In most racing events at Portsmouth Raceway Park, it seems that Jackie Boggs, the Conley clan, and John Melvin are among the drivers who always rise to the occasion, no matter what the event is.
But on Saturday evening, it was a new crop of youngsters who rose to the top.
Kite, Ky.’s Brandon Fouts, along with Columbus, Ind.’s Devin Gilpin, were among the big victors during Saturday evening’s festivities at PRP, with Fouts leading all 50 circuits of the Boone Coleman Gator 50 and Gilpin — who finished sixth in the Gator 50 Late Model A-Main — taking home top honors in the Modified Feature to lead the charge on a great night of racing at the storied three-eighth mile oval.
Fouts, who proved to have a fast hot rod throughout the evening’s festivities, quickly picked up right where he left off last week as the 26-year old put his No. 81 machine on the point with his fast time of 14.525 seconds — edging second-place qualifier Eddie Carrier, Jr. for the top spot by two one-hundredths of a second. The pair then quickly followed up on their fast qualifying time by leading all eight laps in the late model heats.
However, after starting on the front row thanks to his quick time and Heat I victory, Fouts was never seriously threatened. The Knott County, Ky. native led all 50 laps en route to claiming his first victory of the season at PRP, the $5,000 payout for winning the Gator 50, and, in addition to those accomplishments, a guaranteed entry into the $2,000 Dirt Track World Championships in October — which pays out another $2,000. Carrier, Jr., a native of Salt Rock, W. Va., Richmond, Ind.’s Steve Casebolt, Wheelersburg’s R.J. Conley, and Vanceburg, Ky.’s Kenny Christy rounded out the top five.
“I had a really good race car,” Fouts said. “I’ve had fast race cars all season. We just finally got the bad luck off of our back. Now we don’t have to worry about (qualifying for the Dirt Track World Championships) all summer. Thanks to the fans for coming out.”
As stout as the late model field was, the modifieds proved to be more competitive from top to bottom, as the first 23 qualifiers were separated by less than a second from each other — with the top six proving to be no more than three-tenths apart.
At first, it was West Portsmouth’s Ben Atkins who won out initially by setting a blazing mark of 16.649 seconds around the high-banked oval. But as the heat races took shape, however, it was clear that parody would rule the day.
Despite sitting on the pole for the first heat thanks to his top qualifying time, it was outside pole sitter Jeremy Rayburn who led all eight laps en route to the Heat I victory and the pole position. Wheelersburg’s Justin Cooper, along with Nathon Loney, took care of business in similar fashion by leading every lap of the second and third heats to set the table for the A-Main.
There, Rayburn, like Fouts, looked to have a runaway victory in hand as the A-Main pole sitter sped out to a big lead over the rest of the field.
Gilpin, however, had other ideas. After finding momentum on the top side of the track, the Columbus, Ind. native blasted from fifth to second in one fell swoop and began to run down Rayburn. Then, after a caution for a crash on the 13th lap in the 20-lap feature, Gilpin used the enusing restart to make his move as the 1G raced past Rayburn’s 12R in the third and fourth corners, and proceeded to lead the final six circuits of the race en route to the victory. Adkins made a late charge and passed Rayburn on the next-to-last lap to finish second, while Rayburn, along with Loney and Melvin, Ky.’s Jody Puckett rounded out the top five.
“(Portsmouth Raceway Park) is awesome,” Gilpin said. “I love it. I love racetracks that are slick and wide. I love coming to this place. It’s awesome, a lot of fun, and all of the people here are good people. I want to thank all of the fans for coming out tonight. That’s what racing is all about.”
Limited Late Models
In the 15-lap limited late model feature, the W1 of Minford’s Joe Whitt and the familiar Giovanni’s Pizza Power No. 81 of Melvin proved to be the class of the field throughout the balance of the evening, with Whitt and Melvin nearly establishing straightaway leads in their victories during the limited late model heat races.
When the action carried into the A-Main, Whitt proved to be nearly untouchable, as Melvin’s machine proved to be the only limited late model within 10 car lengths of Whitt at one point in time. Melvin’s hopes, however, were dashed midway through the heat when the Coal Grove native collided with the 73 of Charlie Mullett. As a result of the crash, Melvin fell out of contention.
With his top competitor mired back in traffic, it proved to be smooth sailing for Whitt, who stormed on to the win in the 15-lap feature by leading every circuit. Mike Meyers, Catlettsburg, Ky.’s Cameron Logan, Randy Ross, and Portsmouth’s Billy Staker rounded out the top five.
“(The modified) was great tonight,” Whitt said. “It was really good. It was bad during hot laps, but we changed a lot and it started to run a lot better.”
In the final feature of the evening, it didn’t take long for the action to heat up, as a six-car pileup in the first turn took out pole sitter Brian Sammons, Jr. of Olive Hill, Ky. — who had led all eight laps in the first heat in the sport mod division — along with five additional cars.
As a result, this left the event up to the driving abilities of Stout’s Derek Richmond, Billy Baldridge, and South Webster’s Luke Jordan, among others. Richmond, however, proved to be the class of the field, as his No. 34 not only paced all eight laps of the second heat, but the entire 15-lap A-Main en route to the win. Jordan, Baldridge (the third heat winner), Beaver’s Rick Neace, and defending track champion Emily Jordan rounded out the top five.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7