Public-address announcer Randy Pettitt may have summed it up best last Saturday night for the opener of the 72nd season of Bowman Gray Stadium racing.
“Please do not park on the sidewalks,” he said to the more than 13,000 who flocked to the stadium for the first time in nearly 22 months. “If you did park on the sidewalk, there’s a chance you will be towed.”
The lack of parking around the Stadium has been a way of life for several years, but that's what fans deal with to see their favorite drivers. And the racing inside the stadium was as good as ever in the four divisions, after the long break between seasons.
The shortened season will continue on Saturday night. With the season starting so late in the summer, there are just 11 weeks on the schedule.
Here are four things to watch:
Burt and Tim or Tim and Burt
It’s hard to believe that Burt Myers and Tim Brown, who have combined to win 20 championships in the Modified Division, weren't in the top five in the Hayes Jewelers 200 last week. Jonathan Brown’s car was strong when it mattered most, and he won for the first time in his career the opening race of the season. Jonathan’s win was his 19th of his career and that pulled him into a tie with his uncle Don Smith, who was the 1991 Modified champion. Tim Brown finished ninth and Myers was 11th, but they’ll get another chance on Saturday night with two Modified 25-lap races on the schedule.
Pee Wee Jones’ grandson
Burt Myers, the four-time defending champion in the Modified, is chasing a record that Pee Wee Jones set when he won five straight titles from 1956 to 1960. Jones won six titles overall. Austin Jones, who is Pee Wee’s grandson, will make his debut in the Street Stock Division on Saturday night. Brad Smith, a former driver at the Stadium, is the owner of Austin’s car. Austin is carrying on the long history of the Jones family at the Stadium.
Two defending champions
Billy Gregg, the defending champion in the Street Stock Division, and Chuck Wall, the defending champion in Stadium Stock, each had successful starts to the season with wins last week. Also winning last week in the other Stadium Stock race was Robert Strmiska of Lexington.
Thunder Road Street Stock 50
The Street Stock Division will have its longest race of the season on Saturday with a 50-lapper. There will also be two 25-lap Modified races as well as Sportsman and Stadium Stock races. There will also be a popular chain race after the regular night of racing is over. Gates open at 6 p.m. with the first race scheduled for 8 p.m.
He said it
“My goal was to finally win the opening race of the season and now we’ve done that. Our next goal is to win the points championship so we’re off to a good start.” Jonathan Brown, the winner of the Modified race last Saturday, who has never won a points' championship in the Modified Division.