PHENIX CITY, Ala. – William Thomas swept the opening night of the Salute To America Nationals for the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Wednesday night at East Alabama Motor Speedway.
Thomas drove a rebuilt J.W. Land and Timber Special to his ninth career NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS victory and his second of the season.
Thomas started out the evening with quick time honors among the 31 entrants with a lap around the half-mile high-banked clay oval in 15.264 seconds, and then led all 50 laps of the main event to collect the $2,500 first-place money.
Thomas also made himself eligible to collect a $1,000 bonus if he can win all four of the Salute To America Nationals events.
“The car worked perfect all night, and the win tonight made us the only driver with a chance to collect the $1,000 bonus,” Thomas said. “This is the car I flipped here last year, and we rebuilt it. It ran just like a brand new race car.”
Thomas took the lead at the start of the race followed by Larry Harrod, Thomas Lewis, Chase Edge and Chris Cantrell.
Terrance Nowell spun in turn two on lap two and collected several cars to bring out the caution flag. The first double-file restart saw Edge move up to third, Joey Thomas drive up to the fifth spot, and David Earl Gentry come from tenth to seventh.
Gentry’s charge to the front came to an end on lap four when he sailed off the high side of the turn three banking to light up the caution bulb for the second time.
By lap six, Turner advanced from seventh to fourth. The third caution flag came out on lap ten when Pat Wall spun in turn three. After the next restart, Montana Dudley was the man on the move, as he came from seventh to fifth by lap 11. On lap 14, Turner dove under Edge in turn four to take over the third spot.
Thomas had pulled out to a full straightaway lead over Harrod by lap 15, but the advantage was erased when Maverick Varnadore stalled in turn two to bring out the fourth caution flag.
When the green flag came out, Thomas led the field into turn one, but side-by-side racing behind him got too close in turn one.
Harrod was trying to hold off a charging Turner for the second spot in turn one, and Harrod spun to bring out the yellow flag for a fifth time. Harrod went to the tail of the field for the restart, with Tuner restarting in the second spot.
Thomas once again pulled away when the green flag came back out. Stephens got by Cantrell for the fifth spot on lap 18, and Justin Summers drove around Johnny Stokes for the ninth spot on lap 21.
Nowell came back from his early race spin to move around Stokes and back into the top 10 on lap 24. By lap 25, William Thomas took a 12 car-length lead over Turner into lapped traffic.
The lapped cars didn’t slow the leader down, as Thomas had a full straightaway lead over Turner by lap 30. The only way Turner could keep up with William Thomas was a lap 34 caution flag when Nowell slowed off the pace in turn four.
When the green light was fired back up, Thomas immediately pulled out to a five car-length lead over Turner.
Joey Thomas moved into the top five on lap 37 when he passed Stephens before the final caution flag came out on lap 40 when Steven Gaines stalled on the front straightaway.
While Thomas pulled away from the rest of the field, Harrod was on the move as he came from tenth to eighth by lap 41. When Thomas took the checkered flag, he had a full straightaway lead over Turner.
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