MYERS TAKES STADIUM WIN WITH FINAL TURN BUMP AND RUN by Matthew Dillner
Fleming & Loftin’s Wreck Leads to Dramatic Myers Southern Mod Win & More
In baseball, a game can is often decided on the final out. Racing at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) is often no different. A race can be decided on the final turn. The first 180 laps or so of the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour Advance Auto Parts 199 were pretty un-eventful but then the story of the race exploded with more twists and turns than a windy mountain road.
“That’s Bowman Gray Stadium,” said Frank Fleming, standing in street clothes behind his car in the pits after the race.
(TOP) Brian Loftin sneaks underneath Frank Fleming just before the wto cars crashed down the frontstretch. (BOTTOM) Fans applaud Frank Fleming as he walks away from his wrecked racecar. (51 Photos)
Fleming, looking for his first win in the three-years of the NASCAR Southern Mod Tour, led 194 of the 199 laps. He realizes that at the Stadium, all it takes is one turn or one split second, to change the outcome of a race drastically.
Fleming had the race in his pocket. Brian Loftin was on his bumper but was not considerably faster than the cagey veteran. Approaching a lapped-car, Fleming’s #07 drifted high. Loftin filled the hole and the two cars made contact. Nearly 16-thousand fans stood on their feet as the leaders slammed the wall down the frontstretch taking them out of contention.
“The lapped car opened the door for Brian to make his silly little move,” explained Fleming. “We led 196 laps. I hate [that] Brian chose to do what he did. I reckon he wanted to win real bad and he’s young. He just made a mistake. We came up on a lapped car and he came up beside me and just body slammed me got me in the wall. I was holding it wide-open and it knocked the steering wheel out of my hand. He chose to play that game and I can play it. I hate it for my team because we were three laps away from a win or even three laps away from finishing second or third.”
Loftin was visibly upset about how the race panned out and made his thoughts toward the contact known.
“Frank washed out wide there and gave me the bottom,” said Loftin. “I tried to get along side him and he flat turned into me and wrecked me. I guess there is a reason people haven’t won in eight or nine years… he can’t drive no better than that. I ran him clean all night and was going to run second if I couldn’t get a clean shot at him. I got a clean shot at him but don’t understand it. He flat wrecked us and it will come back around.”
“I just hate that Brian chose to drive the way he drove,” added Fleming. “My car was drifting up a little but he wasn’t going to pass me without bumping me because I was holding it down and he wasn’t that much better than me. He made a dumb move. That is sad that somebody with that much talent and that good of a racing team did that.”
The final-lap jam-up. Myers lets go of Smith's bumper and ducks under for the win coming out of turn-four.
While Myers has a few trophies to polish with pride, it may take some time for the dust to settle after yet another typical Bowman Gray thriller.
CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS SCORING FOR THREE DRIVERS
Tim Brown, Jason Myers and LW Miller were in discussions with NASCAR after the running of the Advance Auto Parts 199 on Saturday night. All three drivers had separate issues with scoring. Speed51.com will have the full story later this week.
MYERS AND MILLER HEATS UP ON THEIR BIGGEST STAGE
The Burt Myers/Junior Miller rivalry is a living-breathing creature. From time to time each driver has downplayed it, but it was evident that it’s alive during the Advance Auto Parts 199.
The majority of the 199 might have had some fans snoozing, but when the #1 and #69 got together, it woke up the large Stadium crowd.
“Burt knocked me out of the way and didn’t even give me a chance to straighten it out," said Miller. "We were into each other and sideways three or four times. I could have spun him but I let him go.
“Junior started puking out water and I could see if trickling off his right-rear quarter-panel,” said Myers of their contact-filled battle. “My car started sliding and his car started sliding around. I wondered if he was getting in his own water. When I saw him sliding it didn’t take much of a bump because he was already sliding. He kind of over-corrected and I got inside of him. I just tried to time it to where I could give him one little tap when he was already out of control it would give me that edge to get underneath him. He gave me four or five real good shots after that and then a few more later on. I don’t blame him for that. As long as he doesn’t turn me around or booger me I don’t mind him giving me a shot.
“I think Junior and I are the top-two contenders and it’s just like when you had Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, they are going to go at it when they are in the front every week.”
“He just knocks you out of the way,” said Miller. “We are going to start returning the favor soon and start knocking him out of the way.”
THE POLE STREAK IS OVER
Tim Brown was the first to step up and break Burt Myers’ impressive qualifying streak. Up until time-trials on Friday night for the 199, Myers’ had scored five poles in a row on the Tour. With a blistering lap, Brown became the only one so far in 2007 to be able to beat Burt on the clock.
“Tonight (Friday) this baby was hooked up. I’m telling you it was awesome,” said a pumped Brown before getting his hands on the Bud Pole trophy... “I know how he (Burt Myers) feels because I went a whole season with sitting on the pole here. We work real hard to try and sit on these poles and doing it means we break his streak and he can’t do that all year so that is great.”
MADHOUSE PROVES TO BE A DARKROOM FOR LW
LW Miller didn’t have a good feeling in the pit of his stomach entering Bowman Gray weekend. Miller’s feeling was correct. He was involved in several incidents during the 199. Miller did hang on for an 11th place finish, but the pinball nature of his night caused him to lose the points lead.
BRUNNHOELZL BATTLES NC BULLRING FOR THE FIRST TIME
George Brunnhoelzl III’s father, uncle and grandfather were all masters of racing Modifieds on a bullring. The third generation driver knows however, that the Stadium is not your typical ¼ mile oval. Brunnhoelzl fared well in his first ever race at Bowman Gray. He stayed out of trouble and finished sixth.
With the top-two contenders out of the way and a green-white checker finish ahead, the energy of anticipation built throughout the historic quarter mile oval. John Smith inherited the lead. Unfortunately for him, he had two of the Stadium’s most ferocious drivers in his mirror, Burt Myers and Junior Miller.
In typical Bowman Gray fashion, the race came down to the final turn. Smith cautiously entered turn-three and got the bumper of Myers. A top-three log jam ensued with Myers escaping to the inside to take the lead coming out of the final turn. Burt beat Smith to the line in dramatic fashion to take the win.
“I knew John had been tight on restarts and when he’d go into the corner he would shove out,” said an amazed Myers, who sat fourth with five-laps to go. “I knew that if he was smart he would play defense but he played too much defense. He should have run down in the corner hard enough to set his car. He ran in and backed off so soon it let me get against him. That let the man behind me get against me. By the time I got on John I was getting pushed. If you back off too much when you are getting pushed you are gonna get turned. I had to keep an easy throttle going. It’s just luck that he shoved out wide enough to wear I could get under him without taking my right-front tire off.”
“It’s just heart-breaking to come that close,” said Smith amidst all the victory lane hoopla. “I had grass on my tires real bad and it scooted the nose. I had to ride the brakes to keep it on the bottom and that is all I could do. He got against me and pushed me out. I tried to get back to the bottom but when you are getting pushed and have the front-wheels locked there is nothing you can do. Most of the time he wrecks me and he didn’t wreck me this time and I respect him for that. He had to do what he had to do to win. I believe if the shoe was on the other foot there would be more whining, but that’s just the way it goes and we will take it and move on.”
Junior Miller finished third but felt that not only did he have the car to win; he had the perfect scenario in front of him and just couldn’t capitalize on it.
“I was watching Burt and he pushed John up and I was pushing Burt,” said Miller. “I could have won the race if I was in the groove I should have been. I had something for them there on the last lap but it didn’t work out and backfired on me.”
The bump-and-run is part of the culture of Bowman Gray Stadium. Myers, a third generation driver at the famed bullring, knows this and used it to his advantage.
“That’s the nature of the beast over here. I told them on the radio that I haven’t roughed anybody up this year and I don’t plan on doing it now. But if the opportunity presents itself I am going to take it. But if not I am fine where I am at. Rooting him out of the way was not in my mind. When he tied it down he left me no choice.”
That sort of late-race drama seems to bring out the best in Burt Myers. He has made a career seizing the late-race moment at the “Madhouse.”
“You can play every scenario through your head but until it actually happens, that is when you act on it. Somebody asked me the other day if I get nervous? I don’t get nervous but I do get anxious. When I get anxious it seems that I am more prepared for it. That’s what drives you. I heard a driver say one time; I think it was Earnhardt, that ‘Fear is what drives a man.’ The anxiety is what drives a man to get up on the wheel and perform at his best.
Myer's bumper tells the tale of how of the chrome-horn style that has made Bowman Gray famous.
“I had no idea what was going to happen. In my mind I think we are all going to jam up together and I am going to finish second. But I get in the middle of the corner and the 25 slides out and I get underneath him it all kind of starts pouring on you.
“I will be dead honest with you, there is nothing like it. As you start to come off the corner and the crowd starts to stand up. It looks like a wave at a football game. I’ve won at probably 12 to 15 tracks around the country and this is the only one, I mean the only one that when you get out and they put you on the PA (public address system) you can’t hear yourself talk. That’s why the pits are full every week here and the fans fill the stands. If you want to know from a little higher source, Jimmy Spencer (former Nextel Cup driver) said he would kill to win a race over here. There are people that don’t know about it here or pick on it because we are racing around a football field. I invite every one of them to come out here and try it because if you can win at this place you can win anywhere.
Myers has been the man in the Southern Modified Tour world this season. He leads the Bowman Gray weekly Mod points, has scored wins in the ASA Mod Tour and 10-poles between the ASA and NASCAR Tours. But after a long hiatus from victory lane (last Mod Tour win in September of 2005 at Ace Speedway), a return to the Mod Tour spotlight had Myers grinning from ear to ear.
“We are having the best season I’ve had in my life. It feels like forever since I have won a Tour race and to do it here at a place I consider my home track means a lot. I think they told me that this win was the 110th for the Myers family here. I told them the only thing that sounds better is 111. We won the 200-lapper here this year and now have won the 199. We’ve got my (Advance Auto Parts 199) trophy from 2005 in the shop and Jason’s from 2006 and now mine from 2007. We will line them up and they are going to shine this week.”
Burt Myers climbs out of his car to a ruckus crowd and happy crew.
Myers and Miller got together a few times at Bowman Gray.
“I was nervous about this race and when I am nervous about a race it usually isn’t good,” admitted LW. “To sum it up best, on the way here I drove by this church and the sign out front said, ‘Worry is a darkroom where negatives are developed.’ I passed it and said to myself that I have been worried about this race for three weeks. I’ve been worried and things went bad and bad and worse. We qualified fifth so that was good but lucky me we re-drew eighth. When we started the race I tried to get to the bottom and then got to turn-one and all heck broke loose. I was involved in that wreck and it all got worse from there.
“I am just ready to get out of here. This is definitely the darkroom but I just need to quit worrying and do what I do best and that is race.”
“Whoever survives with four-wheels on the car is who finishes best. There is no passing here. It was just choo-choo train and get-going. It’s definitely an experience. It’s insanely difficult to pass. It could be… fun. It feels good to come out of here with a sixth-place finish.”
NOW THAT'S TOUGH!
Bobby Hutchens is known throughout the Modified ranks as a fiery competitor. After the weekend he had a Bowman Gray Stadium… nobody can question how tough he actually is. Hutchens planned on racing his weekly Stadium Mod in both the 50-lap regular show and the 199 NASCAR Southern Mod Tour show. Unfortunately, he wrecked the Chic-Fil-A #14 during the Friday night program. After pulling an all-nighter to prepare his main Tour car for the 199, Hutchens weekend got worse. He was involved in a few incidents during the 199, and apparently one of them injured his wrist. Hutchens said he thought it might be broken as he left the Stadium for the hospital with his arm bandaged up.
So how tough is Bobby Hutchens? He finished the race one lap down in 12th with the injured left wrist. Now that is tough.
Bobby Hutchens wrecked his primary-car on Friday night and stayed up all night to prepare their main Tour car for Saturday's race. .
LOAD UP THE FURNITURE AND THE RACECAR
Alex Hoag made the decision to tow down from upstate New York to run the Advance Auto Parts 199 at Bowman Gray. That decision wasn’t made initially to race. Hoag played the roll of mover and racer and ended up at the Stadium.
“I was helping a buddy move and it sounded like a good excuse for a vacation,” said Hoag. “One of my best friends Frank and his wife just got married and decided they wanted to move to Salisbury. We needed the trailer to take all of their stuff so we put the furniture in the front of the trailer and the racecar in the back. We left the pit cart, extra tires and any of the big stuff home and stuffed it full of furniture.”
Hoag was bounced around quite a bit in the 199. He dropped out of the race and ended up 22nd in the final tally.
HILL IS LIVING HISTORY AT THE STADIUM
The year was 1957, and a young Alfred Hill made a decision that changed his life.
“When I was in the stands I looked and said I can do that,” said Hill about racing at the Stadium. “Then I went out there with a car and ran and on the way home I said if that is racing it is not for me. I ran the best I could and ran last. I came back the next week with a different car and finished second and was hooked.”
That year Hill drove his 1938 Ford Coach in the Amateur division at Bowman Gray Stadium. Five decades after “rubbing wheels with Curtis Turner”, the 70-year old Hill is still in action racing a Modified weekly at Bowman Gray.
“I never dreamed back then I would be here today running. Nothing has really changed with the track it’s just the cars that are different.”
Hill, a native of Jonesville, North Carolina, finished 17th in the 199 on Saturday night.
Hill has scene it all at the Stadium. He's even run a 350-lap event at the tiny bull-ring.