NEW EGYPT, N.J. – Ryan Godown started off the 2014 season in impressive fashion at New Egypt Speedway Saturday evening as he took top honors in the 60 lap Race of Champions Tour Modified feature event.
The Cabin Fever 60 season opener for both the series and the speedway saw Godown draw the worst starting position he could, 12th, and then race through the field, passing some of the best drivers in northeast dirt racing on his way to his 29th career victory at NES. The win ties him with Kenny Brightbill for second on the all-time win list at New Egypt Speedway.
“I love racing side-by-side with Rick (Laubach), we can be right next to each other and never touch. I could race with him all day long,” said Godown in victory lane. “The track was in such great shape, Wayne (Asay) and his crew did a great job preparing the surface despite all of the winter’s challenges. It was smooth and wide, what more can you ask for.”
Matt Sheppard and last year’s winner Jimmy Horton brought the field to the start with Horton leading thru 2 attempts to get the race underway. The second saw veteran hotshoe Mike Colsten flipping wildly in turn two bringing out the red flag. He was uninjured but the car was extensively damaged eliminating him from the event. Horton lead the first lap scored when a caution slowed the action again, and during the ensuing caution period Horton stopped on the front stretch and could not re-fire is motor being pushed to the pit area.
The restart saw Rick Laubach power past Sheppard for the lead as Horton charged back onto the track without losing a lap. By the thirs lap Godown was already up to third spot and was chasing after Sheppard while Laubach cruised out in front. I took Godown 5 laps before he was able to wrestle second place away from Sheppard and set his sights on the leader. Billy Pauch quickly moved into third as Danny Johnson was now racing in the top five as well.
A lap 15 restart saw Godown finally find a line past Laubach as he surged to the lead, with Johnson moving into third to challenge Laubach. All eyes at this point were on Horton, who was flying thru the field from the rear moving into fourth position again on lap 27.
The halfway point at lap 30 saw a planned Fuel stop for the field, to accommodate the drivers running Alcohol. Godown lead at this point followed by Laubach, who revealed he had lost the brakes on his mount during the first half of the race, Johnson, Horton and Sheppard. Sixth running Pauch and 8th running J.R. Heffner both chose to go into the pit area for further adjustments during the stop, and restarted at the rear of the field.
When green flag racing resumed Laubach figured out how to make the car work without brakes and began pressuring Godown each lap. Horton brought out the caution on lap 35, as the same problem plagued him again ending his race as he stalled on the backstretch. Godown held Laubach at bay as the duo approached lapped traffic. However Godown did a masterful job in lapped traffic, pulling away to the popular victory.
Laubach drove a strong race to finish second, while Danny Johnson crossed the line third. 2007 NES champ Matt Sheppard came home fourth and Stewart Friesen made a late race charge to get fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Rocco Infante, Craig Von Dohren, Sammy Piazza, Pauch and Heffner.
Joe Funk captured his first win at NES in the 40 lap Race of Champions Sportsman Tour race. Funk took the lead from Brandon Walters on the second lap, and then held off a persistent Kevin Beach over the last half of the event to post his first career win at the speedway. Beach invaded with another strong run, getting his best finish ever at NES as runner-up. Walters finished third followed by New Egypt regulars Steve Davis and Mike Howardson.