New season, same result as Dodson claims victory
Defending Late Model champ bests Hopkins in Southside's opener
BY WALT AMACKER
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published Saturday, April 7, 2007

FRIDAY - APRIL 6, 2007
SOUTHSIDE SPEEDWAY
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The word came approximately halfway through last night's feature race at Southside Speedway that snow was falling in Amelia, about 40 miles down the road. Opening night and snow. Not a good combination for cars and concrete and 2,000 fans sitting in the stands.

No big deal for the 48th season of the Midlothian track. Stranger things have happened.

But the end of the J.M. Wilkinson Memorial 200-lap Late Model Sportsman race felt very familiar as last year's LMS division champion Chris Dodson stood in victory lane and accepted the first-place trophy.

"This is the third year in a row that I've been fortunate enough to win this race that is held every year in Mr. Wilkinson's memory," Dodson said. "Without Mr. Wilkinson and his daughter Sue Clements [current track owner and promoter] I wouldn't even have the opportunity to race. This is such an honor."

The late J.M. Wilkinson founded Southside Speedway and was its promoter for many years.

Starting in fifth place of a seven-car inversion, Dodson bided his time with a number of other familiar Southside LMS drivers. Brandon Hendrick, Billy Morris and Russ Ellis started in the top three spots with Morris inheriting the lead when Hendrick couldn't get around the lapped car of George Pillsbury on Lap 23 after Pillsbury's water pump broke.

Ellis and Dodson overtook Morris, whose swaybar bracket broke on Lap 34, and they took off with Chris Hopkins in third place, which was essentially how the front of the field looked for the remainder of the race.

Dodson went low on Lap 79, trying to get past Ellis, and almost gave Hopkins a chance to pass them both and take the lead. But after some crowding in the corners, the top three stayed the same until Dodson finally overtook Ellis on Lap 81 and gathered a lead he would not relinquish.

Hopkins stayed on Dodson's bumper as Ellis fell to third, and by Lap 115 it was basically a two-car race between Dodson and Hopkins.

Dodson pulled away to as much as a 10-car lead over Hopkins, with several cautions bringing Dodson back to the field. On Lap 157, Hopkins almost snuck past Dodson by going low on the restart, but the space just wasn't there and the two drivers tangled for the lead to the point that Hopkins lost his right front panel to Dodson's bumper.

"I wasn't going to wreck him," Dodson said. "But I wasn't going to give him anything either. I just wasn't going to give it up. We practiced on stability for tonight, not just for speed. Chris is a great driver, and I always look forward to racing him."

The 20-lap MACKA race was won by Chris Johnson.


Contact staff writer Walt Amacker at wamacker@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6554.

RESULTS

LATE MODEL (200 laps): 1. Chris Dodson; 2. Chris Hopkins; 3. Russ Ellis; 4. Bubba Hubbard; 5. Chris Hairfield; 6. Ray Ashworth; 7. Johnny Drudge; 8. Wayne McGee; 9. Greg Fernandez; 10. James Poates Jr.; 11. Charles Lamb Jr.; 12. Rob Jenkins; 13. Chris Mueller; 14. Steve Zuskin; 15. Scott Turlington; 16. Joey Bryant; 17. Jason Pittman; 18. Billy Morris; 19. Brandon Hendrick; 20. George Pillsbury; 21. Roy Hendrick

MACKA (20 laps): 1. Chris Johnson; 2. Darek McCauley; 3. Brad Davis; 4. Gabe Sausburg; 5. Mike O'Conner; 6. Mark Claytor; 7. Josh Tapscott; 8. Ben Hammock; 9. Allen Purser; 10. Alex Vasquez; 11. Stanley Holmes; 12. Stan Holmes; 13. Warren Smigo; 14. LeeRoy DeVore; 15. Ryland Craze; 16. Michael Webb; 17. Craig Bartholomew; 18. Rodney Davenport; 19. Josh Settlage