Sep 27, 2020
COEBURN — Danny O’Quinn Jr. was back in a familiar spot Saturday: victory lane at Lonesome Pine Raceway.
The Coeburn native and former NASCAR Xfinity Series driver found his way to the checkered flag for the first time in a while.
“It’s been about five years since I’ve won a race. It feels pretty good,” O’Quinn said after his victory in the 50-lap Limited Late Model feature at the track where his career started.
O’Quinn finished second two weeks ago at LPR in his first race in about a year.
During the first half of Saturday’s event, he and Joshua Gobble appeared to be in a two-car race until Gobble’s ride experienced mechanical problems and sent him spinning entering turn 1 on lap 27.
The incident forced Gobble to park his car, which cleared the way for Late Model veteran Jeff Woodward and Jacob York to challenge O’Quinn for the front spot.
Following another caution on lap 29, O’Quinn built a comfortable lead. York and Keith Helton, meanwhile, found a way around Woodward on the bottom of the track.
After dropping back to fifth, Woodward worked back up to third before the checkered flag dropped. York held on for second and said there wasn’t much chance of overtaking O’Quinn.
“We’re still slacking a little in catching O’Quinn,” said York, who started from the 12th position. “We had to come from the rear two weeks ago and we had to come from the rear tonight and finished second.”
Woodward joked he was feeling old after the 50-lapper.
“I was trying to hold on. I about fell out of my seat,” he said.
Alex Miller and Kyle Barnes rounded out the top five in the 18-car field.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Mike Mays and Rob Austin engaged in a door-to-door battle for most of a 30-lap Pure Street race that was slowed by five caution periods.
After the final caution on lap 23, Mays and Austin ran side by side for the final seven laps. Austin went low and high trying to find a way around Mays, but the St. Paul driver hung on until the checkered flag fell.
“He ran me clean and I tried to stay off of him the best I could,” Mays said. “Rob is a real tough customer.”
Austin said the exciting race reminded of him running at the track several years ago.
“I was surprised we didn’t wreck a few times,” said the veteran driver from Castlewood.
Abingdon’s Dennis Arnold led from start to finish to win the caution-free, 25-lap Mod 4 race. Trailing were Billy Duty, Brad Ball, Brett Compton and Kyle Barnes.
In Street Stock, Chris Neely made a dramatic last-lap pass on Benjamin Barker along the backstretch and took the win in the 19-car event.
Rusty Clendenin earned the Pure Street victory by holding off Steven Roark and T.J. O’Quinn.
COEBURN — Wytheville’s Dale Cline and former NASCAR driver Danny O’Quinn Jr. turned a large Limited Late Model field into an entertaining two-car race over the final laps Saturday night at Lonesome Pine Raceway.
The legendary track’s first night of weekly racing series action on asphalt since 2017 saw Cline and O’Quinn survive six caution periods, lots of lap traffic and each other — and the final three laps proved to be the most exciting.
Following the final restart on lap 44 of the 50-lap event, Cline and O’Quinn battled side by side for three laps before touching coming out of turn 2. The incident resulted in Cline getting sideways, but he managed to hang on even as O’Quinn slid into the lead.
Two laps later, Cline tapped O’Quinn entering turn 4 and managed to regain the lead for the final circuit around the track.
Neither driver seemed too upset by the beating and banging that occurred.
“It was just a hard run,” Cline said. “Danny ran hard into the corners. It was just a hard-running race. There’s no hard feelings.”
“That was certainly exciting for opening night,” said O’Quinn, who competed against 18 other drivers in his first race of the season. “It was just cool and fun to be in a car again after a year.”
The night was extra special for former track champion Jeff Counts, who won the inaugural division race of LPR’s reopening.
Years after capturing the track’s season trophy, the Castlewood driver won the 30-lap Pure Street event.
“It’s so amazing,” said an emotional Counts. “After all these years, you let this old man come back and play one more time.”
Counts moved into the lead about halfway through the race when the leaders got together coming out of the third turn.
Mike Mays finished in second place and Rob Austin was third, giving Castlewood drivers a sweep of the top three spots.
CLENDENIN, KETRON, WALLS WIN
Church Hill’s Rusty Clendenin took home the Modified Street victory, and afterward said he’s a fan of LPR’s repaved surface on the backstretch and the turns.
“This is really a fun surface to run on,” Clendenin said. “We threw this car together at the last minute and didn’t get any practice laps until we got over here today.”
Kingsport’s John Ketron collected the Pure 4 win, North Carolina’s Chuck Walls edged Freddie Taylor Jr., a former track regular, in the Mod 4 event, and Brandon Keith won the 30-lap Enduro race.
BACK IN ACTION
After skipping next weekend when NASCAR invades Bristol Motor Speedway, LPR’s weekly program is scheduled to run again on Sept. 26.
Racing is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
• By Jeff Birchfield email@example.com
COEBURN — Fans in the Virginia coalfields were starved for some good short-track racing and Lonesome Pine Raceway delivered in a big way Saturday night.
After a long, hard journey, the three-eighths-mile asphalt track hosted the Southeast Super Trucks Series and a win by one of North Carolina’s most famous racing families capped off a great night of action.
Clark Houston, grandson of NASCAR Busch Series legend Tommy Houston, held off a hard-charging Taylor Hosford to win the featured race. It was Houston’s second win in the series and the third straight runner-up finish for Hosford.
Their late-race duel was only part of what made Saturday night so special. No so long ago, Lonesome Pine Raceway was covered in dirt and many thought it was dead.
The track closed in 2017 because of low car counts, poor attendance and other factors.
Local businessman Bobby Hill purchased the property in April 2019 and made the decision to convert it to a dirt track and rename it Clay Valley Speedway. Doomed by bad weather and more low car counts, Hill shut down operations weeks later.
Frustrated, he put the track up for auction last fall. When there wasn’t a suitable bid for the property, Hill decided to give it another go as Lonesome Pine.
The clay was removed from the track, but the surface below was damaged and in need of serious repair. Repaving projects took longer than expected and the track wasn’t ready to go until late August.
A planned reopening was scheduled for Aug. 29, but the bad luck continued when the night’s program was rained out.
It finally opened Saturday. While there’s still work to be done around the facility, it opened with a great atmosphere and plenty of fan support.
As for the racing surface, the frontstretch is rough, but the backstretch and turns look great with the new pavement. The track was challenging for the drivers, but they still enjoyed it.
“It’s the roughest racetrack I’ve ever been to,” Houston said. “You have to hit the bumps and land right where it doesn’t upset the truck. But it’s a great race track and a fun track to get around.”
It was definitely fun for the fans as the racing was competitive from start to finish.
Caleb Heady won both Legends features, taking the challenge to start from the rear of the 23-car field for the second race. He made a spectacular drive to the front with a last-lap pass for the win. Jacob Bradley swept Bandolero features, while former NASCAR truck series driver Caleb Holman won the Carolina Vintage Series race.
Points leader Justin Southerlin held off pole-sitter Ashton Higgins to win the Southeast Limited Late Models feature.
It set the stage for the main event with Houston passing Tanner Carter for the lead and then holding off Hosford over the final 25 laps.
Houston joined his father, Andy, as winners at Lonesome Pine. Tommy Houston raced at some of the major Late Model Sportsman events at the track in the 1970s but never won there.
Clark Houston, who finished fourth when the series raced at Kingsport earlier this season, compared the two three-eighths-mile tracks.
“They’re very similar. The straightaways here are longer, but the corners you have to get ‘whoa-ed down’ and get the thing pointed straight off the corners,” he said. “They both have banking, but neither drive like you have any banking because you ride around the bottom.”
Hosford was also a big fan of the racing at Lonesome Pine.
“It’s a rough, old track and it’s got its own character,” she said. “There are a lot of bumps on the backstretch. It can mess you up going in the corner, but if you find the right line, you can make it work.”
Hill and his staff are doing all they can to make racing work long term at Lonesome Pine. The first regular program is scheduled for Saturday, and it’s key for the fans to come and show their support again in a big way.
The local racing scene has been strong through the challenging 2020 season with well- attended events at Kingsport Speedway and Volunteer Speedway.
Lonesome Pine hopes to duplicate the other tracks’ success by the staff continuing to work on the facility and listening to the fans. Saturday was a good start toward their goals.
COEBURN — Justin Southerlin survived the attrition Saturday at Lonesome Pine Raceway.
Southerlin added to his points lead in the Southeast Super Truck Series Limited Late Model division by beating Ashton Higgins on LPR’s first race night on asphalt since 2017.
A total of 13 cars started the 75-lap Limited Late Model race, but only five were on the track when it ended. Four cars lasted only 12 laps.
Josh Gobble spun on the frontstretch, doing major damage to his vehicle and collecting three other cars.
Another caution flag dropped on lap 31 when John Gallman blew an engine.
After another red flag stopped the action, Southerlin made his move to the front to challenge Higgins. On lap 33, Higgins went wide coming out of turn 2, going up the track just enough to allow Southerlin to slide under him and take the lead.
Southerlin and Higgins pulled away from the rest of the field late and finished 1-2.
The key for Southerlin, he said, was taking a wait-and-see approach early.
“I knew I could be there at the end if I held off a little bit,” he said. “I felt like Ashton might fall off a little bit, but he didn’t fall off much.”
HOUSTON INTO WIN COLUMN
Clark Houston, the grandson of former NASCAR Busch Series and Late Model Stock driver Tommy Houston, picked up his first win of the season and second of his career in the Southeast Super Truck Series.
Houston started fifth in the nine-truck field but moved to the front quickly in the 75-lap race. He passed Jamie Barbrey on lap 21 to take the lead and then fought off Taylor Hosford over the final 34 laps.
“She was really tough in those final laps, but we were able to hold her off,” Houston said.
Hosford, who is still looking for her first career win, was second. Barbrey finished third, followed by Kenneth Headen and Tanner Carter.
LEGENDS PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Caleb Heady survived a red flag and seven cautions in just 15 laps to win the Southeast Legends Tour event.
The red flag fell before the 23-car field completed its first lap when several cars were involved in an incident between turns 1 and 2.
Heady bested runner-up Isaac Bevin to win Saturday’s opening race at LPR.
“I love this place,” Heady said. “No one got on the track until (Friday), but this one is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s really fast and really fun.”
Josh Speas finished third, followed by Michael Alcaro and D.J. Canipe.
BRADLEY takes BANDOLERO WIN
Youngster Jacob Bradley took the win in the 10-lap Bandolero race.
Bradley finished ahead of his brother Kaleb Bradley, the runner-up. Mardy Roberts III, London McKenzie and Kris East rounded out the top five.
BACK IN BUSINESS
LPR closed down in 2017 before being resurrected as a dirt track in 2019 and rebranded Clay Valley Speedway, but several factors again led to the track’s shutdown.
Track officials announced earlier this year that they were bringing back the asphalt and the old name of Lonesome Pine Raceway.
Last weekend’s season opener was rained out, leaving Saturday’s Southeast Super Truck Series classes to christen the track’s reopening.
LPR’s regular-season points division races are scheduled to make their debut on Sept. 12.