- Last Updated on 11:24 PM 03/22/14
- BY Joe Chandler
Austin Thaxton didn't know whether it was unbridled excitement, overwhelming joy, relief or what other emotion he was feeling when he took the white flag to signal the final lap of Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Whelen Late Model 100 at South Boston Speedway.
Thaxton, who had forged in front of the field on the final restart of the race with 49 laps to go, was in sight of his first career NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division victory.
"I don't know what it was," said the South Boston resident.
"I missed my line a little bit getting into (turn) one and getting into (turn) three on the white flag lap. When I picked the gas up coming off of (turn) four I knew I had it (the win), but there for a little bit I said 'this isn't going to be good.'"
It all did, indeed, turn out well for Thaxton.
Thaxton drove his Toyota across the finish line .428-second ahead of former NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion and former South Boston Speedway champion Peyton Sellers of Danville to take the win in the 100-lap race. Former South Boston Speedway champion Matt Bowling of Ridgeway, the pole winner, finished third, trailing Sellers by 1.3 seconds at the finish.
"It's huge," Thaxton said of the win.
"We try really hard and we work very hard at the shop. It takes a huge effort on everyone's part. I can't thank the people who help me enough."
Bowling was leading Thaxton, division rookie Michael Maresca of Hannawa Falls, N.Y. and Sellers when the race's second and final caution flag flew on lap 44 due to an incident involving Jeb Burton of Halifax and Bugs Hairfield of Chesterfield.
Thaxton lined up on the outside line next to Bowling for the double-file restart on lap 51. Unlike the restart after the race's first caution, which flew after Burton and Maresca got together on lap 37 while battling for third place, Thaxton got an excellent jump.
He quickly forged ahead of Bowling, and Sellers made his way past Bowling as well. Once in front, Thaxton never lost the lead.
"I was sleeping a little bit on the first restart," Thaxton admitted.
"I got a better start on the last one, and that helped us get this win."
Bowling wasn't particularly happy with Thaxton's jump on the final restart.
"That restart deal was a little shady to me," Bowling remarked, "but it is what it is. He (Thaxton) definitely had a good car. He had a winning car, so you can't take that away from him. Congratulations to him. We've just got to get better."
Sellers entered the race as the track's points leader, coming in fresh off of a sweep of South Boston Speedway's season-opening twinbill a week earlier. A tough qualifying effort that resulted in his having to start the race from tenth place on the grid made for a tough afternoon that ultimately turned out well with the runner-up finish.
"I had a really good car today, and just didn't get to show it like we wanted to," Sellers said.
"We dug ourselves a bit of a hole in qualifying and had to start tenth. I had to abuse the car to get up to where I was. I knew I had to get up on it (the wheel) a couple of times on the outside and try to get track position. I think I used up too much getting there. Austin had a great car today, and he got in front and it all worked out for him."
Brandon Butler of Sutherland, driving the car usually driven by Brian Pembelton, finished fourth and Maresca rounded out the top five finishers.
Bobby McCarty of Summerfield, N.C., South Boston's Bruce Anderson, Tommy Lemons Jr. of Troy, N.C., C.E. Falk III of Mooresville, N.C. and Thomas Scott of Mebane, N.C. completed the top ten.
Thirteen of the 21 drivers that started the race finished on the lead lap.
Thaxton averaged 70.704 mph in winning the race that was slowed by two caution periods that consumed a total of 15 laps.
IN OTHER ACTION
Trey Crews of Halifax started on the pole and survived a frantic two-lap green-flag sprint to the finish following the last of the race's five caution flags to win the 50-lap Limited Sportsman Division race. The win was Crews' first win in the division.
A last-lap mishap involving Joey Throckmorton of South Boston and Daniel Moss of Danville, who were trying to challenge Crews for the win, opened the door for Tommy Peregoy of Clarksville to take second place with Daryl Carver of Prospect Hill, N.C. finishing third.
Crews led three times in the race that saw the lead swap hands six times among three drivers.
Greg Autry of South Boston scored his second straight win of the season with a flag-to-flag victory in the 30-lap race for the Budweiser Pure Stock Division. Johnny Layne of Nathalie and Bruce Mayo of Halifax completed the top three finishers.
Jimmy Humblett of Shiloh, N.C. scored a flag-to-flag win in the 50-lap Modified Division race with Mike Rudy of Prince George finishing second and Chris Johnson of Mechanicsville taking third place.
Corey Whitely of Rougemont, N.C. won the 15-lap debut race for the track's new entry-level Hornets Division with Wesley Thomason of Roanoke and Kevin Currin of Chase City completing the top three finishers.