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SOUTH BOSTON, Va. — Matt Bowling came away victorious during Thursday’s Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at South Boston Speedway.
Bowling had to fight off Matt Waltz, who led the first 195 laps of the race, for the win. Nick Smith finished third.
The seventh edition of the annual charity race, which supports the Denny Hamlin Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, was a success for Hamlin and his charity.. In front of a packed house at the 2/5th-mile track, Hamlin joined NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and defending Showdown champion Kyle Busch, Camping World Truck Series drivers Timothy Peters and Jeb Burton and a collection of local Late Model drivers to race toward a cure for the disease.
|2014||Matt Bowling||South Boston|
"We’ve had more presale tickets this year — about triple what we’ve ever had — so South Boston’s really done a great job of hosting this event," Hamlin said. "It’s a venue that we’re looking to stay at for at least a few years and continue to grow it. Every year we’re able to give more and more money to these children’s charities that benefit from it. … It’s definitely been really good to get this program running and every year to just keep growing it."
Busch and Kenseth were the only two drivers from one of the three premier touring series to finish in the top 5. Busch finished fourth while Kenseth took fifth. Hamlin finished eighth.
Despite a mix of high-profile drivers like Hamlin and weekend warriors like pole-winner Waltz, Thursday’s race was anyone’s for the taking.
"It’s hard for the guys in the upper three series to come back and run one of these cars and be competitive," said Peters, who finished 27th following a tangle with Burton. "It’s just that much more difficult to drive than a truck or a Nationwide [Series] car or a Cup car. You’ve got the best of the best here in my opinion. To come in here and mix it up with these guys — you’ve done something." Any of these guys’ credentials could put them in the top three series. It’s just all about that big break."
A massive wreck in Turn 1 took out a handful of cars on the ninth lap of the night, causing the race to temporarily come to a halt under a red flag. The wreck took out numerous drivers and ended the day of Brayton Haws and Brian Pembelton, Dennis Holdren and Kelly Kingery.
Following Burton slamming into Blake Stallings on Lap 116, the sparks really started to fly. After the pair exchanged hand gestures while still in their cars, Stallings left his vehicle and continued to berate Burton, who was still in his car. As Burton climbed into an ambulance for a mandatory ride to pit road, officials were unable to get Stalling into the same ambulance, opting to take a fire truck to the pit rather than take a ride with Burton. Stallings and Burton finished 24th and 25th respectively.
"I think the 4 may have just over-drove the corner into me," Stallings said after calming down in the pits. "We’re just past halfway in the race and I really would have liked to finish the race. This is a great event and it’s an honor to be here. I’m just kind of disappointed that my night ended like it did. We all-in-all had a pretty good day. You can’t be but so mad because it’s a charity race."
Peyton Sellers had a strong showing through the first three-quarters of the race. However, Sellers’ night came to an end after he was pushed into the wall heading into Turn 4 on Lap 153. Prior to leaving the track, Sellers had been running in fourth.
Adam Hainsfurther can be reached at email@example.com
The Denny Hamlin Foundation Short Track Showdown raced before a full house at South Boston (Va.) Speedway on Thursday night. James Price