Masterson claims victory in 100-lap Devil’s Bowl feature
WEST HAVEN — Bristol Late Model stock car driver Josh Masterson outdueled East Montpelier teen Emily Packard on July 4 in the Coca-Cola Firecracker 100 at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway in an exciting race that track officials said brought the largest grandstand crowd in the West Haven track’s asphalt era to its feet.
Packard, 17, led much of what track officials described as a well-driven race, taking the lead from veteran Bucko Branham on lap 18. She held the point as Masterson made his way through traffic and ran some entertaining laps with Branham, Jamie Fisher, Ferrisburgh’s Jamie Aube and Brandon Atkins.
Masterson, 22, was making big gains on Packard’s lead when the caution flag flew on lap 81, setting up a duel between them for the final 20 circuits. Masterson got the break on the restart and took over the lead, but was never more than a car length ahead.
Packard made two bids at the lead on the inside lane in the final six laps as Masterson preferred the top groove. She nosed ahead to lead the 99th lap by inches and pulled ahead further on the backstretch, but Masterson made a daring drive into the final corner and carried his momentum to the victory. The finish — and the show of respect between the drivers in victory lane after a hard-fought but clean battle — drew huge cheers from the crowd.
Three-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Aube had his best drive in several years as he ran among the leaders throughout the race and finished third. Atkins finished fourth with Fisher fifth.
Fans also cheered winners Leon Gonyo, Richard Lowrey III, Bobby LaVair and Richie Turner during NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action.
While the Late Model race highlighted youth, the 30-lap Bond Auto Parts Modified feature was one for the veterans. New York driver Gonyo, 61, benefitted from contact between leaders Vince Quenneville Jr. of Brandon and Jessey Mueller to take the lead at lap 22, then held off defending champion Todd Stone of Middlebury to earn his first win in more than two years.
Quenneville appeared to be headed to the winner’s circle to end a similar two-year drought, but contact from Mueller sent him off the track and put both drivers at the rear of the field. Gonyo held the lead and fended off attempts from Stone in both lanes over the final laps. Stone settled for second, with Joey Roberts, Johnny Scarborough and Ron Proctor next in line.
Teenagers Lowrey and Stephen Donahue turned in an entertaining race in the 20-lap Renegade feature, with Lowrey earning the first victory of his career. Donahue raced with Lowrey for the lead early, then spun to the infield. Scott FitzGerald of West Rutland drove up to second and finished there for a career-best effort, and a quick recovery by Donahue left him as the final podium finisher.
Driver Bobby LaVair of Saranac Lake, N.Y., became the seventh different winner in eight races for the Central Vermont Motorcycles Mini Stock division, taking a 20-lap feature event. Point leader Chuck Bradford of Addison came through traffic to finish second, while the winner’s brother, Chris LaVair, took third.
Former Renegade champion Richie Turner of Fairfax won a 75-lap event for the Enduro Series for his first win in the division. Turner threaded his way through a spate of early crashes that eliminated many competitors, and then won a race of mechanical attrition down the stretch. Shawn Fountain took the runner-up spot, with Brett “Woody” Wood third.
Jerry Jokinen of Castleton won the annual Coca-Cola employees’ race in the first event of the season for the Daredevil community racing division. Jokinen is a manager at Coca-Cola in Rutland.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway returns to action on Friday, July 11, at 7 p.m. with the first-ever “Twitter Twin 25s” event for the Modified division. The Modified division will race two 25-lap feature events, with the Late Model and Mini Stock divisions also in action. Street-legal spectator racing also returns for the event.
The winners and local finishers on July 4 were:
• Late Model Feature (100 laps): 1. Masterson, Bristol; 3. Aube, Ferrisburgh.
• Bond Auto Parts Modified Feature (30 laps) 1. Gonyo; 2. Stone; 10. Quenneville.
• Renegade Feature (20 laps) 1. Lowrey.
• Central Vermont Motorcycles Mini Stock Feature (20 laps): 1. LaVair; 2. Bradford; 10. Lance Masterson, Lincoln.
• Enduro Series (75 laps): 1. Turner; 8. Ed Shackett Sr., Middlebury; 15. Aaron Desabrais, Addison; 16. Eddie Shackett Jr., Middlebury; 19. John Gero, Bristol; 28. Nate Bertrand, Brandon; 30. Trevor Sampson, Addison; 31. Kaleb Shepard, Bristol; 32. Shane Wood, Whiting.
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