BRADFORD -- Chris Donnelly and Josh Harrington may be two of the top drivers at Bear Ridge Speedway in the early weeks of the season, but each one needed a little good luck on Saturday night. And when that luck presented itself, each was able to capitalize and steal a feature victory.
Sportsman Modified racer Donnelly caught leader Mike Capra as they approached the halfway point of the 30-lap feature, but was unable to overtake Capra despite repeated attempts. Fortunately for Donnelly, heavy lapped traffic at the bottom of the track forced Capra to choose the outside line on lap 15. After a three-lap door-to-door battle, Donnelly used a pick move to scoot between Capra and a lapped car and into the lead. He then pulled away for his second win in three starts on the year.
"I didn't think I was going to be able to run [Capra] down," admitted Piermont, N.H. driver Donnelly. "He got the lead on me and these cars are very even, so it's tough to do. I just kept driving it harder and harder and luckily we got into some lapped traffic."
Donnelly said track position in lapped traffic was his biggest ally. "It's easier to be in second when you're in lapped traffic because you can watch what [the leader] is doing or you can go somewhere else, and that's exactly what I did and it worked out for me. I've been doing this a long time. I'm not going to wait if I see an opening, whether it's behind a lapped car or whatever, I'm going to head down there and take a shot at it and see if it works. Mike hit a little bump and his car pushed a little bit and it worked out for me, I was able to squirt in between them."
Capra, of Alstead, N.H., held on for his second runner-up finish of the season. Wayen Stearns of Thetford Center was third over Gary Siemons and Ryan Avery.
Harrington remained perfect in the Sportsman Coupe division, having won all three features to begin the 2009 season, but his victory was an unlikely one until a late caution period bunched the field for a restart. Outside polesitter Melvin Pierson led from the opening circuit and had a sizeable advantage over Harrington until the yellow flag flew on lap 14 of the 20-lap race. Harrington kept pace with Pierson at the restart and moved inside the leader two laps later, but, like Donnelly in the Modified event, was unable to complete the winning pass without some luck.
As the signal for two laps remaining came out, Pierson slapped the frontstretch wall, which allowed Harrington to drive by underneath him and run away for the win. Pierson finished second, and rookie Jason Horniak passed Mike McGinley to take over third place just moments before Harrington took command. Billy Simmons was fifth.
"I had to be patient with Melvin, but he messed up and I finally got him," said Harrington. "I could barely see it happen, but I knew that he pushed up a bit." Harrington said he didn't think he would have won without the lap-14 caution. "Probably not," he said. "I'm getting lucky this year."
Hall of Fame drivers Beaver and Bobby Dragon and current ACT standout Brent Dragon competed in a special three-car Sportsman Modified race. All three drivers are noted for their success on asphalt tracks rather than dirt surfaces; Brent had never raced on a dirt track before Saturday night.
Bobby Dragon took the victory after the running order was inverted at the halfway mark. Brent Dragon was running in second place until his father, Beaver, gave a shot from behind as the white flag flew and moved past. Bobby Dragon, 63, drove to the win with his 68 year-old brother second and nephew Brent third.
"It was a lot of fun, but it wasn't pretty, I know that," Bobby Dragon joked. "I sure could get into this kind of racing, this was great." Brent Dragon also competed in the night's regular Sportsman Modified feature, finishing tenth.
East Montpelier's Will Hull won a razor-close Limited Late Model feature, denying Dan Eastman of his third victory of the young season. Tom Forward finished in third place; all three led the race at different points. Shane Race and Sean Green completed the top five. Mitch Durkee of Sharon won the Fast Four event after moving underneath leader Kevin Harran with seven laps remaining. Harran finished second, ahead of Andy Johnson, Steve Bell, and Jesse Durkee. Bradford's Tom Placey took his second Hornet division win, beating Bobby Lee Bell and Amanda Gray. Brenda Atherton won the Hornet Queen race.
Bear Ridge Speedway, Bradford, Vt.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Sportsman Modified Feature
1. Chris Donnelly, Piermont, N.H.
2. Mike Capra, Alstead, N.H.
3. Wayne Stearns, Thetford Center
4. Gary Siemons, Orford, N.H.
5. Ryan Avery, Thornton, N.H.
6. Bob Shepard
7. Jack Cook, Moultonboro, N.H.
8. Bryan King, Corinth
9. Jason Gray, East Thetford
10. Brent Dragon, Milton
Sportsman Coupe Feature
1. Josh Harrington, Topsham
2. Melvin Pierson, Topsham
3. Jason Horniak, Bradford
4. Mike McGinley, Barre
5. Billy Simmons, Bradford
Limited Late Model Feature
1. Will Hull, East Montpelier
2. Dan Eastman, Thetford Center
3. Tom Forward, Lyme, N.H.
4. Shane Race, South Strafford
5. Sean Green
Fast Four Feature
1. Mitch Durkee, Sharon
2. Kevin Harran, St. Johnsbury
3. Andy Johnson, Wilder
4. Steve Bell, St. Johnsbury
5. Jesse Durkee, Tunbridge
1. Tom Placey, Bradford
2. Bobby Lee Bell, St. Johnsbury
3. Amanda Gray, Thetford
Hornet Queen Feature
1. Brenda Atherton, Fairlee
2. Misty Bell, St. Johnsbury
3. Dawn Woodward