bowman Gray Stadium.
But it was nothing compared to the hold he had on the track's inside groove through four double-file restarts in the 100-lap main race.
It wasn't easy, but Clifton fended off top challengers Burt Myers and Tim Brown two times each for his first victory of the season in the featured Modified Division.
"I've never been a fan of the 100-lap draws or the double-file restarts, and I'm still not, but this time it worked in our favor," said Clifton, who got his 16th career victory.
It was the first of five restarts after caution periods that netted Clifton the lead, which came in the 55th lap.
Dean Ward, a former four-cylinder champion and Modified tour competitor who hasn't run a full season at Bowman Gray since 1990, drew the pole position and led the first 54 laps.
Ward -- who had finished last in his first race back at the stadium two weeks ago -- wasted no time and set a torrid pace.
"I had a blast," Ward said. "I wish it had been a 50-lapper.
"I'm not too good at saving up. We were going to ride it for what it was worth, until it went away."
It went away in the 55th lap, when Clifton, running fourth, opted to the outside behind second-running Myers and benefited from a tangle between Ward and Myers.
"The No. 71 (Ward) pushed the No. 1 (Myers) out and we had a hole," Clifton said. "That got us out front."
Ward said he might have hit a slick spot on the track.
"I turned and the front end went straight," Ward said. "I hate it for Burt, I know I got into him. I could have hit the gas, rotated and went on if I was worried about myself but I was trying to be polite and keep the brakes on."
Myers recovered well enough for two more cracks starting from the outside, but Clifton hung on. Two more cautions in the final 25 laps led to challenges from Brown, who tried his luck on the outside, but Clifton again hung tight.
"The motor started skipping real bad (the last 19 laps), but as long as it didn't blow up we knew we had it," Clifton said.
Myers out-dueled Brown for second place. Brown finished third, Junior Miller fourth and Mike Adams fifth.
Brown was the fastest in qualifying for the first time this season. He turned a lap of 13.331 seconds (67.5 mph) on the quarter-mile track. Brown drew the sixth starting position.
Ward spun out in the 67th lap and had to settle for 11th place.
Bobby Hutchens, the competition director for Tony Stewart Racing, busy preparing for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, made it in the gate just in time to qualify for last night's Modified race.
"We hauled up the road pretty fast trying to get here," Hutchens said. "I just wish we had run that fast in qualifying."
Steven Berrier won a 20-lap race in the Sportsman Division. Tim Vaden was the winner of a 20-lap Street Stock race. A second Sportsman race and two Stadium Stock races were rained out.
Berrier, a three-time Street Stock champion, got his first victory of the season in the Sportsman Division. He took the lead from Chad Brooks in the fourth lap and held off Ronnie Clifton, a seven-time defending Sportsman champion, in the late stages.
Vaden got his first top-10 finish of the season in a big way, squeezing past a spinning Allen Henkel in the fourth lap and escaping a late charge by Billy Gregg, who was filling in for suspended John McNeal.
Two 25-lap Modified races and a 100-lap Sportsman race are scheduled next Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium.
WHELEN 100 MODIFIED DIVISION
Driver (Hometown) Money
1. Michael Clifton (Walkertown) $1,650
2. Burt Myers (Walnut Cove) 1,030
3. Tim Brown (Cana, Va.) 1,005
4. Junior Miller (Danbury) 640
5. Mike Adams (Winston-Salem) 590
6. Randy Butner (Pfafftown) 655
7. Bobby Hutchens (Lexington) 520
8. Brad Robbins (Winston-Salem) 485
9. Jason Myers (Walnut Cove) 555
10. Brent Elliott (Denton) 435
11. Dean Ward (Winston-Salem) 430
12. Jonathan Brown (Kernersville) 460
13. Lee Stimpson (Lewisville) 390
14. Bryan Dauzat (Midland) 370
15. Stan Welborn (Germanton) 350
16. Robert Jeffreys (Winston-Salem) 430
17. Alfred Hill (Jonesville) 420
18. Gene Pack (Walkertown) 310
19. Lee Jeffreys (High Point) 400
STREET STOCK 20-LAP RACE
Driver (Hometown) Money
1. Tim Vaden (Kernersville) $160
2. Billy Gregg (Winston-Salem) 110
3. David Sumner (Trinity) 80
4. Randy Larimore (Walkertown) 65
5. Allen Henkel (Trinity) 55
6. Matt Cotner (Rural Hall) 45
7. Doug Wall (Pfafftown) 40
8. Johnny Arnder (Mount Airy) 35
9. Jerry Helms (Winston-Salem) 30
10. Jody Fritts (Winston-Salem) 25
11. Michael Nichols (Trinity) 25
12. Willie Wall (Winston-Salem) 25
13. Richard Reeves (Cooleemee) 25
14. Justin Taylor (King) 25
15. Joseph Brown (Winston-Salem) 25
16. Kevin Gilbert (Mocksville) 25
17. Leon Hutchens (Winston-Salem) 20
18. Zack Clifton (Walkertown) 20
19. Daniel Fishel (Greensboro) 20
20. Donnie Martin (Wallburg) 20
SPORTSMAN DIVISION FIRST 20-LAP RACE
Driver (Hometown) Money
1. Steven Berrier (Germanton) $280
2. Ronnie Clifton (Walkertown) 255
3. Chad Brooks (Winston-Salem) 140
4. Barry Edwards (Pinnacle) 110
5. Kyle Edwards (King) 95
6. Scott Hall (Walkertown) 85
7. Kenny Bost (Kernersville) 75
8. Luke Fleming (Mount Airy) 65
9. Tommy Neal (Walkertown) 55
10. Mitch Gales (Lexington) 50
11. Gary Ledbetter (Lexington) 45
12. Keith McMichael (Belews Creek) 40
13. Robbie Brewer (Winston-Salem) 35
14. Taylor Branch (Lewisville) 30
15. Derek Stoltz (Walkertown) 25
16. Daniel Beeson (Kernersville) 25
17. Mike Evans (King) 25
18. Bryant Robertson (Lexington) 25
19. Steve Truell (Midway) 25
20. Steve Holleman (Winston-Salem) 25
21. Shaun Cockerham (East Bend) 25
22. Jeff Garrison (Winston-Salem) 25
23. Michael Adams (Yadkinville) 25
24. Brad Smith (Winston-Salem) 25