By Robert Walden
BULLS GAP – With the racing season winding down and points races tight, Vic “The Thrill” Hill of Morristown captured his division-leading eighth “Don Smith Ford” Super Late Model victory in convincing fashion – setting fast-time in qualifying over the stellar 28-car field – then proceeding to lead flag-to-flag on EcoQuest Night at the Races. In his quest for a fourth track championship, Hill extended his points lead over Kerry Jones to 32 with only one more points race scheduled.
Hill won the drag race into the first turn over fellow front-row starter Travis Greer to grab a lead he would never relinquish, with Lloyd Osborne, Jeff Maupin and Jerry Broyles in tow. Working the bottom racing off the second turn on lap 2, Broyles powered past Maupin into fourth in the running order. The event’s first caution waved on the third lap when Jason Trammell and Steve Rouse spun between turns three and four.
The top five on the restart were Hill, Greer, Osborne, Broyles and Maupin. With Broyles applying pressure on Osborne for third-place, racing off the fourth turn on lap 4 he took the position. Quickly closing to the rear bumper of the second-running Greer, Broyles was hooked up and hauling and wanting the runner-up spot.
Racing down the backstretch into the third turn, Broyles worked to the inside of Greer. With the duo racing side-by-side between turns three and four, all at once Broyles’ mount jumped out from underneath him and he spun to bring out the yellow flag. While under caution, Osborne retired to the pits with mechanical problems.
Lining up single-file going back green, Hill was shadowed by Greer, Vic Chandler, Steve Jones and Maupin. Greer’s strong run up front ended quickly, when Chandler got into the rear of his ride racing off turn two before one lap could be completed following the previous caution period. With Greer getting spun, he was relegated to the tail of the field for the restart, as was Chandler.
The new top five attempting to get back under green had Hill still in command out front, followed by Jones, Maupin, Michael Smith and Michael Jackson. With Hill once again asserting himself at the head of the field, the action between Jones, Maupin and Smith was heated. Also, Jackson and Rick Norris were battling for fifth in the running order. Between lap seven to nine, Jackson and Norris swapped positions on several occasions between the turns on both ends of the track.
Jackson reclaimed the spot from Norris racing on lap 11 off the fourth turn. Maupin and Jones were locked in a tight-duel for second, racing door-to-door for two circuits before Maupin finally took the position on lap 13 racing off the fourth turn.
Just outside the top-five, Roger Best was mounting a charge, moving around Norris for sixth-place on lap 16. One lap later he passed Jackson in turn two to take over the fifth spot. With Maupin riding in second, Smith was pressuring Jones for third in the running order. Getting a strong run off the second turn on lap 19, Smith drove deep into turn three on the inside of Jones to advance into third-place.
The fast and furious racing action on a “full-moon” night saw two- and three-wide action taking place all around the track. Kerry Jones spun in the fourth turn on lap 20 to bring out the caution, sending him to the back for the restart.
The field tightened back up behind the race leader Hill, with Maupin, Smith, Jones and Best the top five. Best rode the high-line around turns three and four to overtake Jones and move into fourth on lap 21. Maupin’s run in second ended on lap 22 when he pulled into the pits with mechanical problems, thus moving Smith into the runner-up spot with Best riding on his rear bumper in third. Steve Jones also pulled into the pits ending his strong run inside the top-five.
With five laps remaining and Hill, driving the Landair Transport Inc./Marsh Propane/Peterson Fluid Systems/Ohlins Shocks/Klushman/Comp Cams/JE Pistons/Brodix/Lunati Cranks/Hoosier Tire South/RaceQuest/CV Racing Products/R & B Body Shop/Vic Hill Racing Engines/MacDaddy Motorsports/DIRT Late Model Magazine/GRT Race Cars/No. 1 Grand Prix in command out front, Smith and Best were locked in a heated battle for second.
Riding the cushion up top around turns one and two on lap 33, Best launched off the second turn down the backstretch to pass Smith and move into the runner-up position. Hill cruised to the checkers followed by Best, Smith, Jackson and Norris.
Completing the top-10 at the finish were Kerry Jones, Barry Arnold, Terry Owens, Dennis Alverson and Rouse.
“This might’ve looked like it was an easy win tonight with us leading flag-to-flag, but I’m telling you – I had to drive my butt off,” said Hill after climbing from his car in victory lane. “The track had been sheep-footed and had some moisture in it and was fast. But it (surface) was also rolling up in the corners and getting kind of rough. I had my hands full hanging on to the car. As fast as we were getting around here tonight and with the surface rolling up, it puts a physical beating on you just trying to hang onto the car and wrestle it around the high banks. But it’s good getting another win, and also being able to add to our points lead a little.
“As a racer your goals are to win races, and by winning races hopefully the point situation takes care of itself. With only one point race remaining, we’ll just come well-prepared and hopefully wrap up our fourth track championship. It’s a team effort, and I’d like to thank John Tweed of Landair Transport for his support of my racing, along with Jason Lawson, Bud and Jack Orr, Jess Tweed, Stevie Collins, Michael Gregg and Mackey ‘MacDaddy’ Garrett for all their help working on the car. Also a big thanks to my wife (Christa) for putting up with my racing.”
Allen Champ of Morristown led wire-to-wire in winning the 25-lap “Ramey Ford” Limited Late Model feature over a hard-charging Bobby Mays at the checkers. The victory was the third-straight and fifth overall on the season for Champ. Finishing third through fifth, respectively, were Brad Partin, Brad Kenyon and Kelly Glass.