2016-01-23 / Sports

Champions crowned at season-ending banquet

Matt Bowling celebrated in victory lane after capturing the Late Model Stock championship this season at South Boston Speedway. It was Bowling’s second division title at the track. 
FILE Matt Bowling celebrated in victory lane after capturing the Late Model Stock championship this season at South Boston Speedway. It was Bowling’s second division title at the track. FILE SOUTH BOSTON, Va. – Five champions were crowned and four racing icons were inducted into the Virginia Motorsports Hall of Fame last Saturday night during South Boston Speedway’s annual awards banquet.

Matt Bowling of Ridgeway was honored as the track’s NASCAR Whelen Racing Series Late Model Stock champion. It was Bowling’s second South Boston title.

In 21 starts in 2015, the 21-year-old Bowling had five wins, 18 top fives and 21 top 10s.

“This championship did not come easy. There is incredible competition at South Boston every week,” said Bowling.

Lee Pulliam finished second in the season-long points battle while Austin Thaxton was third. Bogata, Colombia driver Juan Garcia took home Late Model rookie-of-the-year honors.

Trey Crews rode four wins and a top-five finish in each of the division’s 10 races to claim the Limited Sportsman championship. He beat out second-place Danny Willis Jr., and third-place Calvin Meadows.

Joey Throckmorton received awards for winning the most poles and leading the most laps in the Limited Division and Brandon Jones was named the rookie of the year.

For the second consecutive year Greg Autry captured the Budweiser Pure Stock championship posting five wins and finishing in the top five in each of his nine starts. He also had the most poles, most wins and led the most laps in 2015. Johnny Layne was second in the Budweiser Pure Stock Division’s points standings while D.J. Moser was third. Moser also took home rookie-of-the-year honors and received the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.

Mike Rudy had two wins and finished in the top five in every race to claim the Modified Division track championship after finishing second in 2014. Matt Slye finished second in the Modified points race while Chris Humblet took home third.

Eric Winslow won four times and was in the top 10 in every race to capture the Budweiser Hornets Division championship. Todd Garnett had three wins to finish second while Kenny Mills was third in the Hornets Division final standings.

Paul Radford, David Blankenship, Joe Henry Thurman and the late Earl Brooks were inducted into the Virginia Motorsports Hall of Fame during Saturday night’s event. The Virginia Motorsports Hall of Fame, housed at South Boston Speedway, is open to Virginia natives who have helped shape and mold motorsports in Virginia and at South Boston Speedway.

Radford’s career spanned five decades with over 250 victories as he barnstormed tracks of all size from New England to Florida. The Ferrum native is one of only two drivers to win both ends of one of Martinsville Speedway’s fabled Modified/Late Model Sportsman doubleheaders when he swept the Dogwood 500 in the spring of 1977.

His first victory came at Victory Stadium in Roanoke in 1952. He wound up with 55 wins at another stadium, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. He retired after the 1993 season after winning the Late Model Stock championship at New River Valley Speedway, giving him NASCAR-sanctioned wins in each of five decades.

Blankenship, from Moseley, won seven South Boston track championships, more than any other driver in the long history of the speedway. His championships came in 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 1998.

Blankenship scored 34 wins at South Boston in his career, including at least one win in 11 different seasons. He had seven wins at South Boston in 1996, his best season ever.

Thurman, who is from Rocky Mount, won the 1968 NASCAR National Sportsman Division championship, the forerunner of today’s NASCAR Xfinity Series. He raced as many as three times a week, sometimes covering more than 3,000 miles a week during the 1968 season.

Thurman’s career spanned more than 30 years. In nine years in the Xfinity Series he had six top-five and 31 top-10s in 184 starts. He had 18 Xfinity Series starts at South Boston, with his best finish a fourth in 1986.

Brooks, who died in 2010, was a Lynchburg native who raced at the Sprint Cup level from 1962 to 1979. His first top-five finish came when the Sprint Cup Series visited South Boston Speedway in 1963 for the South Boston 400.

He made 262 Sprint Cup starts in his career and had 37 top-10 finishes while maintaining his race cars in his garage in Lynchburg where he was a mechanic by trade.

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