Volunteer Speedway Media/Public Relations
BULLS GAP, Tenn. (March 19) — Volunteer Speedway opened its 38th year of exciting dirt-track racing before a huge crowd Saturday night, with a full moon illuminating the skies over “The Gap.” With a stellar field of some of the country’s top Super Late Model racers present, along with the always tough East Tennessee locals, the racing action was fast-and-furious on the high banks.
Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., passed pole-sitter Tommy Kerr to take a lead he would never relinquish on lap 3, and held off Jimmy Owens to win the Spring Thaw 60 presented by East Tennessee Masonry, a victory worth $10,000.
“We had a really good car here tonight, and getting the lead early from (Tommy) Kerr allowed me to run our race – put the (race) strategy in our control,” said Madden following the race in victory lane. “I like racing here at Volunteer Speedway and over the years we’ve won some big races, we really get around these high banks quite well. You’ve always got strong fields of cars for the special events here at ‘The Gap.’
“As the race progressed I knew from looking up on the scoreboard outside turns one and two every lap down the front straightaway and seeing the number 20 (Jimmy Owens) was behind me, I had better not make a mistake or Jimmy would take advantage. Jimmy’s got a lot of laps around this place and he’s a good race car driver. I’ve beat him here before and he’s outrun me, and to be able win over him is quite an accomplishment. If you outrun him, he makes you earn it.”
On the first attempt to start the event, Kerr and outside front-row starter Ray Cook raced hard off into the first corner – with Cook getting high and jumping the cushion, sustaining steering component damage to his ride bringing a premature end to his night. With Kerr’s teammate Billy Ogle Jr. moving alongside for the next try to go green, Kerr was warned by track officials for jumping the start, once again bringing the caution flag out.
Finally getting a good start to the 60-lap main event, Kerr led Madden, Owens, Ogle, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Austin Dillon to complete the opening lap. Racing off the fourth turn on lap 3, Madden got around Kerr for the lead. Kerr began to feel pressure for the runner-up position from Owens, with “The Newport Nightmare” racing off hard on the inside of Kerr entering first turn to grab the spot.
While Owens was working his way around Kerr for second, just behind them Austin Dillon was getting around Ogle Jr. for fourth in the running order. Austin Dillon closed quickly to rear bumper of Kerr and after looking to the inside of him racing off the corners for several circuits, finally on lap 14 racing off turn two he pulled the trigger and shot past to move into third.
With the door open, Dan Schlieper slid into the fourth spot, dropping Kerr back to fifth. Kerr’s race went from good to bad quickly, as he slowed on lap 18 with a flat right-rear tire to bring out the caution, which erased an eight car-length lead Madden held over Owens.
Going back green it was Madden out front over Owens, Austin Dillon, Schlieper and Austin’s younger brother, Ty Dillon. With a clear track ahead, Madden and Owens turned the wick up and began to put some distance between themselves and Austin Dillon and Schlieper.
Just outside of the top five, working his way forward after starting the event in 18th-place, Jonathan Davenport first disposed of Jared Landers on lap 20 for tenth. Then he got around both Brad Neat and Chip Brindle over the next couple of circuits to settle into the seventh spot in running order just prior to the race’s mid-point.
During the second half of the Spring Thaw 60, the scenario appeared that either Madden or Owens were the cars to beat. Owens was lurking in Madden’s shadows, waiting for the leader to make a mistake. While over a half-straightaway behind the front-running duo, Austin Dillon, Schlieper and Ty Dillon were having strong runs.
But Madden, driving the Cornett-powered Century Plastics Inc., Hamrick’s of Gaffney, Cushman Paint & Body, Freeman Plumbing, Henderson Amusement, Allstar Performance, Hoosier Racing Tires, Team Zero Bloomquist Race Cars, would not be denied the $10,000 Spring Thaw 60 victory as he won over Owens, Austin Dillon, Schlieper and Ty Dillon. Strong top-five finishes were turned in by the Dillon brothers, grandsons of legendary NASCAR multi-car owner Richard Childress.
Completing the top 10 finishers were Casey Roberts, Davenport, Neat, Brindle and Dennis Erb Jr.
Kenny Peeples Jr. roared out to the early lead in the 30-lap Fastrak Racing Series-sanctioned Pro (Crate) Late Model feature over Mount Airy, N.C.’s Ryan Atkins and Vic Chandler. Holding right at three-quarters straightaway lead over Atkins and Chandler, on lap 14 the race for Peeples ended when he spun to bring out the caution between turns one and two after the steering column broke on his ride.
With Peeples parked in the pits, Atkins assumed the point followed by Chandler. While Chandler was pressuring Atkins for the lead, just behind them Jerry Broyles was trying to hold off advances from Matt Long.
Over the final five circuits, Chandler looked both to the inside and outside trying to overtake Atkins for the lead. But the 24-year-old Atkins, driving the Heintz Bros. Performance, FK Rod Ends, DMC Auto, Burley Stabilization, W&B Fabricators, Hicks Waterstoves, Hendren Racing Engines, VP Racing Fuels, Barry Wright Race Car, held on for the victory over Chandler, Broyles, Long and Keith Helton.
VOLUNTEER SPEEDWAY – $10,000-TO-WIN “SPRING THAW 60 PRESENTED BY EAST TENNESSEE MASONRY” – MARCH 19, 2011
Showing Finish Position, Starting Position In Parentheses, Driver Name, Car Number, Hometown
1. (3) Chris Madden #44-Gray Court, SC
2. (6) Jimmy Owens #20-Newport, TN
3. (5) Austin Dillon #3-Lewisville, NC
4. (10) Dan Schlieper #9-Sullivan, WI
5. (12) Ty Dillon #41-Lewisville, NC
6. (9) Casey Roberts #101-Toccoa, GA
7. (18) Jonathan Davenport #49-Blairsville, GA
8. (13) Brad Neat #41n-Dunnville, KY
9. (16) Chip Brindle #21-Chatsworth, GA
10. (19) Dennis Erb Jr. #28-Carpentersville, IL
11. (14) Jared Landers #777-Batesville, AR
12. (24) Kerry Jones #116-Bristol, TN
13. (23) Stacy Boles #11B-Claxton, TN
14. (21) Vic Hill #1-Morristown, TN
15. (1) Tommy Kerr #4T-Maryville, TN
16. (7) Mark Douglas #52D-Knoxville, TN
17. (15) Mark Vineyard #4-Powell, TN
18. (11) Chad Ogle #10-Sevierville, TN
19. (4) Billy Ogle Jr. #201-Knoxville, TN
20. (8) Mike Weeks #22-Friendsville, TN
21. (22) Jeff Maupin #25-Greeneville, TN
22. (20) Ronnie Johnson #5-Chattanooga, TN
23. (17) Chris Ferguson #22f-Mount Holly, NC
24. (2) Ray Cook #53-Brasstown, NC
FIRST HEAT (10 Laps – Top 6 Transfer): 1) Tommy Kerr #4T; 2) Billy Ogle Jr. #201; 3) Mark Douglas #52D; 4) Dan Schlieper #9; 5) Brad Neat #41n; 6) Chip Brindle #21; 7) Vic Hill #1; 8) Jeff Maupin #25; 9) Ross White #0; 10) Ronnie Johnson #5
SECOND HEAT (10 Laps – Top 6 Transfer): 1) Ray Cook #53; 2) Austin Dillon #3; 3) Mike Weeks #22; 4) Chad Ogle #10; 5) Jared Landers #777; 6) Chris Ferguson #22f; 7) Dennis Erb Jr. #28; 8) Kerry Jones #116 – Did Not Start: Steve Smith #3; Dan Breuer #20
THIRD HEAT (10 Laps – Top 6 Transfer): 1) Chris Madden #44; 2) Jimmy Owens #20; 3) Casey Roberts #101; 4) Ty Dillon #41; 5) Mark Vineyard #4; 6) Jonathan Davenport #49; 7) Stacy Boles #11B; 8) Eric Jacobsen #5j; 9) Jeff Wolfenbarger #28w
B-MAIN (15 Laps – Top 6 Transfer): 1) Dennis Erb Jr. #28; 2) Ronnie Johnson #5; 3) Vic Hill #1; 4) Jeff Maupin; 5) Stacy Boles #11B; 6) Kerry Jones #116; 7) Eric Jacobsen #5j; 8) Ross White #0; 9) Jeff Wolfenbarger #28w – Did Not Start: Steve Smith #3; Dan Breuer #20
PRO (CRATE) LATE MODEL (30 laps)
1) Ryan Atkins #9; 2) Vic Chandler #88; 3) Jerry Broyles #72; 4) Matt Long #25; 5) Keith Helton #5; 6) Bobby Mays #19; 7) Todd Brooks #T1; 8) John Broce Jr. #44w; 9) Jake Eaton #29e; 10) Steve Cooke #17c; 11) David Collins Jr. #39; 12) David Collins Sr. #26; 13) Chris Cantrell #114; 14) Kenny Peeples Jr. #k22; 15) Chad Hale #51; 16) Ricky Moore #75; 17) Tyler Dixon #00 – Did Not Start: Tim Byrd #24; James Cole #5c; Mike Smith #4
Volunteer Speedway (Recording Only): (423) 235-5020 www.VolunteerSpeedway.com
Track Office – Weekdays Only 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.: (423) 378-5942
Phyllis Loven (Track Owner): (423) 676-9081
Robert Walden – Media/Public Relations: (423) 928-9644