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Willis edges Maresca in 100-lapper

Danny Willis Jr. has one Limited Sportsman Division championship under his belt.

He now owns two wins in the Limited Sportsman Division’s biggest race of the season, the latest coming Thursday in the 100-lap race at South Boston Speedway, but it took Willis six extra laps to do it.

Willis, from Cluster Springs, took the lead from pole sitter Michael Maresca on lap 67 on the restart following the race’s second caution and held off Maresca in a two-lap dash to the finish following the race’s third and final caution on lap 97 to take home the win, his fifth of the year.

Maresca, from Hannawa Falls, N.Y., finished in second-place, with Tommy Peregoy of Clarksville, Garrett Bunch of Front Royal and Caleb Davis of Thaxton rounding out the top-five finishers.

Trey Crews of Halifax, Mike Jones of South Boston, G.R. Waldrop of Mosely, Libby Privette of Nathalie and Austin Babb of Jarrat rounded out the top-10 finishers in a race that featured three lead changes.

Outside pole sitter Joey Throckmorton of South Boston charged past Maresca on the first lap and led until Maresca returned the favor on lap 40.

Willis followed Maresca’s lead in passing Throckmorton on lap 41, and the defending Limited Sportsman champion took the outside line on a restart following a caution on lap 67 and cruised past Maresca for a lead he held the rest of the race.

Maresca and Willis were side-by-side for several laps of the remainder of the race, with Maresca backing off on one occasion after making contact with Willis’ car on lap 87.

Maresca appeared in position to contend for the lead on lap 97, but the caution flag flew for the final time when Throckmorton’s car lost a wheel.

“Maresca gave me a run for my money, and I think he had a better car,” Willis admitted after his win.

The key was taking the outside on each of the final two restarts.

“I knew if I took the bottom my car was way too loose, and he’d had pinched me down and made me that much looser, so if he gave me the outside on the restart I decided I’d see what I could do,” said Willis.

“With three laps to go, I said it was going to be a nail biter, and I went to the outside again.

“He drove me clean, and we beat fenders a little bit, but that’s good hard racing and a good show for the fans.”

“He got into me pretty good one time, and I thought I’d lost it, but he let me hold onto the lead.  That’s real good sportsmanship, and it’s fun to race with guys like that, because you know they’ll race you clean,” Willis continued.

“His dad and them sponsored the race, and I know he wanted to get it bad, and I wanted it too, so we were both giving it all we had.”

“It was wet in some of the corners and it felt like I was at home in a dirt car, said Maresca, an experienced dirt track racer.

“It was a lot of fun racing side-by-side out there, that’s what it’s all about.

“It was awesome out there.”

Peregoy passed Bunch for his podium finish in the final laps. 

“We went down in turn one I could have pressed the issue and gotten second,” said Peregoy.

“We ended up third with a car that would run pretty good for 20 laps but after that would be all over the track.

“We just have to buy some practice tires so we could beat these guys.  That’s all there is to it.”

Willis is taking a moment to savor his win but is trying to keep the big picture in mind.

We’re still going to take it one race at a time and keep the big picture in mind,” he said.

“We’ll just try to use our head and stay on the podium each and every week and see where we stand at the end of the year.”

Maresca captured his second pole of the year with a time of 16.052 (89.708 MPH).

Willis’ margin of victory was 0.211 seconds in a race that averaged 64.255 MPH and took 39 minutes to complete.