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Hometown driver Reeves wins Bristol feature

Jeff Birchfield • May 18, 2018 at 10:49 PM

BRISTOL—Josh Reeves scored the biggest win of his racing career Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, while others in the race will remember it for truly being "The Last Great Colosseum."

Reeves, who moved to the Bristol area from Martinsville, Va., in January to pursue his racing dream, stayed out of trouble and then drove the No. 96 Wade Lopez owned Ford to the win in the JEGS CRA All-Stars Pro Late Model feature at the Rusty Wallace Short Track U.S. Nationals.

It was eight laps from the finish when Reeves assumed the lead as the lead cars of Jack Smith, Justin South and Michael Clancy Jr. got tangled up in a wreck. It started when South went to the inside of Smith and the two made contact.

After the race was red-flagged 30-some minutes for the wreck and then for rain, Reeves emerged with a lead that he wouldn't give up.

"I knew something was going to happen. When I saw him dive-bomb when they were three-wide, I backed off," said Reeves, who calls Bristol his adopted hometown. "I can't believe we won Bristol. This is unbelievable. I was pretty discouraged after qualifying, knew I had bombed my lap. I knew we had a good race car that could contend for the win. I just stayed out of trouble and bided my time. Just being patient is a virtue in these short-track races."

During the week, Reeves works at the Henderson Motorsports shop in Abingdon, Va., on the No. 75 Toyota that Parker Kligerman drives in the NASCAR Truck Series. They let Reeves keep his race car in the back of the shop. His driving background is more sprint cars and the ARCA stock car series. He had never been in a Pro Late Model car or driven at Bristol Motor Speedway until a test last week.

When the race was red-flagged, his tire went almost completely flat. Before the action resumed, he was able to get enough air in it to last until the end of the race. He won by just .462 of a second over runner-up Jordan Miller.

"I had run through some debris," Reeves said. "When I came in for the rain, I was so excited because I thought I might have won the race. When we got two minutes before we went green, the tire was on the rim. They let us air the tire and we put a couple of extra pounds in it. The last couple of laps, he was closing in on us. The emotions I felt that last hour, it was on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum."

THEY WERE PIT-ROAD FIGHTING

Smith confronted South after their accident and threw a punch inside the car as South still had his helmet on. It triggered a fight between Smith and crew members of both teams. Smith had a bloodied forehead before being dragged from the fight by CRA officials.

He was escorted from the track, while South gave his take on what happened.

"I really hate it for Jack," South said. "I know how much it costs to fix these race cars and I hate to see that. But in the end, I have to try to win for my crew who works just as hard as his.

“When we took up here, we had a good restart. At that point, you're flat-footing at the restart. If you back off, you're going to lose 3-4 positions. There wasn't anything dirty there and there was nothing intentional."

TOUGH NIGHT FOR SKINNER

Smith had battled former NASCAR Truck Series champion Mike Skinner for the lead earlier in the race. Skinner emerged out front of that battle as his No. 5 Toyota appeared to be the car to beat, but he got caught up in a wreck with the lapped car of Tyler Hufford on lap 71.

Skinner, who finished 13th, took blame for the accident.

"It was a lot of fun to be out in the lead and I feel like a complete idiot," Skinner said. "I was trying to pass the guy on the outside and his car wasn't handling and it washed up, so I was like, let's be careful. I backed off and then got a good run off turn four and his car washed up again.

"His spotter was then telling my spotter they were going to give me the outside. I got beside him on the inside and when he turned left, there was just such a head of steam there wasn't anything I could do. I hate it for the boys, for the crew and our partners at Toyota. We had such a good car. I'm an old man, maybe I shouldn't still be racing, but I can still go fast."

TWO MORE DAYS OF RACING

There are two days of racing left with the Rusty Wallace Automotive Group Short Track U.S. Nationals. The Late Model Stock class is the featured race on Saturday with practice and qualifying before racing starts at 5 p.m.

The Super Late Models will be featured Sunday with practice and qualifying before racing starts at 2 p.m.

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