YONTZ MAKES A NAME FOR HIMSELF WITH MARTINSVILLE WIN by Jeremy Troiano
20-Year-Old In The Limelight With Bailey’s 300 Victory
As a young racecar driver, making a name for yourself is all about 99-percent of the racing population wants to do.
Alex Yontz has been trying to do that in 2006. The 20-year-old is right in the thick of things in the UARA Late Model Stock Car Series - second in points with three wins to his credit this year already.
Yontz did everything he could to shut those doubters up on Sunday, winning the biggest Late Model Stock Car race in the country, the $25,000-to-win Bailey’s 300 at Martinsville Speedway. And he won by dominating most of the drivers that are often looked at as “better drivers” than he and the rest of his UARA regulars.
“Hopefully, this lets people know I’m for real,” said Yontz. “Running UARA is great, but there are a lot of great Late Model Stock drivers who just run weekly at tracks all around the area. Some of the weekly guys say ‘well you haven’t come raced with us.’ This just goes to show them that we can run with them and we’ve got just as good of a team as they do.
“This is like the Daytona 500 for Late Model Stocks. Words can't even explain this to me. This is the biggest win you could put under your belt and on your resume as a Late Model driver. There is nothing bigger than this race. This definitely tops the charts for career victories for me and probably always will.”
After Martinsville, all eyes (and cameras) were on young Alex Yontz. (51 photos)
However, there were still his doubters out there.
Late Model Stocks are a fickle division. While UARA is a great touring series for the cars, many fans and racers alike believe the best of the best in the division still just run weekly at tracks across the Southeast and the Eastern Seaboard, competing for wins, track championships and even the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series championship, rather than the touring UARA title. Names like Peyton Sellers, Frank Deiny Jr, Phillip Morris and Jamey Caudill spend more time racing at tracks like Motor Mile, Caraway, Hickory, Lonesome Pine and Ace rather than touring around with UARA. So while some of the drivers in the UARA Series are considered good, some think they are still not as good as the weekly runners around the area.
And while words can’t describe the win, Yontz was sure able to describe the trophy he got for winning… also the traditional grandfather clock trophy that goes to every race winner at the famed half-mile.
“I’ve got a clock now. That is something no one can take from me. We’ll get the check and that will go back into the racecar, but the trophy is a nice piece and a rare commodity. That is something not a lot of people have. That is something you just get from Martinsville and that is what makes it so special. That just goes to show you how special this race really is to all of us (Late Model drivers).”
Yontz (#55) leads the field late in the race.
Yontz dominated the second-half of a race that was, in essence, full of drivers that run weekly and that some think are better than Alex and his UARA buddies.
But that is what big races like Martinsville are supposed to do for young drivers and drivers who have never been heard of before; help them break out into the landscape.
It’s the same thing that pole sitter Wayne Ramsey had happen to him. Ramsey flew under everyone’s radar and captured the pole for Martinsville by breaking the track record. Then, the South Boston regular went on to lead the first 58 laps of the event and 67 laps total, including being out front at the halfway break.
was able to slip into the inside lane behind Boswell and in front of Mitcham. Boswell went wide in turn two, allowing Yontz to take the lead by the end of the lap.
From then on out, it was Yontz’s race to lose.
“That is always been part of this big race is the invert,” added Yontz, who led 91 of the race’s final 100 laps. “That is just something you have to take into consideration. The invert didn’t really hurt or help us either way. If they didn’t have the invert, I would have lined up fifth, which, at the time, I would have preferred since it was on the inside lane. Now, looking back on it, I’m glad it happened the way it did.
At one point, Ramsey (#51) had a huge lead on the field.
It was after the halfway break where things really got exciting.
The top-eight drivers, thanks to a random draw, were inverted for the last 100-lap segment of the 200-lap event (the race is named the 300 after the 200 lap feature and the four 25-lap heat races). Yontz, who was running fifth at the halfway yellow, restarted fourth behind JR Motorsports driver Richard Boswell.
At the green on lap 101, Boswell got a huge jump on inside front-row started Jason Mitcham. In fact, he got too good of a start. He jumped the green and eventually got black flagged for jumping the restart. However, since Yontz was starting directly behind Boswell and went the same time Boswell did, he got a great start as well and
“We restarted fourth (after the invert) and the outside line just went. It made it a lot easier on me. We didn’t even have to ride in second. We led the very next lap and it just worked out perfect. I couldn’t have had it work out any better.
“Richard’s jumping the restart actually helped me out. I saw the board flashing his number; I got worried thinking they were going to black flag me too. Everything just happened perfect.”
Over the last few years, officials at Maritnsville have added a new twist to the 300. During the last 10 laps, the caution if flown and the field is lined up single-file and a 10-lap shootout follows.
Yontz took the lead from Mitcham (#74) just past half way.
After Yontz built such an impressive lead, it was the last thing he wanted to see.
“I was so nervous for those last 10 laps,” added Yontz. “I knew those other guys had saved everything they had for those last 10 and they were going to use it up to try and get around me. The spotter was telling me I had a couple of car lengths and just to be smooth. That is what I was working on doing. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I didn’t know which way to go. I was just hoping I could hold them off and I did.”
Yontz held on and held off Ramsey and former race winner Jamey Caudill over a final 10-lap shootout.
nose up off the corner. That was the difference. I was better than Alex for the first two or three laps of a run, but after that, he was just a little bit better after every lap and I couldn’t’ catch him.
“We didn’t run as well as we thought we would at South Boston all year. We picked up there at the end of the year and that translated here to Martinsville. I don’t think anyone expected me to win the pole or run as well as I did. It feels good to surprise people. I think I supposed people. We were under the radar and people weren’t watching us that close. We snuck up on them.”
Caudill followed Yontz to the line in third, and followed him to the bank.
Now, Yontz will have to live up to the hype… but he’s not even focusing on that.
“I hope we can keep it going and go to Tri-County and win us one there. I know there will be a lot of people gunning for us now since we’ve won this race. It will be neat to go back and talk with a lot of the UARA regulars. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of congratulations this weekend. But, we’ve got to focus too because we are in a big points race.
“We just really wanted to come here (to Martinsville) and get a good, solid run in, keep the car in once piece and come out of here with some momentum. Now, to come out of here with a win, I can’t even explain it.”
There was no shortage of big accidents at Martinsville.
For Ramsey, even though it wasn’t a win, Martinsville was a breakout race for him as well.
“It is huge,” said Ramsey, who finished ninth in the track points at South Boston this past season. “It is unbelievable to come to Martinsville, sit on the pole, lead halfway and finish second. In the end though, it’s really disappointing. I had a great car all day. If I could have gotten out front a little bit earlier in the run, we would have been okay. But I had to use my car up following them because I was a lot quicker than Alex and Jason (Mitcham). They were holding me up, but I didn’t want to force the issue and go into the corner and take one of them out. Towards the end of the run, I was losing the