Everyone has heard that age is just a number. Seventy, 71, one, 25, and 2,000 are also all just numbers, but those figures sure made for quite a story at Portsmouth Raceway Park Saturday night when 70-year-old Delmas Conley drove his No. 71 Chevy to a first-place finish in the 25-lap Late Model Feature which paid $2,000 to win.
The Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer let it all hang out running the top side, while driving deep into the turns and keeping his momentum up. Once Conley got within striking distance of the lead, it became very obvious that he wasn’t merely going to settle for a good finish. He was gunning for the win.
“I was going to finish first or I was going to finish 12th,” Conley said in victory lane.
Conley’s return to winner’s circle was just one of several storylines that came from this weekend’s action at PRP. For a while, it didn’t even look like the night’s racing was going to take place. A heavy rain at 6 p.m. caused a slight delay while the track was dried, but the wait proved to be well worth while.
In addition to Delmas Conley, several other veteran drivers and former track champions found their way to victory lane. Four-time champ Doug Adkins won the Modified feature. Nine-time champ John Melvin took the checkers in the Limited Late Model A-Main. And four-time champion Jermie Bretz prevailed in the annual Weaver’s Gas & Oil Bomber Shootout, which was the highlighted race of the night.
Saturday’s Bomber Feature paid twice as much as normal, and Bretz brought his A-game to the A-Main. The Maysville, Ky. driver led every lap and pocketed $800 for his efforts. Conard Newman finished second. Shane Pendleton placed third. Brandon Buckner posted a fourth-place finish, and Danny Aldridge rounded out the top five.
Derek Spencer was named the Wesbanco Hard Charger, as he moved up 12 postions. Through nine races, Bretz is still unbeaten in the Bomber Class.
The Late Model race was one of the most exciting of the season. Jackie Boggs started on the pole and led the first two laps but then pulled off the track under caution. Boggs departure handed the lead over to Nick Bocook who looked strong and held the lead for the next 21 laps.
With two laps remaining, Delmas Conley reeled in Bocook and passed him on the high side to take the lead. For Conley, Saturday night marked his first PRP win in quite some time, but the 1993 PRP track champ proved yet again that he still has it.
Bocook held on to finish as the race’s runner-up. Ben Adkins placed third. R.J. Conley added to his points lead with a fourth-place finish. Mark Frazier moved up from 16th to fifth and was named the race’s hard charger.
Doug Adkins returned to winner’s circle for the second time in 2012, as he led every single circuit of the Modified Feature. With such an effort, Adkins helped pad his points lead.
While Adkins had the field covered, the racing from second on back was fierce. Eddie Harmon and Luke Jordan went side by side for the bride’s maid spot throughout much of the race before Harmon finally won out. Jordan had to settle for third. Tim Tribbey placed fourth, and Anthony Slusher moved up nine spots to round out the top five and take the Markwest Hydrocarbon Hard Charger Award.
John Melvin revisited victory lane Saturday night for the first time this season. The Coal Grove driver started eighth in the Limited Late Model A-Main and quickly worked his way into the top five. His charge to the front stalled there for awhile has he hovered between fourth and fifth throughout the first half of the race. He made it up to third with six laps to go and then passed both the first and second place cars with only three laps remaining.
“That was a fun one right there,” Melvin said in victory lane. “That was a blast.”
Melvin was joined in victory lane by his son and fellow racer, Matt Melvin. Matt finished eighth in the race and told his dad that he almost wrecked on the last lap while watching him.
No matter whether you were in the stands or on the track, it was a great show. Mike Steele led the first 12 laps of the 15-lap feature and wound up finishing third. Points leader Robbie Lewis finished second for the second straight week. Cameron Logan and Matt Cook made up the rest of the top five.
Portsmouth Raceway Park will take this weekend off. The next race will be the 18th Annual Fred Dillow Memorial on Saturday, August 18 featuring a 35-lap Late Model Feature paying $5,000 dollars to win along with Modifieds, Limited Lates, and Bombers. Gates open at 4 p.m. Racing will begin at 7:30 p.m.