March 19, 2017 10:40:37 PM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
Chase Washington led all but one lap and won the NeSmith Late Model feature Saturday at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Washington's win was his second straight victory and fourth top-3 finish of the season.
Washington started on the pole for the second straight race - he led front to back at Columbus Speedway on March 10 - and was challenged just once in the race when Spencer Hughes passed him on lap 2.
"There were some holes in the track that, if you hit one it'd push the car a little bit," Washington said, "so it was difficult to hit your marks consistently. But overall, it was another good day for us."
Jeremy Shaw, who drove for Brad Logan, finished second. Shaw said he started to gain ground on Washington once he found some grip in the top half of the track. But Washington was still fast, Shaw said.
"I thought we could gain ground when we hit lap traffic," Shaw said. "I saw Chase bobble a few times, and there were a few laps where I felt like we'd made up some ground. But we needed Chase to make a mistake, and he never did."
Shaw, who closed his race team after 2016, will continue to drive for Logan this season. He's unsure of the number of races they'll run this year.
"We've been working on the car a good bit," Shaw said. "We'll see what happens."
Hughes, in his first full-season driving late models, failed to get the Randy Thompson-owned car across the line after promising runs through qualifying and heat races. The Increase native won his heat and turned sub 14-second laps before working an early pass of Washington early in the feature. But on lap 4, Hughes spun out coming off turn 4 and fell to the back of the pack for the restart. Hughes said he bailed out after almost colliding with Shaw.
Hughes shot from 11th to fifth in just two laps following the re-start but couldn't make a charge to the front. He'd run near the top 5 until he pulled off on lap 16.
"The engine went at that point," Hughes said. "The engine was fine on the re-start. I'm disappointed, but I feel good about where our program is."
Washington, too, feels good about his race program after nearly a half-dozen races thus far. He said he's still looking for an additional sponsor to help with tires and fuel.
"Owning your own team can be challenging," Washington said, "so if we can get a bit more help, it'll give us a big boost down the road."
Randall Beckwith, Brandon Shaw and Justin Carter rounded out the top 5.
Scooter Ware wins again
Scooter Ware wasn't sure if he'd find an opening around Brandon Whitley in the Factory Stocks feature.
Then, a lap 7 caution flag became his saving grace.
Ware, who drove for Tupelo-native Johnny Kelly, passed Whitley on the ensuing re-start coming off turn 4 and pushed the No. 80 to victory, his fourth of the season.
"I cleaned it out [carburetor] on the re-start to make sure there was no hesitation in it," Ware said. "I stayed up on (Whitley's) back bumper and watched his back tires ... watched when he fired.
Ware said his only angle around Whitley was on the bottom of the track, where he had a lot of "bite" coming off the corner.
"(Whitley's) car kept getting tighter and tighter, and the longer we ran, he started shoveling the nose a little bit, so I tried to make my pass count in the center."
Whitley finished second, while Bill Sudduth, John Johnson and Tyler Castle rounded out the top 5.
In other race action:
Missouri native Josh Tomlin won the Street Stocks feature. Todd Robinson, Lee Ray, Ben Keith and Jay Burchfield rounded out the top 5.
Wesley Greene won the 602 Sportsman feature. Tony Shelton, Jed Ralston, Jason Roberts and Eric Payne rounded out the top 5.