RALEIGH, N.C. :: Bobby Gower crossed the finish line first in Wake County Speedway’s 54th season opener Friday night after leading 58 of the race’s 60 laps.
He did not, however, take the season-opening victory.
Thomas Chappell took the checkered flag and the trip to victory lane, as Gower was penalized for jumping the final restart of the race. For Chappell, it was an emotional moment in victory lane as he celebrated the first victory of his racing career.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Chappell after the win. “It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s my first win ever in anything. That’s all I could hope for was a shot at the end.”
Gower qualified on the pole for the 60-lap race, and led all the way until a string of late cautions allowed the field to rejoin him. On the next-to-last attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Chappell restarted alongside Gower, with Gower taking the advantage exiting turn two. However, Chappell moved underneath Gower in turns three and four, beating Gower to the line before another caution slowed the field.
On the final restart of the race, Gower easily cleared Chappell to take the lead, but race officials deemed Gower jumped the restart, penalizing him and awarding the victory to Chappell.
“I don’t think we had some of the all-out speed some of the other guys had,” Chappell said. “We just keep digging, that’s what we do. I can’t thank my guys enough, they work, they work, they work to get this car ready, and it paid off. It was a wild finish. Sometimes you just gotta be tough and tough ’em out.”
For Gower, it was a bitter pill to swallow after dominating the race. The Clayton, North Carolina native was miffed by both Chappell’s late-race pass and the restart penalty that dashed his hopes of victory.
“Obviously, somebody needs some glasses,” Gower said about the race’s conclusion. “I get run over coming to the green, and then I cleared him, and then I come to the checkered flag and they give me the black flag.”
“If we hadn’t had those cautions at the end, we would have won it easily,” added Gower. “You can race with some people, and you can’t race with other people. It is what it is. [Chappell] started on the outside of me three different cautions. I didn’t touch him, didn’t run him up the race track or nothing. And then the first opportunity he gets, he does it. That’s fine, and I’ve got a good memory.”
Due to the penalty, Gower was scored unofficially as the fifth-place finisher, the last car on the lead lap. Cory Walker inherited second place, with Sammy Pacitti and Zachary Marks finishing third and fourth, respectively.
The unofficial results of the Late Model Stock/Chargers feature at the 54th Wake County Speedway season opener can be viewed below:
- #4 Thomas Chappell
- #51 Cory Walker
- #43 Sammy Pacitti
- #17 Zachary Marks
- #5 Bobby Gower
- #16 Robert Arch*
- #62 Randy Ayers*
- #17 Kevin Jeffries*
- #44 Will Roland
- #37 Les Fenton*
* denotes Charger competitor