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Willis drives to first-ever season-opening win

Veteran driver Danny Willis Jr. has won a lot of Limited Sportsman Division races at South Boston Speedway, but he had never won a season-opener.

Until Saturday, when the Cluster Springs driver took home a win in the 50-lap Limited Sportsman race to open the season at the four-tenths mile oval.

Willis qualified on the pole (15.828 seconds) and led all 50 laps in a caution-filled race to win by 1.065 seconds over South Boston driver Joey Throckmorton.

Garrett Bunch of Front Royal finished third, Daniel Moss of Danville finished fourth, and Mark Simpson of Richmond finished in fifth-place.

Eight of 17 cars finished on the lead lap of a race that consumed 39 minutes and was delayed five times by cautions, the final three coming in the last eight laps of the race.

Six cars went to the pits because of damage in the last two on-track incidents, including the cars of Mike Jones, Blake Stallings, G.R. Waldrop, Tommy Peregoy, J.D. Eversole and Caleb Davis.

Willis persevered through all of it to take an early points lead in the division.

“We had a good car, actually a little tight, but it worked out for us today, because my crew said on the radio everyone else had no forward bite,” said Willis.

“We got out front and it was like on a rail.”

A missed gear on the next to last restart almost cost Willis the race.

“The second to last restart I missed a gear, and Joey got me,” Willis said.

“I was lucky the caution came out and saved me.  If he had gotten in front of me, it would have probably been hard to get by him.

“It’s pretty awesome to win a first race of the season.”

Throckmorton stayed within striking distance of Willis for a number of laps but couldn’t find the momentum to pass him until the next to last restart.

“Danny was a little better, and we were tight on the bottom, so we knew we couldn’t pass him on the bottom,” said Throckmorton.

“We went to the top side, and the caution came out to let us catch him.  We got past him on the top side, and the caution came out, so the caution hurt us and it helped us.”

Bunch came home with a podium finish in his second race at South Boston Speedway in a Limited Sportsman racecar.

“It really wasn’t that bad,” said Bunch.  “I’d never been good on the outside, and I finally figured it out.

“We need to go home and do our homework, and we want to come back fighting.”