By Robert Walden
BULLS GAP, Tenn. - Mar. 19. Volunteer Speedway opened its 38th year of dirt-track racing
with a full moon illuminating the skies over "The Gap".” Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., passed
pole-sitter Tommy Kerr to take a lead on
|Chris Madden after his "Spring Thaw" win at Volunteer
Speedway. (Michael Moats)
lap three, and held off Jimmy Owens to win the "Spring Thaw 60" presented by East Tennessee Masonry, a
victory worth $10,000.
"We had a really good car here tonight, and getting the lead early from (Tommy) Kerr
allowed me to run our race - put the (race) strategy in our control", said Madden following the race in
victory lane. "I like racing here at Volunteer Speedway and over the years we've won some big races, we
really get around these high banks quite well. You've always got strong fields of cars for the special
events here at The Gap.’
"As the race progressed I knew from looking up on the scoreboard outside turns one and two
every lap down the front straightaway and seeing the number 20 (Jimmy Owens) was behind me, I had better not
make a mistake or Jimmy would take advantage. Jimmy's got a lot of laps around this place and he's a good
race car driver. I've beat him here before and he's outrun me, and to be able win over him is quite an
accomplishment. If you outrun him, he makes you earn it.”
On the first attempt to start the event, Kerr and outside front-row starter Ray Cook raced
hard off into the first corner, with Cook getting high and jumping
Local driver Mark Douglas slips into a spin while racing
between #777 Tyler Landers and #49 Jonathan Davenport. (Michael Moats)
the cushion, sustaining steering component damage to his ride bringing a premature end to
his night. With Kerr's teammate Billy Ogle, Jr. moving alongside for the next try to go green, Kerr was
warned by track officials for jumping the start, once again bringing the caution flag out.
|Dan Schlieper advanced to a fourth place finish at
Bulls Gap. (Michael Moats)
Finally getting a good start to the 60-lap main event, Kerr led Madden, Owens, Ogle, and NASCAR Camping
World Truck Series competitor Austin Dillon to complete the opening lap. Racing off the fourth turn on lap
three, Madden got around Kerr for the lead. Kerr began to feel pressure for the runner-up position from Owens,
with “The Newport Nightmare” racing off hard on the inside of Kerr entering first turn to grab the spot.
While Owens was working his way around Kerr for second, just behind them Austin Dillon was
getting around Ogle Jr. for fourth in the running order. Austin Dillon closed quickly to rear bumper of Kerr
and after looking to the inside of him racing off the corners for several circuits, finally on lap 14 racing
off turn two he pulled the trigger and shot past to move into third.
With the door open, Dan Schlieper slid into the fourth spot, dropping Kerr back to fifth.
Kerr’s race went from good to bad quickly, as he slowed on lap 18 with a flat right-rear tire to bring out
the caution, which erased an eight car-length lead Madden held over Owens.
Going back green it was Madden out front over Owens, Austin Dillon, Schlieper and Austin’s
younger brother, Ty Dillon. With a clear track ahead, Madden and Owens turned the wick up and began to put
some distance between themselves and Austin Dillon and Schlieper.
Teammates Billy Ogle, Jr. and #4T Tommy Kerr race for position
after Kerr lost his early lead at Volunteer. (Randall
Just outside of the top five, working his way forward after starting the event in
18th-place, Jonathan Davenport first disposed of Jared Landers on lap 20 for tenth. Then he got around both
Brad Neat and Chip Brindle over the next couple of circuits to settle into the seventh spot in running order
just prior to the race’s mid-point.
During the second half of the Spring Thaw 60, the scenario appeared that either Madden or
Owens were the cars to beat. Owens was lurking in Madden’s shadows, waiting for the leader to make a
mistake. While over a half-straightaway behind the front-running duo, Austin Dillon, Schlieper and Ty Dillon
were having strong runs.
Austin Dillon noses
ahead of #20 Jimmy Owens briefly for fourth early in the Spring Thaw, but still finished an impressive
third behind his formidable Newport, Tenn. opponent. (Michael Moats)
But Madden, driving the Cornett-powered Century Plastics Inc., Hamrick’s of Gaffney,
Cushman Paint & Body, Freeman Plumbing, Henderson Amusement, Allstar Performance, Hoosier Racing Tires,
Team Zero Bloomquist Race Cars, would not be denied the $10,000 Spring Thaw 60 victory as he won over Owens,
Austin Dillon, Schlieper and Ty Dillon. Strong top-five finishes were turned in by the Dillon brothers,
grandsons of legendary NASCAR multi-car owner Richard Childress.
Kenny Peeples Jr. roared out to the early lead in the 30-lap Fastrak Racing
Series-sanctioned Pro (Crate) Late Model feature over Mount Airy, N.C.’s Ryan Atkins and Vic Chandler.
Holding right at three-quarters straightaway lead over Atkins and Chandler, on lap 14 the race for Peeples
ended when he spun to bring out the caution between turns one and two after the steering column broke on his
With folks in town for the NASCAR race in nearby
Bristol, team owner Richard Childress (left) and driver/team owner Clint Bowyer dropped in to keep
an eye ohn their racing assets. (Michael
With Peeples parked in the pits, Atkins assumed the point followed by Chandler. While
Chandler was pressuring Atkins for the lead, just behind them Jerry Broyles was trying to hold off advances
from Matt Long.
Over the final five circuits, Chandler looked both to the inside and outside trying to
overtake Atkins for the lead. But the 24-year-old Atkins, driving the Heintz Bros. Performance, FK Rod Ends,
DMC Auto, Burley Stabilization, W&B Fabricators, Hicks Waterstoves, Hendren Racing Engines, VP Racing
Fuels, Barry Wright Race Car, held on for the victory over Chandler, Broyles, Long and Keith Helton.
VOLUNTEER SPEEDWAY SPRING THAW
1) Chris Madden, 2) Jimmy Owens, 3)
Austin Dillon, 4) Dan Schlieper, 5) Ty Dillon, 6) Casey Roberts, 7) Jonathan Davenport, 8) Brad
Neat, 9) Chip Brindle, 10) Dennis Erb, Jr., 11) Jared Landers, 12) Kerry Jones, 13) Stacy
14) Vic Hill, 15) Tommy Kerr, 16) Mark Douglas, 17) Mark Vineyard, 18) Chad Ogle, 19) Billy Ogle,
Jr., 20) Mike Weeks, 21) Jeff Maupin, 22) Ronnie Johnson, 23) Chris Ferguson, 24) Ray
Heat winners (29 entries): Kerr, Cook, Madden; B-Main winner: Erb
Michael Moats photo
PRO (CRATE) LATE MODEL (30 laps)
1) Ryan Atkins; 2) Vic Chandler; 3) Jerry Broyles; 4) Matt Long; 5) Keith Helton; 6) Bobby
Mays; 7) Todd Brooks; 8) John Broce Jr. ; 9) Jake Eaton; 10) Steve Cooke; 11) David Collins Jr.; 12) David
Collins Sr.; 13) Chris Cantrell; 14) Kenny Peeples Jr.; 15) Chad Hale; 16) Ricky Moore; 17) Tyler Dixon.