Hopkins wins 150-lap event
Accustomed to lengthy races, he takes over lead on Lap 121 and sets sail for victory lane
BY WALT AMACKER
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published Friday, September 7, 2007

THURSDAY - SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
SOUTHSIDE SPEEDWAY
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Chris Hopkins showed the experience of a veteran driver in winning his seventh Late Model Sportsman race of the season at Southside Speedway last night before 1,600 fans.

The 150-lap event actually seemed like three different races. The 24 cars that started made it through 78 laps before a yellow flag. For the Midlothian short track, that has to be a record.

Hopkins started seventh, as is customary with the winner of the previous race. Points leader Chris Dodson started in third place after the qualifying inversion and took over second place by Lap 3. Smart money would have been on Dodson at that point, but last year's track champion started to fade halfway through the race and finished off of the lead lap for the first time this year.

Brandon Hendrick, who started on the pole, initially looked like he had the car to beat, putting three lapped cars between himself, Dodson and Steve Zuskin on Lap 58. But on Lap 78, Zuskin and Bugs Hairfield tangled on Turn 1. Eventually, Zuskin and Hairfield were disqualified by track officials for unsportsmanlike conduct following the incident.

The on-track incident carried over into the pits as a member of Hairfield's crew went after Zuskin as he was pulling into his slot on the infield. Cooler heads - and the Chesterfield County police - prevailed before damage was done.

Hendrick still held the lead with 38 laps to go, but he and Ray Ashworth, who was running second, got side by side on the backstretch, and it looked like Ashworth would take the lead. But the two drivers got into each other on the frontstretch and spun each other out of the lead and out of the race.

This opened the door for Hopkins to take over first place on the restart on Lap 121, and 29 laps later he was pulling into victory lane.

"I'm maybe used to running these longer races than most of the guys are," Hopkins said. "That's all we used to run at South Boston and Southampton and some of the other NASCAR-related short tracks. With the tires we use, you can't go out there and run these cars wide open for 150 laps. You've got to bide your time. Do what you can to stay with them, then run out the race over the last 50 laps.

"I hate to see what happened [between Hendrick and Ashworth], and I was lucky to stay out of it," Hopkins said.

Timmy Nice rolled his No. 52 Grand Stock to the win in a 50-lap race, making up for last week when he crossed the finish line first but was disqualified after tech inspection for a weight discrepancy. Nice, who started fourth, ran a strong car and pressed for the lead on Lap 14.

Nice held off Daniel Shelton and Chris Hott, making his way through lapped traffic three times for the victory, his second of the year.

"It was tough to lose like that last week," Nice said. "We were 14 pounds under weight last week, and they only allow you five. But we got it right this time, and I really want to thank my crew for all their help. Couldn't do it without them."

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

RESULTS

Late Model Sportsman (150 laps): 1. Chris Hopkins; 2. Shayne Lockhart; 3. Bubba Hubbard; 4. Russ Ellis; 5. Chris Dodson; 6. Brandon Hendrick; 7. Chris Hairfield; 8. Jason Pittman; 9. Greg Fernandez; 10. Rob Jenkins; 11. Rusty Wood; 12. J.B. Poates; 13. Jamie Neely; 14. Wayne McGee; 15. Lin O'Neil; 16. Ray Ashworth; 17. Roy Hendrick; 18. Eddie Johnson; 19. Wayne Patterson; 20. Scott Turlington; 21. Chris Smith; 22. Allen Marshall; DQ: Steve Zuskin, Bugs Hairfield

Grand Stock (50 laps): 1. Timmy Nice; 2. Chris Hott; 3. Keith Mackta; 4. Fred Key; 5. B.K. Wilson; 6. Daniel Shelton; 7. Brian Myslivy; 8. Donnie Newman; 9. Justin Brown; 10. Tony Ingram Sr.; 11. Robert Lipford; 12. Bill Ammerman; 13. Wayne Cole; 14. Mike Cole; 15. Weedy Ellington; 16. Kevin Wilson; 17. Tony Ingram II; 18. Richard Skeens; 19. Cory Willoughby


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