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McCaskill, Oakley split twinbill

Deac McCaskill and Josh Oakley made a statement at South Boston Speedway Saturday night in the final event before the track’s biggest remaining NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Model Stock Car Division race of the season.

The pair of North Carolinians split wins in Saturday night’s Whelen Night NASCAR Late Model Twin 75s, serving notice they will be among the top contenders for the $5,000 winner’s prize in Thursday night’s special 200-lap pre-Fourth of July event.

For McCaskill, the win was his first of the season at South Boston Speedway and his sixth victory overall for the season. It marks the third season in a row that McCaskill has scored at least one win in a season at the track.

The win in the nightcap was a big one for Oakley. It was his third win of the season and his second win in his last three starts at the .4-mile oval.

In the opener, McCaskill took the lead from former NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Philip Morris on the 35th lap, and, rim-riding the top groove of the track, held off former NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Peyton Sellers of Ringgold, Virginia in a 19-lap sprint to the finish that followed the last of the race’s two caution flags to seal the win.

“I’ve always struggled up here, but it looks like when I can get up on top I can get going,” McCaskill said following the win. 

“A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to run up there. It’s not easy. You’ve got to be so precise. I slipped a couple of times and they were able to close right in on me.”

Morris, making his first appearance of the season at South Boston Speedway and driving a Toyota owned by Steve James of Clarksville, Virginia, won the pole and led the first 34 circuits before McCaskill was able to slip by to take the lead. 

Sellers moved past Morris 10 laps later, to take second place, dropping the former national champion to third place. Morris retired the car after 56 laps with a broken right front wheel hub and finished 15th.

“I felt it while I was right there racing Deac,” Morris said.

“It was like a real loud clanking up there. I thought maybe it would go away and it kept getting worse and worse. Finally it let go. It felt like a tire had gone flat.”

While it was a tough end to what could have potentially been a good race, Morris took it in stride.

“I was encouraged,” he remarked.

“You’ve got to work out the bugs, and that’s what we’re here for. The car ran pretty good out front, a little too free, and that’s what we needed to come here and learn.”

Sellers finished second, .542-second behind McCaskill, with Austin Thaxton of South Boston, two-time defending NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam of Alton and Myatt Snider of Charlotte, North Carolina rounding out the top five finishers in the 20-car field.

Oakley, who finished sixth in the opener, got the luck of the draw as the top six finishers from the first race were inverted for the start of the nightcap. The Rougemont, North Carolina resident shared the front row with Snider, jumped into the lead at the outset and held the top spot the entire race, fending off challenges from Snider, Thaxton and Pulliam after restarts following the race’s three caution periods.

Thaxton battled Snider for second place throughout the race, finally getting the spot with eight laps to go. Snider made two late runs at Thaxton, but Thaxton was able to hold on and give himself a pair of top-three finishes for the night.

Oakley’s victory over Thaxton came by a margin of 3.852 seconds.

“It feels real good,” Oakley said of his win.

“I’ve never been in this position before at South Boston Speedway in my career. The draw worked out for us, and we had a great car. That thing was on a rail. After I got about 10 laps on the tires it just came to life. I’m real fortunate and blessed to have going on what we have going on.”

For Thaxton, the pair of top-three finishes translated into a good points night.

“We gained a lot tonight,” Thaxton pointed out.

“Hopefully we can keep running like this and gain some more. We really need it.”

Thaxton spent much of the race battling with Snider, and got the upper hand with just under 10 laps to go. 

“He (Snider) had a really good car,” Thaxton noted.

“All of the top five cars were really good cars. Basically, I beat him getting into the corner. I could get my car rotated a little sooner than his and pick the gas up. 

“Josh (Oakley) had a really strong car,” added Thaxton. 

“I don’t know if we had anything for him or not.  Congratulations to those guys.”

Sellers, the track points leader, had a decent night, finishing second and sixth, but said the car is not where he needs to be.

“It was a solid night for us,” Sellers said.

“These twin races are races we’ve got to take advantage of and be smart and be consistent. We’ve just got to get our car better. We were okay the first race, but we made big swings trying to make big gains and we made big losses. We’ve got to be confident in what we do. We’ve got to have a better car right now. We’ve really hit a roadblock with this car the last month and we’ve got to get over this.”

Matt Bowling of Ridgeway, Virginia finished fourth with Pulliam, who brought out a new car for the twinbill after having wrecked his primary car in a Friday night event at Motor Mile Speedway, rounding out the top five finishers.