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Bowling wins ‘Showdown’

Matt Bowling has seen victory slip from his grasp at least twice this season at South Boston Speedway.

In Thursday night’s 7th Annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown all-star charity race, Bowling seized his opportunity and didn’t let it get away.

The 2012 South Boston Speedway NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division champion sped past race leader Matt Waltz of Newport News with five laps to go and held on to edge Waltz by .671-second to win the 200-lap, 80-mile race that paid $10,000 to win.

“We’ve been really close a couple of times this season,” Bowling pointed out.

“We’ve had some bad luck throughout the year, and have had some races where we should have gotten wins and didn’t. Hopefully this will get the ball rolling.”

While Bowling was celebrating his first win of the season at South Boston Speedway and enjoying his status of being only the second Late Model Stock Car Division “regular” to win the all-star celebrity race, Waltz was feeling the sting of disappointment.

Waltz had started on the pole and had led the first 195 laps of the 200-lap race, fending off bids from Bowling and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch. 

But, when it came down to crunch time, Waltz didn’t have quite enough to fend off Bowling’s late charge.

“Losing this one in the last couple of laps like we lost at Martinsville last year, it’s killing me,” Waltz remarked.

“We didn’t lead the money lap. It really bugs the crap out of me. 

“Matt (Bowling) and his guys made the right adjustments (during the break with 50 laps left) and they outran us there at the end,” added Waltz.

“He (Bowling) was just fast. I really couldn’t do much behind the wheel to get back to him or anything.”

Bowling played a waiting game, sitting in second place and third place for most of the night conserving his tires and his car for a late charge for the win.

“I just kind of rode and kept the car straight and drove off of the corners straight and saved my tires,” Bowling explained.

“These tires, for whatever reason, seemed like they were going to fade quickly. I was conserving 75 to 80 percent of the race, seeing what I had and kind of biding my time. At the end we turned it up. I wasn’t sure if the car was going to be able to handle it, but it did.”

Waltz said he felt good about his chances when the mandatory 10-minute break came with 50 laps left in the race.

“Considering how well we had pulled away in the first segment and really ran away with it,” I felt pretty good,” Waltz said.

“I figured if we could have gotten away from them (Bowling and his challengers) we’d have been alright. Congrats to them (Bowling and his team). They made the right adjustments and got their car a little bit better than mine.”

Nick Smith of Hampton finished third with Busch of Las Vegas, Nev. and fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Matt Kenseth of Cambridge, Wis. rounding out the top five finishers.

Bobby McCarty of Summerfield, N.C., Myatt Snider of Charlotte, N.C., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Denny Hamlin of Chesterfield, Bruce Anderson of South Boston and Ryan Preece of Berlin Conn. rounded out the top 10 finishers. 

Hamlin said he had hoped for a better outing, but that “we were just a little off all day. We battled back for at least a top-10 finish, but we wanted to come here and win. 

“It takes a lot of work to come in and beat these local guys,” he added.

“You’ve got to work hard to beat these (Late Model) guys. They know what they’re doing.” 

Bowling averaged 57.342 mph in the race that was slowed by 10 caution periods that consumed 57 laps. The race took 1 hour, 52 minutes and 56 seconds to complete. 

Waltz won the day’s first 20-lap qualifying heat race, with Bowling taking the win in the second 20-lap heat race. Busch won the last of the three qualifying races.