Teen Beats Fellow Texan Ryan Lawler to Top ASALM South
There were almost too many similarities between Colt James and Ryan Lawler Saturday night at Southern National Speedway (NC).  The two fastest cars were black with orange and white numbers.  Both were Ford Fusions.  The drivers?  They’re both rookies hailing from Texas and making a name for themselves in the East Coast Late Model ranks.
It wouldn’t take long for the Texas twosome James and Lawler to start flexing their muscles from their mid-pack starting spots.  With Zehr and Middleton comfortably up front, Lawler began picking off spots using the tricky outside lane at Southern National from his ninth starting position. 

“I think we passed just about everybody on the outside,” said Lawler.  “I wasn’t necessarily the only one that could make passes on the outside, it’s just that I didn’t have the car to stay on the bottom.  I had to go out there.

“Robert Hamke (Lawler’s chassis builder) has taught me a lot and one of the most important things he’s taught me is that you can pass on the outside with these things.  I just jumped out there and got it done.”
Colt James took his first ASA LM victory at Kenly on Saturday night. (Bob Milner Photo)
Zehr led the first half of the race, but on longer runs he was no match for James, who took away the top spot on lap 67.  When Lawler saw James jump to the lead, he turned the wick up on his own car and picked off both James Buescher and Middleton on the high side on lap 70 to take over second.  In the closing laps, James stayed about eight car-lengths ahead of Lawler but the two were closed together when the final caution flag came out on lap 83.  On the ensuing restart, James pulled away again and cruised to his first-ever ASA Late Model victory.
James (#15) passes Jay Middleton (#74).
So it seems perfectly fitting that the win in the 100-lap ASA Late Model Southern Division at Southern National came down to James and Lawler.  In the end it was James who showed that he had the best car all day long, winning Saturday night’s first-ever ASALM race at the high-banked Kenly, NC track after capturing the pole earlier in the day.

“Once I got the lead I knew that Ryan was going to be tough,” said the 23-year-old James.  “He always is in whatever he runs.  Plus Ryan and I go way back.  My dad used to help his dad out at the racetrack back in the 90’s and it was cool to race with him tonight.  We’re both from Texas and we’re both rookies in this deal, so I think we’ve got something good going between the two of us in this series.”

Just because James won the race after winning the pole doesn’t mean it was easy for the young Texan.  The post-qualifying inversion put James 10th at the drop of the green flag and Dillon Oliver at the front of the field.  Dalton Zehr was the one who took the early advantage, however, as the Florida teen broke out to a sixth car-length advantage over fellow Sunshine Stater Jay Middleton who settled into second. 
James might hail from one of the biggest states in the nation, but Saturday night’s win was one for the little guys.

“This is awesome,” said the 23-year-old.  “You see these guys out here with all there nice equipment that they buy with all their money.  I keep this car in my two-car garage at my house.  I have 800 square feet of shop space and these other guys have huge shops.  I have a 24-foot trailer, not one of those big rigs.  To come out here and hold my own and even beat them like we did tonight really feels great. 
Kenly 100 Unofficial Results
Southern National Raceway Park
1. 15, Colt James, 100-running
2. 91, Ryan Lawler, 100-running
3. 119, Dalton Zehr, 100-running
4. 2, James Bueshcer, 100-running
5. 74, Jay Middleton, 100-running
6. 46, Spencer Taylor, 100-running
7. 94, Jason Miller, 100-running
8. 38, Bo Miller, 100-running
9. 09, John Wes Townley, 100-running
10. 133, Greg Stewart, 100-running
11. 83, Beau Slocumb, 100-running
12. 33, Dillion Oliver, 100-running
13. 66, Kevin Willis, 99-running
14. 62, Travis Wilson, 99-running
15. 57, Leilani Munter, 95-running
16. 12, Mark Reedy, 83-accident
17. 188, David Pollen, Jr., 64-rear end
18. 26, Phil Gill, 61-mechanical

Ryan Lawler's #91.  (Milner Photo)
“It just shows that money doesn’t mean everything.  If you can get your car to handle good and you can get a good crew and crew chief, it can all come together.”

Dalton Zehr, after losing the lead to James, never lost sight of the frontrunners.  The youngster held on for third behind James and Lawler, while Buescher finished fourth and took a big bite out of the points lead due to points leader Bo Miller’s eight place finish. 

Miller’s point lead is now a mere three points over Buescher as the Southern Division of the ASA Late Models heads to Rockcastle Speedway (KY) on June 17th.