- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Darrell Gilchrist’s eyes were wide with joy, much like a youngster after he awakens to find a tasty pile of Easter Eggs in his basket on Easter morning.
The young Raleigh, N.C. driver scored his first career win in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car Division racing Saturday night, edging Dustin Storm of Huntingtown, Md. in a 19-lap sprint to the finish in the Easter Bunny 150 at South Boston Speedway.
Gilchrist drove away from Storm after the final restart and was 1.058 second ahead of Storm when the checkered flag fell. Matt Bowling of Ridgway finished third, with Tommy Peregoy of Red Oak and Hunter Devers of King George rounding out the top five finishers.
“I really almost don’t know what to say,” said Gilchrist.
“This (standing in Victory Lane) is right where I wanted to be. I felt like I could get a win or a podium finish, but I never thought I’d be here tonight. I’m just tickled to death.”
The race was a highly competitive one, with eight lead changes among four drivers. Gilchrist led four times for a total of 94 laps, but it wasn’t until the final 19 laps that he clearly had the race under control.
A mishap that resulted when Gilchrist and Josh Oakley of Rougemont, N.C. made contact as they were battling for the lead on lap 124 following a restart changed the complexion of the race.
Oakley’s car spun in the middle of the second turn after the contact, and several of the race’s top contenders including Storm, South Boston’s Bruce Anderson, former NASCAR National Champion Peyton Sellers, Dennis Holdren and Austin Self found themselves involved in the multi-car melee that ensued.
The cars driven by Oakley and Anderson were the most heavily damaged and both were sidelined after the crash. Oakley was livid after the crash and a heated verbal exchange followed between members of Oakley’s team and Gilchrist’s team.
“On the restart prior to that, he (Gilchrist) kept cutting me up into the wall on the outside,” a highly upset Oakley said.
“He (Gilchrist) started to cut me up on the outside. I got right behind him on the back straightaway. I never touched him. He went off into (turn) three and scooted up the track. I went to the bottom and got a run up off of (turn) four. I got under him on the front straightaway. By the time we got to turn one, I was all the way up beside him. He cut me down into the wall.
“I hadn’t showed my hand yet,” Oakley continued.
“I couldn’t show my hand because I kept getting cut off. I felt I had the best car tonight, by far. When you try to race people clean and they drive you dirty like that, it’s a no-win situation. So, I guess I’m going to have to start doing that myself, and, if I get up there, take him out.”
Gilchrist said he didn’t know how to respond to the mishap.
“My spotter never really told me he (Oakley) was there,” Gilchrist said.
“From what I’ve been told, I got dive-bombed. That’s racing. I’ve never known winning one (a race) driving in (into the corner), I always win them coming off.”
After the mishap, the race clearly belonged to Gilchrist, with Storm trying as hard as he could to keep pace. Despite finishing second, Storm was pleased.
“It’s a great way to start the season.” Storm said.
“He (Gilchrist) was a little better than us. I thought we were done in that wreck when the 8 car (Josh Oakley) spun in front of us. Somehow, we slipped by with minimal damage.”
Storm said Gilchrist got the advantage with a good jump on the final restart.
“My only shot was to hang on the outside, and I was just a little too free on the gas up off the corner to really stick in there.”
The top six cars in the 21-car field finished on the lead lap. Anderson was credited with a 13th-place finish. Jeb Burton of Halifax, driving a car owned by Jim Dean, ran well, getting as high as third place before he and Kris Bowen were involved in a mishap on lap 116 that sidelined both cars. Burton was credited with a 17th-place finish.
Austin Thaxton won his first career pole in Late Model Stock car Division racing, but had a trouble-filled night and was sidelined after 47 laps after being involved in a wreck.
POS. DRIVER LAPS
1. Darrell Gilchrist 150
2. Dustin Storm 150
3. Matt Bowling 150
4. Tommy Peregoy 150
5. Hunter Devers 150
6. Rusty Skewes 150
7. Dennis Holdren 149
8. Mike Chambers 149
9. Peyton Sellers 142
10. Austin Self 127
11. Dude Gibbs 127
12. Josh Oakley 125
13. Bruce Anderson 125
14. Ronald Hill 125
15. Kenny Forbes 116
17. Jeb Burton 115
18. Dusty Ellington 101
19. Brian Pembelton 88
20. J.D. Eversole 67
21. Austin Thaxton 47
w Time of Race: 1 hr. 10 min. 17 sec.
w Average Speed: 51.212 mph
w Margin Of Victory: 1.058 sec.
w Cautions: 5 for 25 laps
w Lap Leaders: Anderson 1, Sellers 2-52, Gilchrist 53-67, Forbes 68, Gilchrist 69-93, Oakley 94-95, Gilchrist 96-122, Oakley 123, Gilchrist 124-150
w Pole Winner: Austin Thaxton
w Time: 15.685 Sec.
w Speed: 91.807 MPH