Brandon Ward celebrates his victory in Saturday night's Southern Modified Racing Series race at Southern National Motorsports Park.
Andy Marquis | SNMP
By Andy Marquis
Southern National Motorsports Park
Brandon Ward’s victory in Saturday night’s Southern Modified Racing Series race at Southern National Motorsports Park was a sentimental one.
Four years ago, his close friend and crew member Mike Sabiston passed away at the track prior to a Super Late Model race. Ward, who now races regularly in Modifieds, picked up his third consecutive win in the Southern Modified Racing Series and felt like Sabiston was riding shotgun with him.
“It’s special to win here,” Ward said after the race. “We lost something way bigger than this when we lost Mike here at this racetrack. There’s not a day that goes by that I think about Mike and his entire family, whether it be at the racetrack or not. Especially, when we come here, man, it’s like he’s been riding with us all day. We’ve had a fast racecar. Will Spaugh has done a phenomenal job with this racecar, I can’t thank him enough.”
Ward held off a late charge from Burt Myers, who had been saving tires earlier in the run before mounting his charge on the final laps. Myers, who finished second, felt he had a car that could win, but contact with James Civali potentially cost him a shot.
“We had a great car,” Myers said. “Seems like that’s the trend for us. This track and this car, it just fits my driving style. I love coming here. I knew, 20 to go, on that restart, it was probably a little too early to go hard so I waited closer to the end and went as hard as I could, just ran out of laps. The 79 ran me sideways, tried to drive right through me and cost us both a couple of spots. That got me way behind and it took me a little longer to get caught up.”
Myers has won seven track championships at Bowman Gray Stadium, a track that is notorious for aggressive racing and extracurricular activities. However, Myers doesn’t let that track’s reputation affect his driving. While he had an opportunity to potentially take Ward out, Myers raced him clean right to the end.
Mason Diaz picked up his first career Late Model Stock Car win in the first Late Model duel over teammate Jonathan Findley. Diaz made the pass on Findley with 11 laps to go in the race.
“It feels good to be in victory lane of course,” Diaz said. “Can’t thank the crew enough for everything they did for me. Going into the race, I wasn’t sure what we were going to have since practices were short and stuff today. Crew gave me a great car and threw a lot of good shots at it for the race. I can’t thank them enough.”
Michael Fose scored the win over Findley and Diaz in the second Late Model duel. In the closing laps, Findley began to run down Fose, but Fose had saved his best for the final laps, maintaining the gap to Findley and scoring his first win of 2017.
In other divisions: AJ Sanders led wire-to-wire to win in the Mini Stock feature race. Chris Floars scored the win in the Legend Car feature, his first career win at Southern National Motorsports Park. Meanwhile, Jeremy Bohne dominated to win in the Charger feature race while Ethan Johnson became the first repeat winner of 2017 at Southern National with his win in the Bandolero race. The Southern Ground Pounders Vintage Racing Club was also in action, with Kevin Floars scoring the overall win in his Vintage Sportsman racecar while Mack Tatum picked up the victory in the Vintage Modified class.
The next race at Southern National Motorsports Park will be held on Saturday night, April 22, headlined by the first race of the season for the Fast Five Pro Late Model Series. The race will also feature twin Late Model races as well as racing for Chargers, Mini Stocks, Legends and Bandoleros.