John Thomas Victorious in Open Wheel Modifieds

By Kevin Neal


The Late Models and Open Wheel Modifieds returned to action on a beautiful Saturday night at Huntsville Speedway for an evening of action that had both elements of excitement and tense moments of anxiety as two drivers suffered hard impacts with the wall.


In qualifying, Brad Lemley (13.930) in the Late Models, Troy Gray (13.906) in Open Wheel Modified, and David Dean, Jr. (15.584) captured the Fast Time Qualifying Awards.


Brad Lemley returned from retirement to pilot the number 2 Ford Mustang previously driven this season by Jaxon Bishop, and by all indications, Lemley hasn’t lost a step. The Fast Time Qualifier Lemley rolled a two on inversion placing him on the outside front row alongside of the Associated Heating and Cooling machine of Billy Melvin. Lemley took off like a shot at the drop of the green flag leading every lap en route to his first victory in 2017. Kevin Bennett of Hueytown, and Larry Ardry of Columbia, TN, a feature winner in 2016, made their first starts of the season this year. JoJo Wilkinson of Hueytown also returned for her second start of 2017, but seemed to battle an ill handling car for the balance of the race.  Billy Melvin, Austin Aker, Brian Bentley, and Bobby Castleberry, driving the Ron Evans machine, rounded out the top five finishers.


Troy Gray might have won the Fast Time Qualifying award, but that seemed to be where the Harvest, AL driver’s luck ended Saturday night. He rolled a six on inversion placing the number 5 of Michael Halbrooks on the pole alongside Cameron Berry, who looked quite fast in practice and qualifying. The initial start was aborted when Phillip Price looped his number 51 car before the first lap was completed. When the race got underway, Berry flexed some muscle, taking the lead for the first five circuits before being overtaken by last race winner Jeff Letson. Letson would hang on to the top spot until a restart at lap 23 after caution for Bradley Carter’s slowed number 23 car. John Thomas had worked his way into second on the previous lap and restarted on the outside of Letson, and at the drop of the green, Thomas was able to execute the pass from the outside to assume the point. A frightening moment occurred at lap 27 when the number 21 of Brian Lambert, Jr. and the 07 car of Blake Ferguson made contact on the frontstretch with Lambert careening nose first into the inside pit wall entering turn 1. Both Lambert and Ferguson were uninjured following the hard impact. John Thomas would go on to lead the remaining 23 laps en route to the win, followed by Letson, Berry, Michael Halbrooks, Bradley Carter, Garrett Finley, and Phillip Price.


The Super Stock division 20 lap feature saw a first time winner in a familiar car when Wayne Pugh picked up the win driving the car normally occupied by Caleb Thornberry. The victory didn’t come without a fair amount of work as Pugh and David Dean, Jr. made contact on a restart at lap 2 following caution for a spin involving outside polesitter Austin Thornton. The contact gave Dean, Jr. a flat tire that required a trip to the pits for repairs. Pugh would hang on to the lead, fighting off a fierce challenge from Bradley Malone to take the win, followed by Dean, Jr., Junior Jordan, Austin Evans, and Austin Thornton.


The Pro Buzz 15 lap feature saw one of the most frightening images of the night, as heavy contact at lap 12 between the 21 car of Derek Taylor and the number 99 of Courtney Gibbs propelled Gibbs hard into the outside retaining wall between turns 1 and 2. The roof of the number 99 machine had to be cut off for HEMSI EMTs to extricate her from the car. After evaluation at Huntsville Hospital, Gibbs was medically cleared. Derek Taylor was also uninjured in the collision. Floyd Brown was able to hang on for the win in the 3 lap shootout that followed the red flag period followed by Shane Jones in the Lowery Tactical Firearms number 192 who was able to fend off Mathew Robbins for the runner-up spot after Robbins attempted to catch Jones sleeping on the initial restart, actually passing him before the start/finish line, causing speedway officials to recall the start. On the second attempt, Robbins looked to make his move to the inside, which is disallowed by rule, but after an explanation from on track official Bill Newland, Robbins restarted to the outside of Jones on the third and final attempt, but did not pass until after the start/finish line, in compliance with the rules.


The Buzz division 10 lap feature saw Matthew Tucker best Kaylea Cox for the victory.



Josh McElhone took the lead with 4 laps to go in the Hot Shot 15 lap feature to secure the win over Jeremy Price, Allen Gunter, and Jamie Bradford.

Huntsville Speedway will return to action next Saturday night with races featuring the STAR SuperTrucks, Sportsman, Tennessee Pure Stocks, Super Stock, Mini Modifieds, Pro Buzz, Buzz, and Hot Shot divisions. Pit gates will open at 2PM with practice starting at 3PM, followed by driver’s meeting at 5:30PM, qualifying at 6PM, and racing at 7PM.


Late Model:

  1. 2 – Brad Lemley
  2. 145 – Bill Melvin
  3. 07 – Austin Aker
  4. 9 – Brian Bentley
  5. 72 – Bobby Castleberry
  6. 71 – Ray Clemens
  7. 11 – JoLynn Wilkinson
  8. 19 – Larry Ardry
  9. 59 – Kevin Bennett

Open Wheel Modified:

  1. 47 – John Thomas
  2. 131 – Jeff Letson
  3. 101 – Cameron Berry
  4. 5H – Michael Halbrooks
  5. 23 – Bradley Carter
  6. 37 – Garrett Finley
  7. 51 – Phillip Price
  8. 07 – Blake Ferguson
  9. 21 – Brian Lambert, Jr.
  10. 74 – Troy Gray
  11. 16 – Billy Melvin (DNS)

Super Stock Division:

  1. 14 – Wayne Pugh
  2. 15 – Bradley Malone
  3. 21 – David Dean, Jr.
  4. 29 – Junior Jordan
  5. 19 – Austin Evans
  6. 1 – Austin Thornton

Pro Buzz Division:

  1. 84 – Floyd Brown
  2. 192 – Shane Jones
  3. 48 – Matthew Robbins
  4. 99 – Courtney Gibbs
  5. 21 – Derek Taylor

Buzz Division:

  1. 8 – Matthew Tucker
  2. 14 – Kaylea Cox

Hot Shot Division:

  1. 01 – Josh McElhone
  2. 00 – Jeremy Price
  3. 15 – Allen Gunter
  4. 4 – Jamie Bradford