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January 29, 2023

BRL LM S21 R4 Recap

by Ryan Senneker

28 January 2023
Bootleg Racing League | Season 21 | Round 4
Late Model Series | Martinsville Speedway
Photograph by: Michael Goodman

Justin Morton with Total Downforce Racing claimed his 2nd win in a row tonight in the Bootleg Racing League Late Model Series at Martinsville Speedway ahead of J R Shepherd and Mathew Thunhorst. “I kind of knew going into the race, noticed in practice that we were going to be pretty short [on fuel]”, Morton commented at the end of the night, “I don’t know if I was going 100 percent there, but I was definitely trying to keep the rhythm and just keep both ends consistent and driving how I needed to drive the car.”

J R Shepherd continues to top the timing and scoring boards in qualifying with a 4-lap average time set at 20.217 tonight starting the feature from 10th with the Bootleg Racing League invert placing Bruce Pearson on the pole. Pearson led the 22-car field around to take the green flag with Joe Segalla to his outside as the action kicked off with Pearson quickly clearing out ahead going into the first corner. Much of the field went single file on the first lap with passing on the outside being especially difficult at Martinsville.

Lowell Jewell got his nose under Segalla with Kenny Kibbey following him under pushing Segalla back to 4th in a gap that formed ahead of a battle between Joseph Snyder and Matt Shinoski. Jewell soon found himself stuck on the outside when Kibbey got to his inside. Jewell tried to battle back but was forced to concede and fall back to 4th as Jason Menda was also able to get around him into 3rd. With the first 20 laps behind them, the familiar names started to rise to the front of the field with Kibbey, Menda, Justin Morton, Mathew Thunhorst, and Shepherd all running inside of the top 10.

Kibbey took a chance and went to the outside of Pearson for the lead with Menda and Thunhorst quickly closing the inside line. It was starting to go in Pearson’s favor when a miscommunication with the drivers behind him led to contact sending Pearson and Menda around on track and moving Kibbey, Morton, Thunhorst, and Shepherd all running up front when the caution came out. Racing resumed going into lap 28 with Kibbey getting a good jump as Morton slotted in 2nd ahead of Thunhorst.

Unusual for a Bootleg Racing League event, it became known that fuel was going to be an issue as the 4 leaders pulled away from the field. Morton, Thunhorst, and Shepherd had come down pit road earlier in the night for a splash to get them to the end, but Kibbey stayed out. Morton quickly took control of the lead soon after going back to green as Kibbey seemed to be running conservatively to stretch his fuel milage out a far as he could dropping back to 4th behind Shepherd but still staying with the pack.

Going into the 2nd half of the night, Morton continued to hold the lead as Shepherd was able to take advantage of a restart getting under Thunhorst to take away 2nd place after a fierce side by side battle for several laps. Kibbey followed suit diving under Thunhorst to challenge for 3rd securing the position with 40 laps remaining. Austin Boelke was struggling tonight staying within the top 10 but unable to move up through the field. With the laps quickly counting down, Morton was extending his lead out to almost 1 second ahead of Shepherd while Thunhorst patiently searched for a way around Kibbey for 3rd.

Going into the final 25 laps, it became clear that the event was not going to be completed within the allotted time to further complicate things for the drivers. Kibbey’s fuel situation was getting more and more dire while still holding onto 3rd place ahead of Thunhorst. Morton was still outpacing the rest of the leading pack going into the final moments as, in a somewhat unsurprising upset, Kibbey’s Nocturnal Gaming machine ran out of fuel, and he was forced to pull down pit road with 3 minutes to go. Going into lap 96 out of 100, the race was called on time and Justin Morton came around one more time to take the checkered flag with J R Shepherd, Mathew Thunhorst, Jeffrey Hardin, and Donny Moore rounding out the top 5 tonight at Martinsville Speedway.

J R Shepherd continues to lead in the point standings with 192 points. Kenny Kibbey holds onto 2nd place with 160 points. Mathew Thunhorst sits in 3rd with 151 points with Jason Menda holds 4th with 143 points. Lowell Jewell rounds out the top 5 in the point standings with 138 points going into the next round of the season. The Bootleg Racing League now heads over to North Wilkesboro Speedway for the next round of Season 21 on February 4th with all of the intense racing action brought to you live at 9PM ET exclusively on the Virtual Grip Network!

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