- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
C.E. Falk was a distraught young driver following last year’s season-opening race at South Boston Speedway.
A harrowing crash on the frontstretch destroyed months of work and put him and his team into an early-season scramble.
“I was sitting in the front of my cab an emotional wreck,” Falk recalled.
“I had spent three months putting a car together, and it was shortened in 80 laps.”
That, however, was a distant memory following Saturday’s season-opening NASCAR Whelen Late Model 300 presented by Danville Toyota at South Boston Speedway.
The Virginia Beach resident led the final 110 circuits and pulled away in the closing laps to score a 2.968-second victory over Nick Smith of Hampton and pocket the $10,000 check that went with winning the 300-lap, 120-mile race.
Falk’s total paycheck for the day was $10,500, as he also won the race’s halfway leader award. In addition to grabbing the money, Falk also took the early lead in the Virginia Late Model Triple Crown Series. He was also able to count the win in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points standings.
“This is a huge win for me,” Falk said of his first South Boston Speedway win since the 2009 season.
“It’s really cool to win here at South Boston. It’s been a couple of years for me of running second and third here. Being right there leading laps, and finally getting a win and winning decisively, I’m pretty pumped.”
Falk finished second in last year’s NASCAR Whelen Late Model 300 Presented By Danville Toyota, which was staged last October as the track’s season finale. During the off-season, track officials opted to move the season’s longest and richest NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division race to the beginning of the season this year.
This time, though, Falk was the dominant driver.
The three-time defending Langley Speedway champion led a race-high three times for a total of 164 laps. He led the race at the halfway break, but restarted the race fourth after a drawing to invert the running order for the start of the second half of the race.
It took little time for Falk to get past Peyton Sellers of Danville, as he sped back into the lead on lap 161.
“I missed a shift on the initial restart after the break,” Falk noted.
“As soon as I got it into gear, it took off like a rocket and I went from fourth to first in just a few laps. That gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the race.”
But, there was Smith to contend with.
Smith, who led three times for 96 laps, darted past Falk to get back into the lead on lap 185 following the restart after the race’s final caution period. Falk and Smith battled for the lead for several laps before Falk surged back in front.
Once he regained the lead on lap 191, Falk never trailed again. At the end, he crossed the finish line 2.968 seconds ahead of Smith.
“I’m happy to finish second, but I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to win,” said Smith, who led 93 of the race’s first 150 laps.
“I was confident at the break because I knew at the break I had the best car. We just didn’t adjust enough for the track. The track got a little bit too tight for me.”
Eddie Johnson of Midlothian, who was running 14th with 80 laps to go, finished third, surging past Matt Bowling of Ridgeway on the final lap to take the spot. Dennis Holdren of Roanoke rounded out the top five finishers.
Michael Hardin of Pomfret, Md., Sellers, Austin Thaxton of South Boston, Jesse Little of Sherrills Ford, N.C. and Darrell Gilchrist of Raleigh, N.C. rounded out the top ten finishers.
The season-opening race was a competitive one, with eight lead changes among four drivers. Falk led three times for a total of 164 laps, including 128 of the last 150 laps.
Sellers, Smith and Frank Deiny Jr. of Ashland also led portions of the race
Falk averaged 63.739 mph in the race that was slowed by five caution periods that consumed 26 laps.