Darne closes in on Late Model title with win

MANASSAS — Mike Darne took another step towards capturing the 2002 Late Model championship at Old Dominion Speedway by collecting his fifth win of the season in a 200-lap race Saturday night.

Darne extended his points lead in the division by two and now leads Mark McFarland by 20 points. Darne faces one last hurdle Saturday in a 100-lap race to determine if he will gain the championship.

There was plenty of jockeying for position early among the front runners Saturday. Former track champion Danny Fair took over the lead from Dustin Storm in turn one of lap 48 after starting fifth. Then Darne took over second from Storm in lap 55. Storm then trailed by McFarland and Mike Southard.

McFarland started moving toward the front in lap 117 when he edged around Storm for third. In lap 121, Darne made his move and pulled alongside Fair and the two ran door-to-door for four laps. Darne nudged past Fair in turn four of lap 124 and took the lead for good.

“Danny [Fair] was pinching me down in the dirt but that’s Danny,” said Darne. “He’s been racing for a long time and he’s not going to give you any room. He didn’t run into me or nothing. He just kept me down on the bottom. He was definitely hard to pass.”

Fair cut a tire in lap 147 and finished 19th. McFarland moved into second and closed up on Darne in laps 190 and 191 but could not pass him. McFarland was second, Storm third, Tom Hall fourth and David Quackenbush fifth.

McFarland said that several restarts toward the end of the race hurt his chances because his car was loose on the restarts. “The longer I ran, the better the car got,” he said. “If we’d stayed green there at the end, we probably could’ve run with him maybe.”

In Grand Stocks, Chris Donnelly barreled to his fifth win of the year. Despite getting spun out in lap 34, Donnelly fought his way back to the front and took over from race-leader John Tolliver with two laps to go.

Tolliver finished second and Jimmy Hardin came in third, clinching the track championship in the division. Tom Rice was fourth and Mark Miller fifth.

“I think we had a second-place car,” said Donnelly, “but we ended up winning and that’s all that counts. My crew is so happy. I wouldn’t mind winning every race like that. That was fun, it really was.”

Hardin was black-flagged after Donnelly spun out coming off of turn four but both drivers quickly picked their way through the field again.

In Mini Stocks, Sean Dawson grabbed his fourth win of the season and tightened his point lead over Mike Carte. Dawson now leads Carte by 24 points for the division championship. Dawson got around Carte in turn two of lap 10 for first after racing wheel-to-wheel with him for a lap. Keith Machleit was third, Tom Beckman fourth and Johnny Lowery fifth.

“It was a little relieving once we got by Carte,” Dawson said. “I knew at least we had a few points on him. But my main objective was to run in the top five and hopefully things will come to us [for the championship].”

In Speedway Sportsman, Jamie De Mattio led flag-to-flag and picked up his fourth win of the year. De Mattio held off James Lucas in the first part of the race and then kept Jeff Sisak at-bay as the contest wound down. Sisak was second, Lucas third, Les Miranda fourth and Rick McMillion fifth.

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